Print Grooming Basics for a Healthy, Happy Dog

There are several dog-grooming basics that every dog owner should know and follow. Done regularly, a grooming routine not only will help your dog’s coat shine, but the tactile interaction will him will help his socialization. It’s also an opportunity to look for pests like fleas and ticks, as well as lesions or lumps that can signal health problems.

However, before you buy a brush, here are some factors to consider:

  • Regardless of his coat, you should get a “slicker brush” with beds of fine, closely spaced wires that are hooked or bent. This all-purpose tool is ideal for removing mats, tangles, and debris.
  • Remove knots in longhair breeds with a pin brush. The widely spaced tines look like straight pins.
  • Bristle brushes are used as a final step to smooth and shine your shorthaired dog.
  • Metal combs give the finishing touch to extra-long coats.

Begin your grooming session by using the slicker or pin brush to remove dead hair, debris, and tangles (you might need both tools if you have a longhaired breed or if your shorthaired pet spent the afternoon playing in the dirt). For tough snarls, hold the tangle at the root and gently brush it out to avoid painful pulling. Smooth the coat with a bristle brush or comb. Give your dog a break every few minutes to keep it tolerable.

Dog Baths

After a thorough brushing, you'll want to wash your dog. (He can go two to three weeks between baths, unless he gets especially dirty.) Fill a basin with warm water (check the temperature using your elbow, which is more sensitive than your hand) and place him on a nonskid surface, talking gently and praising him.

Slowly pour water over his feet, working your way up to his collar. Do not immerse his head yet so that he can get used to the sensation. Use specially formulated dog soap ("people" soaps may be irritating); lather his coat.

Rinse twice to ensure the suds are out. Wash his head last. Dogs love a good toweling off. If he's patient, try using a blow dryer.

Dog Paw Care

Dogs generally don't like having their paws handled, but it is necessary to make sure the fur between their toes and pads does not become matted—or infected. Here's how:

  • Remove any matted hair.
  • Use scissors to trim fur so that it is level with the foot.

Next, trim his nails. He won't enjoy this, but it is necessary to ensure his good health. Do the following every few weeks:

  • Use a "guillotine-style" clipper made for dogs.
  • Trim only the hook of the nail. Never trim into the quick—the live portion of the nail—that can draw blood.
  • Trim the dewclaw—the thumb-like portion on the paw. If allowed to grow, they could curl up and pinch the skin.

Ear Care for Your Dog

During your pet's bath, wash the outside of his ears with water. Remove interior wax with an ear-cleaning solution. Warm the bottle in your palms first, then squirt a dab into the ear canal. Gently massage the base of the ear. Remove dirt or wax with a dry cotton ball.

Dental Care for Your Dog

The more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the easier it will become. Use a special dog toothbrush, cleaning tool, gauze, or "sleeve" to rub canine toothpaste on the outsides of your pet's teeth and gum line.

Grooming your pet regularly can be a great bonding experience in addition to ensuring a long and healthy life. With practice and patience, you both might come to enjoy it.

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