Dog Grooming 101

By Sara Sanchez – April 1, 2014
photo by Brian Fitzsimmons

Grooming your dog can be either a fun bonding experience for both of you or a job you immediately want to pass on to someone else. Either way, be sure to prepare for an experience that both your dog and you will enjoy.

Give your dog treats and praise while you do your work. This will help keep your dog engaged and obedient and will help it feel loved. If you want, you can even give your dog different treats than usual so that it can look forward to grooming time a little more.

Be sure to engage with your dog. Talk to it and reassure it throughout the entire process. Increased communication can help your pet feel less anxious, and it will make the grooming experience more fun for you, too.

Be gentle with your dog. If you’re not, you’ll be making the process less inviting, which could make your pet less than excited for the next bath.

Make sure you know what you’re doing. For example, nail clipping is an important part of regular dog grooming, especially for dogs that are kept primarily indoors. But it can be intimidating, and many dogs are anxious about the process. Educate yourself before you go to work on your dog—there are instructions on the ASPCA website,, and many vet-created videos on YouTube.

Avoid getting water in Fido’s ears and eyes. Water in a dog’s ears can lead to an infection that has to be treated by a vet. And just like you, your dog doesn’t like the sensation, either. Take precautions; don’t just dump a bucket of water over the head when rinsing or wetting. If you need to clean out gunk, dog-friendly wet wipes can be useful and gentle.

Don’t have the accessories needed at home? Consider using a self-serve dog grooming service. These places have all the tools you might need, including shampoo, clippers, and raised tubs. Different places have different rates and sometimes offer specials or packages.

If you just can’t groom your dog, another option is a groomer. Do your research, though. It might take a couple of times to find a groomer that both you and your dog are comfortable with. Once you do find the right groomer, don’t hesitate to state—and even write down—what specific services you want. Otherwise, your poodle might come out looking like a naked mole rat.

At the end of it all, reward your dog with a new toy, a nice meal, or other special treat. Whatever you choose, make sure you end your grooming time on a positive note, so that it’ll be easier to start the next time around. 

Grooming 101 Tips

Mallory Adams, Dirty Dog salon manager and professional groomer, took Duke through his paces and shared the following tips:

  • Shampoos with an oatmeal base or specialized formula are good for dogs with sensitive skin and allergies. There are even specialized shampoos that can help with heavy shedders.
  • Once lathered, brush your dog so that the soap reaches its skin. The type of brush you use depends on your dog’s breed. Rinse well.
  • Drying your dog with a high-velocity pet dryer can help with shedding and dander. These dryers use no heat so they don’t damage the skin and have a high (for fast drying) and low (gentle, for puppies and small dogs) speed.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth regularly, about 2–3 times a week; there are a variety of methods—with a brush or using your finger—and special doggie toothpaste to use.  Pet stores may also carry doggie mouth spray, which contains enzymes and helps the mouth stay cleaner longer.
  • Cleaning the anal glands is important. Instructional videos are available at to show you how. As with all aspects of animal care, your vet is an excellent source of information.


Did You Know That Dirty Dog

  • goes through roughly ten gallons of shampoo per month… and that’s not including specialty shampoos;
  • grooms cats;
  • provides a DIY option (you can wash your dog yourself at Dirty Dog and use their supplies); and
  • offers a 1-hour express grooming service.



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