The Ulti-mutt Guide to At-Home Dog Grooming
Just because the phrase “dirty dog” exists doesn’t mean it has to be your reality! At Walkee Paws, we’re big believers that canines and cleanliness can go hand and hand. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we created the world’s first all-in-one dog boot leggings: to keep your pup’s paws pristine and leave the dirt and germs outside.
But even with our paw protection in place, every pooch needs to be groomed from time to time, and many pup paw-rents prefer to do this in the comfort of their own home. If that sounds like you, then keep reading for your go-to guide to all things grooming, from baths and nail trims to ear and dental care.
Unlike humans--who require regular bathing--giving your dog a bath too often can actually do more harm than good. That’s because bathing can remove the natural oils that protect their skin and fur, causing dry, itchy skin or a brittle, dull coat. Although you should consult your vet to learn exactly how often your dog’s breed should be bathed, the ASPCA generally recommends bathing pups at least once a quarter. However, there are a few exceptions to consider:
- If your dog is super active, loves to swim, or regularly rolls around in dirt or mud, you’ll need to bathe them more often.
- Long- or curly-haired dogs should be bathed every four to six weeks to help prevent their fur from matting.
- Dogs with oily skin--like Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels and Basset Hounds--should be bathed on a more regular basis to remove excess oil from building up on their skin.
- Hairless breeds (think Chinese Cresteds) may need to be bathed on a weekly basis, since they’re missing the fur necessary to protect their skin.
Picking the Right Shampoo
Think you can use your own shampoo and conditioner for your canine companion? Think again! It’s important to select a shampoo that’s specially formulated for Fido, as they’re more likely to be free of fragrances or ingredients that can cause irritation. Make sure to choose a moisturizing formula (anything with oatmeal, aloe vera or coconut oil should do the trick), and you can even follow up with canine conditioner for extra hydration. Just be sure to avoid shampoos or conditioners with artificial colors or fragrances, isopropyl alcohol, parabens, sulfates or mineral oils, as these can all be toxic or harmful to dogs.
How to Bathe Your Dog
“Simple: Just pull out the garden hose and spray your dog down!” Though that approach might work in a pinch, bathing your four-legged friend is actually a little more complex. First step: Brush your pup (more on that below!) to remove surface dirt, dead hair or matting. Then, fill up the bathtub with about four inches of lukewarm water (hot water can burn their sensitive skin). In the meantime, gently place cotton balls in your pooch’s ears to prevent water from getting inside the canal and leading to irritation or an ear infection.
Once the water’s ready, completely wet your dog’s fur by pouring water from a pitcher or large cup or using a spray hose. (Have a pup who hates the bath? Try smearing peanut butter on the shower wall to keep them distracted while you work your magic!) Massage their coat and skin with shampoo, rinse and repeat as necessary. Dry off your pup with a towel, and finish up by blow drying on a cool setting if desired.
Have a pup with wrinkles or facial folds, like a Bloodhound, Pug or Shar Pei? Make sure to dampen a cotton ball, gently wipe between their skin folds and dry thoroughly. This can help prevent dirt, germs and bacteria from settling into their skin and causing an infection.
While some dogs love to luxuriate in the bathtub while you give them a full-service spa treatment, other pups are terrified of the entire process. If this sounds like your dog, don’t worry: There are other options for getting a clean canine! Brands like Bissell offer portable dog baths that require minimal water and can function almost anywhere. There are also tons of doggy dry shampoos or cleansing sprays on the market that freshen up your pup without any H20 or hassle.
So if you’re only bathing your dog once every three months, how do you keep ‘em clean in the meantime? Make sure they’re wearing dog booties like Walkee Paws Dog Leggings before heading outdoors. This will prevent them from picking up dirt, mud, germs and allergens in the first place, and will keep your home free from the ruff stuff outside. Once you return from your daily stoll, be sure to wipe your pup’s fur down with hypoallergenic wipes to remove any dirt and debris. You’ll also want to comb their coat on a regular basis, which leads us to…
Not only does brushing your furry friend’s hair make for a gorgeous coat, but it also helps remove surface-level dirt and allergens, prevent matting, and distribute the skin’s natural moisturizing oils throughout their fur. There are several varieties of dog hair brushes, each with their own unique purpose:
- Slicker brush: Perfect for any kind of coat, this brush is covered with thin wire pins that remove dead hair and detangle fur.
- Bristle brush: Made with bristles that remove dirt and make coats shiny. Works best for pups with short or wiry hair.
