Regardless of whether you have a dog with short fur or long hair, there are some basic techniques that will help you keep your dog clean and looking its best.  Dogs with fur, shed.  Dogs with hair, need a haircut now and again.

Tools (You may choose not to use all of these)

Shampoo - Regular Dog Shampoo & a Gentle Shampoo such as baby shampoo for face and fanny

Conditioner (Do not condition a dog with sensitive skin)

Deodorizer - for in between baths to freshen up

Slicker Brush (To brush out loose fur, knots and matts)

Zoom Groom (To remove loose fur from dogs with fur)

Metal Combs - Fine Tooth & Medium Tooth (To be sure all knots and matts are out before trimming)

Comb with Rolling Teeth (For around mouth and faces of dogs with hair, this comb tends to tug less)

Nail Clipper (To keep nails from overgrowth)

Nail Grinder (to make the nails smooth after trimming) or Metal File

Styptic Powder (in case you have a boo boo, this will stop the bleeding)

Toothbrush (Any soft bristle small toothbrush will do)

Toothpaste (Petzlife)

Ear Powder (For loosening hair from ears)

Tweezers (For removing hair from ears)

Cotton Balls (For cleaning ears)

Dog Ear Cleaner (Such as 70% Isopropyl Alcohol w/Wintergreen & Glycerin - For cleaning ears)

Electric Clipper - (For shaving)

Electric Trimmer (For foot pads, fanny and around genitals - trimmers tend to be small in width)

Scissors  -  Straight, Curved, Thinning

Nail Polish, Bows and Scarves (Just to make your prince or princess complete)


Brush your Dog ~ Knots and matts that get wet, get tighter and will eventually turn to dread locks ~ Brush your Dog

  1. Use a Slicker Brush or  Zoom Groom to loosen fur on dogs with fur.

  2. If you have a dog with hair, it is imperative that you remove any and all knots and matts.  This can be achieved by using a Slicker Brush.  Slicker brushes usually have several sharp metal bristles. Be sure to use short strokes when using a slicker brush, as you can injury the dog.  Although it is called a Brush, you are not ‘brushing.’ Be sure that you are ‘brushing’ the fur, not the skin underneath. Once you have determined that you have removed all knots and matts . . .

  3. Use a Regular tooth metal comb to go over the entire dog. Trouble spots tend to be, armpits, between the back legs, behind the ears, where ever the collar and/or harness rubbed for too long and the top of the feet.  If you find a matt or knot, use the slicker brush in short strokes to remove it. Be sure that you are brushing the fur, not the skin underneath.  Tugging with the comb tends to hurt.  Once you have determined that you have remove all knots and matts . . .

  4. Use a Medium tooth metal comb to go over the entire dog again. Remove any additional knots and mats with the slicker brush.

  5. Be sure to remove anything crusty from around your dogs mouth and eyes.  If it is crusty, hold a warm wet cotton ball over the crust to soften and loosen it. (A comb with rolling teeth tends to work well also).

** It is important to note at this point that grooming should not be a terrible experience.  If you start your puppy out with a regular grooming and bath schedule, reinforced by praise and or treats, it will be a pleasant experience for you both.  When first grooming your new puppy, be loving, but firm.  Do not allow your pup to climb up you when you are trying to work with them, they should stay all 4’s on the table you are grooming them on.  Allowing them to climb up on you when grooming will  establish a habit that will be difficult to work with in the future.  From the time you first get your new puppy, it will help if you pet them in all the places you will be grooming (the feet, legs, between the pads, face and behind the ears).

Clean the Ears

  1. If your dog does not have long hairs in their ears, simply use a cotton ball soaked in dog ear cleaner (70% Isopropyl Alcohol w/Wintergreen & Glycerin - you can find it at a dollar store) to clean waxy build up and dirt from in and around the ear canal.  Be sure not to push too deeply and DO NOT use cotton swabs deep into the ear.  This can cause damage.  Continue to use alcohol soaked cotton balls to remove any and all dirt. Regular cleaning will lessen Veterinarian visits due ear infections.

  2. Some dogs accumulate hair growing into their ears (known around these parts as “Brain Hair”).  If your dog has long hairs growing into their ears, a trip to the Vet or groomer can do the job.  If you would like to remove the hair yourself, check first to be sure your dogs ears are not red inside (this is a sign of an infection and seeing a Vet is recommended).

  3. It is important to use an Ear Powder.  Ear Powder will absorb the moisture in the ears and make the hair easier to remove.  Place a small amount of ear powder into the ear canal.

  4. Grasp a small amount of hair at a time with your fingertips (you can use a tweezers, but be careful not to grab the inside of the ear) and pull it out.  Plucking only a few hairs at at time will cause less irritation.

  5. Repeat in opposite ear until all hair has been removed.

  6. Clean both ears with dog ear cleaner (70% Isopropyl Alcohol w/Wintergreen & Glycerin) to remove waxy build up.

  7. Clean ears every month, plucking too much can cause an infection.

Trim and Grind (File) the Nails

  1. As with cleaning your dogs ears, nail trimming can be done at your vet for a small fee (and of course, at a groomer).

  2. Nail trimming can be very stressful for both you and your pet, but it is necessary.  Dog toenails can be white, black, brownish or a combination.  The easiest to trim are white nails because you can see ‘the Quick’  (a blood vessel). The Quick appears pink inside of the white nail. When trimming black or dark nails, stopping when you see a black dot in the middle of the most recent cut, will prevent cutting the Quick.

