PRE-BATH GROOMING STEPS
Gather your grooming materials - Get your tools together before you get your dog and begin grooming so that you are not looking around for things and you can make sure that you have everything you need.
Brush your dog’s fur - It is best to use a comb as it will get stuck on any knots forming in your dog’s fur while a brush is more likely to miss them. Make sure to comb your dog thoroughly before bathing them as any knots or mats will tighten and become harder to remove after they dry. TIP - If you find a knot with the comb do not try and yank it out, use a brush to ease it out just as you would on your own hair. Try not to brush in the same spot for too long otherwise, you can cause brush burn, check their skin to see if it is getting red or irritated.
Don’t forget praise - make sure to tell your dog what a good job they’re doing and reward good behaviour with praise and occasional treats. Make grooming a positive experience for them and if they are visibly uncomfortable, scared or just getting fed up, don’t hesitate to take breaks and have some playtime.
Cutting out mats - matting can be very uncomfortable and painful for your dog as it pulls on their skin when they move. If you find any mats that cannot be brushed out then they will need to be cut or shaved depending on how close they are to the skin, this should be done by someone who knows what they are doing or is a professional. Be very careful when cutting/shaving your dog’s fur, if you don’t think that you can get it out safely then make an appointment with your vet or groomer. TIP - To avoid mats altogether, brush your dog little and often focusing on their chest, behind their ears and legs as this is where mats tend to build up.
Clean their eyes - If you do not have any dog-friendly eye wipes you can use a piece of cotton wool with warm water to wipe any discharge from around their eyes. Start in the corner of their eyes and wipe gently in a downward motion. Do this daily to avoid any build-up. If your dog has tear stains on their fur surrounding their eyes you can buy products to remove these. TIP - A healthy eye should be clear, free from discharge, inflammation and irritation. The whites of their eyes should be white, not yellow or red.
Clean their ears - It is important to clean your dog’s ears when needed but do not over clean them as this could lead to infections. It is normal for your dog’s ears to have some wax in them but if you notice a build-up or an odour then it is time to give them a clean. You do not need any special equipment just a good quality dog ear cleaning solution and cotton balls (never use Q-tips)! When you are done wiping their ears clean, use a dry cloth to dry them. The ears are very sensitive parts of the body, reward your dog afterwards! TIP - Clean only what you can see and avoid going deeper into the ear. If your dog’s ears are inflamed, red, smelly or painful do not attempt to clean them and make an appointment with your vet.
Brush their teeth - Start teeth cleaning as a puppy to get them used to it as early as possible. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily or at least several times a week as dental problems can lead to serious health issues such as heart and kidney disease. Never use human toothpaste as it is toxic to pets, make sure to buy a suitable dog toothpaste. Steps: (These should be done slowly over a few days/weeks until they are comfortable) 1. Put a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and let your dog lick it, they should like the taste. 2. Put a small amount of toothpaste on your fingertip 3. With your other hand hold your dog’s muzzle gently so that it is mostly closed while your fingers pull their lip up to expose their teeth. 4. Now you can use your finger to rub the toothpaste on your dog’s teeth. 5. Make sure their mouth stays shut to avoid any potential biting. If your dog is trying to bite you do not attempt to proceed and get help from your vet or groomer. 6. Make sure to reward them for cooperating.
Once your dog is comfortable with you using your finger to brush their teeth you can try upgrading to a finger toothbrush and then eventually a dog toothbrush. Dental chews are a good way to help keep your dog’s mouth healthy as well. TIP - Look out for red gums or brown material stuck to your dog’s teeth, these are signs that home tooth brushing will be painful and requires a vet visit first.
Clip their nails - You should have your dog’s nails clipped every few weeks depending on how fast they grow. You can use a nail file, nail grinder or nail clippers. If you are not trained or experienced in clipping dog nails then this should ideally be done by a professional to avoid clipping too far and hitting a blood vessel. You can ask your vet or groomer to teach you how to do it yourself. If you aren’t comfortable using clippers, using a nail file or grinder is much safer but it is more time-consuming. Whichever method you choose, make sure you know when to stop to avoid injury! TIP - If you can hear your dog’s nails on the ground when they walk then they are probably too long. Sidewalks and concrete surfaces will naturally file your dog’s nails, so nice long walks will help keep them healthy.
BATHING YOUR DOG
Gather all necessary bath products - Make sure you have everything that you are planning to use during the bath such as dog shampoo, washcloth, treats and dry towels. TIP - You are in the splash zone! Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting quite wet.
Place a non-slip mat in the bath - The bathtub can get quite slippery when it’s wet and soapy which can be unsettling for your dog if they are sliding around. TIP - If you do not have a non-slip mat you can use a towel.
Turn on the water - Make sure to run the water on your hand first until it is a nice lukewarm temperate.
Secure your dog - If they are unlikely to sit still you can have someone else hold them while you bathe them or you can purchase a bath lead which suctions onto the wall. If using a bath lead make sure to monitor your dog’s breathing as they could potentially choke themselves.
Fully wet your dog - Make sure to completely wet your dog’s coat before applying any dog shampoo products. You should only wet your dog from the neck down at this point.
Apply shampoo - Read your dog shampoo instructions first as you may need to dilute it before use. Next, use your fingers to massage the shampoo thoroughly into your dog’s coat, start from the neck and work your way down towards their legs and tail. Now you can move on to the head, get a washcloth/wet towel and gently wipe their head and face clean. Do not use any products that are not specifically for use around your dog’s eyes and avoid getting any water in their ears as it is uncomfortable and can cause infections. TIP - When massaging the shampoo into your dog’s coat, use your fingertips and the palms of your hands in circular motions.
Rinse thoroughly - Keep rinsing until the water runs clear of soap and dirt. Run your hand all over your dog’s fur to make sure there is no soap left anywhere, especially in harder to reach areas. TIP - To help make sure the fur is soap-free rub it in-between your fingers and gently pull. This will either make soapy bubbles appear or it will feel squeaky which means that it is clean.
Dry your dog - Congratulations if you have gotten this far! Before you let your dog go nuts around the house, all wet dogs do for some weird reason, make sure to dry them as much as you can. Use your hands to get rid of as much water as possible by firmly stroking down your dog’s fur. You can then let them shake before beginning to towel dry them. If your dog has very long or thick fur, you might need to blow dry them. You can brush their coat while blow drying it to speed up the process but make sure not to overheat or over-dry your dog. To help avoid this, use the cool setting on your blow dryer. If your dog is scared of the dryer, no problem, just towel dry them as best as you can.
If your dog gets aggressive or extremely scared during any of the grooming steps mentioned above, do not force them to endure it or it could end in injury for you or your pooch. If grooming them is necessary, take them to the vet or groomers to help complete the job.