A Beginner’s Guide to Grooming Your Dog With Easy Tips and Tricks from Experts

Have you just gotten a dog of your very own? You’re probably scrambling to find the best way to groom him. Maybe you want to take a hands-on approach and do it yourself so that you can be alerted to medical problems early and better understand his behavior. Or perhaps you want to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

Read on as we share tips and tricks on how to groom your precious pup and the frequency of each grooming activity. We’ve also included tips from experts to ensure that you’ll be able to give your dog the best!

Prepare Your Dog For Grooming

If you’ve just gotten a puppy, it’s great to start training him to enjoy grooming from young. If you have an older dog, it’s not too late to start too. Here are some ways to prepare your dog for grooming.

Teach Your Dog Basic Commands

Teaching your dog to obey basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” can help with grooming as it ensures that he doesn’t run away while he’s being groomed! Another helpful command is “paw”, which is especially handy when it comes to clipping his nails.

We recommend training your dog personally as it helps to form a bond, but if you’re busy, here’s a list of recommended dog training schools to choose from.

Practice Good Habits

To make it easier for beginners, here are some easy habits you can work into your routine.

RegularlyBefore groomingDuring groomingAfter grooming
  • Wipe your dog’s paws every time you return from a walk
  • Check his eyes, ears, and teeth
  • Take your dog for a walk or exercise with him so that he is calm
  • Talk to your dog in a calm, soothing voice
  • Give him some dog treats every time he behaves
  • When brushing, check his skin and coat
  • Praise your dog and reward him with treats
  • If possible, reward him with an activity that he likes doing
  • How Often Should I Groom My Dog

    Infographic showing the frequency of essential dog grooming activities

    Wondering which tasks are easier to work into your routine given your busy schedule? Here are some of the essential dog grooming activities and their frequencies:

    • Teeth brushing: Twice a week
    • Brushing: Once a week
    • Bathing: Every 2 weeks
    • Ear cleaning: Every 2 weeks
    • Eye cleaning: Every 2 weeks
    • Paw cleaning: Every 2 weeks
    • Nail clipping: Once a month
    • Hair trimming: Every 2 months

    Essential Dog Grooming Activities

    So what are some of the necessary ways to keep your dog healthy and happy? Let’s have a look at the following grooming activities.

    1. Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

    Recommended frequency: 2 times a week
    Tools needed: Toothbrush and toothpaste for dogs or dental chew toys

    It’s important for your dog to get used to his teeth being checked. Just like humans, dogs can also experience dental problems! Here’s what you need to look out for:

    • Bad breath
    • Tartar and plaque
    • Signs of gum disease such as excessive gum bleeding

    If you’re starting out and have difficulty getting your pooch to sit still for brushing, you can clean his teeth with a dental chew toy. The end goal is to be able to lift his lip to massage his gums and clean his teeth.

    How to brush your dog’s teeth

    Though the brushing of teeth can be unsettling for your dog, he can sense your feelings, so if you remain composed and encouraging during the process, he’s more likely to cooperate. You can follow these simple steps to brush your dog’s teeth quickly and effectively:

    Step 1: Gather the essential supplies

    Before you begin, ensure that you have the right dental care products, including a dog toothpaste and toothbrush. It’s crucial to use only toothpaste and toothbrushes made specifically for dogs.

    Finger brushes may be used for smaller dogs, whereas those with longer handles are more suited for larger dogs. Dog toothpaste also come in edible flavors, as dogs aren’t taught to spit the toothpaste out.

    Step 2: Get into a comfortable position

    Sitting in the right position is key as it enables you to keep your dog still and brush his teeth more thoroughly.

    Step 3: Prep your dog for teeth brushing

    Person rubbing his fingers against the teeth of the dog in preparation for brushing

    Prepare your dog for teeth brushing by rubbing your finger against his teeth and gums gently and letting him taste the toothpaste. This can help him get accustomed to the procedure.

    If your dog refuses to lick the toothpaste, try a different flavor. As much as possible, he should see the toothpaste as a treat.

    Step 4: Gently brush your dog’s teeth

    Once your dog seems comfortable with the toothpaste, lift his upper lip and start brushing with toothpaste gently. It’s recommended to brush in a circular motion.

