Top Dog Tips - Grooming Your Dog at HomeAnother week has come and gone. I hope you've all enjoyed last week’s Sunday's Recap about the importance of socializing puppies. This week I decided to read up on a topic that is on everyone’s minds – living on a budget with dogs. Owning pets can get expensive, but grooming your dog at home is one easy way to save a little money.

I know a lot of dog owners who groom their pets at home and only take trips to pet groomers for serious issues like mats and tangles or skunk spray.

Since my boxer has short hair and she doesn’t shed excessively, our grooming routine is fairly simple. So I decided to spend this week reading about at-home grooming to see if I could save a few bucks, and pass the information on to my readers so you could save a little too.

There is a lot more to grooming your dog at home than just bathing her and trimming her nails. You need to make sure her ears are clean, her dental hygiene is up to snuff, and her skin and coat are healthy too. What I found in my research is that with proper education through reputable websites, it actually isn’t that big of a deal to do most of your dog’s grooming at home.

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Some dogs go to the groomer once or twice a month. Imagine how much you would save on grooming bills if you only had to go once or twice a year! Like me, I think most people are intimidated when they think about home grooming. They don’t want to hurt their dog so they just leave it to the professionals. It's a nice thought, but you really can’t do much harm to your dog as long as you follow proper grooming procedures.

Grooming Your Dog at Home

Love That Pet is a great website full of interesting articles for dog owners and professionals who work with canines. They have sections for everything from health and wellness to traveling with dogs. I found some great advice about home grooming and general tips and tricks to help dog owners learn the ropes while I was combing through their site this week.

What I really enjoy about this site is how they write for the everyday dog owner and not just the professionals who already know exactly what they're doing. As dog owners, we try to be the perfect pet parents, but we all know that we certainly don't know everything. This article, like most others on the site, is written in a way that gives dog owners the confidence they need to attempt home grooming.

  • But there’s no reason that you can’t become an expert at cutting your dog’s hair, though there may be the occasional comic result along the way! The great thing is that hair grows back, it might take 1cm per month, but eventually that slightly uneven first attempt will start to look much better!

The scariest aspect of home grooming for me is nail trimming. I’m always worried that I will get the quick of my dog’s nail and she’ll bleed and be in pain. In reality, clipping the quick of your dog’s nail will hurt her for a bit, and it may be tender for a day or two, but with a little styptic powder it won’t bleed for long and it won’t do any long term damage to your pup or her paws.

I'm not saying it's okay to clip the quick of your dog's nail every time. I'm simply saying that if you do get it by accident every once in a while, it really isn't a major problem. Even professional groomers hit the quick every now and then, so you shouldn't let it stop you from grooming your pet's nails at home.

Dr. Karen Gellman wrote an excellent article for Dogs Naturally Magazine which not only explains how to clip a dog's nails, but also the consequences of long toe nails. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a dog at the dog park or went to someone's home and noticed how long their dog's toenails were. Long toenails can be painful for your dog and will make her extremely uncomfortable.

  • The second consequence of long toenails is more serious. All animals rely on information from nerves in their feet to move through the world and process gravity accurately. For millions of years, wild dogs have run long distances while hunting and worn their nails short. The only time their toenails would touch the ground was when climbing a hill. So a dog’s brain is evolutionarily programmed to associate toenail contact with being on a hill, and he shifts his body posture accordingly: leaning forward over his forelimbs, up the imaginary hill as reported by his toes. Since the hill is not real, a secondary compensation with his hind limbs is necessary to avoid a face plant. This abnormal compensatory posture can be called “goat on a rock,” because it brings his paws closer together under his body.

Another scary part of home grooming is brushing my dog's teeth. I don't worry so much about hurting her, she just hates it. I don't like upsetting her, and knowing that I am doing something to her that she doesn't enjoy bothers me. I just have to remind myself that it is for her own good. Dental hygiene in dogs is a very overlooked, but extremely important issue.

Poor dental hygiene can go far beyond just an unhealthy mouth. If her dental hygiene is bad enough, it can begin to effect your dog's internal organs and overall well-being. One Green Planet isn't a website dedicated to dog information, but they do have a great article on some natural ways to improve your dog's dental health. I'm always looking for natural ways to help my pets, and my family, so this was right up my alley.

  • Feeding dog-safe fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs like carrots, cucumber, celery, apples, watermelon, cilantro, and parsley are fantastic to give as natural ways to clean teeth, stimulate gums and freshen breath. Slice fruits and vegetables up and give raw as a treat or dice and add to their meals, especially cilantro or parsley because they aid in refreshening bad dog breath.

You can't just feed your dog veggies and hope for their dental hygiene to take care of itself though. It is our responsibility as dog owners to brush our pet's teeth regularly, and that can be a hassle. The American Animal Hospital educates pet parents about the importance of brushing your dog's teeth and how to ease them into it.

You can't just expect to brush your dog's teeth a couple of times and have her be completely used to it. The AAHA explains how to start small and work your way up so your pet is more relaxed while you're caring for their teeth and gums. I think it is important to work with your dog and help her feel at ease before doing any kind of new activity with her – whether it's brushing her teeth or riding in the car. I really appreciated the thought that went into this article.

