How to Groom a Dog

Three Parts:Grooming Your Dog Before the BathBathing Your DogClipping Your Dog's Fur

Regular grooming keeps your dog clean, healthy, and comfortable. Many people prefer professional groomers, as they can make dogs look great while using their professional expertise to keep them safe. However, if you don't have one available in your area or just want to save some money, you can give your dog a basic grooming at home.

Part 1
Grooming Your Dog Before the Bath

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    Gather your grooming materials. You don't want to be looking for your tools once you begin grooming the dog. Make sure to have everything you need in one place before you begin the task at hand. Consult the "Things You'll Need" section below to find out what you'll need to groom your dog.
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    Comb out your dog first.[1] Combing your dog's coat daily or every other day will keep most mats at bay. Simply brushing, as most literature instructs, is not enough for dogs that can mat up: the brush will easily pass over at angles that a comb will get stuck on. A thorough combing should always be the first step of the grooming process because any mats will become tighter and less manageable once they dry. Begin on the head and move down the body. Be careful under the belly, as it is a sensitive area, and don't forget to comb the tail. while you are combing, if you find a tangle, use a brush and try to work out the tangle. Be mindful not to brush burn your dog from brushing for too long in the same spot. Try it on yourself in a sensitive area to get an idea of how it feels on the dog.
    • You can brush short-haired dogs with simple tools like curry brushes or gloves.
    • Comb and Brush medium- to long-coated dogs with more specialized tools like a steel comb, slicker, a pin brush, or an undercoat rake.
    • Whatever you use, it must remove loose hair and distribute oils from the skin throughout the coat.
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    Praise your dog as you're brushing him. Reward calm, quiet behavior to encourage more of it. You may want to include a treat now and then to reward the dog for good behavior.
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    Give the dog breaks as needed. You don't want the dog to get overwhelmed, as any negative associations can make grooming harder in the future. Make the experience fun by giving your pet breaks from time to time, giving praise, treats, pets, and even a little bit of play.
    • This is especially important with a puppy, who can be trained from a young age to tolerate this much handling well.
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    Cut out mats that can't be brushed out. Severe matting can pull the skin every time the dog moves, making daily life painful for your pet. If you can't brush a mat out, you need to either cut or shave it off, depending on how close it is to the skin. Be extremely careful if you use scissors to avoid injuring yourself and/or your pet. Try to cut parallel to the growth of the hair to avoid a choppy look.
    • If you don't think you can safely remove the mat without hurting your dog, take him to a professional groomer.
    • On occasion, mats can get so tight and close to the skin that bacterial infections occur underneath the mat. If you suspect an infection, take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
    • The visual symptoms of bacterial infection are redness and moisture, with pus secretion in advanced cases.[2] You dog might chew or scratch at the area because it itches.
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    Clear the dog's eyes. White-haired breeds or those with large eyes that water a lot (Pekingese, pugs, pomeranians, etc.) may need more maintenance in this area than others. Depending on your specific dog, this step may be a simple matter of wiping or pulling eye debris away from the corners of the eyes. Long-haired or white-haired dogs may need special attention to make sure that all gunk is out of the coat, as they may get tear stains. You can buy products made for removing "tear stains" from a white coat at a pet supply store.
    • A healthy eye should be clear and should not show any signs of irritation or unusual discharge.