    When brushing your furry friend’s teeth, it’s important to check for any bleeding. Light, occasional bleeding is fine, but if it gets heavy and excessive, it’s time to consult your vet.


    Tip!
    Angle the brush at 45 degrees from his teeth. This will help to eliminate plaque more effectively while massaging the gums.

    Step 5: Finish with a treat

    After you have completed the brushing, give your pet a dental treat to reward him.


    Tip!
    Source: Description and Physical Characteristics of Dogs

    Take it slow when introducing brushing to your pup.

    Try starting on the parts where plaque typically accumulates such as the outsides of the canines and molars. Then, with every brushing session, progress to the insides.

    2. Brushing Your Dog

    Recommended frequency: Once a week
    Tools needed: Slicker brush, flea comb and dog brush

    Brushing can be a relaxing and therapeutic way of bonding with your dog. By brushing his fur, you can:

    • Maintain his coat health and shine by spreading the natural oils
    • Remove damaged, dead hair and skin cells, as well as dirt and seeds
    • Reduce shedding
    • Prevent skin wounds or infections by getting rid of mats
    • Detect fleas and ticks early
    • Remove excess hair, cooling him down
    • Bond with him

    What to take note of when brushing your dog

    A dog’s coat can come in many different textures, and what looks like a simple task can be made overly complicated if you’ve been reading too much. If you’re overwhelmed, simply remember these 2 rules of thumb.

    1. Brush in the general direction of your dog’s fur

    This ensures that all the dirt and dust are brushed out and away from your dog’s skin. Your dog feels much more comfortable if you do so. If you’d like, you can check your dog’s skin when you brush to see if there are fleas or infections. 

    2. Apply firm but gentle strokes

    When brushing, you’ll want to use just the right amount of force so that you get the loose hairs out, but not too much such that your dog is in pain. If you encounter any tangles and knots, gently untangle them like how you would for a child.

    How to get rid of mats

    A mat usually forms over a period of time when knotted fur clumps together. This can be painful for your pooch as it tugs on his skin! In severe cases, sores may even form. This usually doesn’t happen so long as you brush your dog regularly, but if you let this fall by the wayside, don’t fret – follow these steps to get rid of any mats! 

    Step 1: Spray detangler solution

    Spray the mat with a detangler solution and slowly use a comb to work through the mat.

    Step 2: Untangle the mat

    From the outside of the mat, slowly untangle the hair. Be gentle and avoid tugging or pulling the hair as it can hurt your dog.

    Step 3: Cut through or split the mat

    If the mat remains, cut through it with a mat rake. This tool has sharp tines, so be careful when you handle it.

    Alternatively, you can use a mat splitter. It allows you to split the mats vertically or horizontally before using the mat rake again. This tool has a sharp blade and can cut your dog’s skin, so if you’re not feeling confident, you can use a guarded electric clipper to shave it.

    If there are mats that are particularly difficult to get rid of, you may want to bring your pet to a professional groomer instead. 

    Getting the right dog brush will make the grooming process more comfortable and effective.

    Generally, a medium-toothed comb is suitable for all dogs, but if your dog has thick fur, a wide-toothed comb is recommended. Additionally, dogs with thin hair may require a fine-toothed comb. 

    If you’re getting a slicker brush, do note that you may require a complementary brush depending on your dog’s breed.

    Coat Length/Type
    Best Brush
    Very Short
    e.g. Boston Terrier, Great Dane

    Side profile of a Great Dane
    Rubber Brush (Kudi Pet)
    Dog Brush for Very Short Hair - Kudi Pet Rubber Brush
    Short
    e.g. Labrador, Pug

    Labrador sticking its tongue out sideways
    Slicker Brush (Biogance)
    Dog Grooming for Short Hair - Biogance Ergolance Slicker Brush
    Short & Thick
    e.g. Husky, German Shepherd

    Husky lying on its belly
    Rake Comb (Tommy&Coco)
    Dog Grooming for Short & Thick Hair - Tommy&Coco Rake Comb Large
    Medium
    e.g. Golden Retriever, Border Collie

