Dog Grooming – An Overview of the Basics

Good grooming habits are essential to the health and comfort of your dog. Grooming requires time and effort, but setting a consistent schedule can make it easier for you and will make your dog’s life happier. Brushing your dog, bathing her, keeping her ears and eyes clean, and brushing her teeth are all important parts of a grooming routine.

You can help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding with frequent brushing. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don’t need to be bathed more than a once every month or so, depending on the frequency of being outside. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or the dirt will stick to soap residue.

It’s a good idea to give your dog a quick once-over every day or so. Briefly examine and touch all parts of her entire body. It won’t take much time, and it’s an important habit to establish. You’ll become familiar with your dog’s body and be able to detect any changes that might require veterinary attention, like new lumps or bumps, inflammation of your dog’s skin, ears or eyes, and any painful responses to touching.

What NOT to Do

Do not physically punish or yell at your dog if she resists grooming. Doing this will make her feel worse about the activity and will likely worsen her behavior

Do not force your dog to submit to grooming if she’s obviously frightened or upset. Contact a professional behavior expert for help instead.

Handling and Restraint

Getting your dog accustomed to touch and restraint will pay off in multiple ways. It will make grooming tasks, vet visits and other kinds of handling easier for you and less stressful for her. You’ll find an easy exercise below. The Gotcha Game is a great way to teach your dog that restraint isn’t scary. When teaching your dog the Gotcha Game, your goal is to communicate two important messages to her:

  • If she calmly holds still when you reach for and restrain her, she’ll get released AND get enjoyable rewards.
  • If she struggles or tries to get away instead, she won’t be punished—but she won’t earn freedom either.
  • The Two Keys to Great Grooming
  • No matter what age, size, sex or type of dog you have, you can make grooming a pleasant part of your dog’s life if you:
  • Teach your dog to associate grooming with things she loves.
  • Take it slow and easy.

Associate Grooming with Great Rewards

Many dogs find grooming unpleasant—and who can blame them? It can involve hair pulling, uncomfortable restraint, getting soaked with water (which some dogs dislike), and other kinds of poking and prodding. However, you can help your dog learn to tolerate—and maybe even enjoy—grooming.

If your dog learns that things like brushing, bathing, ear cleaning and nail trimming reliably predict wonderful stuff for her—like special treats, brand-new chew toys, the start of a favorite game, a walk in the park or dinnertime—she’ll soon learn to love “spa time.” So whenever you groom your dog, be sure to immediately follow the activity with things she loves. For example, if you’re trimming your dog’s nails, clip a nail and then feed your dog a delicious treat. Clip another nail or two and feed another treat. With repetition and a little time, your dog will probably decide that getting her nails done is fun, not frightening.

Take It Slow and Easy

If your dog isn’t used to getting inspected, restrained, handled, brushed and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis, the last thing you want to do is frighten and overwhelm her when you start teaching her to tolerate grooming. Take time to slowly introduce new tools, like brushes and clippers, as well as new sensations. For example, before giving your dog a bath, spend a few days just taking her into the bathroom, putting her in the tub, giving her a few tasty treats and then taking her out again. When introducing a brush, start with just a few strokes. If you haven’t clipped your dog’s nails before, try clipping only a nail or two the first time you use the clippers.

It will also help to pay attention to your own voice and body language. When it’s grooming time, approach your dog calmly and speak in quiet, soothing tones. If you want your dog to relax while you’re grooming her, you want to be relaxed, too.

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