The Ultimate Grooming Guide For Your Dog

SLicker brush the ultimate grooming tool Sandy Robins Pet Lifestyle Expert

Regular grooming is essential to your pet’s overall good health and is a great way to spend quality time together. This grooming guide includes expert tips to help make the experience a pleasurable one for both you and your dog.


If you are bathing your pet for the first time, it’s a good idea to enlist someone to help. To make your pet feel secure, put a rubber bath mat or a towel down for him to stand on and ensure he’s properly restrained. Water should be set to a lukewarm temperature.

Have your shampoo and conditioner open and ready to use so that you don’t have to fumble when your dog is already in the tub. Your grooming checklist should also include cotton wool balls, a small cloth to wipe the face, and a towel or a doggie dressing gown made from an absorbent microfiber to absorb excess water before it gets shaken around the house!

Other grooming essentials for a top to tail grooming include ear cleaner, eye wipes, a nail file or clippers.

“Start the shampoo process by wetting the coat from the side of the dog and working down the body and legs leaving the head for last,” advises master groomer Christina Pawlosky owner of The Pet Connection grooming salon in Warren OH.

“Dilute the shampoo with water and use your hands to massage the shampoo into the skin and coat.  Make sure you rinse thoroughly so that no product residue is left behind”

Take advice from a professional groomer or a knowledgeable pet store about the correct shampoo and conditioner for your pet’s coat type and to address any issues such as a dry flaking skin.

“Try to bathe your pet every two to 4 four weeks and most dogs benefit from grooming every four to six weeks,” advises Pawlosky. “The cleaner you keep your dog, the cleaner your house will be. This schedule also works with a dog skin’s life cycle, providing a clean environment for a healthy skin and coat.”


It’s important to have the right tools to brush and comb your pet. Good tools are an investment and will last a lifetime. Read packaging carefully to ensure you are acquiring the right size and firmness best suited for your dog.

Brush the coat before a bath to loosen dirt and some of the dead coat. A slicker brush is suitable for most coat types and a de-shedding tool is best for thick double coats. Always comb through to ensure no tangles have been overlooked.

“On long, silky coats I suggest a small soft slicker brush,” advises master groomer Chris Lee of A Walk in The Park Pet Spas in St. Louis MO. “Brush from the neck, going with the grain of the coat, to the tail. You may need to separate the hair to get close to the skin and get under the matt or tangle. Short, fast strokes are better if the coat is tangled, as there’s less pulling.

“If there are large tangles, use a small comb. Hold the hair below the tangle (next to skin) and gently separate the tangle into smaller pieces. At that point, resume brushing with the slicker brush. After brushing is complete, thoroughly comb the coat again.

“Wire coats and double coats are brushed and combed the same way as silky coats,” says Lee. “But make sure you have the proper-sized tool for the breed.  Breeds such as Airedale Terriers, Doodles and Standard Poodles, would need a large firm slicker brush and finishing comb.  Breeds such as Wire Hair Fox Terriers, Cairn Terriers and West Highland Terriers, would need a soft brush for silky or wiry coats, and the firm brush for curly, medium or long coats and a comb.”

Brushing and combing should also be done after the pet is bathed and dried to prevent matting. 


There are many clippers sold for home use that are of professional quality and standard. Many of the companies that manufacture clippers have consumer hotlines to give advice.

“When using trimmers, remember to keeping skin pulled tight and flat.  Never clip in to a fold of skin anywhere on the dogs body,” advises Pawlosky. “ Pay special attention to around the arm pits, tuck up, small bones and bends in the legs, lips, eyes, ears, rectum and genitals. I like to start on the chest and work my way around finishing head and feet last with a small pair of blunt edge scissors.  When scissoring, always scissor with the growth of the hair and never scissor directly over the pads of the feet only around the edges to prevent nicking.  I always do as much clipping as possible.  It is safer then scissors.

It can be hard to clip a badly matted coat because the mats are usually close to the skin. Thus often big mats may need to be cut out. But extra caution is needed to ensure you don’t cut into the skin! It’s often advisable to have a badly matted coat attended to by a professional groomer so that you are in a better position to maintain it yourself thereafter. 


Ears should be attended to before a bath as well as in between bathing sessions if necessary.

“I suggest using a professional ear cleaner twice a month,” advises Lee. “ Place a few drops of solution in the ear, gently massage the ear canal externally for 30 seconds and then allow the pet to shake its head. Using a cotton ball, gently swab the outer ear leather and then the canal to remove any excess debris and wax. A good rule of thumb is to never put anything smaller than your pinky inside of a dog’s ear.”

After you’ve cleaned, ‘plug’ the ear with a cotton ball to prevent moisture from getting in during the bath.

“However, if you do get water in the ear, simply re-flush the ear with ear cleaner. And always remember to check to remove any cotton balls afterwards,” suggests Pawlosky


Cleaning the eyes is best done with a soft cloth and warm water as needed. Gently wipe the eye and tear canal. Professional eye wipes are also available for purchase at professional grooming salons and pet boutiques.


