Top Grooming Tips For Do-It-Yourself Dog Owners

by Kelly Marshall

There are a few tricks of the trade that all professional groomers use to give your dog that great look when they leave the shop. These simple little steps help your dog feel more comfortable and look better until the next trip to the groomer. If you are not squeamish it is possible to complete these grooming extras at home so that you can give your pooch that just from the groomers polished look.

Eyes - often with dogs there is a tearing or staining effect at the corner of the dog's eyes. This can be a serious medical condition and should be checked by the vet, however there are other dogs, and some breeds, that are just prone to tearing. To remove discoloration on white and light colored dogs add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to warm water. Using a soft cloth, and being extremely careful to not get too close to the eye itself, apply the dampened cloth to the stained area, moving in the direction of hair growth. If you do this on a regular basis you will minimize the staining. Darker colored dogs will not show tearing and just a soft cloth moistened with plain water is all that is needed to remove debris and dirt that may collect.

Ears - long hairs in the ears can collect wax and ultimately dirt. By taking the time to look in the dog's ear and pull out the long hair in the outside of the ear canal you can eliminate the source of the wax build-up. Do this by firmly grasping the hair at the base and pulling outwards. Pet stores sell "stripping" fingers, which are small, rough sleeves that can be placed on the fingers to provide more grip on the hair. Never use scissors in a dog's ear or push your fingers into the ear canal itself as this can cause permanent damage.

Toenails - unclipped toenails are both a safety hazards to dogs and humans. Long claws can damage furniture and carpets even with just walking or jumping. Long toenails can also cause painful welts and even cut skin on humans or other pets.

To properly trim toenails buy a good quality dog nail trimmer either in the guillotine style or a slotted scissor style. The guillotine style is usually much easier to work with for most people. Never use human nail clippers or regular scissors as they will shatter the nail and possibly cause the dog pain or at the very least leave ragged nails that will catch on fabrics and surfaces. Hold the dog's paw still in one hand, and insert the end of the toenail into the hole on the guillotine style trimmer. Be careful to cut below the quick, the pinky looking protrusion seen in light colored nails. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves and is very sensitive, like the cuticle on a human nail. Cut at a 90-degree angle so that the nail will be parallel to the surface of the floor. If the dog has dark nails and you cannot see the quick only remove the very end of the nail and do not cut if the dog begins to show agitation or try to pull the paw away when you apply pressure.

Anal glands - probably the least favorite task in grooming a dog, anal gland emptying can be a bit messy and smelly, but certainly helps the comfort of the dog. Dogs that "scoot" or slide their bottom along the ground or carpet usually have impacted anal glands, not worms as many people believe.

To empty the anal glands you will need rubber gloves, surgical gloves are the best, a soft cloth and warm water. The steps are:

  • Have someone hold the dog facing away from you. Grasp the tail close the bottom and expose the anus.
  • Using the cloth and warm water heat up the area by holding the warm, wet cloth against the dog's bottom.
  • Remove the cloth and place your index finger and thumb against the very outside and bottom edges of the anus, about ¾ of the way from the top on either side.
  • Apply gentle pressure in an upward and inward fashion. You should feel two hard balls or glands under the surface of the skin and close to the anal opening. These are the anal glands.
  • If they do not release a thick, smelly substance try the warm water compress again and repeat the process.

If the glands do not empty it is important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Impacted glands are very painful for the dog and cause tissue damage if not treated.

Providing these extra steps in your home grooming routine is a great way to have your dog looking like they just came from the professional groomers. If you have any questions or want specific information on grooming consider taking a class or doing some research on dog grooming practices.


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