Dog Grooming For Dummies book cover

Dog Grooming For Dummies

By: Margaret H. Bonham Published: 04-10-2006

Handle grooming yourself to save money and bond with your dog

Brush, bathe, and clip your dog like a pro!

Whether your dog is destined for a career in the show ring or a spot on the living room couch, good grooming is important. This friendly guide shows you how to develop a grooming routine that will keep your dog clean - and strengthen the bond between you. It includes detailed, step-by-step grooming instructions for all types of coats.

Discover how to

  • Train your dog for grooming
  • Care for nails, teeth, and ears
  • Use clippers and scissors
  • Groom specific types of coats
  • Prepare a dog for the show ring

Articles From Dog Grooming For Dummies

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24 results
24 results
Dog Grooming For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-01-2022

Dog grooming is an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy, so groom your dog regularly. Do the job right by having basic equipment; follow a routine to ensure that you cover all the steps each time. Grooming is more than just a bath and brushing — it includes cleaning teeth and ears and clipping nails. You should also know how to deal with some nasty issues such as matted hair and skunk spray.

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How to Empty Your Dog’s Anal Sacs

Article / Updated 11-02-2021

If your dog suddenly takes to scooting along the carpet to wipe her butt, you may be in for a real treat — the dubious pleasure of expressing your best friend’s anal sacs. Lots of licking or chewing of his rear or tail is another sign that it’s time to get rid of fluid build-up. Anal sacs, or anal glands, carry some smelly fluid and occasionally need to be expressed, or emptied. Many dogs express them by themselves every time they poop — the sacs are around a dog’s anus — but occasionally the sacs fill with fluid and your dog needs some help to release the fluid. Ask your vet before attempting to express your dog’s anal sacs for the first time, because the process can cause impacted anal glands and, in really bizarre instances, can rupture the sacs. And, keep in mind that expressing the anal sacs too often can lead to impacted anal glands, and failing to care for them may lead to infection. If you're not 110 percent sure you want to take on the task of expressing your dog's anal glands, don't hesitate to turn the nasty job over to trained staff at your veterinary office. The cost is minimal, especially compared to the damage you could cause (and the smell you'll be exposed to). If you insist on expressing the anal sacs yourself, here's how to do it: Suit up with a clothespin, heavy-duty rubber gloves, welder’s apron, rubber boots, and tongs so that you look like Michael Keaton changing diapers in Mr. Mom. Okay, you don’t need to go to these extremes, but the fluid is stinky and nasty, so wear old clothes and nose plugs if you need to. Fold several paper towels together in a huge wad. You want an absorbent pad to catch the liquid. Lift your dog’s tail and place the paper towels over his back side (and wonder when commercial television will pick up on this type of ad). Note the position of the dog’s anus in relation to the paper towels. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently squeeze at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions, using the anus as the clock face. Keep your face out of the way! Throw away the paper towels. Disposing of the towels in a covered trash basket is a good idea. Wash and rinse your dog’s rear end really well. Expressing the sacs during bath time makes sense, always remembering that a clean doggie rump is a healthy doggie rump. If your dog shows discomfort back by his butt and his anal sacs aren’t producing any fluid, he may have an impacted anal sac, which requires veterinary intervention — soon!

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Dog Anatomy from Head to Tail