The enzymes in a pet’s tears and saliva cause the reddish-brown coloring found around the eyes. If a pet licks his feet, that color will appear on the feet too. There are professional products that can remove and prevent staining. If staining has already occurred, its best to seek a professional pet groomer to shave out the staining and then begin using a professional stain preventive. Never start a regimen without taking professional advice from a master groomer or your veterinarian.


According to celebrity groomer Artist Knox who was Groomer of the Year on the first season of Animal Planet’s Groomer Has It, it’s important to tailor your grooming routine to best suit your dog.

“Most dogs hate have their nails trimmed, so save that for the very end and give lots of treats when it all done,” he advises. “Also, if it’s done after a bath, the nail tissue will be softer and easier to cut.”

Grinding is always the safest to avoid the quick under the harder nail surface but can be time consuming to do.  If you have a dog that has thick nails, it’s a good idea to clip them first and then grind to remove any sharp edges.

“Start on a slow speed,” suggests Pawlosky. “Rub the grinder over the paw until the dog relaxes. Use a firm but calm voice.  “Only remove a small amount the first time.  Increase the amount each time you grind and soon you will have a smooth short nail.”

Start by doing it weekly and then after a while switch to every two weeks. It will only take a couple weeks before the nails are paw perfect.

Typical Grooming Routine

  • Brushing and combing to remove dead coat/undercoat
  • Bath and ears and eyes (and possibly teeth cleaning unless its part of your daily routine)
  • Nails
  • Clipping and trimming, finishing with brushing as needed.

Remember to save nail trimming until the very end of your dog is super sensitive about it and give lots of treats!


Some of the new products on the market really help to get the job done efficiently.


This flex headed brush has pins on one side and bristles on the other and allows for brushing to follow the contours of the pet’s body. It’s available in different sizes and strengths making it suitable for all coat types. This brush is ideal for removing surface mats and detangling without pulling fur.  From $20.99, from FURminator; 888-283-1620;


These easy to use nail clippers have a magnifying glass and a light to illuminate exactly where it’s safe to clip to avoid cutting into the nail quick.  They are available in two sizes and fold flat when not in use. From $19.99, from Millersforge; 800-527-3474;


The calming cap is designed to lessen a dog’s anxiety or aggression in high-stress situations by reducing its field visual of vision and ideal for grooming sessions.

It’s available in size XS, S, M, and L. From $19.95, from Thundershirt; 866-892-2078;


This all-in-one home grooming kit is designed for all coat types, including heavier coats and heavily matted dogs and has a whisper quiet motor to reduce noise and ease anxiety during the grooming process. The kit includes four preset safety comb attachments to help ensure a clean, precise cut for multiple lengths. There’s also a step-by-step Instructional DVD to guide you through the entire grooming process.   Price $49.99 from Oster Pet Grooming Products; 888-865-6810; sold at Wal-Mart nationwide;


This special cotton-mesh grooming accessory fits over the paw, pushing back the fur and exposing the nails, making it easy to see where to cut. They are available in pink and blue and sold in packs of three. $8.95, from Petisock; 702-309-8901  (these different names are not a mistake)


This grooming powder   is designed to help brush out dry mud and works to untangle knots and thicker mats.  The product can be applied directly on to the mat and worked through with a slicker brush. It comes in a 3oz. shaker bottle. $8, from Purest Pets; 352-339-6038


This range of protein-enriched shampoos and conditioners are both sulphate and paraben free, making them suitable for regular bathing for all coat types. They also contain a natural odor-neutralizing ingredient to keep coats smelling fresh longer. Fragrances include red berries and champagne, jasmine and vanilla and violet and sea mist. $9.99 each, from Isle of Dogs; 888-687-4872;


This bar contains diatomaceous earth, a fine white powder made from the powered shells of microscopic water creatures formed over millions of years and mined from the bottom of lakes and oceans. It’s toxic to insects but safe for dogs. This soap bar also contains insect-repelling essential oils that target fleas and providing an anti-microbial, calming and therapeutic effect for dogs with both dry and oily skin.

$11.95 for a 3.5 oz bar, from DERMagic; 877-814-7497;



The ZoomGroom rubber-grooming tool is now available in a smaller size for puppies and smaller breeds. It can be used as a regular grooming brush and also at bath time to massage shampoo and conditioner into the fur. It’s available in boysenberry blue and baspberry pink. From $6.99, from The Kong Company; 303-216-2626;

Visit to find retailers and online suppliers nationwide.



This nail grinder has various speeds and offers a choice between coarse and fine filing grits to suit all nail sizes. It comes with batteries and an extra filing stone. $24.99, Furbuster by Petmate; 877-738-6283; Call to find pet specialty store in your area.


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