    Close up photo of a Golden retriever
    Bristle Brush (Biogance)
    Dog Grooming for Medium Hair - Biogance Ergolannce Wood & Boar Bristle Brush
    Straight & Silky
    e.g. Maltese, Shih Tzu

    Side profile of a Great Dane
    Slicker Brush (Kudi Pet)
    Dog Grooming for Straight & Silky - Kudi Pet Slicker Brush Small
    Curly
    e.g. Poodle, Bichon Frise


    Side profile of a Bichon Frise
    Pin Massage Brush (Biogance)
    Dog Grooming Brush for Curly Hair - Biogance Ergolance Pin Massage Brush
    Wiry
    e.g. Terriers, Schnauzer

    Schnauzer happily smiling with its mouth open
    Comb With Metal Teeth (Wild)
    Dog Grooming Brush for Wiry Hair - Wild Comb With Metal Teeth
    Double-coated
    e.g. Shetland Sheepdog, Shiba Inu

    Side profile of a Shiba Inu wearing a red dog collar
    Pin & Bristle Brush (Tommy&Coco)Dog Grooming Brush for Double-coated - Tommy&Coco Double Side Pin & Bristle Brush Small

    Note!
    Most dogs usually require more than one type of brush.

    3. Bathing Your Dog

    Recommended frequency: Every 2 weeks
    Tools needed: pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner, towels, scissors (optional), dog brush and cotton balls

    When done right, bathing can be a soothing experience for both you and your dog. This grooming activity is essential to maintaining your dog’s hygiene and you can take this opportunity to check for any wounds or parasites.

    What to take note of when bathing your dog

    Dog happily taking a bath
    • Brush your dog before a bath and cut his fur

    It’s ideal to remove mats before wetting your dog. Otherwise, it’ll worsen any tangles.

    • Use a dog shampoo

    Dogs require a gentler shampoo than humans and even babies because of the differences in pH balance.


    Tip!
    Dogs with white coats shouldn’t use colored shampoo as white is a good absorber of color. We wouldn’t want your white furball to come out of the bath with a purple tinge!

    • Have everything you need within reach

    Be well prepared. During the bath, your dog should never be left unattended. Thus, it’s important to ensure that the shampoo, cotton balls (for ears) and towel are nearby.

    • Place a bath mat for him to stand on comfortably

    It’s important for dogs to have traction when getting bathed as slipping and sliding is downright scary for your pooch!

    • Use slightly heated water

    You may burn your dog’s skin if it’s too hot.


    Tip!
    Depending on your dog, you might want to either use a spraying attachment or a cup. Spraying attachments allow you to adjust the water pressure to be gentle on his skin but if your dog doesn’t enjoy getting sprayed, you can use the cup instead.

    Work with your pooch to ensure that he’s comfortable at all times.

    • Avoid getting shampoo in his eyes and ears

    Shampoo in your pet’s eyes and ears may cause discomfort and irritation. In more severe cases, a painful ulcer in the eye may develop. To prevent this, you can use cotton balls to apply the shampoo.

    • Rinse thoroughly with water

    Leaving shampoo on your dog’s fur may lead to skin irritation and infections.

    • Set your hairdryer to the cool setting

    If it’s too hot, it may cause discomfort and some dogs may overheat.


    Tip!
    According to the ASPCA, if you have a pug, it’s best to clean his folds with damp cotton. This prevents irritation and infections from dirt and bacteria that may be trapped there.

    How to bathe your dog

    Infographic showing the steps for bathing a dog

    Step 1: Prepare the necessary supplies

    A shampoo, mat, brush, scissors, cotton balls, and some doggy treats are all you need. 

    Step 2: Brush your dog

    Prep your dog by brushing him to remove tangles and excess hair. This also helps get rid of dirt and debris before bathing him. Using a pair of curved scissors, you may want to give him a quick trim too!

    Step 3: Get comfortable

    Make sure your dog is safe and calm. Talk to him in a soothing voice and give him a treat if need be.

    Step 4: Turn on the water

    Make sure that the temperature is not too hot or cold. Use a sprayer or a cup to wet your dog, depending on his comfort level.