    • Don't try to trim hair away from the eyes yourself, as you might injure your pet. Ask your vet or groomer to do it for you.
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    Clean your dog's ears. It's normal for a clean ear to have some wax in it, but there shouldn't be any particular smell to it. To clean your dog's ears, apply some ear cleaning solution (bought at a pet supply store) to a cotton round. Wipe dirt and wax away from the inner ear, but don't rub vigorously, as this might cause sores. Don't push too far into the ear, either. The groomers rule of thumb its to clean only what you can see.
    • Bring ear cleaning solution up to body temperature before putting it in the dog's ears. Place it in a body-temperature water bath, just as you would with a baby bottle.
    • When you're done wiping out the ear with a damp cotton ball or cloth, gently dry it out with a dry one.
    • Praise your dog! The ears are a sensitive part of the body, and he may need some comfort.
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    Contact the vet for ear problems. Your dog needs medical attention if his ears look swollen, red, irritated, dark or blackened. Any discharge or sores, or a bad or yeast like smell should also prompt a call to the vet.
    • Excessive discharge, inflammation, one ear being much dirtier than the other, and odor are signs of an ear infection that needs medication.
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    Brush the dog's teeth.[3] Ideally, brushing your dog’s teeth every day with dog toothpaste is the route to healthy teeth and gums. Use dog toothpaste instead of human products, so you don't poison your dog with fluoride. If there is any chance that you may get bitten by your dog, do NOT attempt to brush your pet’s teeth. At any point, if the dog gets overwhelmed, give him a break to calm down.
    • Start by placing a small amount of dog toothpaste on your finger and spreading it across the teeth for a few seconds. Reward the dog for cooperating.
    • Once the dog lets you work your finger in his mouth for 20-30 seconds, you can graduate to gauze or finger toothbrushes from the pet store. Work your way up to a dog toothbrush.
    • No matter what, ease your dog into the process so that it can be a pleasant experience rather than a stressful one.
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    Get a veterinary cleaning if necessary. If your dog already has a considerable buildup of tartar and plaque, a simple tooth-brushing won't be enough. Just like a human would, your dog needs a professional cleaning at the veterinarian's. Another option is anesthesia free teeth cleaning, which is available but typically not offered by veterinarians.
    • Look for red gums or brown material attached to the teeth — these are signs that a home tooth-brushing will be painful for your dog. Don't try to brush his teeth until he's seen a vet.
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    Clip the dog's nails.[4] If left untrimmed, a dog's nails can curl under into the paw pads or twist toes in a way that causes joint damage. To keep your dog's nails short, clip them regularly, depending on how fast his nails grow. If you can hear his nails on the ground when he walks, that means his nails are touching the ground, and are too long. [5]
    • Trim a very small amount of nail (1/16 inch) away with a pair of dog nail clippers. Human clippers are okay for a very young puppy or small dog. Guillotine style clippers are less effective than the scissor type. Also, use the appropriate size clippers for your dog.
    • If your dog has clear nails, you can see the pink part where the blood vessel's located. Avoid cutting the pink part, trimming only the clear hard nail.
    • Take extra care with dark-nailed dogs not to clip to the blood vessel. Go slowly, and only take a little bit off at a time. Dremeling is much safer and easier to avoid hitting the quick, as it shaves only a little bit at a time. Use a cordless pet-safe dremel tool, as the corded ones will not stop turning if they catch hair.
    • If you cut too far and hit a blood vessel, apply styptic powder, corn starch, or flour with a bit of pressure to stop any bleeding.