Article / Updated 10-08-2021

Some canine anatomical names may be familiar to you — dogs have elbows and ears and eyes — but other names may be downright foreign. Many anatomical terms used to describe parts of a dog are similar to the ones used for horses. Head’s up on dog parts Starting from the head, a dog is made up of the Nose: Dog noses are often cold and wet, and of course, they usually get stuck where they’re not wanted. The muzzle (foreface) comprised of the upper and lower jaws. The stop is an indentation (sometimes nonexistent) between the muzzle and the braincase or forehead. The forehead (braincase) is the portion of the head that’s similar to your own forehead; it goes from the stop and eyebrows to the back point of the skull. The occiput is the highest point of the skull at the back of the head and a prominent feature on some dogs. It’s well known what ears are, but different dogs have different types of ears, including: Pricked: Pricked ears are upright. Dropped: Dropped ears hang down. Button: Button ears have a fold in them. Cropped: Cropped ears are surgically altered. Eyes are pretty obvious, and most often obviously brown. Like humans, dogs have eyebrows, or simply brows. Whiskers provide some sensory feeling. Flews is just a fancy word for a dog’s lips. A dog’s cheek is the skin along the sides of the muzzle — about where your cheeks are if you had a muzzle. Ruffling the neck and doggy shoulders Parts of the neck and shoulders include The nape of the neck is where the neck joins the base of the skull in the back of the head. The throat is beneath the jaws. The crest starts at the nape and ends at the withers (see the last item in this list). The neck is pretty self-explanatory; it runs from the head to the shoulders. The shoulder is the top section of the foreleg from the withers to the elbow. The withers are the top point of the shoulders, making them the highest point along the dog’s back. Baring the canine back and chest The back and the chest are together because they’re part of the dog’s torso, which includes: The prosternum is the top of the sternum, a bone that ties the rib cage together. The chest is the entire rib cage of the dog. The back runs from the point of the shoulders to the end of the rib cage. The term back is sometimes used to describe the back and the loin. The flank refers to the side of the dog between the end of the chest and the rear leg. The belly or abdomen is the underside of the dog from the end of its rib cage to its tail. The loin is the back between the end of the rib cage and the beginning of the pelvic bone. Differentiating pup forelegs and hind legs You’d think that the forelegs and hind legs of a dog would be similar, but they’re about as different as your own arms and legs: The upper arm on the foreleg is right below the shoulder and is comprised of the humerus bone, which is similar (in name anyway) to the one found in your own upper arm. It ends at the elbow. The elbow is the first joint in the dog’s leg located just below the chest on the back of the foreleg. The long bone that runs after the elbow on the foreleg is the forearm. Like your arms, it’s comprised of the ulna and radius. The forearm may have feathering on the back. The wrist is the lower joint below the elbow on the foreleg. Sometimes called the carpals, pasterns are equivalent to the bones in your hands and feet —not counting fingers and toes — and dogs have them in both forelegs and hind legs. Dogs have a foot or paw at the end of each leg, called the forefoot or hind foot depending on whether it’s front or back. The paw comes with nails (sometimes called claws), paw pads, and usually dewclaws. A dog’s toes are equivalent to your fingers and toes, although you can wiggle yours more easily. Dewclaws are vestiges of thumbs. Because dogs never figured out the opposable thumbs concept (thank goodness, too— can you imagine what mischief they’d get into with them?), these dewclaws are more or less useless appendages. The toenails or claws on the end of each toe are actually incorporated with part of the last bone of the toes. On the underside of the foot are several pads, including one main pad (communal pad) and a pad under each toe, for a total of five pads. You can find stopper pads behind the wrist on your dog’s forelegs as well. The upper thigh is the part of the dog’s leg situated above the knee on the hind leg. The stifle or knee is the joint that sits on the front of the hind leg in line with the abdomen. The lower thigh is the part of the hind leg beneath the knee to the hock (see next bullet item). Some dogs have feathering along the back of their lower thighs and hocks. The hock is the oddly shaped joint that makes a sharp angle at the back of the dog’s legs. It corresponds with your ankle. Bringing up the rear At long last (especially with dachshunds and basset hounds) you come to the tail end of the dog. The parts that make up your dog’s rear end include the following: The rump (or croup) is the proverbial rear end; it’s where the pelvis bone is. The tail set is where the tail attaches to the rump. Some dogs have high tail sets, others have low ones. Everyone recognizes the dog’s tail (or its absence); it’s usually wagging at you.

