Dog getting groomed

Learn How To Groom Your Dog In 8 Easy Steps

Written By Eloisa Thomas | Canine Coach, Double M.A in Anthropology.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 5th January 2024

Want to save some money? Is your dog terrified of the groomer? Then you might want to know how to groom a dog so you can do it at home.

It’s easier than it seems, but you’ll need the right tools and a lot of patience.

Check out our expert tips on DIY dog grooming!

Shih Tzu in the middle of being groomed

Dog Grooming At Home. The Essentials

Ok, so you want to give your pup a full grooming session, but don’t want to leave them to a stranger, or would rather skip the cost. Then some DIY dog grooming might be in order. But before you move forward, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Consider what grooming involves. While it might seem like a straightforward process, dog grooming highly depends on your pup’s unique needs. For example, puppies might not need their fur cut as often, some dogs need their nails clipped frequently, and certain breeds need extra skincare to be happy. Think about your dog and what they usually get done at the groomers: do they get their bangs cut? Do they need a sanitary trimming? Do they have tear streaks that need some care?
  • Get the right tools. Once you’ve listed what you need to do, figure out if you’ve got the right equipment. Of course, by now you know dogs have special nail clippers, but you’ll also need to get dog clippers for their coat, shampoo and brushes. The right tools will make grooming faster and less stressful for your dog.
  • Watch a few videos. This is especially useful if you’ve got a long-haired pup that needs some trimming. Go online and find a good tutorial for your dog’s breed or type of coat. This will make it easier to get it right on the first try, and your dog won’t look weird for a whole month afterwards.
  • Have a plan. Depending on what you want to accomplish in your grooming session, plan ahead. This includes placing your tools in the order you’ll need them, or prepping your bathtub before bringing your dog in. In general, you’ll want to go from dry to wet, and start with things that don’t stress your pup out too much. Most times, you’ll want to brush your dog’s coat, then clip their nails, then brush their teeth and finally start with the wet part of the grooming. At this stage, you’ll clean their face, and then move onto their whole body.
  • Bring a friend. If your dog is really scared of the grooming process and won’t stay still, having someone else there can be a great help. They’ll hold your dog while you work, and it will help you avoid cuts and accidents.

PRO TIP: Consider breaking up grooming into shorter, more frequent sessions instead of a long one every couple of months. Grooming can be pretty stressful for dogs, particularly if they aren’t used to the consistent handling of their paws and teeth. If that’s the case, avoid unnecessary anxiety and do one thing at a time every couple days.

Step By Step DIY Dog Grooming

Now that you know what you’ll be doing and in what order, it’s time to get to work.

What you’ll need

  • Nail clippers. Proper nail clippers will make cutting your dog nails less stressful for them and easier for you. If you only have the time to do a single thing during your grooming session, go for the nails. According to vets, long nails can reduce traction, increasing your dog’s chances of deformed feet, tendon injury and other accidents [1]. The right nail clipper for your pup will depend on their size, age and type of nail. You might even want to use a grinder instead of traditional clippers, since grinding might be easier for anxious dogs. Our experts reviewed the best dog nail clippers and nail grinders so you don’t waste time choosing the right one.
  • A good brush. Brushing makes bath time a breeze because it disentangles your dog’s coat. On the other hand, regular brushing can also lower the frequency your dog needs baths: since it evenly distributes their coat’s natural oils, it keeps odours at bay and takes off excess hair and dust.
  • Dog shampoo. Your pup has sensitive skin, so they’ll need a mild dog shampoo to keep them healthy and happy. Our shampoos and soaps are just too striping for your dog, and using them will put them at risk of skin infection, dryness, itchiness and allergic reactions [2]. Shampoos are also a great way of rounding up your tick and flea protection, so consider a medicated product if your dog goes out a lot. Check out our ultimate guide to choosing the right shampoo for your dog.
  • Dog clippers. Please don’t use human hair clippers on your dog! Clippers catch stray hair, dandruff and bacteria from the user. This means if you use the same pair for both humans and dogs, you’ll be exchanging a ton of nasty microbes and possibly allergies We’ve researched the best dog clippers in the market so finding the right ones for your needs won’t be an issue.
  • An old towel or rag. Consider your dog’s coat: if they have thick or long hair, they’ll probably need at least two towels after a bath. Large dogs might also need more towels, simply because they have more surface to dry!
  • Old t-shirts or flannel. You’ll use these to clean your dog’s face without completely soaking them, particularly if they have tear marks.
  • Dog toothpaste. Pups need a special enzyme-based toothpaste that is safe for them. Choose one with a flavour your dog likes: there’s traditional mint, but you’ll also find liver and peanut butter flavours.
  • Optional. A large tub, kiddie pool, or bucket to fill with water. Bathtubs are great for grooming, especially bathing but a large tub or kiddie pool can be a great substitution. If you can’t fit those in, a bucket with water can make the process easier, especially if your dog prefers being rinsed with containers instead of the hose.
  • Plenty of treats. This is especially useful if your dog doesn’t like grooming. Use their favourite treats to reward them for staying still and as a signal that a specific step is done. It will make the whole experience more positive for them!

