What is dog grooming? A step-by-step guide to grooming your dog

When you hear the term dog grooming, what comes to mind? You may picture show poodles, all fluffed up and ready to strut their stuff after a lengthy session with a professional groomer. But dog grooming is much more than just a trip to the doggy salon to make them look pretty.

Dog groomers are experts at cleaning, clipping and styling your dog, but they also use grooming sessions as an opportunity to assess your dog's health. While having your dog groomed by a professional is always the best, it's also important to groom your dog yourself in between sessions. Here are all the most important components of dog grooming, all of which are essential to your dog's health.

what is dog grooming

Pooches love being groomed! And this one feels as good as she looks! 

Brushing

Ideally, you should brush your dog every few days, even if they have short hair. For a dog with medium to long hair, frequent brushing is important to help avoid matting. Dogs such as poodles, Shih Tzus, or Bichons can have fur that is particularly hard to manage, so it's a good idea to use a natural conditioning spray on their coat before brushing to avoid fur breakages and split ends while brushing. Even if your dog is short-haired, brushing them regularly is still just as important to evenly distribute skin’s natural oils that serve as protection from various environmental issues, and seasonal allergies, regulate the temperature, help nourish and balance skin and coat and overall help their immune system to stay strong and healthy.

Beyond just detangling their coat, brushing also stimulates the skin to encourage new skin growth. It also removes dead skin and hair. Dogs don't groom themselves as much as cats, so they need extra support, especially if you have a more senior dog. Always brush in the direction of hair growth if your dog is dry. Brushing when wet is encouraged as long as you’re using a quality conditioner. Use medium, consistent pressure when brushing so that it isn't painful but will still reach and stimulate their skin. The whole process should take about five to seven minutes. A pin brush is an excellent option for all breeds as it both grabs loose hair and penetrates through the hair to tackle dead skin. It should have extra-fine and rounded pins that will penetrate the coat deeper, without tearing it. Our pin brushes are designed to help ease the brushing process for all medium to long-haired breeds without both coat or skin damage. They feature soft, rounded (Bursta 8) and extra thick and rounded pins ⌀ 1.4mm (Bursta 33) that help penetrate the coat deeper without tearing the hair.

We at Doglyness always recommend wet brushing, as it makes overall grooming faster and easier. It’s a healthy routine for your dog’s skin and supports their immune system by increasing blood flow, improving circulation, and cleaning out the lymphatic drainage system.

Bathing

Most dogs only need to be properly bathed once every two to three months. This will depend on your breed of dog, whether they're indoor or outdoor, and what mischief they get up to! If they are outside a lot, swimming and playing in the dirt, then they may require more frequent bathing. Some dogs are naturally more oily, like cocker spaniels, dachshunds, basset hounds, and retrievers, so they may need more frequent bathing. Other dogs, like bulldogs or hairless breeds like Chinese Crested, are more prone to dry skin and don't need baths as much. Overbathing can strip your dog's coat of nourishing natural oils, but underbathing can cause a build-up of dirt and dead skin that can lead to other issues. Always use lukewarm water, and a natural dog shampoo that is meant specifically for dogs (find our guide to choosing products at the end of the article). If you’re using Doglyness products, you can give your dog a bath as many times as you want without risking skin irritation or coat damage, since there are no harmful or oil-stripping chemicals in the formulas.

dog grooming tools

The perfect dog grooming starter kit: shampoo, conditioner and a good brush!


You should also make sure to bathe your dog on a non-slip surface so they don't slip and injure themselves. Just like when bathing yourself, make sure to avoid getting any products in your dogs' ears, mouth or eyes, and rinse any product off thoroughly.

Drying


Once you bathe your dog, the next step is the dry them off. Avoid letting your dog air dry, as certain areas may be more prone to growing fungus if left wet (like between toes and under the front and back legs). And remember, they are dogs, so they likely won't stand still and air dry. Instead, they will roll around on your carpet or furniture or immediately start digging in the dirt, making all your hard work for nothing! Simply towel drying your dog might be good enough (depending on the breed), but you should use a dryer if you, and your dog, are comfortable with it.

Long-haired and non-shedding breeds like poodles, bichons, spaniels, afghan hounds, yorkies need to be thoroughly dried with the hair dryer after each bathing (and brushed while being dried) to avoid mats and skin injuries that are created when dog is under-groomed and dreadlocks start to form. Also, if left wet, since non-shedding breeds do not have an undercoat, so they can get cold and become sick, impacting their health and overall well-being.

Cleaning out ears


Dirt and grime can quickly build up in your dog's ears if you don't clean them. Since they cannot clean their ears themselves, it's important that you make ear cleaning a regular part of their grooming routine. Ears should be cleaned about once per month or even more often with some breeds like cockers, but like bathing, you don't want to overdo it. If your dog's ears look dirty or have a distinct odor to them, then it's time to give them a clean. Use a cotton ball or piece of soft gauze dipped in a natural saline ear-cleaning solution to wipe the inner surface area of your dog's ear. Don't use regular water as it doesn’t soften debris and wax the way saline does. And that makes it harder and more uncomfortable to remove. Also, never try to clean deep into the ear canal, or use cotton swabs since you could end up hurting your dog. If you notice the inside of your dogs' ears are inflamed, or infected, or see any blood, then make sure to take them right to the vet. It never hurts to speak to your vet or dog groomer about best practices when it comes to keeping your dog’s ears healthy, grime and odor-free.