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How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Article / Updated 11-21-2019

Unless your dog runs around on hard surfaces that help keep toenails short, you have to cut or clip the nails about once a week — if you hear them clicking on a hard surface, it’s time for a trim. Most dogs detest having their feet handled, so clipping or trimming may never be your favorite shared activity, but getting your dog used to this ritual at an early stage helps you both weather the process. Try giving your dog a yummy treat after the trimming session, along with a big hug, a boisterous “Good dog!” and a healthy scratch behind the ears. Before attempting a trim yourself, ask your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how to trim your pup’s toenails them to the right length. A dog’s toenail is made up of the nail itself and the quick, the pink (when it’s visible) part of your dog’s toenails that provides the blood supply to the nail. Avoid cutting into the quick because it bleeds quite a bit and it’s quite sensitive. The quick is the dark part inside the nail -- the blood supply to avoid! If you can’t do all your dog’s nails at once, never fear — you can clip them one paw at a time, with other activities or a resting period in between. To trim your dog’s nails: Hold the foot steady, but hold it gently. Snip off a small bit of the end of each toenail. Using either the guillotine or scissors-type clippers, place a tiny bit of the nail in the nail clipper and snip. If the nail feels spongy while you’re trying to cut it, stop immediately — you’re cutting the quick! Stop any bleeding immediately. If you cut the quick (often called quicking), you’ll have an unhappy dog and a bloody mess. The quick bleeds a great deal, so if you cut it, you need either a nail cauterizer — a tool that stops the bleeding by applying heat — or styptic powder you can apply with a cotton swab. Have a damp washcloth at hand ready to clean up styptic powder and blood as necessary. Quicking hurts a lot, and most dogs remember the experience long afterward. Don’t forget the dewclaws if your dog has them. They tend to grow long because they don’t normally touch the ground and if you fail to cut them, they will eventually grow back into your dog’s foot, which is quite painful. If you use a nail grinder rather than clippers, use the same method — hold your dog’s foot, turn on the grinder, and grind a little off each nail.

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How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Dogs don’t get cavities the way humans do, but they can develop plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which contribute to foul breath and tooth problems. Trips to the veterinarian can be costly, so it pays to do periodic brushing yourself. (Although if your dog has lots of tartar buildup, a visit to the vet is in order.) How often you brush your dog's teeth depends on your pet and on your motivation factor — although every day is good, once or twice a week is adequate. Never use human toothpaste on a dog. Human toothpastes generally contain fluoride, which is poisonous to dogs. As they can’t rinse and spit, they swallow everything you put on their teeth.

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How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Cleaning your dog’s ears is a fairly uncomplicated job. Some breeds — notably sporting dogs and hounds — have a predilection for ear infections and injuries because of their hanging or drooping ears. These dropped ears make an ideal place for bacteria to grow and mites to hide. If an odor is present around your dog’s ears, they may be infected, which means a trip to the vet. Proceed slowly and exercise care during your weekly ear-cleaning session, and make sure you don’t enter the ear canal (which is hard to do because of where it is).

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How to Brush Your Dog

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Regular brushing and combing helps keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy and looking good and to get the full benefits, you need to brush all the hair and not just the top coat. The most common brushing method is to brush backward against the lay of the fur and then brush it back into place. Brushing that way usually loosens and removes dead hair and stimulates your dog’s skin. Breeds with corded hair, in particular, just can’t be brushed backward, so brush with the grain and remove all the tangles as you go. In brushing your canine companion, whether you go from tail to head or head to tail is entirely up to you. Just start at one end and work your way to the other to be sure that you don’t miss anything in between. These steps start at the front, but you can easily reverse the order:

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Grooming Your Dog's Hair with a Clipping