  3. When trimming nails, trim on a 45% degree angle, one tiny cut at a time, instead of one large cut.

  4. If you should cut the quick, apply stypic powder to stop the bleed (a clean solid bar soap will also work).

  5. Giving your dog a treat and praise as you are cutting can help make the experience less stressful.

  6. Once you have finished trimming all nails (including the dewclaw or thumb if your dog has one), you can use either a metal file or a powered grinder to round the edges to make the nails smooth.

Bath Time

  1. Small dogs can easily be bathed in a large sink.  Larger dogs can be bathed in the tub or shower with a sprayer hose.

  2. Be sure to read the shampoo bottle prior to use.  Some shampoos can be used on the face, some cannot.  Some shampoos are diluted, some are concentrated and need to be mixed ahead of time with water.  We at Key West Dog, prefer Key West Aloe and have used it for years.  Key West Aloe is one of those shampoos that can be used on the entire dog and will not irritate the eyes.  If you decide to use a shampoo that cannot be used on the face, we recommend using a gentle shampoo on the face and the fanny such as regular baby shampoo.

  3. Using your sprayer hose, completely wet the dog from head to tail.

  4. Start with the face, concentrating on the corners of the eyes, around the mouth (check for stuck food in the fur - raw and canned foods tend to get stuck in the hair and can cause infections). Avoid getting shampoo in the ears, eyes, nose or mouth regardless of what type of shampoo you use.

  5. Move to the body and fanny (use a gentle shampoo on the fanny).  Lather and scrub to the skin.  Pay close attention to the feet, gently squeezing out the dirt.  Leave Shampoo on for a few minutes. Please note, extremely dirty dogs may need to be shampooed and rinsed twice.

  6. While the shampoo sits for a few minutes, now is the time to brush the teeth.  Be sure to use a soft bristle brush and brush lightly as not to cause bleeding.  We at Key West Dog prefer Petzlife Oral Care.  With Petzlife Oral Care, brushing is not necessary.  The formula is intended to work on contact, so simply getting it on the teeth is all that is needed, do not rinse Petzlife Oral Care.

  7. Time to rinse the shampoo.  It is imperative that you rise very very well.  Leaving any soap on your pet can cause burning and irritation.  Often forgotten is between the back legs.  Check carefully to be sure your pet is rinsed well.

  8. Once rinsed, you can dry your dog with towels, then blow dry to ensure the fur and skin are dry.  **If your dog has hair,

  9. Add conditioner to your dogs fur avoiding the face.  Work conditioner through and allow to sit for a few minutes.  As with the shampoo, RINSE, RINSE, RINSE.  Conditioner is much more difficult to remove, so as a rule of thumb, if you think you are done, rinse twice more.

Dry you Pet

  1. If you have a pet with short fur, you can let them air dry, but you should check to be sure they are drying and not sitting on a bed that is keeping them damp. Fungus can form on damp skin.

  2. Pets with hair, should be blow dried completely.  A regular blow dryer can be used, just be sure to watch the temperature as you can severely burn your pet.  AVOID blowing directly into nose, mouth, eyes, ears and fanny as this will hurt your pet.

Brush and Comb again

  1. Once completely dry, break out the slicker brush again (be sure to clean it in between uses).  Now is the time to find the few knots that were missed.  Once you have used the slicker brush, use the Regular tooth metal comb and then the Medium tooth metal comb until all knots have been removed.

Shave Between Pads of Feet

  1. Dogs with short fur usually do not need to have their pads shaved.

  2. Dog with long fur or hair, will need to have their pads shaved regularly. Dogs sweat thru their footpads and can overheat if fur around pads are left unattended.  We call this ‘Slipper Feet.’

  3. Holding your dogs foot firmly, use a small trimmer to carefully trim the fur between the pads and toes.  Careful to not cut the skin between the toes or pads (use styptic if you have a boo boo)

  4. Trimmers can get hot very quickly and can burn your pet, so you need to check it often. Use a blade spray if necessary

Scissor and/or Shave

  1. This is where the lesson stops, the title does say Grooming ‘Basics’ after all.

  2. Scissoring is a trade skill that people go to school for (or are trained on the job for a couple years by experienced groomers). There are many groomers out there.  Some are incredible, some, not so much.  If you want a beautiful scissor job, ask around for a good groomer.  If you are looking to ‘do it yourself’ there are several books that can teach you some basic techniques, and you can learn from trial and error on your own pet.

  3. Shaving is also something that is learned by a groomer on the job or in school.  You can also learn some basic techniques from a book.

  4. Remember, the reason good groomers are paid so well, is because it’s not as simple as it looks, especially when you have a client that moves while you have a sharp object near them, or bites (yes, and they have muzzles for those types of clients).  The brushing, bathing, nails, etc. is usually done by a bather that is hired by the groomer.  The groomer’s scissor and shaving expertise is what is worth paying for.  Depending on how determined you are, how much time you are willing to spend and how particular you are about your dogs haircut you can hire a groomer, or ‘Do It Yourself.”  Remember, you can do the in between maintenance at home and still take your dog to the groomer every month for the full groom. Your groomer will be thrilled when your pet arrives and needs very little brushing because you have been doing it at home!


Dog Grooming Basics ~

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