How to Groom a Dog to Be Healthy and Happy

Oh, dog grooming. You don't love doing it. Most dogs sure as heck don't love getting it done. But, along with proper food and water, proper grooming can ensure your dog stays healthy and never has to bear the shame of being the smelly kid at the dog park. Here are some dog grooming tips to help you know the ins and outs of keeping your pup pretty, and sometimes, healthy.

The first question is, does your dog have short or long hair?

Short-Haired Dogs

If you have a short-haired dog, you're in luck! Sort of. Short-haired dogs need much less brushing than long-haired dogs, and generally, their grooming can be done at home. There's the good news. The bad news is most short-haired dogs actually have two coats – one outer layer, which is dense and water-resistant, and one short coat underneath. These coats produce oil, which can become quite smelly.1 They will need to be bathed more frequently than long-haired dogs, even as often as once a week, provided you use a gentle shampoo. For dogs who do fewer "dirty" activities, you can stretch it a little longer, even up to 12 weeks during non-shedding seasons.

One tip for dog bathing: make it something she looks forward to by giving her treats and taking it slow. Grooming can be a little uncomfortable for dogs. The pulling, the getting wet, and so forth. A tip from the ASPCA encourages, "Whenever you groom your dog, be sure to immediately follow the activity with things she loves. For example, if you're trimming your dog's nails, clip a nail and then feed your dog a delicious treat. Clip another nail or two and feed another treat. With repetition and a little time, your dog will probably decide that getting her nails done is fun, not frightening.2

To clip your dog's nails, be sure to use dog nail clippers or trimmers specifically made for that purpose. Specialized dog nail clippers come in different sizes depending on age and breed. Having the right nail clippers prevent accidents and keeps your dog as comfortable as possible. A good trick to know where to cut is to cut where the nail is white, not pink. If you cut too far down, you could injure your dog. Think about cutting your nail down to the quick, ouch! Nail clipping can be traumatic for your dog if you're not careful, and some owners prefer to have their dog's nails trimmed at the vet or groomer. If you choose to do this, keep in mind that she will need to go in for nail clippings every two to three months.

As for bathing tools, you'll need cotton balls for keeping water out of her ears, shampoo, a jug to mix and dilute the shampoo, and clean towels. Bathe your dog in a clean area where you're sure your dog won't slip. If your dog will stay still, a hose in the backyard in the summer is great. Winter, you'll want to be inside to ensure your dog doesn't get a chill. When you're washing, check the temperature to make sure it isn't too hot or cold, and rinse her off thoroughly. Check the eyes, ears, teeth, and feet at this time as well. It's important to check for sticky deposits in her eyes or wax buildup in her ears. Also, make sure all the soap is rinsed from the tail. Leftover soap can cause the hair to fall out. If you notice anything strange, call your vet.

Long-Haired Dogs

If you have a long-haired dog, first and foremost, you need a good brush. A good brush is your best tool against the dreaded mats that can form on long-haired dogs. Mats make her look a little shaggy and can even cause pain if they get bad enough. Every other day or every two days, it's important to brush your dog. We can't stress the importance of regular brushing enough.

If you don't brush often (and to be fair, sometimes even if you do), mats can happen. And they can hurt your dog. In this case, it's best to either use your fingers to separate the mats (giving your pup treats as you go) or investing in a pair of clippers to trim the coat close and get the tangles out. The better news is if your dog doesn't get into anything smelly, her skin produces less oil than short-haired dogs, and she needs fewer baths.

Some owners with long-haired dogs prefer to get them groomed professionally. Depending on the breed, this may save you valuable time, but with a little practice and know-how, you can groom your dog at home. What you need to make it a successful adventure are the proper tools, the know-how and a good amount of trust between you and your beloved pet. Snip, snip! Own a cat too? Be sure to check out Cat Grooming 101!



  1. "Grooming Short Haired Dogs" Dog Grooming Tutorial, 6 March 2013. Web. 10 March 2015
  2. "Grooming Your Dog" ASPCA. Web. 10 March 2015

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