You know how it is: your dog hates the groomer so you decide to give grooming your dog a go at home. It sounded like such a great idea at the time but now you’re ready to get started you’re wondering if it was such a wise plan!
I’ve been grooming my dog Annie for the last 2 years at home. She’s a Bedlington Terrier and she needs regular grooming because she doesn’t shed her hair. If she gets left she gets all matted and that is no fun at all!
Now I could have decided to take her to the dog groomers but I really wanted to make sure I knew how to do it myself and, of course, it does save us quite a bit of money.
People want to groom their own dogs for many reasons:
- to save money (especially if there is more than one dog!)
- to help a nervous dog
- to learn how to do it
- because the breed needs a lot of maintenance
- because there are no dog groomers nearby
- because they simply enjoy the time with their dog
I fit into at least 4 of those categories!
I know that I was incredibly nervous when I started grooming so I thought I’d share some tips for grooming your dog at home that will hopefully help you now that you’re clearly thinking about it!
The first tip I have for you is to be prepared when you want to do your grooming.
You need to make sure you have everything you need and be ready for the whole session when you get started. So before you even start, you need to know you have all the equipment.
Here’s a basic list of what you might need:
- Dog Shampoo
- A towel (or 3!)
- Dog clippers
- Slicker Brush
- Nail clippers – we got these ones and really recommend them
- A grooming table or sturdy platform for your dog to sit on (we use a large footstool – it’s not a great height but works at a push. I’d like a proper table one day)
Some people swear by also having:
- Specialist hair dryer (we use a regular one and just be careful not to get too close to her)
- Nail grinders
- Smaller clippers for paws
Once you know you have everything then you can move on.
As an aside, if you can, get the best you can afford when it comes to this equipment. It makes the job much more pleasant and as someone who is waiting for her more expensive clippers to be repaired, I know this first hand! A lot of it doesn’t need to be perfect at first. We don’t have a special grooming table or hair dryer, but we might upgrade to them soon. Clippers, scissors and brushes were things we had to buy anyway so we tried to get good quality there first.
What kind of groom are you doing?
When you decide to do your grooming you need to work out what you’re planning to do. Is it the whole brush, bath and cut or are you just doing a small part of it.
Even now that we’re used to doing it we still have days when we don’t do everything and just perhaps do a small brush and cut with scissors. Sometimes she gets a whole trim with clippers but no bath and sometimes she gets squeaky clean in the shower!
When it’s time to groom
Get all your equipment to hand
Have some treats ready
Have a partner to help you if you can – my daughter always helps me
First time tips
If you’ve never groomed your dog before then I have a few more tips for you:
- choose a time when you’re not stressed or tired yourself
- start with a small groom – perhaps just getting your dog used to standing on a platform while you brush them.
- If you have a dog grooming table be careful if you have the loops for keeping your dog there, especially if you think your dog might jump off as they can really hurt themselves. Best option is having another person with you to give you a hand and be the one to keep hold of your dog.
- Make sure to give plenty of treats.
- If you know that you’ll be planning to use clippers at some point then a good tip is to start getting your dog used to the noise even while not using them. Just turn them on, perhaps lay the vibrating body on your dogs back so he or she can just get familiar with it.
- Give plenty of praise and try and be happy – dogs can definitely sense when you’re stressed.
Tips for washing
If you’ve never tried to wash a dog before then you’re in for a treat!
Sometimes we make sure to brush Annie before washing her – we only do this if she’s especially scruffy and needing it though. If you have a long haired dog you might need to do this.
First of all you need to get your dog wet all over. We always put Annie in our shower cubicle which works well for us. If you just have a bath, either use a shower head or a jug of warm water.
Keep the water just warm and be careful not to make it too hot.
Use shampoo sparingly – only a small amount will probably be sufficient to get your dog clean. Follow the guidelines on what you buy.
Make sure to rinse it all out – any residue might make your dogs skin itchy.
Try and dry your dog with an old towel as best as you can before…
they do the biggest shake ever and you get completely wet! It will certainly happen!
Either let them dry naturally (keep them warm though) or use a hair dryer on them to get them ready for the next stage. We just use a regular hair dryer – your best bet is one that has a cold setting or a special dog dryer.
Tips for brushing
Brushing dogs is the easiest bit really but for some dogs it can still be stressful. I know that Annie still doesn’t really enjoy it.
Be gentle with brushing, especially if your dog is prone to getting knots in their hair.
Any mats or knots might need be cut out rather than just attacked with a brush so have some scissors on hand for that
Take your time and see whether you prefer to use a comb or a brush. While we have a comb I rarely use it as I just would rather use a brush.
I like to use slicker brushes and they work well for my dog. They are brushes with metal bristles and they come in different sizes. I like the ones with the little bobbles on the end as I was advised that they are better (and nicer for the dog!). It might depend on your breed as to what is better for you.
If your dog is small or needs a lot of brushing around their face then I suggest getting a mini brush. We got one just recently – I think it was marketed for small animals like rabbits – and it makes such a difference.
Tips for clipping
Cutting your dogs hair is the tricky bit and the bit that some people get scared of doing.
It can be scary. Best thing to do is take your time.
Get your dog used to the sound of the clippers before you start using them.
Get yourself on YouTube and see if you can find any tutorial videos for how to clip the dog that you have. I wouldn’t have known where to start without a few times watching someone clip Annie.
Make sure your clippers are charged up if they are cordless – you don’t want them conking out half way through!
Check which blades you’re using or which length comb you add to it. Always better to go a bit longer if you’re not sure!
Be careful when using scissors and always point them away from your dogs face.
Be extra careful around any sensitive parts, especially if your dog isn’t used to you being near them with noisy clippers or sharp scissors.
Don’t fret – dog hair comes back!
I hope that these tips were useful for you. Don’t worry, we all get things wrong and have terrible grooming mistake stories!
Now at the end of the grooming session give your dog a big hug and a treat – Annie always used to get a drink of milk from her previous owner after a groom and that was always kept as a special treat for this kind of thing. We’ve kept that going – it’s her grooming treat!
Then get the kettle on, clean up, and have a treat yourself – you’ve deserved it!