Grooming your dog at home can save time and money that you would have spent in a salon, but it isn't always easy. The more complex your dog's needs, the more work you have to do grooming him. No matter what type of dog you have, the basics are generally the same, so make sure that you have the supplies you need before getting started and your dog will be on his way to looking prim and proper.
Brushing and Trimming
While you brush your hair after a shower, you should brush your dog's fur before his bath. This clears away the dead hair that could otherwise end up in your drain. Also, if your dog has mats in his fur, getting them wet makes them more difficult to remove. Choose a brush suited for your dog's type of fur -- for example, short-haired dogs need soft-bristled brushes -- and give him a thorough brushing from head to tail at least once a week, and before every bath.
Bathing Your Dog
According to the ASPCA, you should only bathe your dog once every three months, or as needed in between. This is because dogs produce protective, natural oils that coat their skin and fur, and washing your dog can strip those oils away. Choose a low-foaming dog shampoo and wash your dog in lukewarm water, lathering him according to the shampoo's instructions. Be careful not to get any in his eyes, ears or mouth -- when it's time to wash his face, use a wet washcloth.
When a dog's nails get too long, they make it difficult for him to walk -- this can even affect his gait and his posture, and leave his paws deformed. When your dog's nails are long enough to hear tapping the ground when he walks, they need to be trimmed. Use a special pair of canine nail clippers and carefully snip the tips, being careful not to cut through the visible vein running into the nail. If you cut this vein, called the quick, apply styptic powder to the cut to stop the bleeding. Not all dogs like having their nails trimmed, especially if this is your first time, so save it for when he's tired and relaxed. If he resists, don't force him to undergo all four paws at once -- you may have to do a few nails at a time until he gets used to it.
Your dog's breed determines the other factors you may need to consider before starting to groom him yourself. For example, pugs and other dogs with facial folds need to have them cleaned out at least once a week. Dogs with large ears, like basset hounds, need to have their ears cleaned out once a week. Ask your veterinarian if your dog has any special needs like these, so you can incorporate them into your new grooming regimen.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.