Dog Grooming: The Ultimate Guide to Bathing Your Dog

Dog grooming and bath care is a big part of owning a dog.

Not only does grooming keep your dog clean and smelling fresh, there are tons of health benefits too.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about grooming and bathing your dog.

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In this Guide

why should I groom my dog

CHAPTER 1

Why Should I Groom My Dog?

grooming a dog at home

CHAPTER 2

Home Grooming vs. Salon Grooming

knowing your dogs coat type

CHAPTER 3

Knowing Your Dog’s Coat Type

dog grooming equipment

CHAPTER 4

Dog Grooming Equipment

how to groom a dog

CHAPTER 5

How to Groom Your Dog

How to Use this Page

Dog grooming is a MASSIVE subject and whole books have been written about about it.

If we were to cover everything there is to know about dog grooming on this page, you’d never get through it. So this Ultimate Guide is designed to give you a basic understanding of what dog grooming is, the tools you need and the steps involved.

Each section has several ‘Read More’ links, so if you want to learn more about a specific topic, you can click those links and delve deeper into the world of dog grooming.

Why Should I Groom My Dog?

Dog grooming is an important part of caring for your dog.

The most common reason to groom your dog is to keep her clean and smelling fresh and looking good. But there are many health benefits too.

Brushing aerates the coat and promotes good blood circulation. Bathing helps to remove excess grease and dirt that can block your dog’s pores and cause sebaceous cysts.

Becuase most dogs live in nice warm houses, they molt more than wild dogs. This can cause the fur to become matted which, if not removed regularly, can pull on your dog’s skin causing discomfort, pain and potentially skin conditions.

If your dog does have a skin condition, grooming and bathing might be included as part of her treatment plan as advised by your vet.

But there’s a whole other side to dog grooming which many people don’t consider…

…The level of trust and the bond you can forge with your dog.

When you groom your dog with love and care, it reduces stress in both you and your dog and you’ll get to know each better. Both physically and emotionally.

Many dogs hate being groomed because they haven’t been trained to enjoy the process. But by starting early, you can train your dog to love being pampered.

How Often Should I Groom My Dog?

Many dog groomers would advise grooming your dog every 8-16 weeks but this will vary greatly depending on their breed and individual needs.

But essentially, you should only groom your dog when necessary.

If your dog smells unpleasant or if her coat is full of dirt and mud, brush her out and give her a bath.

But bathing your dog too much can dry her skin out and strip the oils from her fur which are essential for a healthy coat, which can lead to problems.

Dogs with skin conditions might need to be bathed more or less frequently than normal, depending on the treatment your vet advises.

If your dog swims a lot you might not need to bath her as regularly. Spending time in the water can clean away excess dirt and grease.

bath a dog

Grooming at Home vs. Going to the Salon

So at this point, the question is, ‘Who should groom your dog?’

Should you do it at home or should you hire a professional groomer?

Well, at Pet Checkers we like to promote both. Even if you only do enough between visits to the grooming salon to make it easier for your groomer.

Read More: 10 Things Your Dog Groomer Whished You Knew

The Benefits of Grooming Your Dog at Home

It’ll Say Save You Money

Taking your dog to the groomers can get expensive. If you take your dog to the groomers 4 times a year and pay £50 each time, that’s £2,000 over 10 years. And that’s if you only have one dog. If you have two, three, or four dogs, it could get super expensive!

If you groom your dog(s) at home you wouldn’t have to spend that money. If you want to groom your dogs properly, you might need to invest in some good quality grooming equipment. But even with this upfront cost, the money you’d save over the lifetime of your dog would be significant.

It’s a Good Way of Bonding

As we’ve already mentioned, grooming your dog is an excellent way of building a bond with her that is built on trust, love, and respect.

By spending this time with her you will get to know each other much more intimately. Not just on a physical level but on an emotional level too.

There Will be Less Anxiety For Your Dog

Some dogs can find going to the grooming salon stressful.

Being manhandled by a person they don’t know in an environment they’re not familiar with can cause anxiety. And when your dog is anxious, so are you.

By grooming your dog at home you know she in an environment that she’s comfortable in with people she knows and trusts.

