Proper grooming is a big part of caring for your dog. If you don’t yet have a dog and are considering bringing one into your family this is a consideration. Dogs like poodles, Golden Retrievers and the ever-popular doodle breeds (Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Bernedoodle, etc.) can require more delicate grooming and the hands of a skilled professional.
With complicated grooms costing upwards of $80 per session, this can add up quickly considering most dogs will need a grooming every 6-8 weeks. If this is not affordable or realistic for you, you might want to consider a lower maintenance pup like a bully breed, beagle, or a pug.
You may be wondering how to keep your dog well-groomed and keep the costs down or even just how much grooming is okay to do at home. If you want to cut your dog’s hair a home, there are many things you’ll need to consider. To keep both you and your pet safe, we chatted all things home haircuts and style maintenance with a professional groomer.
Can I cut my dog’s hair at home?
“We generally prefer that people don’t try to cut their dog’s hair at home,” says Stephanie Connor, Head Groomer for the Pet Snobs in Philadelphia, PA. “The equipment we use like scissors and clippers are very sharp and you could cut yourself or your pet.” She also cautions that dogs can move around a lot while you’re working and you could miss and cut your pet’s ear or tongue when trying to work. This could cause injury or bleeding and may make it harder to groom your dog in the future.
Although she doesn’t recommend a full groom or clip at home. Stephanie says there are so many things that pet owners can do to maintain their dog’s grooming between visits and keep their coats nice and skin healthy.
Tips and tricks for in-between grooming sessions you can do at home
“As groomers, we care a lot about your pets, and because we are looking at their skin, ears and paws so carefully we’re sometimes the first to notice when something isn’t right,” Stephanie says. We want to help you make sure your pet stays happy and healthy.
“Most importantly, there are some things I tell my clients to do at home, to keep their dogs looking and feeling their best, and most importantly to minimize stress on their dogs when they come to see me.”
- Regular hair brushing
“By regularly brushing your dog’s coat you can keep it healthy and prevent matting. If your dog’s coat gets matted we usually need to shave them. Matting is very painful to try to brush through and we can’t just brush them out when the mats are close to the skin. It is especially necessary to shave a matted dog after a bath - the water makes the mats even tighter,” Stephanie explains. For this reason, she instructs her clients to regularly brush their dog’s hair in between visits to her salon. A few minutes of brushing per day is great for your dog and can be a relaxing bonding experience. Some dogs don’t like to have their hair brushed. For these pets, keep sessions short and provide lots of positive reinforcement and treats!
- Handling your dog’s feet, paws, and ears
Handling your dog’s feet, paws, and ears make a groomer’s job easier. Some dogs don’t like this and can react badly. “In my salon, we charge a behavioral fee, that covers the extra time we need to get all the tasks done. If your dog has a meltdown about having his feet handled, clipping paws and cutting nails takes so much longer. I will need more breaks and so will your dog. By practicing at home it’s much less stressful on your dog when you go to the groomer. The goal is to get your pet comfortable with all parts of its body being handled. Pro tip: Stephanie says “don’t just play with your puppy’s paws. Hold their feet and massage their paw pads. This will make it easier when I go to clip their nails or the hair around their feet. If you just play with your dog’s paws they might think that anytime you go for their paws it's playtime and that’s not exactly what we want.
- Cleaning your dog’s ears as needed
Ear cleaning is important and easy to do at home. You can follow our instructions here to make sure your dog’s ears are nice and clean. Make sure not to overdo the cleaning as that can also cause problems.
At-home grooming maintenance includes:
- Nail Clipping
- Bangs or Paw trimming
If you’re confident you can get your pet to stay still, you can likely trim their bangs and around their paws yourself. You may even be able to cut our small mats in your dog’s coat if you need to. Make sure your dog is calm and relaxed and will be able to hold still while you work. Trying to cut a moving target is impossible. You might want to start by holding their bang and/or chin hair first. This will help them get used to the sensations they’ll experience when you’re cutting.
Home baths can be a lot of fun. You can even make it a spa day and add some pampering to the experience. Before you start, get everything set up by your sink or tub. You’ll want to have your shampoo ready as well as any other products you need to use. The other thing you need to put next to the tub is your big pile of fluffy towels - unless you want your pet to shake water all over the place when you’re finished! Give your dog a chance to go to the bathroom before you start the bath. If bathtime isn’t their favorite you can distract them a little. Take a spatula with a thin layer of peanut butter, cream cheese or spray cheese and allow your dog to lick it while you work. You might have to clean your dog’s face last but it should make bathtime more pleasant for both of you. Once you’ve given your dog a good bath you can wrap him in a big fluffy towel. Some dogs like the blow dryer whereas others prefer a hand toweling. When your dog is dry you should make sure to brush through his coat to ensure there are no knots or mats.
When clipping nails at home, be careful not to clip too short. If you cut too low it can be painful for your pet or you may see some blood. A little cornstarch or styptic pen will stop the bleeding. If your dog is in pain from a too-short nail clipping they may hesitate to let you do it again. Be extremely careful and start slowly. You can use positive reinforcement and lots of treats to help you too!
Preparing your dog for their first grooming session
If you have a new puppy or your dog has never had professional grooming there are some things you can do to help them prepare. This will make them more confident, less nervous - and more likely to enjoy the experience.
- Book an intro appointment
“Some grooming salons like mine offer a special puppy package for the first groom” Stephanie explains. This package includes a bath, blow-dry if the dog is comfortable with it, and a little trimming around their feet, face, and back end for sanitary reasons.” This package is lower in price and lets your pet get a feel for what grooming is like. We’ll save the full haircut and anything fancy for a future session.
- Show them grooming tools and how they work
You can buy a set of grooming tools for at home including scissors, clippers and nail trimmers. You’ll want to wait until your dog is relaxed at home. Show him each of the tools one at a time and offer lots of praise and yummy treats. Once the dog is excited about each of the tools you can start to touch him with each tool. Hold the scissors and clippers near different parts of his body, touch the nail clipper to his foot. Give treats and praise while you do this. If your dog is handling this well, you can also try turning on the clippers to show them how they look and sound. Stephanie cautions owners to turn the blade of the clipper away from the dog when they do this. At this point you want them to just hear the clippers near them and get used to the sound.
- Do some research
Before you take your dog to a groomer, make sure you’re able to articulate the type of grooming you want. This decision will be impacted by several things including but not limited to: The breed standard for your pet, your dog’s activity level, the season and your personal preference. Talk with your groomer and align on the best hairdo for your pet. Your groomer may make suggestions based on the length of your dog’s hair and condition of its coat as well.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.