How To Groom A Dog And Find The Best Dog Grooming Kit

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Dog being groomed

Is your dog’s coat looking a little shaggy? Is Fido ready for a new do? Just like humans, dogs should typically trust professionals to trim their hair (especially you know where). But there might be times when you are not able to make it to the groomer for whatever reason (time, money). That’s when at-home grooming is an option. Our how to groom a dog guide will help you safely snip and get them looking (and feeling) good.

Article Overview

Proceed With Caution

Brushing and bathing are perfectly safe at-home activities. However, there are risks associated with trimming a dog’s coat, especially if you are untrained.

When grooming, please use extra caution, so you don’t accidentally cut your dog, causing them pain.

A professional dog groomer has experience and patience with dogs that cannot be recreated by the average pet parent. But, if you are still interested in doing some in-home grooming or touch ups, here are some how-to details.

Best Equipment For Dog Grooming

Editor’s Pick
Chibuy Pet ScissorsChibuy Pet Scissors

Please do NOT use house scissors to cut your dog’s (or anyone’s) hair. Dog grooming scissors have safety guards on the tips so you won’t accidentally poke or hurt them. We recommend these Chibuy Pet Scissors for basic trimming and trimming shears that will thin the hair without such a blunt cut.

If you have a dog with long, shaggy hair or want to remove excess coat for more of a “summer cut” for warmer months, you might want a more robust shaver or “clipper”. We like this Ceenwes Grooming Kit which includes everything you need for dog grooming, for only $46.99 . The clippers are quiet, so hopefully, they won’t scare your pup too much.

You will also need a fine comb and slicker brush. Read our review of the Best Dog Shedding Brush to find the right one for your dog’s coat.

In the grooming process, you may need to trim your dog’s nails. So be sure to get nail clippers or a grinder for this stage in the grooming process (more on that below).

Finally, if you plan to groom at home frequently, it’s a good idea to invest in a grooming arm that clamps to the counter with a harness to hold them in place.

How To Groom A Dog At Home

Girl giving lab a bath in tubBefore you groom, you should make sure your dog is clean. Bathe them the night before so they are fluffy and extra dry.

If you’re new to bathing your dog, check out our tips first.

One thing to keep in mind throughout the process is to be patient and calm. Your dog will sense if you are tense, so don’t stress. Trimming your dog’s coat may take some time depending on your dog’s breed, size and temperament. You also need to understand the potential risks to your dog’s health.

NOTE: We will walk you through how to groom your dog using both scissors and a shaver. The tools you use throughout depend on the type of dog, the length of their hair and the style you are seeking. The key is to trim for your dog’s comfort (both temperature regulation and maintaining a clean coat). 

Finally, this process can be somewhat messy, so groom your dog outside or in a room in the house that is easy to clean up (not on a carpet or rug). You might want to wear shorts and short sleeves, so less hair gets stuck to your clothing.

Prepare

Place your dog on a sturdy kitchen table or counter, so they are at a comfortable height for you. You can groom larger dogs while sitting next to them. It’s also a good idea to put a towel down for both comfort and easier cleanup afterward.

Depending on how squirmy your dog is, you may want a second pair of hands to help keep your dog calm and in place (especially the first few times you attempt to groom as both you and your pet won’t know what to expect). This is where you can use a grooming arm or table to secure them into place.

TIP: Make the process more enjoyable with lots of treats to reward them often. We find it useful to distract dogs with a favorite waterproof toy or a dog lick pad filled with peanut butter, yogurt or mashed banana.

Once you’re in position, let your pup sniff and get familiar with the tools you plan to use, so they feel more comfortable and less nervous. Give them lots of praise and pet them to make them feel relaxed. It might be a good idea to put on some soothing background music too. 

Brush & Cut Hair

Best Dog Shedding BrushThe grooming process involves a combination of brushing and cutting. Always do the body first.

Body

If you are using scissors or sheers, use the comb to brush the hair up and backward, so you can see where it is uneven. Then use your fingers to hold the hair up and use scissors to cut just above your fingers to even the ends.

If you are using a clipper, select the blade length, starting with a higher numbered guard. The higher the number, the longer the hair will remain. Remember, you can always go shorter if you want to, but you can’t add it back once it’s gone. With a slow and steady hand, glide the clipper along the back in the same direction as hair growth. Continue to brush as you go to find uneven areas. Use the hand that’s not holding the clippers under your dog’s belly for comfort or to pull their skin taught, preventing bumps.

Work your way down your dog’s back to the base of the tail and down each side. Repeat this process until all of the hair is even and is the desired length.

Belly

Be extra careful around the stomach and groin area as it can be especially sensitive. It’s probably a good idea to use scissors here, but if you use the shaver, go against the growth of the hair. You can hoist your dog up by holding both front or back paws together with one hand. Any sudden movements while cutting could be dangerous, so it is best to avoid rolling your dog onto their back to get this part of their body trimmed.

I suppose you could but it might cause them to get frightened and they could quickly flip back over which is dangerous if you are using scissors or clippers.

Legs And Paws

To trim with scissors, backcomb your dog’s legs and cut the hair to the shape of the leg. If using clippers, shave using the same process as on the body, but use the sheers to touch up and trim around the paw pads.

Tail

If your dog has long tail hair that needs trimming, hold the tip of the tail up and make sure the hair is hanging equally on each side. Using scissors or sheers, trim the hair evenly across but be very careful not to cut the tail itself.

Toy dog with shears and brush around face

Head

If you want to keep the hair long,  start at the top of the head, comb the hair up, and use scissors to cut above your fingers to the desired length. If you want a more uniform look, use clippers to trim both sides and top of the head as well as the bottom of the neck.

