Dog Grooming Basics - Tools and Techniques
A dog of any breed will need grooming to look and feel her best. Grooming your dog appropriately may take a few minutes to quite a few hours each week, depending on breed and coat type.
Not all pet owners may have the time, skill, desire, or expertise needed to keep their dog's coat, nails, skin, teeth, and ears in the best possible shape. For these owners, it is best to hire a dog groomer.
Evaluating A Dog Grooming Business
What are your grooming goals - a well-trimmed family dog or preparing a dog for conformation showing? Finding a talented show groomer may be much more difficult than finding a wonderful groomer who specializes in fabulous cuts for pet dogs. If you are looking for a show groomer, contact your breeder or breed club for recommendations.
The internet and phonebook can be helpful in locating a dog groomer, but even better is a satisfied friend or trusted professional's reference. Ask your vet, trainer, breeder or rescue organization, and friends if they can recommend any good groomers in your area. Also ask about typical rates for services in your area. (Prices may vary depending upon a dog's breed, special health, behavior, or grooming situations, type of products used, etc.)
Prepare a list of questions (some are suggested below), and begin interviewing!
How long have you been in business? How did you learn to groom? Has an animal ever been injured in your care? What experience do you have grooming dogs of this breed? Can you provide references from other area pet professionals (vets, trainers, etc.) and from clients? (Follow up on these!)
If your pet has special coat and grooming requirements, health or behavioral problems (hot spots, existing fear of groomer, corded coats, mange, severe/extensive matting, need for anal gland expression, separation anxiety, ear plucking, fear biting during nail clipping, etc.), ask what type of experience the groomer has working with animals with the same needs.
After you've found the right answers to your questions from one or more professionals, check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company has no complaints on file; and make sure that they carry an active insurance policy. If all that checks out, schedule a visit to the facility.
The facility should be clean, well-lit, and inviting. Do the dogs look happy and well cared for? Is the staff friendly and helpful?
If you feel good about a potential dog groomer, schedule an appointment. If you are uncomfortable leaving your dog alone the first time, ask if you can attend during the grooming - this is a valuable training opportunity for you to teach your dog that the groomer's can be a great experience with lots of yummy treats! If the groomer refuses, look elsewhere for services.
Whomever you choose as your groomer should recommend dog grooming tools and supplies to help you maintain the dog's coat and good condition in between grooming visits.
Dog Grooming Tips
You may decide that you do not need the assistance of a groomer, at least not regularly; and that you prefer to do most of your dog's grooming at home. Here are some tips on ways to maximize your grooming success!
- Research your dog's breed or coat type online to see what tools are recommended. You may also consider contacting a local groomer for a one-time consultation on the right tools for your dog's coat.
- Make grooming sessions pleasant and short. Use lots of yummy treats, play soothing music or light a lavender candle for calming.
- The best time to begin training a dog to enjoy grooming is early puppyhood.
- If your dog is afraid of being groomed and will bite or struggle, you may want to consider hiring a local dog trainer to teach you how to make grooming an enjoyable experience for your dog through a systematic desensitization protocol.
Many trainers offer classes specifically on how to use positive reinforcement techniques to teach your dog to love both grooming and veterinary husbandry procedures.
- Avoid bathing your dog too frequently. Most dogs need not be bathed more than once every 4-6 weeks.
- Brush your dog's teeth every day.
- Trim dog's nails weekly.
- Some procedures are best left to the pros - do not clip your dog's nails if you are afraid she will bite you, do not pluck a dog's ear hair, hand strip the coat, express anal glands, shave a dog (believe it or not, not all long or double-coated breeds will benefit from shaving in summer months - on the contrary, their coats can serve as protection from the heat as well as cold), clip a severely matted dog, etc, if you don't know what you are doing.
- Visit a veterinarian if you see any signs of an unhealthy coat or skin problems - bald spots, scaly patches, excessive dryness or oiliness, open sores of any kind, hot spots, etc. These coat problems can be symptoms of underlying problems ranging from dietary deficiencies to allergies, extreme stress, or hypothyroidism.
Photo: Moonstone Archive