  • To introduce a dog to the idea of dental care, start slowly and gradually. Dip a finger into beef bouillon and gently rub along your dog's gums and teeth. The most important area to focus on is the gum line (the crevice where the gums meet the teeth), where bacteria and food mix to form plaque. Focusing on the gum line, start at the front of the mouth, then move to the back upper and lower teeth and gum areas. Once your dog is okay with a little bit of touching, gradually introduce gauze over your finger and rub the teeth and gums in a circular fashion.

One thing I didn't realize before I began researching at-home grooming was the importance of ear care. Just like with her dental health, if you don't keep up with your dog's ear care it could lead to infections or hearing loss. It's different for different breeds, but writer Kate Barrington does a great job of explaining that in her article for pawster.

I found it interesting that she gave pet owners information on the different types of dog ears and the best ways to care for each one. She also talks a lot about ear infections, which are one of the most common health issues seen by veterinarians every year. She gives some great advice on ways to prevent ear infections and the signs that you should be looking for to spot them. And, of course, she talks about how to clean and care for your pet's ears as well.

  • In addition to learning the proper treatments for different types of infections, you should also learn how to prevent your dog from getting an ear infection. Keeping the ears clean and dry is the best way to prevent infection. Dogs with pendulous ears may need a weekly cleaning to keep the ear in good condition and some may need to have the hair in or around their ears trimmed to promote air flow.

Speaking of things I didn't know, I was under the impression (like a lot of other dog owners) that it was a good idea to shave long-haired dogs in the summer time. Well I was wrong…at least for double-coated dogs. Thankfully, I have a short-haired dog, but Jen Gabbard doesn't, and she shared her dog shaving experience with pet owners on her site puppyleaks.

Gabbard talks about how shaving her dog actually caused life-long damage to his coat and how she still regrets it to this day. Her blog has some great information about why you shouldn't shave your double-coated pet and the importance of consulting with a professional groomer before you make any major changes to your dog's skin or coat.

  • When a double coated dog is shaved there’s no guarantee the top guard coat will grow back. The older a dog is the less likely that topcoat will grow back. The undercoat continues to grow but for some dogs the guard hairs never do. These dogs are left with a coat that has a patchy, frizzy, dull appearance. It can alter their coat for the rest of their life. This is what happened to my dog Carter. His backside, belly, and legs never grew any top hairs back. It became nearly impossible to groom him on my own. The undercoat became so wild, frizzy, and unruly that it felt just like harsh wool.

I also stumbled upon a great blog for groomers, or at-home groomers in this case, called Pet Grooming: The Good, The Bad, and The Furry. The blog does contain some information that may not be pertinent to an at-home groomer, but it also has some really great reviews of grooming products that may be of help to anyone looking for new tools.

The writer of this blog is very honest in these reviews, which is the main thing that I look for. If someone is writing about how much they love every product, I just assume they're getting paid for what they're writing. When I see some criticisms mixed in with the positive attributes about products, I know the review is the real deal.

  • I admit, I only used it a couple of days before I went back to my old comb. A week went by, and I was pissed at myself for spending so much on one comb. I was also a little ticked at myself for giving up on it so fast. So, I forced myself to put my ‘old favorite' comb away, out of my reach. Away from my table so that I would not automatically reach for it.

     Then I used only the Half Moon comb for every dog. By about the third day it felt            more comfortable in my hand. I was starting to get used to it. I really liked it for              faces. But, I still felt like I was not seeing that much of a difference from my old              comb. At least not enough difference to justify what I paid for it.

And lastly, this blog doesn't have much information that would be useful to you in your at-home grooming adventures, but it made me chuckle and I wanted to share it with you anyway. Memoirs of a Pet Groomer should, at the very least, make you smile before Monday roles around again.

  • I've become immune to odd requests for haircuts.  I just let them talk.. and talk, then I just do what I want (when I know better than they do what they want).  I've learned not to try and talk them out of it.  It's not worth it.A client came in with her new puppy.  He was adorable.  I asked what type of haircut she was thinking about with him (yeah, I still ask).  She said:  Well, I'm not quite sure, but I really like those dogs that have the Lion trim.   You know the one where the head is really fluffy?  But I want the rest shorter, so I can see the ticks.Nodding.. smiling.I'm thinking like one of those Teddy Bear Trims, you know, kind of fluffy and cute?  (I have no clue what a Teddy Bear Trim is.)Smiling.. noddingAnd, I really love how his face looks just like an Owl right now!  That is so cute.  I kind of want that too.Nodding, smiling. (thinking about the 15 other dogs I have to groom today and hoping this can wrap up sometime within the hour)Then came the part I listened to:Well, you know more about these dogs than I do.  I've never had a Shih Tzu before.Ok, I think I'll just make him look really cute.  Which is what I did, and she loved it!  He (apparently) looked exactly like an OwlTeddybearLion doodle.   I'm a pro, would you expect anything less??

Please feel free to ask any questions or make any comments in the window below. I love hearing from my readers! If you've stumbled upon any great dog-related reads this week, I'd love to hear about them as well, and I'm sure other readers would too.

Have a great week, and I'll see you next Sunday!

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.