Dog Grooming Basics

5 Important Canine Needs

Dog grooming is one of your dog's basic needs and an important part of dog ownership. Just like people, dogs need physical maintenance to look and feel their best. Fortunately, dogs do not need to bathe as often as people, but you do need to learn how much grooming your dog requires and keep it on a schedule. Generally, a dog’s grooming needs depend upon the breed, hair type, lifestyle, and health. If your dog has a skin, ear, or nail condition, follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding grooming your dog. It is also important to use the appropriate grooming tools.

  • 01 of 05

    Hair Brushing

    Mother and daughter brushing dog in garden, smiling

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    Most dogs enjoy being gently brushed—regularly brushing your dog will strengthen your bond with it while helping it maintain a healthy and clean coat. A dog’s brushing needs depend on its hair type. Choose the right brush and follow these guidelines:

    • Long-haired dogs, such as a Maltese, usually require daily brushing or combing to prevent matting and tangling of hair.
    • Medium-haired dogs may be prone to matting and tangles and should be brushed at least weekly.
    • Short-haired dogs can typically go a few weeks in-between brushing unless they get dirty or are shedding a lot.

    Regardless of hair type, you can brush your dog daily—especially if it enjoys it. Regular brushing will keep the coat shiny and healthy. More frequent brushing during the shedding season can help prevent hair build-up. Consider products such as the FURminator deShedding tool or the Bamboo Shedding Blade.

  • 02 of 05

    Nail Trimming

    Dog trainer with dog shaking paw

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    Nail trims are often disliked by dogs and owners alike. Most dogs prefer not to have their paws handled and know how much it hurts when nails are cut too short. Dog owners are often uncomfortable with the process for fear of hurting their dogs.

    Dogs will develop an aversion to nail trimming once they experience pain from it. The best way to avoid this is to learn how to trim nails correctly and exercise caution. Ideally, a veterinary technician, vet, or groomer should teach you how to trim your dog's nails. Most dogs need monthly nail trims, but your dog may need more or less depending on the rate of growth and activity.

    An alternative to nail trimming is the use of a rotary tool to file down nails. Consider Dremel's Pet Grooming Tool for this task.

  • 03 of 05


    Dog in a bathtub

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    Bath time does not mean fun for most dogs and owners. It may bring forth an image of a wet dog running from the tub, dripping all over the house. Bathing does not have to be this way if you train your dog to get used to it. It may not like the bath, but it’ll be easier to manage. Learn how to bathe your dog properly and make the experience as positive as you can for you and your dog.

    Most dogs only need to be bathed when they seem dirty or oily, but many people like to bathe their dogs monthly to reduce "doggy odor." Always use a gentle shampoo that is intended for dogs. Depending on the condition of your dog’s skin and coat, your veterinarian may recommend a specific shampoo. In this case, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions about bathing.

  • 04 of 05

    Ear Care

    Dog and owner

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    Your dog's ears can be a haven for bacteria and yeast. Some dogs can go their whole lives without ear problems, and the only routine ear cleaning needed is a quick wipe after bathing. Other dogs have chronic ear disease and require multiple cleanings and treatments a day.

    Ear problems can often be traced back to genetics. Dogs with floppy ears or hair within the ear canal tend to be predisposed to ear problems because the ear simply does not have as much air exposure. Many chronic ear problems are a sign of allergies. If your dog has excess debris or foul odor in its ears, your veterinarian will likely prescribe special ear cleaners and medications.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    A dog getting a haircut

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    Dogs with continuously growing hair, such as the poodle or Shih Tzu, typically need their hair cut every four to six weeks depending on the breed of the dog and the style of the cut. This task is often best left to professional groomers, though many dog owners can learn some basic maintenance haircuts. If you are interested in learning professional dog grooming skills, consider taking a few classes.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
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  1. Ear Infections in Dogs (Otitis Externa). VCA Animal Hospitals.