    Step 5: Lather your dog 

    Start washing your dog’s feet and work your way up using a circular motion.

    Step 6: Dry your dog

    When drying his fur, you’ll want to use a towel or a hairdryer on low heat. High heat may hurt your dog’s skin, so be careful with the temperature.

    If you have a long-haired dog, you might want to invest in a conditioner. Your dog’s coat will have fewer mats and tangles, and may be smoother and shinier too.

    4. Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

    Recommended frequency: Every 2 weeks
    Tools needed: Otic solution and cotton balls 

    Many dog owners tend to overlook the ears, but it’s important to check them regularly.

    If you take your fur friend on many walks, there’s a chance that dirt and debris might get caught in his ears. As such, cleaning them helps to get rid of such debris, prevent infections and maintain bacteria balance in the ear.

    Ideally, your dog’s ears should be pink, odorless and not inflamed, dirty, or yeasty.


    Note!
    It’s advisable to avoid using cotton swabs as they can shove dirt or debris further into your dog’s ear canal.

    Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t overclean your dog’s ears. Doing so may remove healthy bacteria that help to fight against harmful organisms.

    How to clean your dog’s ears

    Step 1: Make sure your dog is comfortable

    Sit on the floor and position your dog such that he’s comfortable and you’re able to hold on to his ear to clean it. 

    Step 2: Hold the dog’s ear and get the cleaning solution ready

    Hold the pinna (or ear flap) up vertically while holding the ear-cleaning solution in your other hand.

    Step 3: Drip the solution in his ear

    Squeeze some solution into his ear. It’s okay for the cleaner to spill out of the ear. You’ll hear a sloshing sound as the dirt is being dislodged.


    Note!
    You’ll want to avoid letting the tip of the bottle touch the ear as it can introduce bacteria to the ear canal. If that happens, dip a clean cotton ball into alcohol and wipe the tip to get rid of bacteria.

    Step 5: Ensure that the liquid moves down his ear canal

    While still holding the ear up, gently massage the bottom of the ear. You’ll be able to hear the liquid move down the ear canal. This helps to clean the entire ear thoroughly.

    Step 6: Get rid of excess solution

    Let your dog shake out any extra solution and check his ear to see if he’s gotten rid of it properly.

    Step 7: Clean your dog’s ear using a cotton ball

    Hold his ear up and use a cotton ball to clean any debris and liquid.

    Step 8: Do the same for the other ear

    Repeat steps 2 to 7 for the other ear, and you’re all set!

    Virbac Epi-otic III Ear Cleanser (125ml)

    Product image - Virbac Epi otic III Ear Cleanser 125ml

    5. Cleaning Your Dog’s Eyes

    Recommended frequency: Every 2 weeks
    Tools needed: Stain remover solution and wet wipes

    Like the ears, it’s great to check your dog’s eyes to see if they’re bright and clear. The sclera, or the white part of the eye, shouldn’t be yellow or red. Also, be on the lookout for discharge at the edge of your dog’s eyes, which is usually goopy or crusty. 

    Some light colored dogs may develop reddish brown tear stains, but this isn’t usually a cause for concern. These tears contain porphyrin, which turns reddish brown when exposed to air. Instead, you should look out for redness or eye swelling. 

    If your dog keeps pawing his eyes, it may be time for a check-up.


    Note!
    According to Susan Hamil, a Bloodhound Expert, if you have a dog with droopy eyes, his lower lids should always be pink. It shouldn’t be red. If it is, it could possibly be inflamed.

    How to clean your dog’s eyes

    There are many different ways to clean your dog’s eyes. Here are some of them:

    Method 1: Wipe with a tear stain removal solution

    Use either a sponge, cloth or gauze to do this. Wet it with just enough solution to wipe any dirt off your pet’s eyes.

    You’ll want to avoid using tissues or paper towels as they’ll shred when wet and irritate the eyes.


    Note!
    You should be wiping in the direction away from your dog’s eyes, i.e. from the inside to the outside.

    Method 2: Wipe with pet wipes

    This is a convenient solution for cleaning your dog’s eyes. However, do ensure that the wipes are made specially for dogs. Moreover, when wiping your dog’s eyes, be gentle and avoid touching his eyes.