Once you have these essentials ready, you can start the grooming process:

Step 1. Prepare your space

Grooming needs to be a good experience for your dog, so keeping the discomfort at a minimum is key. If you plan to use a bathtub, get a rubber mat inside to keep your dog from slipping. Or make sure the room is quiet and doesn’t have any air drafts, so your pup won’t get cold. You should also line up your tools, so everything is easily accessible, and grooming goes as fast as possible.

Related: How To Stop Your Dog From Slipping On The Floor.

Step 2. Brush your dog

This step serves two purposes: first, it will catch any loose hair, detangle their coat and make bath time faster for both of you. Second, brushing also helps your dog relax. Since most pups are iffy at best about nail clipping and bath time, doing a relaxing activity to begin with will put them in a good mood before the rest of the session.

PRO TIP: If your dog is especially anxious around grooming, try tiring them out first. Going on a long walk or doing an intense play session shortly before grooming will help them stay calm and make the whole experience more positive.

Step 3. Clip their nails

Short nails let your dog move freely and ensure they grip the ground better. Your goal is keeping the vein and nerve inside each nail -the quick- short and at a 45º angle. You can either use a traditional dog nail clipper or a grinder. For dogs that already have negative associations with nail clippers, grinders are generally a good option. if your dog has black nails, just cut the tips to avoid cutting through the quick.

PRO TIP: For skittish dogs, you might want to break up their grooming and do nails one day, and bath at another time.

Step 4. Clean their teeth

Using a soft cloth, brush your dog’s teeth using appropriate toothpaste. Make sure to get all teeth, even the ones way in the back! Take your time and check for loose pieces, broken teeth, or weird growths. If you see anything uncommon, make a note of it and ask your vet.

PRO TIP: At this stage, you can also clean their face and ears with a slightly damp cloth. Never use products inside your dog’s ears unless directed by a vet and take care not to wet the ear canal since it can lead to infection.

Step 5. Cut any mats or stubborn knots

If you already brushed your dog, most knots likely came out. But if there are still some lying around, or you’ve found matted hair anywhere else, take care to cut those with scissors before moving forward. Mats can be painful if you tug on them while clipping, so take them out beforehand.

Step 6. Clip your dog’s coat

Once your dog is thoroughly brushed and inspected, it’s time to clip. Make sure to go with the growth of the hair and start slow. This will make it easier to have a smooth end result that won’t look homemade. Start with the neck and gradually work your back to the hind legs, one side at a time, to avoid missing spots.

Don’t be afraid to change blades, especially if you’re working with medium to long-coated dogs. Changing blades is also useful if your clippers get too hot, since it will keep you from accidentally burning your dog’s skin.

Overall, go slow and start with a larger comb attachment. It’s easier to cut it a little more, but you won’t be able to reattach hair!

Step 7. Clean up and bathe your dog

Once you’ve got the cut you wanted, clean up the loose hair and lightly dust off your pup to get the cut hair out. Then, using lukewarm water you’ll moisten your dog’s coat thoroughly. Next, use dog shampoo to clean their paws, then the legs and finally their back. Finally, rinse them out with lukewarm water. Bathing should be a quick process to keep your dog from getting too cold. Make sure to keep water out of their face.

Step 8. Dry them off

Use a towel to towel them off. Unless it’s the middle of winter, avoid using a hairdryer since it can burn their delicate skin. In general, the best option is using a towel, letting them out to sunbathe or the top dog hair dryers!

Final Thoughts

Dog haircuts and dog grooming at home are possible… if you’re prepared! Follow our easy tips and your pup will be looking fresh in no time.

  1. American kennel club. Nail neglect can lead to health problems.
  2. American kennel club. Can you use human shampoo on dogs?

Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach & Anthropologist.

With a double master's degree in Anthropology and awarded a Chancellor's International Scholarship to pursue a PhD in History at the University of Warwick (UK), she's well equipped to write well written and factual canine information that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}