Part 2
Bathing Your Dog

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    Gather your supplies. You don't want to be running around looking for cleaning products with a wet dog in the tub, so have everything in one place before you start. You should also make sure that you're properly dressed in clothes you don't mind getting messy, because you will get wet.[6] At the very least, you will need: [7]
    • Dog shampoo
    • Treats
    • Several towels
    • Place one towel on the edge of the tub to keep water from splashing over the tub. The rest are for drying.
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    Place a non-slip surface on the bottom of the tub. You know from experience that the tub can get slippery once it gets soapy. To prevent your dog from slipping, place a towel or non-slip bath mat in the tub.
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    Pre-fill the tub with luke-warm water. Hot water can harm your dog's skin, especially if your dog is short haired. Avoid running water into the tub while the dog is in it, as it may cause unnecessary stress. You may have to spend some time desensitizing your dog to the sound of running water with the help of his favorite treats. Always go slowly to avoid overwhelming your pet and making things worse for both of you.
    • You can also fill a 5 gallon bucket with luke-warm water and mix a decent amount of shampoo in with it. Doing this will save you a step.
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    Secure the dog in the bathtub. Some dogs like to make a run for it during bath-time. If this describes your dog, buy a dog bath lead from the pet supply store. It's a leash that attaches to the shower's wall with a suction cup and keeps your dog in place during the bath.
    • Replace the dog's regular collar with one that will not stain the coat or suffer water damage.
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    Soak your dog thoroughly. Make sure your dog's coat is completely wet before you start applying shampoo to it. If your dog isn't afraid, you can buy and use a hose and water pressurizer attachment for the faucet. This is especially helpful if you have a large dog or one with a double-coat. But, if your dog is afraid of the running water, use a glass or bucket to pour water from the tub over the dog instead. AVOID getting water in your dog's ears. Water in the ears can cause an infection. Please be sure to only spray water/rinse water up to the dog's neck. The head can be cleaned separately (see below for instructions)
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    Shampoo the dog. Begin at the neck and move downward toward the rear and legs, using your fingers to spread the shampoo and work it in down to the skin. Save the head for last, and don't use soap around the ears and eyes(unless you have tearless shampoo meant for dogs). Instead, use a wet towel or washcloth to clean the head. Once the shampoo is applied, running a rake through your double coated dogs coat will help to loosen it and better distribute the shampoo- just be careful not to rake one spot for too long. Again a good practice is to try it on yourself first to see how it feels.
    • Shampoos may be easier to apply and rinse off if diluted.
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    Rinse your dog thoroughly. As long as you see dirt or soap bubbles in the water coming off of an area, keep rinsing. You can use the same method you used to soak the dog's coat before shampooing. Remember not to use running water if your dog's afraid of the sound. Simply pour water over him with a cup to rinse the shampoo from his coat.
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    Dry your dog. Use a squeegee or use your hand as a squeegee to force water off of the coat and body. Towel dry him as best as you can while he's still in the tub so you don't make a mess. Place the towel over your dog’s back, or hold it next to him and give permission to shake the water off their body. Many dogs will learn the “bath rules” and wait to shake until you have placed the towel over them to contain the water droplets. If your dog is a shorthaired or you prefer to let your dog's coat dry naturally, you're done.
    • If you have a double coated or long-haired dog, you may need to blow the coat dry.
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    Blow dry the dog if necessary. If towel drying won't cut it, blow-drying can dry the coat without overheating or over-drying your dog. If you have a dog with especially long hair, you may need to dry the coat while brushing it.
    • Make sure that the blow dryer is on the cool setting! It may take longer than usual, but it's worth the time because there will be less of a chance your dog's hair and skin will dry out.
    • If your dog is afraid of the sound or sensation of the blow dryer, don't push him. Towel-dry him as best as possible and let him air dry somewhere he can't make a mess, like a laundry room.

