Bath time is a big to-do for you and your dog, but regular spa days help keep your pet healthy and looking their best! To make grooming at home a smidge easier, we tapped Petco grooming expert Wendy Weinand for her best advice — and her favorite tools to get the job done.
The sooner you can get your pup accustomed to their grooming routine, the better. Just keep in mind that different dogs have different maintenance levels. For example, most short-haired breeds need to have a bath and trim every two to three months, while long-haired dogs will need to see a groomer more regularly. Beyond just keeping their skin and coat soft, groomers can help alert pet parents to potential problems, too. “Groomers touch every part of [your dog’s] body,” Weinand says, adding that a groomer may be the first to notice any lumps or bumps you’ll need to get checked out. Getting a head start on grooming at home means a more-comfortable pup — and that’s especially true for puppies.
The final rinse at bath time is super important but a lot of pet parents rush it (especially when the dog decides bathtime is over). Weinand says shampoo left on their coat can irritate their skin, potentially cause their fur to mat, and can cause other skin problems. Her recommendation is to dilute the shampoo with water (1:1 ratio). That way you’re still getting your pup clean, but will avoid leaving soap in their fur after a quick rinse. “When you run your fingers through their coat,” Weinand says, “it’ll have almost a squeaky feeling when there’s nothing left.” You’ll also want to choose a shampoo depending on your dog’s skin and coat type. Puppy shampoos are designed to be gentle on sensitive skin and dogs with longer coats will need a conditioner. And of course, never use human products on your pup.
No matter how often you brush your dog or bathe them, dog hair is a part of life as a pet parent. But regular grooming can do a lot to minimize little hair tumbleweeds in the living room. First, Weinand says to make sure you brush your dog before they go in the bath, not after, to keep your drain (and floors) free of excessive pet hair, and to cut down on knots that are tougher to comb out when wet. Another tip: Be sure to pick the right brush for your dog’s coat type. Most pet parents can benefit from a basic slicker brush, but dogs with a thick undercoat should also be brushed with a grooming rake, which picks up loose hair with ease. Bristle brushes will also pick up loose hair on dogs with shorter coats, and help keep dogs with any type of coat extra shiny.
Beyond a bath or haircut, Weinand recommends taking on regular maintenance for dogs’ teeth, ears, and nails. “Periodontal disease is rampant in dogs,” Weinand says. Because of that, their teeth need to be brushed at least once a week. Dog toothbrushes fall into two categories: Ones like the toothbrushes we use, and ones that slip on your finger. (Wrapping cheesecloth around your finger can also do in a pinch, Weinand says.) By the way: “Do not use human toothpaste,” Weinand says. It can not only give them an upset stomach, but it also may contain ingredients that may be toxic to them. To freshen breath in between more thorough brushings, she recommends a special dog dental chew for their teeth, or a water additive. Ears should be cleaned out once a week using a dog ear-cleaning solution, not a cotton swab.
You want to keep your pup clean — but happy too! That means introducing grooming tools slowly, with low expectations for the first few tries. For example, if using a nail grinder, she recommends first running a headless electric toothbrush over their nails and paws, rewarding them with treats, praise, or play to let them know it’s ok. “Just get them used to the sounds, the feel,” she says. From there, you can take out the nail grinder, but only use it on one nail, with more rewards throughout the process. “Don’t try to do it all at one time,” she says. “When the dog is done, stop and reward them.”
Even though your dog may be more comfortable with you than with a groomer, some grooming procedures are best to not DIY. Hair cuts, for example, are one thing that Weinand said should always be left to the pros — not just because you’ll probably give your dog an embarrassing ’do. Groomers are pros at keeping the clippers in line, and you could do real damage without any proper training. If you’re itching to give your dog a little cleanup (or get their hair out of their eyes!) ask your groomer to set up a (less expensive) maintenance appointment to take care of these lighter trims rather than the full appointment you’ll have every 6-12 weeks.
Between your at-home maintenance and your groomer’s expertise, your pup will be the freshest pup at the dog park!
Christie Rotondo is an editor at The Dodo and currently lives in New Jersey with her two cats. She knows you have plenty of jokes about that and she does not care.