Grooming Dogs at Home: Tips

This small terrier gets a bath before  his grooming session.
SONY DSC image by gierczak2007 from <a href=''></a>

Grooming your dog is an important part of his overall care. Although it’s common for an owner to have her dogs professionally groomed, it’s also possible to handle basic bathing and grooming duties at home. To improve the odds of a successful outcome, schedule the grooming session at a quiet time of day so the dog won’t be distracted. Establish a bathing and grooming station in a secured area, so the dog can’t tear around the house when he’s soaking wet.

Step 1

Assemble your equipment and supplies. Gather your grooming brush and comb, nail clippers, styptic powder and ear cleaner. Add pet shampoo and bath towels. Remember that you cannot leave your dog during the bathing and grooming process, as he can injure himself if he attempts to escape. In addition, his attention span may limit your bathing and grooming time.

Step 2

Secure the dog for his grooming session. Find a tub that will securely contain the dog while allowing you control over the session. You can bathe small dogs in the sink or in rubber bins. Make sure the dog has a rubber surface or mat for his feet. Secure him with a grooming lead instead of his regular collar, and make sure the lead can’t accidentally strangle him if he thrashes a bit. Keep a muzzle handy if he is prone to biting during his baths.

Step 3

Clean your dog’s ears. Obtain a canine ear-cleaning solution and some clean cotton balls. Hold your dog securely and examine his ears for signs of redness or irritation. Gently trickle a few drops of the ear solution into his ear flap and down into his ear canal, but don’t force the applicator too far in. Massage the base of the dog’s ear to help move the solution along. Use moist cotton balls to remove any debris or discharge from the inside of the ear flap.

Step 4

Trim the dog’s toenails. Obtain a pair of high-quality dog nail clippers and some styptic powder. Gently take each paw in your hand, and push on the nail pad to extend the nail. On white nails, you can easily see the quick, or portion with blood vessels.

Gently snip off a small portion of the nail tip, cutting at a 45-degree angle. On dark nails, make very small snips until you see a black dot in the nail’s center. This is the quick that you want to avoid. If you happen to cut the quick and the nail bleeds, blot off the blood. Press some styptic powder into the nail for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. If your dog has dewclaws on the side of his feet, trim those as well.

Step 5

Brush the coat to remove debris and mats. All dogs benefit from regular brushing that removes debris, reduces shedding and improves circulation. Gently brush down to the skin while you look for cuts, scrapes or ticks. If the dog has an undercoat and top coat, brush both coat layers carefully. If you find mats behind the dog’s ears or on the legs, remove the mats with a slicker brush featuring short, slanted metal bristles. Do not pull on the mat to remove it, as this is painful for the dog and usually won’t loosen the mat.

Step 6

Bathe the dog thoroughly. Run warm (not hot) water over the back of the dog’s head, and on his back and body. Apply pet shampoo to his back down to his tail, and along the back of his head. Gently massage the shampoo throughout the dog’s entire body, except for the front of his head. Rinse by covering the dog’s eyes while you rinse the top of his head. Cover his nose to rinse the rest of his face, and carefully rinse his entire body from the top down. Repeat the shampoo process if the dog is very dirty.

Step 7

Dry your dog completely. Gently pat the dog’s coat with bath towels, as this method is less likely to tangle his coat than vigorous rubbing. Carefully use a pet dryer or hair dryer on a very low setting, and don’t aim the dryer at the dog’s face. Make sure the dryer doesn’t get hot, as this can damage the dog’s skin. Also ensure that your dog is completely dry before you send him outside in cool or cold weather.


  • Do not attempt to use clippers and professional scissors, or try any professional grooming techniques, unless you have been trained to perform them. You can injure yourself or the dog.


  • Obtain breed grooming information to learn about your dog’s specific needs. For example, a golden retriever needs regular brushing of both his top coat and undercoat. A bulldog should have his skin folds cleaned every day. Although clipping instructions are intended for professional groomers, owners can benefit from general coat care recommendations.

  • If necessary, ask a friend or family member to help secure the dog while you care for his ears and nails. If you’re not comfortable with these functions, ask your veterinarian to show you the correct procedures.

  • If you’re unable to remove the dog’s mats, ask a professional groomer to remove them for you. Although good clippers can easily remove mats, you should not attempt this without prior instruction.

Items You Will Need

  • Grooming brush(es)
  • Grooming comb
  • Canine nail clippers
  • Styptic powder
  • Pet ear cleaner
  • Pet shampoo
  • Bath towels
  • Tub
  • Rubber bin for small dogs
  • Rubber mat for tub or bin
  • Grooming lead
  • Muzzle
  • Cotton balls
  • Slicker brush
  • Pet dryer or hair dryer