Pet owners can save quite a bit of money by choosing to groom their dogs at home, but proper at-home dog grooming process is more than just a few baths and brushing sessions every now and again. If you're thinking about doing this yourself, a few tips from an expert may be just what you need.
In today's podcast episode, I'm joined by a professional pet groomer and Education Manager at the Andis company, Megan Mouser. We discussed everything new and experienced pet owners should know and be aware of when grooming their dogs at home by themselves, and covered the basics of essential dog grooming supplies you'll need.
Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.
- Episode link: TOP 033 – At-home Pet Grooming Tips from Expert Groomer
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At-Home Dog Grooming Tips from a Pro Groomer
(raw podcast transcript)
INTRO: As you guys know, dog grooming, pet grooming is one of the largest parts of the pet industry. Many people take their dogs for professional grooming or their pets for professional grooming which can get expensive, it can also be really strenuous on the pet.
So some parents are looking to save a little bit of money and make things easier on their pets and groom at home. This sounds so easy, right? Just brush your dog, bathe them, maybe give them a quick trim, nothing major.
So that's kind of how most people think about it when they get into it. That it's not going to be a big deal and totally handle it on their own. What a lot of us fail to realize is that certain dogs have anxiety about grooming, dogs need to be trained to actually be groomed, and to be comfortable with it. So there's that aspect of it. It's not just brushing and bathing either. You need to clean your dog's ears, dental hygiene. There are other types of grooming depending on pet's needs. There might be a more extensive haircut needed. Nail clipping is always needed for every pet.
So there's a lot more to it than just brushing and bathing. And this week I actually talked to Megan Mouser. She is a professional groomer and the Andis Education Manager. Andis is one of the top companies and pet grooming products for professional and at-home groomers. They make a very wide range of products for groomers that are going to use them for hours and hours, to home groomers that are looking for something a little bit cheaper.
So there's a link to their website, the Andis website on our website. So if you're listening to this on social media or YouTube, just click the link below, you can jump onto our website and it will take you right there. There's a bunch of helpful links.
One of the links I want to play for you before I play the interview for you is the Andis grooming college and this is an online site, it's dog grooming 101. They call it Andis Grooming College on their site and it teaches the basic principals, theories, and techniques of grooming. You can select what animal you are grooming, if it's a dog, a cat, a horse, a livestock, whatever it might be. And then there is all kinds of beneficial information on there that just teaches you the basics of it — everything that you'll need to know.
So if you're a beginner you could certainly…. This is a great little tool to use to educate yourself about what you are going to need to do, the products that you are going to need, that kind of stuff. And if you have done some home grooming before, but you are trying to get a little bit more in depth and make sure that you are doing all of the things that your pet needs. Again, this is a great tool to use to sort of educate yourself and learn some more about some of those detailed things, like certain kinds of haircuts or products that you are going to need to keep in your dog grooming or cat grooming, whatever it might be toolkit.
So again this week we talked to Megan and she is a great resource. She told me all about some things that you should and shouldn't do, some must-have supplies, some of the biggest no-nos that she sees, things that you should just absolutely shouldn't do that new groomers should stay away from. Also she talked abut what to do if your pet is scared or uneasy about grooming, how to spot that, things that you might look for and what to do there. So this is a really great interview and I'm excited to share with you guys today.
Interview with Megan Mouser
Samantha: Some pet owners believe that dogs with short coats don't need regular grooming. Is it true that every dog has regular grooming needs, even if they don't have a long coat?
Megan: Yes. Actually, even hairless dogs need regular grooming and when you think of regular grooming, it's outside of the realm of just the coat and hair. It's skin health, nail health, teeth and ears. And so especially with shorter coats you'll see that they've actually shed quite a bit. So keeping them in a regular regimen of brushing improves not only their tolerance for it, but also increases the circulation in the skin and makes the coat a lot healthier. The long version, but yes, they all need regular grooming.
