Building your grooming toolkit
You can’t just throw your dog in the bathtub, roll up your sleeves, and start grooming. Before you start grooming your dog, you need the right tools.
While every dog is different (and will have different grooming needs) at the very least, you should plan to add the following to your at-home grooming toolkit:
- Brush and/or comb.
- Shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo and conditioner will leave your dog’s hair clean, silky, and smooth post grooming. Just make sure you use products specifically formulated for dogs; human shampoo or conditioner could cause irritation.
- Ear cleaner.
- Nail clippers.
- Nail file (for smoothing out sharp or jagged nails).
- Grooming blow-dryer. Depending on your dog, investing in a blow-dryer specifically engineered for dog grooming could be extremely helpful. “If you have a dog with a heavy coat (or multiple dogs), consider purchasing a grooming blow-dryer,” says Trott. “These have a lot more power than blow-dryers for human hair and will make drying your dog after a bath a lot easier and faster.”
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. Oral hygiene is an important part of grooming your dog. Again, just make sure the brush is engineered and the toothpaste is formulated specifically for dogs.
While there are plenty of grooming tools you can use at home, there are also a few tools that, for the safety of your pet, you’ll want to leave in the hands of capable professionals. “We would recommend that you leave the sharp tools such as scissors or grooming shears up to the professionals because you could easily unknowingly injure a pet,” says Wildman.
Getting your dog comfortable with the grooming process
Once you have your toolkit assembled, there’s one more step you need to take before you start grooming—and that’s getting your dog comfortable with the process.
The best time to groom your dog is when they’re already feeling calm and relaxed. If your dog has a lot of energy, that means working off that energy before you start the grooming process.
“Pick a time when [your dog] is already worn out; for example after a training class or a visit to the park,” says Trott. If that’s not possible, make sure to at least take your dog for a long walk or for some playtime in the backyard to help them work off some energy before you groom them.
If your dog seems anxious or stressed out (even after their workout!), a gentle massage could help them relax—and be more comfortable with the grooming process. “You can further calm your dog down by giving him a massage before starting the grooming,” says Trott. “Stroke him with long, even strokes with medium pressure, especially down his spine, down his shoulders and on his chest.” When your dog is nice and relaxed, you can transition to the grooming process.
Once your dog is calm, make sure you use plenty of positive reinforcement throughout the grooming process to keep them that way. “Use treats or other positive rewards to keep your pet interested in the [grooming] activity and wanting to participate,” says Wildman.