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Grooming your dog

Lorna Cowan / 12 September 2016 ( 14 April 2021 )

Find out how to groom your dog to keep your dog’s coat and teeth in tip-top condition.

Grooming dog
It's important to use the right brush for the breed

Grooming your dog’s coat doesn’t just help to make your four-legged friend look good and healthy, regular grooming also removes dirt and loose hairs and prevents tangling and matting. These important sessions allow owners to bond with their dogs too, and our doggy chums get a nice massage into the bargain.

Know the grooming needs of your breed

All dogs should be regularly groomed, but some require much more attention than others. A long-coated Golden Retriever, for example, will need brushing on a daily basis – perhaps twice a day when it’s moulting or shedding its hair – whereas a short-coated Dachshund may only need grooming once a week. When choosing a new dog, take into consideration the amount of time, and money, you’ll spend on grooming – and whether hair on clothes, floors and furniture will be an issue.

Read our tips for settling a new dog

Be hands-on

Regardless of the age of your dog, get it used to being handled and groomed as soon as possible. A puppy may wriggle and try to bite at first, but persevere. Keep initial sessions short, then once your dog is used to being brushed, add more time to allow for a proper groom, checking for ticks, scratches and other skin conditions. Dogs that are comfortable with grooming develop a close bond with their owners – and boast healthy coats in tip top condition too.

Make grooming time fun

Grooming should be a pleasant experience – for you and your dog – so make it fun. That said, it shouldn’t be a game. It’s a good idea to groom your dog when it’s a bit sleepy, perhaps after a walk or play time in the garden. Gently pet the dog all over its body, praising it throughout, then touch more sensitive areas such as the tail, paws and stomach. If your dog tries to bite the brush at any stage, stop until it calms down. After every grooming session reward with a tasty treat.

Use the right brush

The type of brush or comb you should use depends on your dog’s coat. Smooth short-haired dogs, a pug or boxer for instance, are best groomed with a bristle brush. For dogs with long silky coats, for example a Yorkshire terrier or shih tzu, tease out tangles with a slicker brush, then swap for a bristle brush and comb to groom the long hair over its legs, chest, rear and tail. Any untidy ends can be trimmed with scissors. Wiry coated dogs, such as a border terrier, have thick dense coats – a stripping comb can help thin out excessive flyaway hair.

Start up top

When grooming, it’s best to start at your dog’s head and brush gradually towards the tail. Then focus on the chest, legs and stomach. Brush and comb in the direction the hair grows, except when your dog’s moulting – brushing against the lie of the coat will remove more dead hair faster. At this time, and if you own a long-haired dog, you may prefer to groom your dog outside. If grooming a small dog indoors, for ease, lift it onto a table or work surface - just pop a non-slip mat underneath so your dog doesn’t fall off.

Prepare for bath time

Unless your dog has rolled in something smelly (and they often do!), it only needs a bath every few months. Wash your dog too often and it will lose the natural oils in its coat. Brush your dog to get rid of tangles first and decide if it’s going in a tub outside, the bath or shower, or, if it’s small enough, a sink. Then find someone who’ll hold the dog while you wash and isn’t afraid of getting wet. Use lukewarm water and a gentle dog shampoo, available from your vet or pet shop, applying a little at a time – take care to avoid eyes and ears. Rinse well and dry quickly in a large towel before your dog shakes!

Read our tips for caring for dogs in hot weather

Find a good groomer

The coats of some breeds need regular trimming and it’s wise to use a professional – though take note your dog’s haircut could cost more than yours. It’s essential to find a good groomer you can trust, someone who is insured to look after your dog. Word of mouth is your best option, so ask a local dog walker, vet or dog-loving neighbour for recommendations. Before you make an appointment, visit with your dog and ask any questions. Only if you are comfortable and your dog is happy, should you commit. For more advice, see the RSPCA.

Know whether to clip or strip

Just as the coats of different dog breeds need different grooming brushes, coats need to be cut differently too. Dogs with silky coats, such as the Cocker Spaniel, require clippers to shave and remove excess hair, whereas a wire-haired dog, for example a Schnauzer, requires hand stripping to maintain a coarse coat. This is a lengthy process, often lasting up to three hours for an adult dog, that involves pulling dead hair out of the coat. If your dog needs stripping, get it used to being handled at a young age.

Don’t forget a toothbrush

Gum disease can be a major problem for dogs so it’s important to also regularly brush their teeth. Buy a dog toothbrush – or a rubber or microfibre brush to slip on your finger - and pop inside your dog’s mouth. Once it is used to this feeling, add some toothpaste. A choice of different flavours, including mint and roast dinner, are available. Don’t be tempted to use your own brand as it may upset your dog’s stomach.

Give your dog a healthy diet

Good regular grooming will result in a healthy coat, but only if you give your dog a good healthy diet too. For advice on feeding your puppy or dog, see The Kennel Club. Get more tips on how to have a happy healthy dog.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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