Dog Grooming Essentials

By Dr Eloise Bright 6 Min Read

Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is about much more than just looking and smelling good. It’s about keeping your dog healthy too.

There’s no question about it: having a dog romping around the house that smells, shall we say, a bit ripe is none too pleasant. And having your dog’s coat constantly look a bedraggled mess is none too pleasing, either.

But keeping your dog clean and well-groomed will pay dividends beyond simple aesthetics. It will also help to keep your dog healthy. Basic grooming involves bathing, brushing, nail trimming, and haircuts.


Just like people, dogs need regular bathing. But unlike people, dogs don’t need frequent bathing. Your dog’s breed and the environment in which it lives and plays will largely determine the optimum frequency of bathing. But once a month is a good rule-of-thumb. Bathing your dog somewhat more frequently will not be harmful, but experts recommend that you not bathe your dog more than once a week.

Don’t use your bath soap on your dog when you give it a bath; use a shampoo that is formulated specifically for dogs.


Most dogs find brushing to be pleasurable. Done right, brushing can be a great bonding experience between dog and owner. Brushing also helps to prevent skin irritation by removing dead hair from your dog’s coat before it mats. And it gives you control over where hair is shed – in the brush instead of all over your house!

You can brush your dog as frequently as you feel is needed, but the longer your dog’s hair, the more frequently you’ll need to brush. Very longhaired dogs may need it daily, while shorthaired dogs may need it only monthly.

Always brush outward from the skin – never toward the skin from the ends of the hair. And misting your dog’s coat with a grooming spray will help the brush glide smoothly through any snags and mats.


Unless your pet is a very active outdoor dog, it’s nails will need to be trimmed on a regular basis – anywhere from once a week to once a month. But nail trimming is an activity that is often feared by both dogs and owners.

The best way to calm your fears is to ask your vet or a professional groomer to train you in the proper techniques for nail trimming. The best way to calm your dog’s fears is to train it from a very young age to be comfortable with the process. And of course, never cut into the quick of your dog’s nails and give it good reason to fear the process.

Don’t use your toenail clippers; use a clipper designed for the purpose. A rotary trimmer can be a safer, though slower alternative to a nail clipper. And if you’re just not comfortable with the process, there’s certainly no shame in hiring the job done by a qualified professional.


Many dog owners prefer to leave haircuts to professional groomers. It’s a job that really takes some know-how and experience to do properly – particularly for dogs with long, continuously growing hair.

But there’s no reason – with some effort and experience – that you can’t become an expert at cutting your dog’s hair, though there may be the occasional comic result along the way!

Here are a few tips for doing the job properly:

  • Bathe your dog first, using a shampoo made for dogs
  • Once the fur is dry, brush out any snags or mats
  • Use scissors for touch-up and for trimming around extremities: legs, ears and face
  • Use electric clippers for doing the cutting on the bulk of the dog’s body
  • Be sure to keep the blades sharp on both the scissors and the electric clippers. Dull blades are dangerous.
  • Choose a quite, isolated place for trimming your dog’s hair. A startling noise or sudden visitor during the process may cause the dog to jump – dangerous for the both of you when snipping scissors are involved.

For general guidelines about when to trim and how much to trim, consult with your vet or a professional groomer. Much will depend upon the breed of your dog. Not all longhaired breeds, for example, will benefit from having their hair clipped short in the summertime.


Keeping your dog looking good and smelling good will also help to keep it healthy. You’ll feel better, too, knowing that you’re giving your dog the best of care.

And the joys of dog ownership will be so much the better. After all, having a sweet-smelling, prettified pooch leap into your lap sure beats having a shaggy, smelly beast in your face!

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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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