The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Groomer

It’ll Say Save You Time

Dog grooming takes time, not only to learn but to actually do.

If you only groom your dog every few months, your lack of practice and experience could mean the process takes much longer than it should. This could mean your dog becomes bored, or worse, stressed.

A professional groomer will be able to groom your dog quicker than you can which will save you time. If you live a busy lifestyle, the time saving might outweigh the money spent.

It’s Good Socialisation For Your Dog

Spending time away from you and with someone else is a good thing when it comes to socialising dogs – especially if they suffer abandonment issues.

It’s good for them to experience being separated from you for short periods of time before being reunited. It’ll help her realise that you’ll always come back for her.

Your Dog Will Look Better When Groomed by a Professional

Unless you’ve had lots of practice and have lots of experience, chances are your dog might not look her best of you groom her yourself.

Professional dog groomers spend hundreds of hours developing their skills, they have equipment you probably don’t have and they know which techniques to use and when.

The end result is a pooch that looks, smells and feels fabulous.

You Won’t have to Do Any of the Cleaning Up

Even dogs that look and smell relatively clean can hide tons of muck and dirt in their coat. Muck and dirt that you’d have to clean up after grooming her.

Not only that, but you would not believe the amount of hair that comes off a dog when you blast dry her.

And it gets EVERYWHERE!

Cleaning up this kind of mess can take hours. If you take your dog to the groomers, the mess is their problem, not yours.

Knowing Your Dog’s Coat Type

If you’ve decided you want to go ahead and be the one that grooms your dog, or at least have the skills to keep her looking good between visits to the salon, you’ll need to know about her coat type. This will dictate how you take care of her daily grooming needs, what is done when she needs a full groom, and the equipment you’re likely to need to groom her.

Therefore it’s important to know what your dog’s coat type is and how to take care of it before you do out and invest in any grooming equipment. There are 5 main coat types;

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Smooth Coat

Smooth coated breeds have short, smooth hair that lies flat, close to the body,

This coat type is the easiest to maintain and groom with the objective being to remove any dead coat and create a nice, shiny finish.

Breeds include Dalmatians, Dobermans, Vislas and Pointers.

Read More: Grooming Tips for Smooth Coated Dogs

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Silky Coat

Silky coats are a lot like human hair in that it has a soft, silky texture. Depending on the breed, the coat can be long or short.

Longer haired breeds need much more in the way of maintenance as they can easily tangle. But when maintained and groomed regularly, silky coats can look spectacular.

Breeds include the Afghan Hound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Yorkshire Terrier

Read More: Grooming Tips For Silky Coated Dogs

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Double Coat

A double coat consists of two layers of fur; a shorter undercoat of dense, woolly fur and a top coat of longer fur.

The undercoat is designed to protect a dog from extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) and the outer coat repels moisture and dirt.

Double coated dogs need a lot of brushing between grooms to remove dead coat and prevent it from getting knotty. Two layers of fur make actually grooming double coated breeds quite labor intensive.

Breeds include German Shepards, Border Collies, and Newfoundlands.

Read More: Grooming Tips for Double Coated Breeds

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Curly or Wool Coat

Also known as ‘Poodle Coats’, this coat type is thick, curly and has a lot of volume. It’s one of the hardest to maintain and requires regular maintenance and grooming to stop matting.

Dogs with wooly coats need specific drying and styling techniques.

Breeds include Poodles, Bichon Frise, and Portugese Water Dogs.

Read More: Grooming Tips for Curly Coated Dogs

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Wire Coat

Wire coats are made up of a dense, wiry topcoat and a softer undercoat.

This coat type should be ‘hand-stripped’ to maintain the fur’s proper texture and colour. Hand stripping is the process of manually pulling away dead fur from the coat with a stripping knife.

However, many dog owners (and groomers) use clippers on dogs with this coat type to save time and cost. Afterall, hand stripping is a skilled and time-consuming process.

Breeds include Border Terriers, Wire Haired Fox Terriers, and Minature Schnauzers.

Read More: Grooming Tips for Wire Coated Breeds

drying a dog

What Dog Grooming Equipment Do I Need?

