Updated: Jan 8
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Grooming is an essential part of looking after any dog, even a shorthaired breed. Brushing your dog from time to time removes dead fur, dirt and grease that may have built up in the coat. It encourages the production and spread of natural skin oils which keeps the skin healthy and the coat shiny and lustrous.
In longhaired breeds grooming is especially important to stop the coat getting tangled and matted. Many breeds naturally grow very long fur, so unless you are committed to daily grooming to keep a long coat well maintained, you will need to have your medium or longhaired dog ‘clipped’ (coat trimmed with clippers) at the groomer’s every 4-12 weeks.
There are many different types of grooming equipment out there. Ask your breeder for advice on what types of brushes are the best for your breed’s coat type.
When should I start grooming?
When your puppy first comes home to you their coat will still be growing and they probably won’t need a clip for a few weeks. In many terrier and poodle-based breeds it is common to get tufts of hair from just above the nose that grow upwards and curl towards the eyes. It is best to keep these strands trimmed back so they don’t irritate the eyes and cause tear-staining.
You can start brushing your dog with a soft brush at any age, so it is best to do this early on to get your puppy comfortable with it and prevent any tangles as the coat grows. Even if your new puppy doesn’t need a proper ‘groom’ or ‘clip’ yet, you should still get them used to the handling that will eventually be needed for grooming. Remember, if you teach your puppy to enjoy this handling and be relaxed with grooming activities before 12 weeks old, they are likely to be more comfortable with these activities for the rest of their life. You can start practicing the following skills from the week you bring your puppy home:
Putting the dog on an elevated table to stroke and brush them (always be right there to catch them if they try to walk off it!)
Holding up the dog’s feet one by one and touching their toes and toenails.
Running your hands all along the dog’s body including under their belly.
Examining and cleaning the dog’s ears.
Wiping the dog’s eyes and trimming the hair on their face (use blunt ended round-tipped scissors for this in case of any sudden movements!)
Brushing out their tail (very gently - tangles in the tail can hurt!)
Teeth brushing (just very gently to start as your puppy will be teething and their mouth may be sore)
Most grooming salons will only take on new puppies once they are fully vaccinated, so they are usually around 4 months old when they can have their first groom. If your puppy needs a clip earlier than this, enquire with a mobile groomer who can come to you, or ask your vet if they can help you with a ‘hygiene’ or ‘medical’ clip (usually just a just trim round the eyes, near the bottom and shaving off any mats that have developed).
How often should I bath or shower my dog?
Dogs generally have more sensitive skin than people, so bathing them more than fortnightly can make their skin very dry. In general, only bath or shower your dog if their coat is dirty or greasy and brush them frequently in between. Most people only need to bath their dog every 4-8 weeks.
Use a shampoo designed specifically for dogs, as this will be better suited to the pH of your dog’s skin compared to human shampoo. Use a wet cloth without shampoo around the face, to avoid getting any shampoo in the eyes.
Make sure you dry off your dog well after bathing. You can get them used to being blow-dried on a low heat which helps speed this process up!
Some dogs will never need their ears cleaning. Others, particularly those with very narrow or very hairy ear canals, can benefit from using an ear cleaner every 2-4 weeks. Speak to your vet or breeder about what products they recommend for your breed. If there is ear wax around the outside of your dog’s ear you can gently wipe this out using a finger and a piece of cotton wool or gauze. Never use cotton buds for cleaning a dog’s ears without asking a vet to demonstrate how to do this safely. Some groomers encourage periodic ear plucking of particularly hairy ear canals. You can discuss the pros and cons with them and whether this is necessary for your dog.
Some dogs will naturally wear down their nails when they walk and run, but many will need a nail clip every few months, especially on the dew claws that don’t touch the ground. Nail clipping gone wrong can become one of the most stressful experiences your dog ever goes through, so take this slowly and get your puppy used to their feet being handled! Always offer treat rewards for keeping still for a grooming procedure so the puppy learns that this process is fun and not scary.
Puppy nails can be sharp so ask your vet to show you how to cut the nails at your vaccination appointments. Use the correct size of dog nail clippers to trim the nails and have someone else hold your dog if needed. If the process is starting to cause your dog stress, it is probably not worth it and you should work on training them to tolerate feet handling for a few weeks, rather than pushing them too fast.
To minimise the amount of actual nail trimming you need to do, get your puppy used to having their nails gently buffed with a nail file. This will take the sharp edges off newly cut claws and maintain them short so they will rarely have to be clipped. You can also speak to a positive reinforcement dog trainer about teaching your dog how to scratch on a sandpaper block, so they can file their nails on demand!
Over 80% of dogs older than three will have some degree of dental disease. The single biggest difference you can make to your dog’s oral health, is teeth brushing. The more often you brush their teeth the better their oral health will be.
Puppies will be teething up until 6 months old or longer and their mouths can be quite sore. To start with be very gentle and simply get your pup used to chewing on a toothbrush or allowing you to put a finger-brush in their mouth. After a few sessions getting used to this you can start to brush round and round move the brush further down the sides of the mouth. Your aim for a puppy is just to get them used to the process, so that by the time you are cleaning adult teeth they will happily let you do it.
You can use dog toothpaste or gel products, or even plain water. Avoid human toothpaste because dogs may swallow too much of this rather than spitting it out.
Picking the right groomer
The best groomers will follow positive reinforcement principles and gentle handling with their doggie clients, so no dog is ever man-handled or hurt in the process of being held still for a groom. Great groomers will let you have a tour of their facilities and see their workspace. Dogs are usually put up on grooming tables and often tied up to these for safety. Make sure you feel comfortable with your groomer before booking in your dog.
If your dog has developed a fear of grooming or brushing for any reason, you can work with a positive reinforcement dog trainer and your vet to gradually improve this. Always reward the dog with small treats and lots of praise whenever they tolerate grooming well and keep your sessions short and sweet.
"Breeder Spotlight" - Letisha Pelchen, SkyesDLimit Skye Terriers
Letisha is a qualified dog groomer, and champion breeder of Skye Terriers. Here's her advice for those with a new baby puppy:
"It is imperative to desensitise your puppy to grooming as soon as possible. As soon as your puppy has had their second vaccination, book them in to see your local Professional Pet Stylist. Ensure they are qualified, or research and look for reviews of their work for your own peace of mind.
Getting your puppy used to hair dryers, baths, nail trimmers, ear cleaners and clippers sooner rather than later immensely helps their stress and anxiety to the whole process.
A dog that gets regularly groomed sees their pampering session as routine, whereas a dog that only sees a groomer once every few months sees it as punishment.
It's a win win! A happy, healthy puppy that looks fabulous too!"