Did you know that grooming can improve your dog’s long-term health? It’s true! Regular grooming sessions not only help your dog feel more comfortable, but they allow you to ensure your dog is in good condition and help you detect early signs of issues that may require a trip to the veterinarian. And, as a bonus, grooming is a great opportunity to bond with your dog. Here are some basic grooming tips to get you started.
It’s not necessary to bathe your dog frequently. In fact, bathing him too often can actually dry out his skin and coat. But if you have a dirty dog, by all means soap him up! It’s not usually difficult to do at home, unless you have a very large dog or a dog that’s afraid of water. In those cases, you may want to consider taking him to a professional groomer.
The key to a happy bath is to be prepared. Change into old clothes and bring your supplies into the bathroom:
- Dog-safe shampoo
- Dog-safe conditioner for long-haired dogs
- Non-slip mat for the tub floor
- Detachable shower head or large cup for rinsing
- Several towels
- Dog brush
When everything’s ready, bring your dog into the bathroom, give him a treat and close the door behind you. Place your dog in the tub (enlist help if you have a large breed), and turn on warm water. Give him a treat, and once the water is at the right temperature (be sure to check first!), start washing him according to the instructions on the shampoo label. When the bath is finished, towel dry him the best you can, and then brush him to remove the fur that was loosened in the bath.
Brushing is helpful for a number of reasons. It helps cut down on shedding, prevents mats and tangles in long hair, and improves skin and coat health. Plus, many dogs simply enjoy being brushed.
Dogs with short or medium length hair should be brushed 2-3 times a week, while long-haired dogs require daily brushing. While brushing, use this opportunity to closely examine your dog for any health concerns.
Check your dog’s ears regularly. If your dog’s ears are red, feel hot, smell bad, or are sensitive to your touch, he may have an ear infection. Other signs include excessive ear scratching or shaking his head. If this is the case, see your veterinarian right away.
To prevent ear infections, ask your vet how often you should clean your dog’s ears, and ask for your vet’s recommended cleaning solution. When cleaning your dog’s ears, use cotton balls (not cotton swabs!), being careful to only clean what you can reach with the cotton ball. If your dog, like most dogs, dislikes having his ears cleaned, handle his ears often so he feels more comfortable having his ears touched, and give lots of praise and treats after cleaning.
Good dental care can actually help prolong your dog’s life. Over time, bacteria build up and form plaque on your dog’s teeth, which can then harden into tartar if not removed. This can cause gingivitis, gum disease and other problems that, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening infections and heart, liver and kidney disease.
The good news is that dental disease is preventable and reversible. Brush your dog’s teeth at least 2-3 times a week with toothpaste and a toothbrush made for dogs — never use toothpaste made for people. If you have a puppy, remember that his baby teeth will fall out, but brushing them will help your puppy get used to having his teeth brushed, which will help make it easier as he gets older. High-quality dry dog food and chew toys can also help reduce tartar accumulation. When brushing, look for signs of dental problems, such as red, swollen gums, yellow or brown teeth, bad breath, loose adult teeth and pain when eating, and contact your veterinarian if these signs are spotted. Also, talk to your vet about a recommended teeth-cleaning schedule. Providing regular maintenance care at home between these professional cleanings can reduce their frequency.
Trimming your dog’s nails makes your dog more comfortable and helps reduce scratches on wood floors. Some dogs may not enjoy the process, so if that’s the case, consider having his nails trimmed by your veterinarian or a professional groomer.
If you do wish to trim your dog’s nails at home, you’ll need trimmers, treats and either cornstarch or styptic powder if available. Also, try to enlist a helper to hold and soothe your dog while you trim. First, let your dog sniff the trimmers while you pet him reassuringly and give him a treat. Then, while he’s relaxed and lying down, lift his paw and trim only the very end of his nail. Be very careful not to cut the “quick” of his nail, which contains nerve endings and blood vessels. It’s easier to see in light-colored nails. For dogs with dark nails, trim just the tip and then look at the nail head-on. If you see a small dark circle, then you should stop. If you accidentally trim too far and the nail starts to bleed, quickly apply pressure or dip it in cornstarch or styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Keep sessions short, trimming one paw per session if needed, and give him praise and treats afterwards. Also, as with your dog’s ears, try to handle his paws often to get him comfortable with it.
Initially, it may be a learning experience to groom your dog. Once these grooming sessions become part of your regular routine, they will become quicker and easier. And with the long-term health benefits for your dog, it’s definitely worth the effort!