    How to remove tear stains

    Sometimes, it can be difficult to remove tear stains from your dog’s eyes. Here’s what to do if your fur friend needs a little bit of extra care.

    • Cover with face cream or powder

    For dogs with white fur, using face cream or powder helps to blend any tear stains away. This is a safer but less permanent solution to wiping.

    • Trim stained fur off

    You’re recommended to only use clippers if your dog is calm and tolerant of them. Otherwise, it may be better to get help from a professional groomer.


    Tip!
    If you find it hard to remove any secretion, it may have hardened. You can use a moist cloth or wipe and give it several gentle strokes so that it’ll soften and become easier to remove.

    6. Paw Cleaning

    Woman cleaning her dog's paws using tap water

    Recommended frequency: Every 2 weeks
    Tools needed: Pet wipes or shampoo

    Cleaning your dog’s paws is one of the easiest grooming activities. It’s best to clean them after he comes back from a walk to remove any dirt stuck between his toes and to prevent irritation due to dirt accumulation.

    It’s also recommended to clean his paws before attending to any wounds or cuts.


    Tip!
    If you prefer to keep your dog’s paws clean at all times, wearing dog boots is one way.

    Ways to clean your dog’s paws effectively

    • Get your dog accustomed to getting his paws touched

    Make him comfortable by starting slowly – give constant encouragement and treats. Once he’s used to the idea and feeling of getting his feet touched, the process will be smoother.

    • Wipe with pet wipes

    It’s important to use unscented wet wipes to rid your pet’s paws of gunk. It helps to be thorough so you may want to wipe his paws more than once.

    • Use shampoo to wash

    This can be done during baths, or whenever he steps onto something that’s harder to remove such as a clod of mud.


    Note!
    Always remember to check for dirt between his toes! You can also check for extra hairs and trim them regularly to prevent dirt collection.

    7. Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

    Recommended frequency: Once a month
    Tools needed: Dog nail trimmers or grinders

    If your dog is making clicking sounds when he’s walking, you know it’s time to trim his nails. Unhealthy nails can cause pain and hurt your dog; trimming his nails can prevent splayed feet, deformities and injuries, and improve traction.

    How to trim your dog’s nails

    Step 1: Choose a good spot to trim your dog’s nails

    Choose a well-lit spot to trim your dog’s nails. This will enable you to see which part of the nail should be cut later on.

    Step 2: Get your dog in a comfortable position

    Position him comfortably such that his paw is facing upwards. Hold his foot firmly but gently and ensure that he’s calm. 

    Step 3: Start clipping his nails

    Using a nail clipper for dogs, start by snipping bit by bit. 

    Refrain from cutting too close to the quick (the soft inner part of the nail that has blood vessels and nerve endings). For dogs with light-colored nails, the quick is pink in color. On the other hand, the quick is white for dogs with dark nails.

    If you do cut the quick and it bleeds, your dog may whine, but don’t panic. Use wet wipes to stop the bleeding and put some styptic powder on it after.

    If you’re afraid of using the nail clipper, you can try a nail grinder instead. These are some tips to note when grinding your dog’s nails:

    • Hold the grinder higher, towards the top.
    • Firmly hold on to your dog’s toe.
    • Grind the bottom of the nail and smooth the tip.
    • If your dog has long hair, sweep it back from the grinder.

    Tip!
    Apart from checking your dog’s nails every now and then, note that his dew claws (the special toe and nail that’s higher than the rest of his toes) require more attention than the rest as they don’t get worn down as much.

    8. Trimming Your Dog’s Fur

    Recommended frequency: Every 2 months
    Tools needed: Electric clippers, straight and curved pet scissors

    A short-haired dog’s coat can last up to 2 months, but a long-haired dog’s coat may need trimming sooner, depending on the breed. Trimming your dog’s fur can help to:

    • Reduce shedding
    • Prevent matting
    • Alleviate allergies
    • Remove dirt
    • Keep hair out of his eyes 

    It’s important to trim and brush your dog’s fur before bathing him so that you get rid of some dust and debris.