- Rubber brush: Comes with thick, rubber bristles that help remove loose fur from short-haired dogs.
- Undercoat rake: Similar to a slicker brush, but with long wires that help remove loose hair from dogs with long, double or heavy coats.
Because dogs come with all types of fur--from short and wiry to long and silky--each breed and coat type needs a different approach to and frequency of brushing. Here’s a quick brushing breakdown:
- Smooth, short coats (i.e. Boxers and Chihuahuas): Brush once a week with a rubber or bristle brush.
- Short, dense coat (i.e. Labrador Retrievers): Brush once a week with a slicker brush to remove tangles and dead hair.
- Long, thick coat (i.e. Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, Bichon Frises and Collies): Brush daily with a slicker brush to remove tangles, then follow up with a bristle brush for some extra TLC.
- Double coats (i.e. German Shepherds, Pomeranians, Huskies and Pyrenees): Brush at least every other day (daily during shedding season) with an undercoat rake, then follow up with a slicker and/or bristle brush.
A Note on Matting
If your long-coated canine ends up with clumps of fur--aka matting--in their coat, it’s important to remove them properly before they worsen, as severe matting can cause health issues. For mild knots, spray with a detangling spray and use a dematting comb to break up the mat, working in small sections at a time. It’s best not to bathe your pup before embarking on this process, as water can actually make the tangles tighter. For thicker matting, consult a professional groomer rather than addressing them at home, which can be painful for your pup.
Ah, the dreaded nail trim! Though some dogs tolerate it just fine, clipping your dog’s nails can cause quite a bit of anxiety for both canines and their humans. So how often should you clip nails? It depends on your dog’s living environment and activity level. For dogs who often walk on concrete or pavement, nail trims may be a less frequent occurrence, as these surfaces naturally file nails down to a safe length. For pups who romp around mostly on soft surfaces--or are certified couch potatoes--nail trims may need to happen more often. The general rule of thumb is that a dog’s nails should be clipped when they almost touch the ground while walking around. (Read: If you hear click clacking when your pup comes running to the kitchen for their morning meal, it’s time to pull out the clippers!).
There are four main types of nail trimmers for dogs:
- Guillotine: Looks kind of like your average garden scissors. They feature a single blade that slices off the end of your pup’s nail, and work especially well for small dogs with thin nails.
- Scissors: Much like your standard pair of scissors, these feature a set of blades that work best on large dogs with thicker nails.
- Grinder: An electric tool with a sanding head that files down the nail for a smooth, rounded finish.
- Scratch board: Ideal for dogs who don’t like their sensitive feet handled. Features a piece of flat sandpaper that your dog can scratch to file their own nails.
To trim your dog’s nails, gently but firmly hold their toe in your hand at a slight angle. Place the very tip of the dog’s nail through the opening in your clippers, then cut a little bit and repeat. For pups with light-colored nails, make sure to stop clipping before you get to the pink part (the quick) of their nail. It’s tricky to spot the quick on pups with dark nails, so always err on the side of caution. If you do happen to nip the quick--which can be painful for your pup--be sure to apply cornstarch or styptic powder to their nail to stop the bleeding, and end your nail trimming session for now. Once all nails have been clipped, use a nail file or grinder to smooth away rough edges.
Though your pooch doesn’t have to go to a doggy dentist every six months for a cleaning, your canine’s canines--and incisors and molars and premolars--need regular care and maintenance to keep their mouths healthy and bad breath at bay. Without consistent dental care, bacteria and plaque can cause tartar to build up on their teeth, leading to conditions like receding gums, gingivitis and even teeth loss.
Aim to brush your pooch’s teeth at least twice a week using a toothpaste and toothbrush specifically formulated for dogs. You can also make your own toothpaste by combining baking soda and water. To get started, angle the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the teeth and gums, then use small circular motions to clean the front and back of each tooth. If it’s harder to get to the inside of each tooth, try not to worry too much--the side closest to the dog’s cheek is typically the one that has the most plaque and tartar.
Ear infections in dogs are an all-too-common problem, but you can reduce your pup’s risk of getting one by regularly (and carefully) cleaning their ears. On a weekly basis, add hydrogen peroxide or an ear-cleaning formula to a cotton ball. Lift the flap of your dog’s ear and gently wipe away any dirt or earwax, being sure not to push the debris further into the ear canal. It’s also important to never insert an object like a Q-tip into the ear canal or clean too forcefully, as this can hurt your pup or result in an infection.