There’s nothing quite like picking your dog up from the groomer, am I right? They’re so clean, well brushed, and have perfectly trimmed nails. But a trip to the groomer isn’t cheap or always convenient. In fact, lots of owners are wondering about DIY dog grooming.
And actually, grooming your dog yourself isn’t as hard as you think! Sure, it takes some time and effort, but it’s totally doable, even for beginners. Especially if you’ve got the right gear.
It’s especially helpful to do pet grooming at home if your dog:
- Is getting older and needs more frequent bathing and grooming
- Has anxiety related to the groomer
- Has a higher maintenance coat that needs regular grooming
- Has an affinity for rolling in dead animals and other undesirable things
- Frequently gets dirty for one reason or another
Today we’re going to cover everything you need to know to get your DIY dog grooming on. From tips to gear to when and how, let’s get Fido looking shiny and clean!
How often should I groom my dog?
This is a question that many dog owners wonder, and actually, there’s not one size fits all answer. It depends a lot on your dog’s breed, coat type, activity level, and lifestyle.
Dogs that regularly romp around in woods are going to need more frequent bathing than older dogs that go on street walks. Similarly, a dog with a long coat that needs regular trimming like a Poodle will need more regular grooming whereas a Labrador doesn’t need baths all that often and can get away with brushing a few times a week.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some general guidelines on when to bathe and groom your dog:
- Bathing: it’s safe to bathe most dogs as often as once per month. Dogs with short hair or thick double coats only need to be bathed once every 3-4 months
- Coat trimming: this is probably the most variable aspect of dog grooming––and some dogs never need their hair cut! The best way to determine this is to look up your dog’s specific breed or ask your vet for advice if you have a mixed breed. I also always recommend dog DNA testing to find out what breeds are in your dog (it’s cheaper than you think). It can help so much with training techniques, grooming advice, and veterinary care
- Nail clipping: the easiest way to know it’s time to clip your dog’s nails? When you hear them click on the floor when they walk or notice that they are very long––there’s not much more to it!
- Tooth brushing: Ideally you want to brush your dog’s teeth 2-3 times per month. Read my complete guide to dog dental care for all the details
Pet Grooming at home: What do I need?
Having the right gear for some DIY dog grooming will make the job so much easier. Here we’ve broken it down into categories to help you get the job done.
Dog bathing supplies
- Detachable shower head: this is really a gamechanger when it comes to bathing your dog at home. You can use any conventional detachable showerhead or get one specifically for dog bathing. One like this is designed to be run along your dog’s body for optimal rinsing
- Dog shampoo: always opt for a shampoo that’s formulated for dogs. Human formulas have a different PH and can be irritating to our pet’s skin. I also recommend looking for an all-natural or sensitive skin formula which are also more sensitive and hydrating. These types of formulas are good for all dogs, not just ones that are obviously itchy or sensitive
- Dog conditioner: You only need to use a conditioner on your dog if they are getting bathed very often (for whatever reason) or if they have really dry skin. It’s a good idea to get your vet’s opinion on whether or not a conditioner is necessary for your dog. In many cases, it’s an added unnecessary step
- Hair trap for the drain: a drain catch that’s specially designed for pet hair makes a huge difference in clogs
- Some good towels: having a bunch of towels at the ready is important. While it’s not essential, super-absorbent towels to dry them faster are nice to have. I recently invested in a bunch for my pack and see a big difference in dry time
- Dog hairdryer: these are nice to have especially if you plan to bathe your dog regularly at home. Ones made for pets are quieter and usually come with different attachments to really get the fur and undercoat dry. You can also use a regular hair dryer on a cooler setting if your dog is tolerant of the noise
Dog coat grooming supplies
- The right brush for your dog’s coat: regular brushing is important for all dogs to reduce shedding, prevent matting, and keep their skin healthy. Before a bath, you always want to give your dog a good brushing, too. To learn about what brush is right for your dog, head over to this article all about shedding
- A good pair of scissors: if your dog has a long coat, scissors are a must for clipping hair away from the eyes, in between the toes, and wherever else you can use a buzzer or only want to take a little bit of hair off. Scissors designed for dog grooming have a rounded, blunt tip and are safer to use
- Dog clippers/buzzers: Whether your dog needs haircuts regularly or not, dog buzzers are good to have around. None of my three dogs need haircuts, but we use the buzzers when one of them gets a cut, a hotspot, or some other skin irritation
- Stripping comb: If you have a dog with a wire-coat, a stripping comb is the right way to thin and coat their hair. Using a stripping comb can be tricky. I recommend watching YouTube videos for a tutorial on how to do it properly
- Nail clippers or grinder: I recommend a pair of nail clippers that have a safety stop to prevent you from cutting into the quick. If your dog is relaxed and will sit still long enough for their nails to be filed, you could opt for an electric nail grinder instead. Read my full guide to clipping your dog’s nails for more on this
DIY dog grooming tips
- Bathe your dog with warm water whenever possible. I know it can be tempting to do it outside with a hose, but warm water will make the experience far more pleasant for everyone
- Keep a leash on your dog while you’re bathing or brushing them for better control. If you have a buddy that can help, even better!
- When shampooing your dog, start behind the ears and work your way across their back and down their legs. Shampoo their face last and then immediately rinse the face first
- Do two thorough rinses to get all the shampoo off your dog
- AKC recommends mixing the shampoo with some warm water in a bowl and then applying it to your dog with a sponge for more even coverage
- Clean your dog’s eyes using a warm washcloth. If you need to trim around their eyes, clean them and get the hair wet first
- Use bath time as a chance to check your dog’s skin and coat for injuries, rashes, ticks, etc.
- Keep grooming times a positive as possible with lots of treats and praise
- Always have everything you need at the ready to avoid extra messes and frustration. I like to keep everything in a bucket
- Use YouTube! Seriously. Watching someone else do the thing you want to do can help so much and give you the confidence to get it done right. Look up nail clipping, dog haircuts, and even bathing techniques
Ready to do your pet grooming at home?
With the tips in this article and all the supplies you need, you can totally do this! Soon you will be grooming your dog at home which will save you time, money and reduce your dog’s stress of going to the groomer.
Sure, there will be times when having a professional deal with it is necessary (or just a nice treat!) but DIY dog grooming is attainable for most owners, even you!
For a handbook with even more information on dog care and grooming, along with other tips, tricks, and know-how, check out the Monster K9 Adult Dog E-Book! It’s a must-have for every dog owner.