    How to cut your dog’s hair

    Woman cutting her dog's hair

    Step 1: Give your dog a quick comb

    Start by combing his coat to get rid of mats. Remember to be firm but gentle so you don’t hurt him!

    Step 2: Decide on your preferred length

    There are no restrictions to the length of the coat, as long as you don’t cut too near to the skin. To ensure that you cut evenly, try using your finger as a ruler.


    Tip!
    It’s best to keep a comb between your dog’s skin and the scissors, as this will prevent you from cutting his skin.

    Step 3: Trim his fur

    You’ll want to work from the front to the back of the body. Trim the more essential parts before the sensitive areas like the face and tail, so if your dog gets restless, at least the bulk of it is done. Curved scissors may be helpful for trimming areas such as the belly or joints.

    Step 4: Trim matted or thick patches

    Finish off by using thinning scissors to trim any matted or thick patches.

    Type of scissors
    Function
    Recommended products
    Straight scissors
    General cutting
    Four Paws Grooming Scissors (7.5")
    Four Paws Grooming Scissors (7.5")
    Rounded tip scissors
    Cutting sensitive areas like face and tail
    NHS Round Tip Grooming Scissor
    Thinning scissors
    For problem areas and giving your pet’s coat a natural look
    Four Paws Thinning Shears

    How to Get Rid of Smells on Your Dog

    Your pet may be playful – he may get into a mess and end up smelling less than pleasant. If that happens, don’t fret – here’s how to get rid of foul odors on your pet.

    1. Mix 846ml of hydrogen peroxide, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and a teaspoon of Dawn dish soap* in a container.
    2. Draw your dog a bath.
    3. Apply the solution and sud him up.
    4. Rinse him, drain the tub, and rinse him again.
    5. Do a sniff test and repeat these steps if necessary.
    6. Once that’s done, bathe your dog with a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner, then rinse.

    Some other home remedies may sound promising but they only serve to replace or mask the smell. They often fail to get rid of the smell completely.

    • Vinegar and water: This only mask smells but doesn’t get rid of them completely.
    • Tomato juice: Replaces one smell with another and leaves your dog pink.
    • Professional odor removers: These are a hit or miss.

    Note!
    If your dog didn’t get into a mess and multiple baths failed to get rid of the unpleasant odor, it may be time to alter his diet. You may want to:
  • Avoid low-quality food, carbohydrates, and processed kibble
  • Add more raw meat and dog-friendly vegetables and fruits to his diet

  • *While Dawn dish soap is safe for use on dogs, it’s not recommended for regular bathing.

    FAQs About Dog Grooming

    If you’re planning to personally groom your dog at home in the long term, it would be good to have a dog grooming table. Alternatively, you can use a regular table and place a towel on it before brushing and trimming your dog. 

    If you’re bathing your dog, place a towel or a non-slip mat so that your furry friend won’t fall.

    When grooming your dog, always be mindful of his behavior. If he starts whimpering or shows signs of discomfort, stop immediately and give him a treat. Resume grooming when he feels more settled or try again another day.

    Improve Your Dog’s Grooming Experience

    The key to nailing DIY grooming is comfort and consistency. Take it slow and make the environment as comfortable for your pet as possible. You can also give him his favorite treat after the grooming is done so he’ll associate the experience with positive reinforcement.

    Once he’s used to the routine, he’ll be calmer and the process will be smoother. However, if you’re still having trouble with this task, you can consider going to a trusted pet groomer.

    Authors

    • Shi Min

      Shi Min is a writer. You may have read her first book, Dragonhearted, which was published in 2016. It won the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book in 2018. In her spare time, she hugs cats, bakes lemony goodness, and plays tabletop games of all kinds.

    • Bernice Quek

      Intrigued by celebrity and influencer gossips, Bernice is passionate about finding the latest scandals and good deals to get a bang for her buck! Her closest friends know her as someone who has an irrational love for Disney's Stitch and an unwavering loyalty to KOI.

    • Emilia Wong

      Bubble tea and sleeping are two of Emilia's favourite things. She also enjoys cooking and loves to experiment with new recipes for different cuisines.

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