We dog parents aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. We pick up poop every single day. So it’s no surprise that many of us aren’t intimidated by a little DIY dog grooming. It’s a messy job, but we’re up for it. Pedicures, baths and blowouts may be within an amateur groomer’s skill set, but every dog is bound to have a bad hair day that requires a pro dog groomer.
Allison Phillips is a groomer and vet tech who has worked with dogs from Florida to Alaska, and she says there are definitely grooming issues pet parents may want to get a professional dog groomer for, and some of them may surprise you.
They seem like such a minor thing, but according to Allison, eye crusts or “boogers” can cause serious damage to a dog’s eyes. She says sometimes DIY groomers don’t realize how many boogers are hiding in their long-haired dog’s facial hair. It sounds funny (and gross), but DIY booger removal is serious work.
“If they’re really packed in there and dried out when you remove them, it can pull off some skin. And it’ll cut the inner part of their eyelid,” she tells Dogster. Ouch!
Allison suggests that humans keep a close eye on their pup’s eyes and try to wipe crusties away as they form. If you miss some and they dry out, don’t pull at them (you could scratch a cornea). Pull out your phone and call your groomer instead. This is a task for a professional booger picker.
We pet parents like to think we know every inch of our dogs’ bodies, but when we’re petting them every day we may not pick up on subtle changes.
“I find lots of random lumps and bumps, brand new warts, growths, cysts,” says Allison, who encourages pet parents to see dog groomers as “almost an additional veterinary resource.” When it comes to things that grow (or in the case of ticks, catch a ride) on dogs, groomers have seen it all and know the difference between a blackhead and something that needs to be seen by the vet.
Speaking of little bumps, if your pooch’s complexion is less hot dog, more corn-on-the-cob, trying to shave him at home isn’t a great idea. You could nick a kernel!
Allison recommends seeing a groomer and discussing known lumps and bumps before a haircut. She recalls how one customer with a white Maltese would make sure groomers knew exactly the spots she was talking about: “She would take a marker and she would circle every single one before she brought her dog in,” she says.
It’s no secret that many dogs look adorable in sweaters, but many pet owners don’t know this secret: Sweater-wearing pups need some extra brushing!
Allison says that dog lovers should give their pooch a brush down every time the sweater comes off, or dogs can end up with painful underarm wardrobe malfunctions.
“Armpit mats can lift the skin up and twist it,” Allison explains. “And so sometimes when it’s released it can cause a hematoma or it can get cut while being groomed.”
But she says not to worry. “You can keep your sweaters, but we’ll just make sure we do an extra good job with armpits.”
Sometimes pet parents are ashamed to go to the dog groomer and present a dog who is obviously matted, but Allison says that’s literally what dog groomers are for, and waiting any longer is just going to hurt your dog.
In this case, going to the dog groomer is a bit like going to the dentist: You might get a bit of a talking to about brushing, but it’s coming from a place of love. Matted fur can harbor bacteria and hide skin infections or hot spots, so groomers do try to educate dog owners about the dangers of letting fur clump.
According to Allison, serious mats are something that should not be DIY’d (again, the skin could be cut), but your groomer can show you ways to prevent mats through brushing or combing.
“Groomers love showing people how to groom,” Allison says. “I want your dogs to be happy, and I want them to be healthy, and I want grooming to be a positive experience — for you and the dog.”
Sometimes, dogs need professional grooming help, but if we DIY the right way, we can make sure they don’t have grooming emergencies.
Sometimes our dogs get into situations that are totally disgusting but not an actual grooming emergency. In these cases, you can sometimes DIY it.
If your dog rolls in fish guts, cooking oil or gets into a grease trap, dishwashing liquid can help cut the grease (and the smell), but it must be rinsed out well and followed by a conditioning shampoo made just for dogs.
If the smell lingers after that, it’s time to head to the dog groomer. Sorry about your car’s upholstery.
Thumbnail: Photography ©dageldog | Getty Images.
Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer whose dogs, GhostBuster and Marshmallow, smell like they could use a groom. @HeatherMarcoux is on Twitter, and her stinky dogs are on Instagram as the @ghostpets.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!