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Beauty School

At-home grooming how-to

By: Sara Lima

Last Updated:



If your dog is like many and absolutely dreads his pawdicure above all else, remind yourself to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the not necessarily unpleasant process. If he yelps out in fear, fight the urge to do the same, and instead forge ahead quietly and offer the occasional reassuring gentle pat when he’s silently cooperating. Dogs are tricky creatures, and many will yelp before you’ve even applied enough pressure to clip the nail. Steel yourself to the cause and both you and your dog will learn that it is a quick, painless procedure.

To begin, have your dog standing and hold one foot back at a time (the way you check a horse’s foot). For dogs with black nails, trim the tip of the nail in very small increments. Continue clipping until you see a dark circle in the center of the nail (the quick). If you do clip the quick, resist the urge to panic and simply blot and apply some styptic powder, such as QuickStop. If you don’t have any on hand, flour is a good substitute. If your dog has white nails it will be easier to see where the quick ends, but still clip in small increments as the quick sometimes extends past where it looks to end.



Regardless of your dogs’ ear type (floppy, cropped, or pointed), a cotton swab should never be used to clean their ears. Instead, squirt some gentle ear cleanser with natural ingredients made specifically for dogs directly onto a cotton ball and clean around the outer areas of the ear. Most vets will advise not to squirt anything right into your dog’s ear canal, even if the product advises you to, unless it is vet-prescribed medicine. Just like with our ears, don’t clean too deep or too often. The frequency with which a dog’s ears should be cleaned varies tremendously according to breed and the individual. When you notice a light brown, waxy build up, you’ll know it’s time for a cleaning! Be sure to check for signs of infection, such as dark brown or black smelly wax or a red and inflamed ear canal. If any of these are present inside your dog’s ear, it’s time to visit the vet.



Anal or “scent” glands are found in dogs, cats, and many other mammals. Expressing anal glands—the delightful process of emptying the glands surrounding a dog’s anus—should be done by a professional. Expressing glands is usually only required in smaller breeds since the, ahem, “waste” of a larger breed mostly does the job for you, unless their stool is consistently soft and therefore does not apply enough pressure on the glands to empty them. If you notice scooting or biting at the bum, it might be time for an exorcism. Some smaller dogs need their anal glands expressed as often as once a month. Neglected, the anal glands can become impacted or infected, requiring antibiotics and/or surgery.



Mid to long coat: Your best option for long-haired (such as a Shih Tzu), wire-haired (Brussel’s Griffon), or double-coated (Golden Retriever) breeds is to use a combination of a universal brush to smooth the coat along with a fine tooth metal comb to untangle mats. The universal brush will untangle hair and loosen mats, but you’ll need the comb to get right down and catch any remaining knots in the coat. If the dog has a double coat (like a Pekingese, German Shepherd) you may also need a good de-shedding tool, such as a FURminator, designed for long-haired, double coats.

Short or smooth coats: Even though you don’t have to worry about mats or tangles with short and smooth-haired breeds such as Boxers and Chihuahuas, short coats still need to be brushed to remove loose fur, distribute oil through their coat, and to increase blood flow to the scalp. The best options for our short-haired friends are either a rubber curry brush like the Zoom Groom or the FURminator deshedding tool designed for short-haired dogs. Happy grooming!


Last Updated:

By: Sara Lima
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