How to Groom Your Dog at Home


Article by Kate Baxendale

Photography by Stock Images

Humans aren't the only ones who need regular haircuts and other personal grooming maintenance. All dogs require nail trimming, teeth brushing, ear cleaning and fur brushing, but the level of overall care depends on the breed. In the article The Dos and Don'ts of Dog Grooming and Hygiene from The American Kennel Club, veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein gives a helpful overview of how to groom your dog at home.

RELATED: How to Groom Your Own Dog

Professional dog groomers, professional dog handlers some veterinary technicians and professional breeders are great resources for tips on keeping your dog looking his or her best between grooming appointments.

What to Do

Obtain the Right Tools

The professionals mentioned above can help you choose the right nail trimmers, styptic powder, brushes, dental hygiene tools and shampoos for your dog.

Brush Your Dog's Fur

Use a brush that is intended for your dog's breed. For example, bristle brushes are for short-haired breeds and sleeker types of brushes are for long-haired breeds. Brush your dog every other day to remove dirt and debris, prevent matting, control shedding and create a shiny coat. Use a damp towel to remove any stubborn dirt or debris from your dog's coat.

Check for Ticks

Check your dog daily (or more than once daily during tick season) for ticks. Ask your veterinarian about the safest method for removing ticks. The sooner the tick is removed from the dog, the better.

Check Your Dog's Pads

Make sure they are not dry, cracked, or injured in any way. Excessive hair may grow between your dog’s toes. It can become matted or cause other problems. It should be trimmed to be even with the paw pads or slightly shorter. This must be done carefully to prevent cutting your dog. Small, blunt-edge scissors or a small, narrow clipper blade should be used only after being taught proper procedures by your groomer, breeder, or veterinary staff.

Trim Your Dog's Nails

Trimming your dog's nails regularly prevents discomfort and other health problems. Read more here. [LINK]

Trim Your Dog's Fur

If your dog is a breed that has longer fur that can cover its eyes, carefully clean and trim the fur around its eyes on a regular basis.

Clean the Ears

Wipe the inside of your dog's ears with a cotton ball or damp cloth every week. Inspect the ear canals for any redness, irritation, swelling, debris, discharge or a foul odor could be a sign of infection and requires a vet visit. Be sure to thoroughly dry your dog's ears after they get wet from swimming to prevent infection.

Brush Their Teeth

Brushing your dog's teeth daily is ideal, but veterinarians recommend doing it at least a few times a week. Plaque starts to build after 48 hours. You can use a kit like this, or try wrapping your finger with gauze or a washcloth and massage your dog's teeth and gums. Dental problems in dogs can lead to other problems, including serious health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, and more. Preventative care can save you from costly dental treatments as your dog ages.

What Not to Do

Human Beauty/Hygiene Products

Do not use shampoo, conditioner or toothpaste intended for humans on your dog. Many human toothpastes contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Clipping Nails Too Short

Do not attempt to trim your dog's nails unless you have been properly trained first. Trimming them too short can cause bleeding and severe pain for your dog.


If you notice any wounds, lacerations or other injuries on your dog, do not attempt to treat them yourself. Contact your veterinarian right away.

Cutting Out Matted Fur

Do not attempt to cut matted fur out of your dog's coat. One wrong move from a nervous dog could result in serious injury. It is best to use dog conditioner, a dog comb and/or your fingers to slowly remove the mat.

Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is an important part of your dog's overall health. Plus, the humans in the home will be much happier too!

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