My husband is allergic to most dogs, so when we wanted to get a dog, I knew a hypoallergenic breed was absolutely necessary for us. We decided to get a Miniature Poodle. I also knew that as a non-shedding dog, he would require grooming. I was fine with budgeting for regular professional grooming. Yes, it’s expensive, but I figured it was a fair tradeoff for no allergies and no hair all over the house!
When I met the breeder to pick up my puppy, she encouraged me to groom him myself. She told me how bonding it was to groom your own dog, not to mention the money I would save. She handed me a stack of grooming catalogs — she had taken the time to circle all the equipment I would need — and recommended a Poodle grooming book she liked.
I hadn’t considered it before, but I thought, why not give it a try? If I hated it or was just embarrassingly bad, I could always take him to a professional.
So I ordered the grooming tools online, bought the grooming book, watched some videos on YouTube, took a deep breath, and just dove right in.
The first time I groomed Jäger, I trimmed him with the scissors, following the same groom the breeder had given him right before he came to live with us. It was surprisingly easy to do, and he looked great when I was done. Grooming him felt a bit like working on an art project — a living, breathing one! I was hooked.
The second time I groomed him, I messed up big time and gave him a hack job. Oops! The good news was that making mistakes actually helped me learn what NOT to do. Every time I groomed him, I got better and better. I had plenty of practice, since Poodle hair grows fast!
Six years later, I still groom my dog. Even though it takes a lot of time and effort, I truly enjoy it. We spend so many hours together during grooming — it really is a bonding experience you almost can’t replicate. I can groom him as often as I want without having to break the bank. That means he almost always looks, smells, and feels wonderful. There’s really nothing quite like a freshly groomed Poodle!
When we’re out for walks, people often ask me who my groomer is, and I proudly say, “I groom him myself.” I think I’ve inspired some of those people to try grooming their own dogs, too.
If you want to try grooming your dog yourself, check out some dog grooming tips on Dogster, and ask your breeder or perhaps your groomer for some tips on how to get started (if they don’t mind). You can also do what I did and watch free video tutorials on YouTube, like this, this, and this. If your dog is purebred, search for breed-specific grooming videos, like this Poodle grooming video.
Depending on your breed, you’ll need some special equipment, including clippers, clipper blades, clipper combs, scissors, a nice brush and comb, a pet dryer, and a grooming table. The equipment is a bit of an investment, but I did the math and my equipment paid for itself within the first year. You can buy less expensive tools from a pet-supply store, but if you want higher-quality tools, consider buying from a specialty site like Petedge.com or Groomerschoice.com. These tools will cost more but last longer.
If you’re just starting out, go really slow and be super careful. Grooming tools are extremely sharp and dog skin is very delicate. Clipper blades heat up as you use them and can burn your dog if you’re not careful. Periodically touch the blade to check how hot it is.
A neat trick a groomer taught me is to have a duplicate clipper blade for each size you use. When one gets too hot, take it off the clipper, and lay it on an ice pack covered with a kitchen towel. While that blade cools off, use the second blade. Then switch again when that one gets hot. You can also buy a special spray that cools the blades.
If you’re not sure how to use any of your equipment properly, ask someone to show you (your groomer or breeder should be able to help).
I love grooming my own dog. I’m not gonna lie — he doesn’t always look flawless. Even after all this time, I still mess up and make his ears look ridiculous or cut his hair too short. He never looks bad for long, though. That’s the great thing about grooming — the hair always grows back, so you always have a new opportunity to try again.
Although most people who meet my dog tell me he looks professionally groomed, a dog groomer would be able to see uneven lines and a less-than-perfect blow-dry. But honestly? I think he looks pretty darn good, and when people tell me how beautiful he is, I beam with pride knowing I did it myself.
Do you groom your dog? Share experiences and tips in the comments.
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About the author: Jackie Brown is a freelance writer specializing in the pet industry. She lives in Southern California with her husband, son, and adorable Miniature Poodle, Jäger, who is obsessed with fetch and killing all the toys. She is the former editor of Rescue Proud, Dog World, and Puppies 101. Follow her on Twitter or visit her website.