Adding a dog to the household is a joyful occasion. Whether you’ve welcomed an energetic puppy, a happy adult or a precious senior, part of caring for a new pet is some simple grooming to keep him looking and feeling great.
The basics of at-home grooming are brushing and combing your dog’s coat, baths and clipping the nails. The frequency depends on your dog’s coat and lifestyle, but as a general rule, groomers recommend weekly brushing and combing, baths every one to two months and weekly nail trimmings as the minimum to keep up with care.
To make this process easier, stock your grooming kit with these tools for your dog’s coat and cleaning needs.
Curry Comb: A rubber tool great for short and smooth coats like on a Beagle or Chihuahua. This comb loosens dead hairs, massages and stimulates the skin and coat, brings the oils to the skin surface and gets rid of dandruff. This can be used before as well as in the bath with shampoo, like we might use a scrubby in the shower, according to Judi Stratton, a national certified master groomer through the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and owner of Sitting Pretty Grooming in Cape Coral, Florida.
Slicker Brush: A soft slicker has a wood or plastic handle and a rectangular brush head with small, bent metal pins, and it can be used on medium and long coats as well as double-coated and live-coated (coats that keep growing and growing) breeds. This is dog groomer Shawn Gaddini’s first choice for puppies, because the pins are soft, fine and flexible, creating a more gentle brushing experience.
“A slicker brush is good for average dogs through all life stages,” says Gaddini, a national certified master groomer through NDGAA and owner of Super Pups Mobile Dog Grooming in Paradise, California.
Pin Brush: Similar to a human’s hairbrush, this tool has straight metal pins about an inch long with rounded or rubber tips that help users avoid irritating the dog’s skin. For a longhaired pup, such as a Yorkshire Terrier, Shih Tzu or Maltese, Stratton says a pin brush can keep the hair in good shape without tangles.
Boar or Natural Bristle Brush: These work well for dogs with super short to shorter hair, such as Basset Hounds or Beagles, to get rid of dead skin, distribute skin oils, remove dust, dander and pollen, and make them look good, Gaddini says.
Comb: A nice metal comb with 1- to 1.5-inch teeth goes through most coats well to find hidden knots and tangles as well as reach to the skin and pull out the dead coat.
Dogs with thicker or double-coats, like an Alaskan Malamute, might also need a short-pinned rake, Gaddini says. This handled tool features short, comb-like teeth about .25 inches apart and is meant for getting out the dead undercoat (the fluffy stuff that’s all over your carpet), she says.
Dog-Specific Shampoos and Conditioners: Groomers interviewed for this article recommend using dog-specific shampoos and conditioners because they are developed specifically for our pets. Our dogs’ pH levels are different than ours and their skin is more absorbent and sensitive.
With dog shampoos, there is tremendous variety to choose from. Some have wonderful scents, others are more geared to treat flea and tick problems, there is oatmeal for skin soothing, all-natural and so much more. Generally speaking, the goal is to clean the dog without stripping too much oil and leaving the dog itching, Gaddini says.
“Read the ingredients and look for a good protein shampoo,” she says. “The latest great ingredients in pet shampoos for skin have argon oil, jojoba and keratin; putting oil back in the coat is good. Something that says puppy/kitten means it’s probably mild and tearless. Hypoallergenic probably has less or no soap in it so it’s not as harsh. A protein-based shampoo will clean the dog and keep moisture in the skin.”
Conditioning shampoos or following-up with a conditioner keeps the dog’s coat from getting dull while cutting down on tangles and matting in longer or curly coats, Gaddini adds.
Waterless Options: Waterless shampoos and wipes also are great to have on hand, groomers agree.
“Waterless shampoos are a good option for post-surgery pets, those afraid of water or when you need to spot clean, such as poo on the leg or he rolled in something stinky,” says Julie Rust, national certified master groomer and owner of The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa in Bainbridge Island, Washington. “They do need rinsing off, unless the directions say otherwise, so use a wet cloth or towel and rub vigorously to lift it off.”
For extra shorthair breeds, such as the French Bulldog or Greyhound, wipes also can be helpful.
Nail Clippers: Nail clippers come in scissor and guillotine styles in different sizes based on the pet’s nail size.
“If it feels comfortable in your hand, it’s probably adequate for you,” Stratton says. “If you have a larger dog, get one that will open wide enough to handle the nail.”
Nail Files and Grinders: In place of or after a nail clipping, some dog owners use a heavy-gauge metal nail file. The grated area can take off the rough edges, and some files have a gentle V in them for easy shaping, Stratton says.
Grinders or rotary sanders also are great options to file dog nails back without the risk of bleeding, Gaddini says. Small, battery-operated versions are not as loud, and some offer variable speeds to let you get used to it.
Hair Clippers: With caution, dog owners can also tackle using hair trimmers at home.
“It’s a good idea to have your own clippers or shears, but take a lesson, get some pointers and watch someone do it first; it’s not something to be taken lightly,” Gaddini says, adding that most dogs need to be clipped around the anal area because poop gets stuck there.
Having a small trimmer on hand also is helpful for breeds who grow hair quickly or have long hair on the pads of their feet. Most clippers come with a standard blade and often with comb attachments that snap on over the blade. You can choose from a corded model or a rechargeable, cordless one, such as Wahl’s Lithium Ion Rechargeable Clipper.
“Clean and thoroughly dry the dog and comb him out before using clippers on him,” Stratton says.
Blunt-Tip Scissors: For the face area and between the paw pads, using a simple pair of short, blunt-tip scissors lets you keep control of where you’re cutting. Just be careful to align the scissors to open and close over hair only, and not the pad, Rust says.
Having the right supplies to use is one part of making dog grooming a success. Here are three more quick tips that go a long way to building your bond as you tackle these important aspects of caring for your dog.