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Bathing and Grooming Your Dog at Home

Want to keep your dog looking his or her best? Learn how to keep your pup clean and neat from nose to tail with this guide!

At-home dog bathing and grooming can help maintain your dog’s appearance and hygiene in between visits to a professional groomer. Not only can grooming your dog at home help you save money, it’s an opportunity to bond with your dog, and can even help you notice changes in their health earlier. This grooming guide will explain how to keep your pup clean and neat from nose to tail!

mixed breed dog with skin and coat food

Your Guide to DIY Dog Grooming

Before diving into specifics, here are some basic do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

DO:

  • Use veterinarian-approved products formulated specifically for dogs.
  • Learn more about grooming and hygiene methods specific to your dog’s breed.
  • Ask your breeder, groomer, or veterinarian for advice on technique, supplies, and safety. 

DON’T:

  • Use products like shampoo, toothpaste or fragrance that are intended for humans.
  • Attempt to treat any wounds or abrasions on your own – always call a veterinarian.
  • Try to remove foreign objects from your dog’s paws, eyes, ears or mouth without consulting your vet.

It’s best to keep bathing and grooming sessions on the shorter side, to minimize potential stress for your dog. Use treats and praise to help your dog associate grooming with positive attention as you incorporate grooming activities into their routine.

Brushing

Regular brushing helps reduce shedding, discourage dandruff and stimulate circulation, which is good for dogs’ skin. For long-haired dogs, use a pin brush (the kind with long pins that have a tiny ball at each end). Use a bristle brush for short and medium-haired dogs.

While brushing, keep an eye out for abrasions, burrs, ticks and matted fur. You should aim to brush your dog every other day, or even once a day. You can also use a damp towel to wipe off dirt and other outdoor debris. Brush down and out in the direction of hair growth using firm strokes, but be careful not to hurt your dog’s skin. If your dog hates being brushed you can try a grooming glove, which makes brushing more like petting.

blue merle and red merle australian shepherds

Bathing

Start by standing your dog in a bathtub or basin. Gently wet your dog down using warm (not hot) water, and massage in a small amount of dog shampoo from the neck down. Rinse thoroughly, and rub your dog down with a towel before they shake. Dip a washcloth in warm water (it can have a little dog shampoo mixed in) and carefully wipe down your dog’s head and face – repeat with a clean wet washcloth to rinse.

How Often Should I Wash My Dog?

Dogs don’t need to bathe as often as people do. In fact, bathing your dog too frequently can strip natural oils from their coat and cause itching, dry skin and hair. Typically, once every couple of months is enough depending on your dog’s breed.

Do Dogs Need Bathing More Often in Summer?

When it’s hot out, or when your dog is getting more activity than usual, their skin may produce more oil and develop a noticeable odor. You may need to wash your dog more often in summer, which could mean weekly or monthly depending on their activity level, type of coat, and whether they have skin sensitivities.

Nail Trimming

Nail trimming is essential to help keep your dog’s paw pads and feet healthy. Long nails can put your dog’s gait off balance and make walking uncomfortable. Long nails are also at risk of getting torn or broken, which can be very painful. Make sure to use a nail trimmer suitable for your dog’s size, and keep cuts clear of the “quick”, a blood vessel that runs inside the nail. A good rule of thumb is to only trim the part of the nail below the curve.
Read more tips on how to trim a dog’s nails.

Cleaning Ears and Eyes

If your dog has discharge coming from the corner of their eyes, you can wipe it away using a cotton ball moistened with warm water. If discharge or other substances have dried around your dog’s eyes, gently press a warm damp washcloth against the area until the debris has softened, then wipe it away.

Visually inspect your dog’s ears for dirt, bugs, abrasions or discharge. Only clean the outer part of your dog’s ears, using a damp washcloth or cotton ball. As best you can, try to keep your dog’s ears dry after bathing or walking in wet weather to help prevent ear infections. Never put anything, including your finger, into a dog’s ear. If your dog appears to have ear irritation, consult your vet.

Teeth Cleaning

Cleaning your dog’s teeth is important not only to promote oral health, but to reduce the risk of other health problems linked to poor oral hygiene. Only use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs, as human toothpastes can have ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Ideally, it’s best to brush your dog’s teeth every day. To help your dog get used to brushing, you can start by rubbing their teeth with some toothpaste on your finger. You can also let them sniff and lick the toothbrush and toothpaste to get familiar with the smells and texture. 

When your dog is comfortable enough to let you start brushing, make sure their mouth is open wide enough to let you reach the gumline. Begin brushing the back teeth and work your way towards the front, then repeat on the other side. You may need to work your way up to brushing their entire mouth over time. If your dog hates having their teeth brushed, you may need to schedule a professional teeth cleaning.

border collie with beef heart treats

Best Left to the Pros

While there’s plenty of grooming you can do for your dog on your own, some tasks should be handled by a licensed dog groomer or veterinarian.

Haircuts

Professional dog groomers have the training and knowledge to safely groom dogs. They have the right equipment, and experience handling dogs who dislike grooming. This is especially important for sensitive areas, anxious dogs, and breeds with special grooming requirements.

Anal Glands

Dogs have anal glands, which are small sacs full of sweat and oil on either side of their rear end. Anal glands help dogs mark territory by expressing fluid when they poop. But anal glands can become impacted and make your dog uncomfortable. Problem signs include scooting their butt across the carpet, difficulty sitting, or licking and biting their butt.

Though there are plenty of DIY tutorials available online, you should never attempt to express your dog’s anal glands at home. Your dog’s veterinarian can safely diagnose and treat impacted anal glands. 

One of the most common causes of impacted anal glands is the food dogs eat. Many types of kibble result in soft stool which doesn’t help the glands express naturally. A raw food diet for dogs includes natural sources of fiber to help support digestive health. Ground bone found in raw dog food also firms up their stool, which can help empty the anal glands as it passes.
Raw and raw-inspired dog food from Stella & Chewy’s supports healthy skin, a vibrant coat, oral health and energy levels. Learn more about the benefits of a raw diet for dogs, or explore raw and natural dog food and treats below.

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Dog