Samantha: Yeah, I think it's one of the biggest misconceptions that I come across in the grooming part of my job is that people when they're especially looking to adopt a new dog they'll look for a short-haired breed thinking that its grooming needs are going to be minimal, very minimal. And, as you said, we have a Labrador who we love dearly and she is short-coated but she sheds like crazy. So some shorter coats actually require more maintenance than the longer ones, in some cases.
Megan: Yeah, it's very true.
Samantha: And grooming isn't just a benefit for the dog. Obviously, there are a lot of benefits for the dog health-wise, but can you tell us some of the benefits that regular grooming will have on your relationship with your dog?
Megan: So, regular grooming is almost like a bonding experience for any pet, especially, I know you mentioned adopting a dog. A lot of those dogs aren't used to regular interaction with a human being, so grooming is a great way that's both beneficial for you, because you can reduce shedding and other things, keep the coat tangle-free; but also, the pet is learning to trust you and get used to interactions as you both have your “grooming sessions” together.
And it's best to start doing that every day at a normal time, makes it more like a routine. So if it's after dinner, you just get into the routine of brushing them. You want to start small like two, three minutes, and build your way up. You'll find that eventually you'll sit down with a brush and they should come right over to you because it's more about the time with you than the act of brushing or combing or whatever it is that you're going to be doing.
Samantha: Yeah, I think that's a great point, especially the regular time. Just kind of work it into your routine so your dog knows when to expect it. That's one thing that I hadn't thought of was, a lot of dogs that come from a shelter or a rescue either don't have a lot of experience with people, or haven't for quite some time. So, maybe they're going to be a little standoffish, especially when it comes to grooming and all the tools used to groom.
Megan: Yeah. Introducing new tools, too, you can do the same way. So, if they're used to a certain kind of brush, you kind of want to remember to start over if you're introducing something brand new. So you may be using a softer brush, and you want to try a new de-shedding tool. Remember to start with a lesser amount of time in each and every new tool that you're adding in, especially if it's like a vibrating tool like a clipper or a trimmer.
Samantha: Yeah, that's so important. I know a lot of dogs are very timid of those vibrating tools. Many of the basic grooming tasks, like bathing and brushing and nail clipping, that kind of stuff can be done at home. What advice would you give for a new dog owner who just adopted a pet and wants to learn to take care of some of these needs at home? If they have never had experience with grooming?
Megan: My number one piece of advice for new pet parents that are wanting to tackle some of these grooming things at home is don't try to do it all at once. These are things that — If you're going be teaching yourself essentially, as well, so start small. If it's an adopted dog, if you can help it… Sometimes they're in really bad condition and you have to do certain things on that first day. But if you can help it, don't do anything grooming related that first day, because they're likely to be very nervous and scared and it's not going to be the best experience. Not because grooming's a bad experience, but because that day for them is just hectic and there's a lot going on.
So start small. Start with things that are easier to accomplish like brushing. Teeth brushing is super easy and often times rewarding. Even bathing, start with a very easy bath. Don't go into a full regimen of shampoo, conditioner, deodorize. Just shampoo, rinse twice, and get them out of there and make it really simple that first time. Then you can kind add on to your regime as time goes on.
And remember that the dog or cat feeds off of you and your emotions. So if you're really nervous, they're likely to feel more nervous. It would be like if you sat down in a barber chair/stylist chair to get your hair cut, and your barber was like, “Hey. I don't really know what I'm doing today, but you just sit still and we'll get it taken care of.” They sense that kind of nervousness from us, and so we just have to be kind of zen and chill as we're building in our new routines.
Samantha: Excellent information. Are there any tasks that you would not recommend, especially an inexperienced groomer do, and maybe just leave to the professionals?
Megan: I would say anything extremely troublesome. So if you've adopted a dog and it's severely matted — and severely matted means the hair is like pelted. You can't break apart the mat enough to see the skin and it seems as if the it's all one piece or an area may feel that way. Leave that to the professional.
Shaving an extremely matted pet is actually very difficult to do, and often times can be unpleasant for the pet. So it's a bad combination of things for you to try to do by yourself. And then anal glads are best left to the professional because there are a lot of things there that a vet or groomer would recognize that maybe a pet parent shouldn't do unless they've been taught by a professional to do it. But everything else is very doable on your own.