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Before you cut your first dog hair, make sure you treat your dog safely and plan how you're going to clip her. Your dog needs to be clean and have all mats and tangles brushed out of her coat before you start clipping. Doing so makes it easier for you to clip the coat evenly. Preparing for success You have your clippers and your dog. Now, what do you do to keep from running afoul while using the clippers? Here are some handy tips for getting your dog used to the clippers and keeping your dog looking good: Start clipping your dog as early as possible, even as a puppy. Getting an older dog used to the clippers is much harder than training a puppy to accept them. Compare the sound level of various clippers and choose the quietest one. Loud buzzing would scare humans, too! Read about your dog's breed standard. Often, you can get clues about how your dog's coat should look and how to make it look that way. Check out the breed club's Web site for tips on how club members clip their dogs. Some breed clubs provide free guidelines on how their dogs should look. Have a professional groomer or a breeder show you how your dog's coat needs to be clipped. Most groomers and breeders are happy to spend a little time helping you get it right. If you make a mistake, don't fret. Your dog may have a bad hair day, but it'll eventually grow out. The main thing to be concerned with is using your clippers safely. Using clippers safely Here are some handy guidelines for safely using clippers on your dog's coat: Be sure your clipper blades are sharp. Dull clippers pull hair more. Choose the clipper blade that works best with the specific type of coat your dog has so you achieve the result you want. If you're not sure about the cut of the blade you're using, you can try using one of the many snap-on guide combs that are available. These combs help you make a uniform cut. Always use clipper coolant or lubricant on your blades to keep them from getting too warm and burning your dog. Coolant or lubricant is available separately through pet supply catalogs and on the Internet. Clipper blades can become extremely hot, especially when you use them for a long time. If you burn your dog, she won't soon forget and will decide that clippers are no fun. Make sure that you wipe off any excess lubricant, or you'll end up getting oil all over that nice clean coat. Frequently turn your clippers off and touch them to make sure they're not too hot. If they become too warm, simply spray on the coolant. It's made especially for cooling down hot clippers. (Follow the directions on the canister.) When the clippers become too warm, you can also • Switch blades and let the hot ones cool down. • Switch to another clipper (if you have one). • Place the blade on a metal surface, which quickly cools it off (a cookie or baking sheet works). Making your first clip Before you turn on the clippers, make sure that your dog is clean and free of tangles and mats. Hold the clippers in a way that feels comfortable in your hand and gives you the most control over the clippers. The best way to find out how to use your clippers is to start by neatening up areas where your dog already has been trimmed but where the fur has grown a little untidy. By starting with an inconspicuous area that needs some neatening up, you can easily find out how much hair your clipper and blade take off. If the amount of hair you removed is too much or too little, you can adjust by switching to a more appropriate blade. Before moving on into the deep fur, however, make sure that you've chosen the clipper size that works best for your dog's coat and the right blade. The higher the number of the blade, the shorter and finer the cut.

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Essential Grooming: Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Dogs don't get cavities the way humans do, but they do get plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which can cause foul breath and tooth problems. Trips to the doggie dentist can end up being costly, and your dog will have to be put under anesthesia, because no dog ever "opens wide" for any dentist or vet. Brushing your dog's teeth is important, but how often you do it depends on your dog and your motivation factor. Poor doggie dental care, however, can lead to dental infections that can travel to your pooch's heart, causing major problems and even death. How's that for motivation to brush your dog's teeth? Train for the cleaning Working anywhere near your dog's mouth puts you at risk of an occasional frustrated nip or two. Take steps to make brushing your dog's teeth a little less tedious: Brush frequently. Ultimately, you need to brush your dog's teeth every day, but realistically, you're better than most pet owners if you can brush them once or twice a week. Frequent brushing gets your dog used to the brushing routine and to the idea of having her mouth handled by you. Choose the best time. A great time for brushing is right after your dog has exercised and is a little tired. At least, that time's preferable to when she's willing to fight with you over handling her mouth. Train your dog to allow you to touch her mouth. Get her ready to have her teeth brushed by doing the following: • 1. Flip up her lips. • 2. Wet the edge of a clean washcloth so you can rub your dog's gums and teeth; hold a corner of the wet portion of the washcloth with your index finger and use a gentle, circular motion. • 3. Talk to your dog in calm, soothing tones. • 4. If your dog grows impatient, do Steps 1 through 3 for only a few seconds, and then stop and give her a treat. • 5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 again tomorrow, gradually lengthening the amount of time you spend doing them. Eventually, you'll be able to build up the amount of time your dog allows you to touch her mouth to where you're giving your dog a nice tooth and gum massage without any fuss. Getting down to brushing After your dog gets used to getting a gum massage with a wet washcloth, the next step is to get her used to the finger brush and pet toothpaste. You can start brushing your dog's teeth by using a technique similar to the way you use the washcloth in the preceding section. Follow these steps to properly brush your dog's teeth: 1. Squeeze some doggie toothpaste onto the brush and allow your dog to lick it off. A finger toothbrush that's made for pets is best. You can use a human toothbrush, but it isn't as good as a finger brush Don't ever use human toothpaste! Human toothpaste contains fluoride, which in large quantities is poisonous to dogs. Dogs can't rinse and spit, so they pretty much swallow everything you put on their teeth. Doggie toothpaste, on the other hand, is flavored with malt, chicken, or some other yummy flavor that dogs can't resist. It makes the experience a little more enjoyable. 2. Flip up your dog's lips and gently rub the toothbrush and toothpaste against your dog's teeth and gums for a few seconds. 3. Give your dog a treat, even if she allows you to work on her teeth for only a few seconds. 4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 again tomorrow, gradually lengthening the amount of time spent brushing. If you gradually increase the amount of time you spend working on this four-step process, you'll eventually build up enough time to give your dog's teeth a thorough brushing. Some people like to purchase a dental scalar, a device they use to scrape away plaque from their dogs' teeth. Unfortunately, if you're not careful, you can injure your dog's gums, not to mention make one unhappy pooch. That form of teeth-cleaning is better left to your vet, especially when your dog has a lot of tartar and buildup and big teeth!