Part 3
Clipping Your Dog's Fur

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    Decide if you need to clip your dog's coat. Many breeds have short hair, and don't require regular clipping. However, if you have a shaggier breed of dog, he may require regular clipping as part of his health routine. Breeds that need regular coat trims include cocker spaniels, sheepdogs, poodles, collies, shih tzus, Pekingese, and chow chows, among others.[8]
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    Clip the dog's fur after it's dried. If you plan to clip your dog's hair, make sure to read the directions that came with the clippers. Get an information book or video, or consult with a groomer about the proper use of your clippers. Make sure that the clipper blades are sharp and the clippers well lubricated. If the blades are not sharp, they can pull on the hair.
    • Before clipping your dog, you should have an idea of the look you are trying to create. Read, ask questions and watch videos to get an idea of how to achieve the desired result.Then you may start.
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    Restrain the dog gently. You don't want him moving around, so tie him up with a leash. During the clipping process, you can place your free hand under the dog's belly to encourage him to stay in place instead of fidgeting.
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    Use dog grooming clippers.[9] It's worth it to spend a little bit of extra money on a good pair of dog grooming clippers. A small investment up front will save you money down the road, since you won't have to pay professionals to groom your pet.
    • Make sure to use dog grooming blades that will give you the coat length you desire.
    • Scissors will likely not give you a nice, even coat, and you may hurt the dog with them if he moves suddenly. Grooming clippers are recommended over scissors.
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    Clip the dog's hair methodically.[10] You can place the blade against the body safely, so long as you don't press the blade strongly into the skin. Brush against the direction of hair growth(back-brush) before running the clippers the other direction; with the direction or hair growth. Using the clippers against the growth of hair will have the same effect as back-brushing, but will leave a shorter length than the clipper blade that you are using. If you want to shave against the growth of hair, try a spot on the stomach and see if you like the length first. Move the clippers surely, but slowly across the dog's body to remove the hair — moving too fast might leave uneven lines. Always move the blade with the direction of the hairs' growth unless you want a shorter length than your blade claims to leave. Begin at the neck, then move down to the shoulders, under the ears, and toward the chin, throat, and chest areas. DO NOT use a size seven or any skip blades around the throat area or any spot on the body that can fit between the teeth, such as the Achilles' tendons, arm pits, genital area, tip of tail, or anus. Then, clip the dog's back and sides. Finally, clip the hair on the dog's legs.
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    Be careful when removing hair around the anus. The anus can pop out, like a button, unexpectedly and be accidentally cut as a result- anticipate this action.
    • Be careful when clipping around the legs, tail and face. These areas can be sensitive.
    • Check the clippers frequently to make sure they don't get hot enough to hurt your dog’s skin.
    • If the clipper blades do get hot, stop and let them cool and/or use a product like “Clipper Lube” spray on them. This product also strips the oils from the blades which will cause them to heat up faster, so it is better to have spare blades or just to wait.
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    Reward your dog. Standing still can be hard work! If he seems like he's getting overwhelmed by all this handling, give your dog a break every few minutes. Praise him throughout the process, and give treats during the break. Do not play with the dog where there is a chance for him to get dirty.
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    Be patient. You may have to go over your dog's coat a few times before you have a smooth, even cut. Don't rush it! Give your dog as many breaks as necessary, and make sure to move your clippers slowly.


  • If you can't find the time to bathe your dog, he still needs grooming to stay clean, healthy, and tolerable. Consider paying for a professional groomer to clean your dog when you can't.
  • If you need to blow dry your dog, consider a professional quality dryer like the Double K Airmax. Double coated dogs like Bernese Mountain Dogs may take so long to dry with a human dryer that they'll get burned. For smaller dogs, consider a hand held dog dryer, such as the Crazy Dog dryer, to eliminate or minimize the risk of burning your pet.
  • You may need to pluck ear hairs from time to time. Ask a veterinarian or professional groomer to show you how to pluck the hairs from your dog's ear safely and correctly. Ear powder makes the process easier and quicker by giving added gripping power to the slippery ear hairs.
  • Use a small amount of dog conditioner, if you use any at all, to prevent your dog from looking and feeling greasy.
  • Make sure not to get water in the dog's nose, as it can prevent him/her from breathing & cause a moment of 'fight or flight' response. If your dog inhales water and appears to be struggling to breathe, try holding its head down so that the water can drain out.
  • Find out what routine coat care is necessary for your dog's breed or coat type. There may be specific requirements by breed that are needed to keep the coat clean and/or in a certain condition. To keep a Komondor, for instance, the coat needs special attention to separate forming cords.
  • Raised grooming tables and bath tubs keep you from bending your back and hurting yourself. Any table or sturdy surface could serve as a makeshift grooming table, but always have a non-skid surface for the dog to stand on. That means no wheels on the table. Hardware stores usually carry rubber-backed or rubber runners sold by the yard that you can cut to size of any surface.
  • On double coated dogs, a furminator tool works wonders to remove the undercoat. If using this tool, be careful not to work it over an area for too long. It is mainly useful for the nape of the neck, haunches, and all along the back - these are the places where your dog's fur is the thickest.
  • If you can't afford expensive grooming supplies, consider using a self-serve dog wash. They offer use of these tools at a lower price than having someone bathe your dog for you and, the best part is they get to clean up the mess!
  • If you own a wolfdog or a large dog bred to be like a wolf, never ever ever clip its fur short as it may become aggressive. Additionally, wolfdogs are quite wild. Only wash and brush the dog.


