Dog Grooming

Slicker Brush

The grooming requirements will vary greatly from breed to breed, from brushing every day and regular bathing with some to simply brushing and wiping down with a damp cloth occasionally with others. Coat type, length and natural shedding levels will also play a part in how often a dog should be groomed. Short haired dogs may only require brushing as little as once a month. Longer haired dogs can be more be more prone to matting and tangles and so should be brushed more often, say weekly for medium-haired dogs and daily for long haired dogs. Heavier shedding dogs will often require more frequent brushing, especially during shedding seasons, to help prevent hair build-up and excess shedding.

Unless you wish to enter your pet into dog shows then there's no reason to invest the time and effort in grooming your beloved pooch to the levels required to meet those sort of standards. In high maintenance dogs some owners recommend having them professionally groomed once a month, which can be costly, but then many owners can become just as competent as the professionals anyway through regular practice. Note also that it often isn't necessary to maintain the length of coat required for shows either, as long as the general shape of the breed is maintained and more importantly, that the hair is kept healthy and in good condition.

Getting Started

Hopefully the breeder you purchase your puppy from will have begun getting your dog accustomed to regular grooming already, especially if it is a high maintentance breed. If they have not then it is important to start as soon as possible. Your dog may not like this at first but after a while they will soon accept that it has to be done. Eventually most dogs will enjoy being brushed, and grooming sessions will help strengthen the bond between dog and owner while maintaining a healthy coat. For grooming most dogs you will need some basic dog grooming supplies:

Grooming a puppy

Some owners recommend using a small grooming table to discourage the dog from trying to wander off. We find the floor and a stern "NO" works just fine. This next section will deal with grooming a Bichon Frise, our dog of choice, which is a low shedding breed that requires a relatively high level of grooming. Many of the grooming techniques can be applied to other breeds.

Grooming an adult dog

If groomed regularly from being a puppy, then this is relatively easy both for you and your dog. However, an adult dog's coat can often be a completely different texture from the puppy and may be much longer and thicker, although the method of brushing is much the same. In fact the only real difference is that there is more dog and therefore more hair to deal with. The pin brush is more effective for line brushing here and is less likely to tear out the hair. Ten minutes a day and a longer weekly session will keep your dog matt free.


Some dogs love the water and others may hate it, but most dogs will become used to being bathed if owners persist with it from an early age. Some breeds will need bathing more often than others depending upon the type and length of coat, but as a general rule most dogs can be bathed monthly. Use a rubber bath-mat to prevent slippage and a mild soap-free shampoo. If you dog has a white coat then preferably use one suited to white dogs too. Use warm water (but not hot) to lessen the shock to your dog and try to wash into all the awkward areas. Once finished, towel the dog dry as much as possible, where no doubt he or she will assist you occasionally. Then brush dry using a brush and a hair dryer on a low heat setting. Alternatively you may allow the hair to dry by itself, but this can make it curl and a little more difficult to trim if that is the intention. Remove any tangles and line brush as described earlier. Some dogs, like the Bichon, should only be bathed after being brushed, as matts tend to get worse with water.

Hair Trimming

Many dogs may not require their hair to be trimmed at all, other than perhaps around the bottom area for hygiene reasons or between the pads of the feet for comfort. Some may simply need other areas trimming occasionally such as beards, eyebrows, any feathered areas or topknots. However, dog breeds with continuously growing hair, such as the Bichon Frise, Poodle or Shih Tzu may typically need their hair trimming every 2-4 weeks or so depending on the breed and the style of the coat. For a dog like the Bichon, a good time to trim is immediately after drying following bathing, before the hair curls back. Note that with most dogs, the only difference between pet trimming and show trimming is the length of hair (with the finish work sometimes being an art in itself). The pet trim is generally much shorter and easier to maintain, and is what most owners with any sense tend to do - especially if the dog is a family pet.

Nail Trimming

A dog's nails can grow pretty quickly if they mostly encounter soft surfaces such as grass or carpets. A telltale sign of overgrown nails are when walking becomes noisy on harder surfaces, such as floorboards or tiled floors. Nails will need trimming every few weeks, and more frequently if the dog still has its dewclaws (the nails farther up the inside of the legs). Don't allow nails to become overgrown as they will not cut back easily and will affect your dog's gait.

First it is a good idea to inspect the dog's feet for cracked pads and to check betweeen the toes for thorns and splinters (note that any serious problems should be resolved by a qualified vet). Then trim the nails individually and a little at a time, taking care. Each nail has a blood vessel in the center, called the "quick". These grow close to the ends of the nails and contain sensitive nerve endings. If a nail grows too long, it is impossible to cut back to proper length without cutting into the quick, which is very painful and can cause a great deal of bleeding that can be hard to stem. It is advisable to have a blood clotting product at hand during nail trimming. In light coloured nails, the quick can be seen easily as a pink line; in darker nails, a torch can be used to reveal it.

Nail trimming is often disliked by dogs and owners alike. Owners often feel uncomfortable with the process for fear of hurting their dogs, and many dogs may dislike even having their paws handled and will develop an aversion to nail trimming if they experience pain from it. An alternative to nail trimming is the use of a rotary tool to file down nails.