How To Groom A Dog
Important Basics And Essential Supplies

When you groom a dog at home, having the right tools for the job can make all the difference in the outcome. Getting the wrong ones may cause some damage!

puppy with grooming toolsHome Grooming

High quality grooming tools are designed to meet the needs of various dog coat types, so knowing the coat type is the first step in finding suitable equipment to groom your dog.

Here are a few common coat types with examples:

  • Crisp Coat: German Shepherd, Akita
  • Curly/Woolly: Poodle, Bichon Frise
  • Drop coat: English Toy Spaniel, Silky Terrier
  • Smooth coat: Beagle, Labrador
  • Wire/Coarse coat: Airedale Terrier, Schnauzer

Dog Grooming In The Past

Did you know that the grooming of dogs has been going on for a very long time? Well it's not so hard to believe if you've ever bedded down with a dirty dog!  And in those days, dogs were frequently used as bed warmers.

That being said, it wasn't until around the 14th century that there was visual evidence of well-groomed dogs taking center stage in famous paintings of that period.

No doubt these pets belonged to elite society, but even so, it probably started a pet pampering trend!

Groom A Dog - Save Money

Chinese Crested dog lying down with a red rose alongside

Whether or not you're a member of the rich and famous, saving a buck or two always has a nice ring to it. Plus, cash aside,  there's also the chance that you might have a nervous pooch that prefers your tender touch over going to the salon?

Whatever the case, if you follow our grooming tips and have the basic supplies,  you can easily do a pretty good job of keeping your dog in the best condition.

And you know what? It doesn't take that much time especially if you have a dog grooming table. A table doesn't cost much and your back will thank you.  I know!

Just a little bit of care each day and your pet will stay looking and feeling so good.

dog standing on a dog grooming table

Preparing To Groom A Dog - Kits And Supplies

For easy at home care, putting together a dog grooming kit is the way to go. If you already have a few grooming supplies, gather them together and keep this tool kit handy for routine maintenance and touch-ups etc.

The lists below include the basic essentials needed to groom a dog at home. If you're missing any of the items, just fill in the gaps to round out your own needs.

Old English Sheepdog graphic illustration

Once you have these tools, it will make it so much easier to keep your pet from getting shaggy and smelly. What's more, if you have a routine, you and your pet will always be ready to go out and have some fun!

So let's get started.

Dog brushes

Types of Dog Brushes

Choose what you need based on your dog's coat type and length.

  • The all-around workhorse is the bristle brush. Pick a soft one if the coat is short/tight/fine. Stiffer brushes are best for stiffer, double or more wiry coats. Used often, bristle brushes bring out the natural oils in the coat and give it luster.

  • Nearly all dogs shed to some degree, so getting a shedding tool to cut down on the amount of shedding, is a lifesaver. The FurMinator is one such tool you may recognize, but there are many look-alike ones that operate the same way. Optionally, an undercoat rake does the same job quite easily, especially on thicker coats.
  • Slicker brushes are a big help in dealing with snarls and knotted hair - in other words this is a good tool for de-tangling. The slicker brush works no matter what type of coat your dog has. It also separates the hair to give the coat a nice lift. (Note: If not removed, mats and tangles often lead to hot spots - not what you want).
  • Pin brushes help remove loose hair and are generally the choice for longer, sleek-type hair. The pins usually have rounded ends to protect the skin when being used.

Dog Haircut Supplies

This list of tools is for the haircut phase of grooming a dog. Sometimes that might include a full haircut or just a trim.

  • A variety of dog grooming combs to use during the haircut and in the finishing stages. Include one for fleas just in case you need to find one or more!
  • A high quality clipper set for in-between trims, or full haircuts if you choose to routinely or occasionally take care of this job.
  • A scissor kit if you are comfortable and experienced in using them for dog grooming. If you're not, a safer alternative, especially if you have a nervous pet, is a unique scissor kit called Scaredy Cut. These are scissors to which various combs can be attached that control how much hair is being trimmed - anywhere from 1/2 to 1 inch.

With your dog table and supplies at hand, you won't have to totally rely on a grooming professional to keep up your dog's appearance.

Thankfully, pet grooming tools have evolved to handle just about everything that's needed to groom a dog at home.

First Things First - Tackle The Tangles

Begin by removing any loose dog hair. Grooming gloves will help you do this and at the same time give your pal a nice massage - always welcome!

Next focus your attention on any tangles, or matted areas you've found in your first pass. You may need a mat splitter and de-tangling spray to do this, depending on how severe the mats are. Frequent use will also help you target areas in your dog's coat that easily tangle, are harder to reach, and can become attractive hiding places for parasites.