  • Avoid using human shampoos on your pet as these are not formulated for dogs. This could give your dog a skin rash.
  • It is a reflexive action for many dogs to try to pull away their back leg if it is lifted. Avoid lifting the leg to the side because this is uncomfortable for most dogs. Instead, pick up the foot and gently pull forward or backward. Don't be upset or punish the dog, just struggle through it and praise your dog when he or she is still. If you have a medium or large dog, you may be able to get away with clipping the nails on the hind feet without having to lift the foot.
  • Never use human toothpaste when brushing your pet's teeth. Pets may swallow toothpaste and could get sick because of the fluoride. Use toothpaste recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Try to avoid getting shampoo into your dog's eyes. It could seriously irritate them. Put shampoo into your hands before spreading it into your dog's fur instead applying it straight from the bottle. Don't let suds get into your dog's eyes when rinsing, and gently squeeze his ears shut to keep water out when working on those areas. You can place cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent water from getting into the ear canals. Make sure to remove the cotton balls when you're done.
  • Avoid getting water in the ears and eyes. If water does somehow get in the ears, use a small cotton ball or cotton pad (not a Q-tip, as it could go too far in) and gently wipe pat the inside of your dog's ear. Your dog will likely shake his head to remove water as well (like after a swim). If your dog seems to be scratching his/her ear constantly after bathing, take them to a vet to address the problem.
  • If your dogs eyes seem irritated, use a simple eye wash solution and flush the eyes out.
  • Check with a veterinarian if your pet has skin problems.
  • If you are shy about touching certain parts of your dog, get over it. If you are going to clean your dog, you must clean your dog's whole body. If there are any fleas or ticks on your dog, let them sit for ten minutes after working in the shampoo. When the bugs are dead, make sure to fully wash all of them off. If they are left on, these could give your dog a disease. This would include scrubbing all over your dog's body, even areas you are not comfortable with. Never use hot water, and be especially careful to avoid warm water or medicated shampoos on the genital area. This area is sensitive.
  • Don't overdo bathing. Once every 2 or even 4 weeks is typically enough. Professional grooming services are recommended once every 4 to 6 weeks for long haired breeds. Bathing too often can dry out the skin by removing the natural oils. Waterless shampoo can be used between baths to clean feet and other areas. Spot spray directly and sponge off with a damp sponge. Use a hypoallergenic or mild oatmeal shampoo designed for dogs for general bathing. If your pet has a particular skin condition, try hypoallergenic scent free shampoo before the vet. If the condition persists, a medicated shampoo from your veterinarian may be in order. Consult your veterinarian if there are concerns about your pet’s skin.

Things You'll Need

Short haired dogs:

  • Curry brush or glove
  • Ear cleaner
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball/cloth
  • Pet toothbrush/"PetzLife"
  • Dog nail clippers
  • Collar
  • Dog shampoo
  • Blow dryer/towel

Medium-Long haired dogs:

  • Slicker, Pin brush, or Undercoat rake
  • Ear cleaner
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball/cloth
  • Pet toothbrush/"PetzLife"
  • Dog nail clippers
  • Collar
  • Dog shampoo
  • Blow dryer/towel

Article Info

Categories: Dog Grooming