Whether you own a smooth-coated dog that cleans up easily or a high-maintenance breed such as a cocker spaniel, your dog will need regular grooming. If your dog is a poodle or other breed that needs to have extensive styling and clipping done, such techniques are best left to a professional groomer. But in most cases, dog grooming is relatively straightforward and can be done effectively at home with just a few simple tools.
For most breeds, only two basic grooming tools are needed: a metal grooming comb and a soft wire slicker brush. For long-haired dogs you may need a mat splitter, which is a simple L-shaped tool with a razor blade to slice through mats. For breeds with extra long coats, a wide-toothed rake works well.
Before you bathe your dog, you must remove all mats and loose hair from his coat. If your dog's coat is matted, bathing him will make things worse, and the mats will hold moisture and bacteria and can cause skin problems. Any mats you cannot get out with a wire slicker brush, comb, and mat splitter probably need to be removed with electric clippers. Never use scissors to cut mats because some form right up next to the skin. If you try to cut these types of mats loose, you could poke or snip your dog’s skin.
With your dog standing or sitting, start at the head and work your way across the back, over the sides, chest, legs and tail. Mats are commonly found behind the ears, in the armpits, the backs of the legs and tail. Another area to examine is between the toes. These mats are best removed with the soft slicker brush. Position yourself in front of your dog and hold his paw in your hand, brushing away from you to bring the hair out from between his toes. Comb through the hair to finish removing any mats or loose hair.
This process can be time consuming in a heavily matted dog. Give your dog a break every 30 minutes or so.
When all mats have been removed and you can comb through your dog’s coat without snagging on any mats, he is ready for bathing.
For small dogs, a large sink or utility tub is ideal. For larger dogs, your bathtub will work well. A shower nozzle connected to a flexible hose is necessary for proper bathing.
Run the water through the shower nozzle so that it is the right temperature before you spray it on your dog. If you want to use rubber gloves to protect your skin or nails, that is fine, but test the water temperature on your bare skin first. Never use cold water to bathe your dog. You may be tempted to bathe your dog outside using the hose. In some warmer climates, your dog might not object to the cold water. But if it is at all cold outside, do not subject your dog to a cold water bath. Not only will it be very uncomfortable for him; you will also find that removing dirt and grease to be much more difficult with cold water.
If you are using a flea shampoo, lather your dog thoroughly, working from head to tail, and let it sit for a full 10 minutes before rinsing. Work the lather down the legs and on the feet as well.
Always lather up your dog twice. If you use a flea shampoo, you should use a regular shampoo for the first lather, rinse, and then apply the flea shampoo.
Some dog breeds have very greasy hair, and you may find two lathers is just not enough to remove the grease. In such cases, you may want to try using a mild dishwashing liquid that is gentle on hands and tough on grease.
Rinse all soap thoroughly from your dog's coat and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Towel dry. Brush and comb through your dog's entire coat again to remove any hair loosened by the bath.