The dog grooming equipment you have in your dog grooming toolkit will depend on your dog’s breed, coat type, and condition. You’ll also want to think about your skill level or desire to groom your dog.

If you just want to keep your dog tidy between visits to the grooming salon, a good dog brush and a bottle of shampoo might be all you need.

However, if you want to take it further and do everything yourself, you’ll have to invest in clippers, trimmers and a dryer. Maybe even a table.

Here is a basic list of list of the products and tools you might need. If you do want to groom professionally then chances are, you’ll need quite a few more tools than are listed here. Each tool has a link you can click to learn more about what we think are the best tools to buy.

dog brush

Dog Brushes

If you only have one tool for grooming your dog, it HAS to be a brush!

Regular brushing removes excess dirt and dead fur which prevents matting and helps spread the natural oils through the fur. You’ll also be more likely to spot changes on the surface of his skin which might need medical attention.

Read More: Different Types of Dog Brushes and Their Uses
Also Read: Best Dog Bushes

dog shampoo

Dog Shampoo & Conditioner

The pH of dog skin is very different human skin – It’s more neutral.

Shampoos and conditioners formulated for humans are much more acidic than those made for dogs. Bathing your dog using humans shampoo and conditioner can upset the balance of your dog’s skin.

Read More: The Best Dog Shampoo

dog nail clippers

Dog Nail Clippers and Grinders

A dog’s nails should be clipped or ground at least once a month to keep them from getting too long and causing problems.

You can use dog nail clippers or a nail grinder to do this and which one you choose is very much down to personal preference.

Read More: The Best Dog Nail Clippers
Also Read: The Best Dog Nail Grinders

dog grooming scissors

Dog Grooming Scissors

Depending on your skill level, you might choose to go beyond just brushing and bathing your dog and decide to cut her fur into style.

In which case you’ll need some dog grooming scissors. These come in many different shapes and sizes and it’s important to understand when to use which type.

Read More: Dog Grooming Scissors: Different Types and When to Use Them
Also Read: Best Dog Grooming Scissors

dog clippers

Dog Clippers & Trimmers

If you want to do all of your dogs grooming, you’ll need a pair of dog clippers and/or trimmers.

Dog clippers are different to those made for humans so don’t just buy human clippers to save money. Dog fur is much coarser than human hair so human clippers just aren’t up to the job.

Read More: The Best Dog Clippers

dog bath

Dog Bath

Chances are, you’ll only need a dog bath if you start to groom dogs on a professional level. If you’re just bathing your own dog at home, the bathtub or shower should do the trick.

If you are thinking of becoming a professional dog groomer or you’re building a salon, you’ll need to have a think about which dog bath will be best.

Also Read: The Best Dog Bath

dog dryer

Dog Dryer or Blaster

Dog Dryers or Blasters as they are often called are tools generally used by professionals, although you can buy cheaper versions for use at home.

A dog blaster is essentially a really powerful hair dryer which isn’t just used for drying your dog but also blasting away any dead fur – especially on double coated breeds, like German Shepards.

Read More: The Best Dog Dryers

dog grooming table

Dog Grooming Table

Dog grooming tables aren’t only used in salons by professional groomers. Many people who groom their own dogs at home invest in them.

Simply because they offer the best solution for keeping a dog still while clipping and trimming them. And they don’t have to be expensive either, you don’t need to buy a professional table for home grooming.

Also Read: The Best Dog Grooming Table

dog grooming books

Dog Grooming Books

It doesn’t matter if you just want to groom your own dog at home or become a fully qualified groomer, you really need to educate yourself.

Dog grooming books go well beyond the scope of this article and you can use them for reference whenever you have a dog in front of you. Many professional groomers keep a collection in their salons.

Also Read: The Best Dog Grooming Books

grooming dogs

How to Groom Your Dog, Step-By-Step

grooming a dogDog grooming takes practice. We’d be lying if we said it was easy.

If you’re just bathing your dog between grooms then you won’t have to worry so much about what the end result will be. It’ll just be a cleaner, nice smelling pooch.

But if you want to cut and style your dog’s coat yourself, well that is going to take a whole other level of practice!

Don’t expect your pooch to end up looking like a show dog the first few times you groom her.

