Dog Grooming 101: What You Need to Know

Even if your pup is pretty low-maintenance, there are a few beauty boxes you should tick off to keep her feeling and looking great.
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dog grooming with multiple hands and tools

Teeth

Dental treats are fine, but your pet’s pearly whites need to be brushed two to three times a week, says Lori Bierbrier, a veterinarian and the medical director of community medicine at the ASPCA. To get your pooch used to a weird new feeling, start by massaging her lips with your finger in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice a day for a few weeks, suggests Bierbrier: “After a few sessions, put a little bit of canine toothpaste on her lips to get her used to the taste.” Next, you can try a doggie toothbrush.

Nails

Sidewalks will help file your dog’s nails naturally. But if they are clicking, it’s time for a trim, says Bierbrier. There are two styles of nail clippers for dogs: a scissor option and a guillotine style. Ask your veterinarian or groomer which type is best for your dog. “If you let the nail go too long without cutting, the vein running through the nail grows along with it so getting the nail short again becomes difficult,” warns Katerina Paleodimos, lead groomer at Biscuits & Bath in New York City.

Eyes

Just like you find crusties in the corners of your eyes in the morning, so does your dog. Only he won’t wipe them away while waiting for the coffee to brew. “A gentle wipe with a cotton ball dampened with water will help to keep your pet’s eyes gunk-free,” says Bierbrier. “Wipe outward from the inner corner of the eye and be careful not to touch his eyeball—you don’t want to scratch the cornea.” If your pup always seems to have runny eyes and discharge, he may have an infection or plugged tear ducts. Have your vet check it out.

Ears 

“Less is more when it comes to keeping dogs’ ears healthy,” says Bierbrier. “Too frequent cleaning can be irritating and lead to an infection.” If your pup is slowly flipping his head or you detect an odor coming from his ears, talk to your vet. For cleaning, it’s OK to moisten a cotton ball with a for-dogs ear cleanser. (Do NOT use water, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.) Wipe the cotton around the opening of the ear canal to remove any debris, says Bierbrier. Go over the same spots with dry cotton. And never place any objects into his ear canal!

Fur 

Dogs—even short-haired ones—need to be brushed pretty much daily. A good brushing removes dirt, spreads natural oils throughout the coat, and prevents tangles. “This is also a great time to check for fleas and flea dirt—those little black specks that indicate your pet is playing host to a flea family,” says Bierbrier. The ASPCA also recommends giving your dog a bath at least once every three months; use dog shampoo because the human stuff can irritate your fur babe’s skin.