Samantha: Do you have any… Obviously with all the different grooming tasks there are so many supplies out there, do you have any recommendations on the must have supplies if you're going to be grooming at home? What should you have in your toolkit.
Megan: Pick a brush that's relevant to your pet, and one that you both like. So that when you're using it, it's a good experience. Make sure that if the dog's hair is longer than an inch and a half that you also have a comb. Metal combs are better than the plastic combs, but you can brush, brush, brush. If you don't have a comb you're not getting into that coat deep enough if it's longer than an inch and a half to actually prevent any matting from happening underneath that point.
You're going to need a pair of nail clippers. I often times recommend for pet parents to have a nail grinder, simply because grinding is less scary for the pet parent to do the pet. Either way, they're both great tools but grinding is just less scary because you're less likely to nick the quick, which is the vein that is inside of the nail and often times people are afraid to make bleed — grinding is a lot easier. Think of even humans, it's a lot easier to file. You can see what you're doing, you're taking it off a lot less at a time and you're able to gauge that better.
So brush, comb, nail tools, whether it be a nail clipper or grinder. If your dog has medium to long hair, you're going to need a clipper and a trimmer. Make sure that the tool you're using is strong enough for the coat type that you have. There are tons of tools out there. I work for Andis and they have an array of things that are perfect for everybody. Trimmers are great because any dog that goes outside, hair that grows in between the pads can pick up all kinds of stuff and bring it inside, and we don't really want that as pet parents. But also if you live in an area with snow they can get those chemicals in their feet and it's really not good for them.
You want something to brush the hair and comb the hair. Then something to take care of nails and then something to remove hair when it's in areas we don't need it, like the potty areas and the feet.
Samantha: What are some of the biggest no no's that you can warn new groomers about? I know we talked a little about those tasks that maybe they should leave to the professionals. But are there common mistake that you see new groomers making? Things that they should be careful of, things that they should avoid.
Megan: Yes, I think the number one thing — especially when I was a pet stylist — was pet parent try to remove mats with scissors. That's a huge no no because mats are obviously a big chunk of knotted hair, fur. And to get it out you have to get the scissors under the mat. A lot of time you either see them take it so short that it is not really fixable after that, or you can actually injure the pet, because it's really hard to see under a mat. And you're just cutting, trying to get it off. Always try and use a clipper in that situation. I would say go with the growth of hair. I see a lot of people go against the growth of the coat. You should always go from the occiput or the back of the head, which there is a bump on most dogs right there. Just the back of the skull towards the tail. Then, down towards the legs. And a lot of people go tail to head for some reason, but that's actually not the best way to go with the coat. It's a lot harder to get an even cut that way.
Samantha: That's great advice. I do know a lot of people go… I don't know why that is either, from the tail up to the neck, but that is something that you do see quite often.
What should a dog owner do if they adopt a pet that's scared or really uneasy about being groomed? I know we touched just briefly on dogs that haven't had a lot of human contact. But let's say now they're fine with the human and they don't mind being pet, and rubbed, and maybe even brushed, but some of those other human tasks like maybe teeth brushing, nail clipping, things like that they're really uneasy about.
Megan: I would say before you use any type of tool on them that might make them uneasy or nervous, there are certain parts of the body that we don't pet or touch on a regular basis that have to get groomed which can be the trigger for these kind of adverse behaviors when you try to groom.
So remember to play with their feet. If you have a dog that grows hair on the face, remember to play with the hair on the bridge of the nose, right in front of the eyes, under the chin. Practice holding the head still with the hair under the chin. Those will really help you kind of maneuver and hold the pet.
And then just like we talked about brushing and building yourself up or building the relationship up with the animal, it's the same thing with tools. So if it's a clipper take, if it's a detachable blade clipper, you can take the blade off and just run the clipper on the animal with nothing on it just to get them used to the sound and the vibration. Or even with the blade on, you can hold it opposite end and just kind of get them used to that. Or I've even seen a lot of people use vibrating toothbrush that they don't use anymore that doesn't have…. Something with a similar sound…
Samantha: That makes the noise.
