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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 if 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 dog guide will show you the best dog groomer kit and help you safely snip and get them looking (and feeling) good.
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- Proceed With Caution
- Best Equipment For Dog Grooming
- How To Groom A Dog At Home
- How To Trim A Dog's Nails At Home
- How To Groom A Dog With Matted Hair
- Dog Grooming At Home: Additional At-Home Dog Grooming Tips
- Find A Dog Groomer Nearby
- 5 Things To Ask A Groomer Before Scheduling An Appointment
- Keep Your Pet Calm Too
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 trained experience, high-quality tools, 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.
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.
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. The clippers are quiet, so hopefully, they won’t scare your pup too much. Visit our reviews of the best dog grooming clippers to learn more.
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.
One thing to remember 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 seek. 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 with floors that are easy to clean (not on a carpet or rug). It’s also a good idea to put a towel down for both comfort and easier cleanup afterward. You might want to wear shorts and short sleeves so less hair gets stuck to your clothing too.
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.
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 at ease. 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.
2. Brush & Cut Hair
Follow these steps on how to trim dog hair. The grooming process involves a combination of brushing and cutting. Always do the body first.
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 use 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.
Be extra careful around the stomach and groin area, as it can be especially sensitive. It’s probably a good idea to use scissors or a smaller shaver here. 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. But if you do roll them over, 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. You can use a shaver to carefully shave in between their paw pads.
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.
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 the 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. If your dog gets tear stains, Burt’s Bees Tear Stain Remover is safe to use during bath time or anytime it’s needed.
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.
Finish by brushing your dog’s coat again and look for any unevenness or mats (see below for mat removal tips).
Once your dog is groomed and looking great, you are ready to clean up your home with a pet-hair-approved vacuum.
When grooming from head to toe, don’t overlook the nails! Although they are tricky to trim on your own, keeping a dog’s nails at an ideal length is important. 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.
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.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when grooming your dog at home.
- We recommend weekly brushing for short coats (mostly to decrease shedding)
- Long coats may require daily brushing to prevent matting
- Check for ticks or fleas when brushing your dog
- Bathe your dog regularly (read our dog bathing tips to find out how often your dog needs a bath)
- Your dog’s hair should be dry when cutting it
If 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 afterward, 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.
5 Things To Ask A Groomer Before Scheduling An Appointment
Doggy Dan (the Online Dog Trainer) recommends these five tips for ensuring you have a pleasant experience getting your dog groomed professionally.
- Familiarity With Dog Breed – Different breeds have different coats. Make sure the groomer has experience with your dog’s breed.
- Recommended Cut – Ask the groomer what type of cut they recommend so you are mentally prepared for how they look coming out of the appointment. This might not always be possible without seeing your dog first, but depending on the time of year, your dog’s age, lifestyle, and hair length, they might suggest a particular cut (e.g., summer cut, or puppy cut).
- Products Used – If you can, find out what brand of shampoo and conditioner they plan to use on your dog. Research the ingredients and make sure your dog isn’t allergic or sensitive to any of them. We recommend you avoid potentially harmful products that include sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and dyes.
- Training Expertise – If your dog groomer has dog training or handling experience, that can be extra beneficial in keeping your dog calm and relaxed.
- Safety (And Sanitation) Measures – Most important is to ensure your pet’s health and well-being. What’s the room set up like? How many dogs do they groom at a time? Do they use muzzles to prevent barking or biting? Are the stations cleaned after every session? Ensure you feel 100% comfortable with their policies, especially if your dog tends to get anxious.
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 smell fresh between baths.Tagged With: Grooming