It’s extra important to use rounded tip scissors when trimming near your dog’s eyes and snout. And be careful not to trim off their whiskers or eyelashes. Around their mouth and chin, trim the hair, so it’s as short as possible. This will prevent food from getting trapped in the hair or getting in the way of mealtime.

Ears

For dogs with shorter ears, comb the ear hair down and hold the ear at its point. Using sheers, trim the hair to the shape of the ear and be extra careful not to cut the skin. After you’ve finished both ears, stand back and make sure the ears, head and body are of symmetrical shape and length.

For dogs with longer, floppy ears, use a brush or comb to smooth the hair and then use sheers around the edges to clean up the sides and bottom, so it’s a consistent length on both sides.

Dog sitting next to vacuumTouch Up

Finish by brushing your dog’s coat again and look for any unevenness or mats (see below for mat removal tips).

Clean Up

Once your dog is groomed and looking great, you are ready to clean up your home with a pet-hair approved vacuum.

How To Trim A Dog’s Nails At Home

Editor’s Pick
BOSHEL Dog Nail ClippersBOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers

When grooming from head to toe, don’t overlook the nails! Although they are tricky to trim on your own, it’s important to keep a dog’s nails at an ideal length. If they’re too long, they can scratch your hardwood floors and, worse, be a health hazard, causing pressure and pain on their feet and joints.

To trim, use clippers like the BOSHEL Trimmer or a grinder, which shortens the nail by filing. Either way, do not go beyond the shell (the white part of the nail bed into the quick (the pink part where the blood vessels are). That can be painful and cause bleeding. If the nail feels spongy while you’re trying to cut it, stop immediately — you’re cutting the quick!

Use your thumb to gently but firmly hold the paw pad and nail, while pulling hair away, so you don’t trim it in the process. Then use the other hand to clip or file down the nail. If using clippers, keep the cuts very small to reduce the risk of trimming too much.

If you accidentally go too far and your dog’s toenail starts bleeding, apply a little all-purpose flour or cornstarch to reduce the flow.

Grooming A Dog At Home (Video)

This video shows you what we’ve explained above. It’s a little long but stick with it until the end. The before and after shots are satisfying to see!

How To Groom A Dog With Matted Hair

Dog fur with mat (caption: how to get rid of matted dog hair)If your dog has long hair, check around their ears, paws, belly, tail and just all over for mats. Use detangling spray on mats that may be salvageable. Or try putting cornstarch on mats and tangles to help loosen the fur.

Cut out any remaining mats off your dog before bathing them. Bathing a dog with mats makes the matting worse.  After the dog is bathed and dry, you can then proceed with the grooming steps above. Read our full guide on removing matted hair to learn more.

Additional At-Home Dog Grooming Tips

Here are some other things to keep in mind when grooming your dog at home.

  1. We recommend weekly brushing for short coats (mostly to decrease shedding)
  2. Long coats may require daily brushing to prevent matting
  3. Check for ticks or fleas when brushing your dog
  4. Bathe your dog regularly (read our dog bathing tips to find out how often your dog needs a bath)
  5. Your dog’s hair should be dry when cutting it

Find A Dog Groomer Nearby

Groomit LogoIf you’re short on time and don’t want to groom your dog yourself (or you don’t feel confident in your skills), download the Groomit app (available on iOS and Android). Groomit connects you with certified pet groomers in your area.

Anyone who uses Groomit is protected by premium insurance. The grooming takes place in your home, so your dog is less stressed and more comfortable in the environment. The groomer cleans up afterwards, so you can’t even tell they were there.

The following services are available through Groomit: bathing, nail trimming, fur dematting and haircutting.

You can save $25 with Groomit if you use this link and promo code: CWQKYJ.

Keep Your Pet Calm Too

We hope this helps you give your dog a safe and sexy haircut at your home dog spa. It can help save you time and money in between visits to the groomer. If your dog is anxious (either at home or with a professional), you might try using CBD oil to help. Using a pet odor neutralizer is another way to help them smelling fresh between baths.

What dog grooming tips do you have to share?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and cats Lucy and Tabby. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps. Carrots and sweet potatoes are her picks for healthy treat alternatives.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents.

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Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Groom mother time

Articles like this make my job more difficult because then we get these poor dogs in with haircuts we cannot fix then client gets upset because the article leads the public to believe that anyone can groom. That it requires patience only. Wrong. It’s a skill and talent. You either got it or you don’t. Personally I think this article endangers dogs because I wonder how many ears, moles, skin tags, flanks, knuckles, armpits, and genitals will be cut open or off by people who believe patience is all that’s needed to get the job done. Dangerous advise if you ask me. But I’m only a professional with 14 years seeing these mistakes…. what do I know….

Kimberly Alt (Admin)

Thank you for mentioning these risks to us. We will work on updating our content and appreciate you sharing this information with us.

Taylor Anderson

I like how you mentioned that one can use apps and the internet to find a groomer if they aren’t confident in their skills. One of my friends has a very big dog, so I think it may be easier on him to get his dog groomed. These tips could really help him out, so thank you for sharing them.

Jay

Thanks for this, my dog is in desperate need of a dog day. Do you have any more tips on how to relax a dog? There has been construction near our home that has been bugging him. I will make sure to cut my dog’s head hair with a rounded look, like you said!

Kimberly Alt (Admin)

Other things you may want to consider to help relax your dog:
-Make sure he gets plenty of socialization.
-Consider using essential oils.
-Try giving your dog a massage.

Heidi Bookenstock

I’m a first-time dog owner, and I really wasn’t sure what was expected in terms of grooming. I had no idea that there were grooming kits for dogs, I’m so glad I read this article, now I’ll purchase one! It had also never occurred to me to got to a professional for services or advice, which is such a good idea and something I should probably do.