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Grooming Your Dog for a Show

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Successfully grooming your dog for a show requires planning well in advance of the show so you don't run into any surprises the day of the show. The following sections help you prepare for the big day. The night before the big event On the night before you show your dog, you probably don't want to wait up just to hear David Letterman's Top Ten, so in its place, here are the top ten steps you need to follow the night before the big show: 1. Brush out your dog's coat. 2. Do any prebath clipping as required. 3. Trim toenails. 4. Clean ears. 5. Express anal sacs if needed. 6. Bathe your dog. 7. Blow-dry your dog. 8. Brush out your dog's coat. 9. Do any postbath clipping. 10. Keep your dog clean. (That means crating him when it's bedtime and walking him on a leash when outside.) The morning of the show The day of the big show has arrived, and you need to put your dog through a normal routine so the both of you are ready for the show ring. Here are the steps you need to take the morning of the show: 1. Keep your dog clean by using a snood or other ear/hair covering, and always walk your dog on a leash. 2. Brush out your dog's coat and check for areas that may need touch-up clipping. 3. Use leave-in coat conditioners if your breed and/or dog requires them (for example, your dog may need coat dressings, bodifiers, and texturizers to help make the coat look and feel the way it's supposed to). 4. Prepare your dog's crate and get your equipment ready for the show. Here are some items you need to have: • Bait pouch • Battery-operated portable fans (for summertime or warmer environs) • Bed and blankets for the dog in wintertime • Combs and brushes • Coverings like snoods to keep hair from dragging • Crate for your dog • Cut-up liver, meats, cheeses, or compressed meat rolls in tiny portions • Dog food • Electric clippers • Folding grooming table • Grooming apron • Leave-in coat conditioners and bodifiers • Mat (for shows on dirt) • No-rinse shampoo (blue groomer's soap) • Paper towels • Pet bowls (for food and water) • Plastic bags for trash and wrapping up dirty towels • Plastic basin (for keeping chalk off floors or for using no-rinse shampoo) • Poop cleanup bags or scoops • Rugged tack box (for all the stuff you're hauling around) • Show slip-collar and leash (preferably close to your dog's color) or show martingale (standard show collars and leads that are available online and through catalog supply retailers). • Spray bottles with water and other coat products • Toenail trimmers or grinders • Traveling dryer • Water jugs (with water), as most show sites don't have a good and easy access to water • Washcloths and towels • X-pens or exercise pens Without a doubt, you'll think of other things to add to this list as you gain more show experience. The main thing to remember is that you want to keep your dog looking good and feeling healthy and comfortable — cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Depending on how far you travel to shows, you want to have enough gear to handle any grooming that you need to do while on the road.

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