Coat trimming


A haircut is one of the key components of dog grooming, and most people tend to leave that to the experts. Some short-haired breeds may never require trims, as the old hair falls out when the new hair grows in. Other breeds may require a trim every four to six weeks. We wouldn't recommend clipping or shaving your dog without the proper training, as dogs have sensitive areas you may not be aware of. Also, trimming can cause anxiety in some dogs, and you wouldn't want to injure your dog (or yourself) if they panic during a trim.

 what is dog grooming

Always leave the coat trimming to the experts, who understand each dog's unique needs.

Nail clipping


One of the most important, and also most difficult components of dog grooming is nail clipping. Most dog owners are hesitant or nervous about clipping their dog's nails for fear they will cut the nail too short and hit the quick (the soft cuticle inside your dog's nail that contains nerves and blood vessels). If you hit the quick, it will start to bleed and be painful for your dog, making them scared of future nail clipping. But this isn't meant to scare you off! Once you know how to identify where the quick is, it's incredibly straightforward to clip their nails. If they have lighter-coloured nails, you'll be able to see the quick inside, and if not, you just need to take it a little bit at a time.

Only cut the tip of the nail, and make sure you cut straight across. Don't clip so low that it goes past the curve of the nail, as that is when you're more likely to hit the quick. Practice makes perfect. We recommend having your groomer demonstrate the process to you so that you feel confident when you try it yourself. Or, you can simply take your dog to your trusted groomer whenever they need a trim.

What to consider when choosing dog grooming products


Regular grooming is essential for your dogs' health, but the products you're using are equally important. Applying toxic chemicals to your dog's coat and skin can make their health worse rather than better. Some of our favourite groomers gave us tips on choosing the grooming products they use.

  • Groomer Billie Jo Horvath always looks at the ingredients list first. She checks for nasty or toxic ingredients in dog shampoo like mineral oils, parabens and phthalates and makes sure to avoid them. She also looks out for natural, organic and plant-derived ingredients that have proven benefits for dogs' skin and fur. She then tests each product for a few weeks on her own dogs before offering it in her salon. And since she has a dog with sensitive skin, she only chooses products she trusts. Since the professional grooming community is so active on social media, their recommendations are also a great starting point for anyone looking for new product options.

 

  • Groomer Lainey Bott uses a similar process when choosing products, immediately looking to the ingredients list. She chooses products with gentle ingredients that won't cause harm and tests them out to verify any other claims the products have made. As with anything, it's important to do your research before choosing any product.

 

  • For Vicky Gunn, it's essential to understand how the products were made, where they was made, and the values behind each brand. This helps you determine what works for you, in terms of the best fit for your dog, but also whether the company values align with your own and if it's one you want to support. She also recommends checking out the brands' presence on social media to see how engaged they are, are reaching out to them with any questions you may have. The more engaged they are with their customers, the more it shows their care and passion.

Our dog grooming experts


Our amazing community of dog grooming experts are pivotal to our growth and development. These are the people who are out in the field, using our products each and every day. Their vast bank of knowledge and insights help us not only provide the highest quality products but also create valuable content and resource. For this article, we were thrilled for the input from three amazing dog groomers who’ve been grooming for years, and their combined experience provided lots of great information. Here are our groomer spotlights:


Billie Jo Horvath

dog groomer


Billie Jo Horvath has been a dog groomer for almost a decade. She began her grooming journey in a corporate salon, and quickly moved into a training position. From there, she started competing across North America with her two standard poodles and moved cities to groom in a variety of different types of grooming salons. She is incredibly passionate about what she does, and loves seeing the faces of dog owners when they reunite with their pet after a grooming visit. She now runs her own dog grooming business in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Lainey Bott

dog groomer


Lainey Bott started grooming at the age of 18 while studying for a degree in Veterinary Science, and a few years into it she realized that she was truly passionate about grooming and wanted to pursue it as a long-term career. The knowledge she learned in her Vet Science program provided invaluable information about pet health and well-being that is hugely beneficial as a groomer. It's now been five years and beyond dog grooming, she also teaches grooming at a school. When she’s not grooming professionally you’ll also find her grooming her own standard poodle and her friends and family’s dogs.

Vicky Gunn

dog groomer


Vicky Gunn has always been passionate about dogs, and seven years ago she decided to pivot from a career in finance to a passion project of a pet services business. In the beginning, she focused on the business/retail side, but after frequently pitching in on the dog grooming, the grooming bug struck her! And she went to get her full qualification. Since then she has been grooming full-time and even recently moved into a larger facility in Scotland. Business is booming, but she still takes the time to explore the Scottish hills in her VW camper with her Springer Spaniel and Sprocker.

What is dog grooming?

Dog grooming should be a mix of professional grooming appointments, and consistent at-home care. Work with your groomer to create the best grooming plan for your dog based on its specific needs. Like humans, each dog is different and requires a customized care plan accordingly to its skin, coat and breed. Effective grooming supports the overall health and happiness of your dog, plus is a great bonding activity to strengthen your relationship. And we could all use some more happy dog energy!