Megan: — to get them used to that. That usually helps a lot. Treats go a long way with dogs.
Megan: I saw a video on Instagram the other day of a lady that washes her dog by putting peanut butter on the side of the shower to keep him in there long enough for her to bathe him.
Samantha: Oh, that's good.
Megan: Anything like that, you can do to keep them still is golden. And they get used to it over time, but all of this stuff is going to be new to both of you. So it's just finding that routine and easing your way in and building confidence, not only in yourself, but the animal as well.
Samantha: Should new pet owners be looking for certain signs of aggression, speaking of being nervous and uneasy when they're being groomed? Are there certain signs that they should look for when they're grooming for the first time or the first few times that would signal aggression? And if they do notice those signs, what should they do then?
Megan: There are definitely things to keep an eye out for. Pets that are obviously growling or showing their teeth, I would say just stop what you're doing. That pet is obviously very afraid for whatever reason, and you might have to kind of work your way up to whatever it was that you were trying to do. When a pet's ears are down and back, it's a very silent sign of aggression, but it basically means I'm not sure about what you're doing and I'm feeling defensive. If their hair is sticking up that's another sign.
You also want to watch out for signs of stress. That's urinating for no apparent reason, or if they poop, they're very scared. I know it sounds funny, but if they just poop for no reason, there's a reason people say they got the poop scared out of them, that's a sign the dog is very scared, or cat. Because likely what happens is, in a situation like that, where they're scared, they do turn to aggression because they don't have a way to communicate in any other way.
If they seem unusually nervous or scared in those ways or showing their teeth then you want to just stop what you're doing and try a different thing. Try to ease into it another way. Introduce the tool a different way. Try to do something different.
And remember not all pets can be groomed at home. There's a lot of professionals. Some pets have to be sedated for grooming if they're that afraid of something that's happening. But that is not the norm, I would say less than 1%, but it's good to keep an eye out for those things for sure.
Samantha: Absolutely, and I think often especially when we're talking about rescue animals you don't know what you're getting into. I know you mentioned about the first day, but it's really for the first few weeks that dog is getting used to the new environment. And when you're throwing these new things in, like grooming, like you said, hopefully it will be something that you can introduce, take a step back, introduce a bit more gradually and work your way up to that at the dogs pace.
Samantha: I hope you got as much out of that interview as I did. I learned a lot from Megan and I really appreciate her coming on the show and speaking with us. If you guys have any questions about the type of brush or shampoo or clippers or anything like that to use on your dog, I would definitely suggest getting on the Andis website.
If you're listening to this podcast on social media or YouTube, you can click the link right below and that will take you to our site. There's a link to Andis website on there, and there's a link to their grooming course that I mentioned in the beginning, this podcast on there. And of course you can jump on our partner website topdogtips.com and there is tons of information and some video guides on there as well if you're looking to choose the right brush or shampoo of things like that for your dog, there is a lot of great information on there as well.
Do your research. You have to pick out a product that is going to work for your dog, for their coat type and their size and things like that, depending on the product that you're choosing. For example, if you're choosing a brush you don't want to choose a teeny tiny brush made for a Yorkshire Terrier if you're brushing a St Bernard — that's going to take you forever. Same thing with clippers, you want to choose clippers that are going to meet your dog's size, nail clippers as well. Small breeds have very, much more thin nails than the big thick nails of the large and extra large breeds.
So keep that stuff in mind. Don't just go out and buy the first thing that you see, you really need to do some research and talk to a groomer or some kind of an expert at your local pet store, something like that to find the right product.
If you guys have any other questions, feel free to reach out to me, you can get on our website theoryofpets.com. Leave your questions there, if you record your question, I might use it on a future podcast, if you are interested in that. You can also just email your questions and I'll try to answer those.
If you have any questions specifically for Megan I can pass those on to her and get some answers for you guys. So be sure to take advantage of that as well if you have any grooming specific questions.
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