Be sure to read our detailed page on how to deal with matted dog hair.

While a dog's coat is without doubt the main focus of dog grooming, Rover needs to be routinely inspected from head to tail to check other areas that may need attention, such as ears, eyes, teeth nails, paws, and anal glands. When you have a regular grooming routine that includes this, your dog will not only look great, he will be healthier for it.


Time for the suds...

You can wash a dog at home  in any one of a number of places around the house. Depending on the size of your dog, there's the shower, the tub, the laundry sink, the hose or a specialty dog bathtub.

Once you've selected a place, you'll find an amazing array of great products in the marketplace for bathing a dog no matter what kind of coat he has.

Dogs are looking good and smelling even better with the availability of high quality shampoos and conditioners as well as deodorizing sprays and even colognes.

Specific formulas have been devised for the itchy coat, the stinky coat, the dry coat, the snarly coat. For more sensitive pups, hypoallergenic shampoos are their best choice.

Once you are ready to wash your dog, don't begin until you have read  "Bathe Your Dog Spa Style" .  This article describes a game plan that makes washing a dog a more pampering experience for any pet. Check it out if you want to give Rover the works!

Groom A Dog And Make It Thorough

Man brushing a dog

When you set aside some regular time for grooming, try to make it all inclusive.  Checking his eyes, ears, and teeth, listening to his heart and running your hands over his body, will give you information about his condition that might otherwise go unnoticed.

If you do this often,  you'll be more likely to spot any changes in him which could be life-saving to your pet.

This alone is a good enough reason to maintain your dog’s hygiene, but an additional plus is the chance you get to enjoy some one-on-one time with him.

How To Groom A Dog's Paws, Nails And Ears

While some dogs are more active than others or spend more time in rougher terrain, all dogs' paws get a workout and are not protected by shoes like human feet (at least for the most part!). You may hear some clicking as he or she walks across the floor, but that's not the sound of high heels, it just means a pedicure is needed! 

A Dremel is an amazing, less traumatic way to handle a nail trim if your dog is freaked out by clippers, or has black nails where the quick is harder to see. But there's no two ways about it, nail clipping is an 'important' necessary evil!

Paws can be the target for burrs, embedded sharp objects, scratches, cuts, painful cracks, infections and broken nails. In other words, they need frequent inspection and some TLC. You can learn about paw care here.

Ears are an area that dogs cannot self-groom or easily protect. As a result, they are often invaded by parasites and vulnerable to infection. They can also accumulate excess wax, dirt and debris which needs regular removal. We have written a detailed page on cleaning dogs ears because it is so important to a dog's health and comfort.

smiling cute dog showing teeth

The Importance Of Canine Dental Care

Our 'how to groom a dog guide' would not be complete without a very essential topic: dental care.

The presence of doggie breath is a clear signal that a dog has to have a solid foundation of dental hygiene as part of his grooming routine.

Unfortunately, most dogs don't come running to have their teeth brushed! But, when they do, use an enzymatic toothpaste - it's the best in my view.

Dental care is so important to Rover's overall health that we have devoted an entire page to the subject. Here you will find out everything you've always wanted to know about cleaning your dog's teeth - well, almost everything - we've given it our best shot!!

In the meantime, dog dental chew knots can be an enjoyable way to for your dog to participate in his own dental hygiene. Also, if you're a very busy person and short on time - who isn't? - your dog and you will benefit if you find out about the easy-to-use Dental Wipes, and keep some handy for a quick fix on a daily basis.

For long term dental care, our canine's "canines" depend also on a healthy nutritious diet. The right kind of ingredients typically found in premium dog food will promote a healthy immune system. This in turn leads to production of the right acids in the saliva to fight plaque.

Professional Dog Grooming

When professional pet grooming is called for, try to find a salon with licensed staff that not only knows how to groom a dog, but are sufficiently talented to get the job done right.

Asking for referrals is a good idea - check with the posh doggies in your neighborhood for a 'yelp' you can believe! But, before entrusting your dog to any unknown clippers, visit the salon personally to make sure the groomers really know their stuff and treat their puppies well.

When you groom a dog at home,  periodic professional head-to-tail spruce is helpful in maintaining a healthy coat and protection it from parasites. It's also a good idea to have a backup that your dog knows.

Lastly, if your pet has a coat that easily develops mats and snarls, be sure to read our detailed article on "how to undo your dog's tangles". It will help you handle this snarly problem in the gentlest manner. Specialized de-tangling and shedding combs are just some of the dog grooming tools your dog wants you to have, to make this job a lot easier on him!

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