It also has to be said that some dogs hate being groomed. You have to understand that your dog might not just sit there and let you simply clip her nails.

We get dogs in our salon regularly that are uncooperative, we even have dogs try to bite us from time to time.

So it’s really important that you’re patient and you take your time. Give her plenty of treats throughout the process so she associates being groomed with good things.

Below you will see the basic order in which most dogs are groomed. This can vary slightly depending on the bred and coat type. Make sure you know what type of coat your dog has and read our grooming tips for specific coat types.

Read More: Training Your Dog to Love Being Groomed

Health Check

The first thing you should do when grooming a dog is to do a health check.

Checking for any skin issues, for example, flakiness, ringworm, cut’s or abrasions will dictate the type of shampoo you will use and the way you will groom her.

Ticks, fleas and ear mites will also need to be dealt with.

Checking your dog’s demeanor will also give you an idea as to her overall health.

Brush

Before putting your dog in the bath, she needs to be brushed. Brushing is used to remove any knots, tangles and excess dirt in her fur.

If your dog has a double coat, make sure you brush the undercoat as well as the top coat. You can get access to the undercoat by lift the topcoat up.

At this point, it’s a good idea to inspect the fur and skin and look for and fleas or any skin conditions.

Bath

Wet your dog’s coat with water so it is soaked to the skin. If you have a shower head that you can hand hold, this will make your job easier.

Next, apply the shampoo to your dog’s coat from head to toe (follow manufacturer’s instructions) and massage it in thoroughly so it reaches the skin. Take care around your dog’s head, avoiding eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.

Once you have applied the shampoo and massaged it into your dog’s fur and skin, it’s time to rinse it off. Be thorough in your rinsing and keep going until the water that runs off your dog is clear.

If applicable, apply conditioner. Some conditioners need to be rinsed off and others are designed to be left in, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dry

Now that you have shampooed, conditioned and rinsed your dog, it’s time to dry her.

Start off with some old towels, (microfibre towel worked brilliantly) to remove any excess water. Your dog might choose to help at this point by having a good shake!

If your dog has a silky or wire coat then you can finish them off with a dryer.

Curly coated dogs can also be dried with a dryer using a process called fluff drying. This technique involves straightening the fur with a brush while drying to create a really soft finish with lots of volume.

Some double coated breeds will need blast drying. This is a process of blasting away water and dead coat with a high-velocity dryer. But beware, this can a huge mess!

Read More: Lessons From a Groomer: How to Dry Your Pet Correctly

Comb

The next step is to run a comb through your dog’s fur. This is to make sure that there are no tangles or knots left behind by the drying process.

If all you want to do it bath your dog between visits to the grooming salon, then you can stop at this point.

If however, you are grooming your dog fully, follow the next steps.

Styling

Depending on how you want your dog to look you will need to clip and/or scissor her coat.

Styling is a very personal choice but many breeds have a ‘standard look’ set by the Kennel Club.

At this point, you may need to refer to a book that explains how to achieve the look you want. The book we recommend for this is called ‘Notes From the Grooming Table’ by Melissa Verplank.

Read More: How to Remove Clipper Lines From a Dog’s Coat

Nail Clipping

Now that you have clipped, trimmed and styled your dog’s coat, you may need to clip her nails.

It’s always best to clip your dog’s nails after you have bathed and styled her for two reasons;

  1. They will be softened by the water, making it easier
  2. Any excess fur will have been removed while styling, so you can see them better.

One caveat to this is when you’re grooming a white dog. If you cut the quick in the nail, it will bleed and blood on a white coat isn’t a good look, and she’ll need bathing all over again. So, if you have a white dog, clip her nails before bathing her.

Read More: How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails

Spray Cologne

This step is completely optional but if you like your dog to smell as good as she looks, give her a spray of doggie perfume.

Dog Grooming: Our Conclusion

As you now know, the benefits of dog grooming are many.

Many people prefer to take their dog to the grooming salon. After all, they have the expertise to make your dog look, smell and feel fantastic while keeping them safe.

But if you don’t have a groomer in your local area, if you want to save money or if you just want to give it a go, we recommend you give it a try.