Is your dog in need of a haircut or bath? While there are many good reasons to groom your pet regularly, a well-meaning but inexperienced pet parent who decides to give at-home grooming a try can do damage if they aren’t careful.
We spoke to pet grooming experts about six common dog grooming mistakes that may sound like a good idea when it comes to grooming but should be avoided at all costs.
Grooming Mistake No. 1
Shaving Your Dog in Summer
Sure, it sounds like a good idea. After all, that extra hair can’t be a good thing when temperatures hit the 90s, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Shaving your pet during warm-weather months is usually unnecessary, for three reasons:
- It can make them more prone to sunburn.
- It can interfere with their natural body temperature regulation. Dogs with undercoats, like German Shepherds, Huskies, Pomeranians, and Chows, among others, are very efficient at trapping air within their undercoat, which helps keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- It can damage the hair follicles, causing the coat to grow back dull or sometimes patchy in places.
Instead, remove any excess undercoat by brushing regularly.
For long and curly-haired breeds, like the Shih Tzu or Bichon Frise, a short cut is OK as long as there is enough hair to provide protection from the sun.
Grooming Mistake No. 2
Washing the Inside of Your Dog's Ears
A common grooming mistake is simply allowing water to enter your dog’s ears, even if you’re not intentionally washing them.
The vertical shape of a dog’s ear canals can cause moisture to become trapped in their inner ears more easily than it does with us humans, according to the AKC. That water gives bacteria an ideal breeding ground, leading to a potential ear infection.
To prevent water from entering your pet’s ears, form a barrier with cotton balls. Alternatively, if your pup isn’t too squirmy during bathtime and has floppy ears, you can simply hold them down while carefully washing their head.
You may want to take it a step further and protect your dog’s entire head, as water in the nose may cause irritation, discomfort and reverse sneezing and/or coughing. To keep water away from your dog’s eyes, ears, and nose, use a wet cloth to clean your pet’s entire head.
Grooming Mistake No. 3
Not Rinsing Thoroughly
Poor rinsing can lead to serious skin irritation, hair loss, matted fur and other problems. If you take your dog to a professional groomer, you can rest assured your furry friend will be rinsed completely.
However, if you do a poor rinse job when giving your dog a bath, shampoo residue could cause skin problems ranging from flakiness to irritation to infections. Use your hands to feel around your whole dog to find soapy spots you can’t see, especially around the belly, under the armpits and genitals.
To make sure your dog’s coat is thoroughly rinsed after shampooing, use a decent amount of water pressure to ensure the water penetrates the layers of their coat. Continue rinsing until you stop seeing any bubbles coming from their fur–then rinse a little more.
Grooming Mistake No. 4
Brushing a Wet Coat
Another common mistake is brushing your dog post-bath, when they’re still wet.
While we might think that the typical grooming process calls for combing once clean, these post-bath brushes can grab the wet hair and pull at the skin, causing discomfort or pain to your dog,
Instead, brush your dog’s fur before bathing them. If you’re pressed for time, even a quick brush before their bath will still make a difference, as water can make mats and knots even tighter in breeds with long hair.
After bathing, towel dry or let your dog’s hair dry naturally. Then, brush their hair evenly and in the direction of the hair’s growth.
If you find that you really need to brush while in the bath, use a brush with wide, rounded bristles or a comb.
If you have a short-haired breed, try using a rubber brush to remove dead hair and prevent excess shedding, says Ditto. Because short-haired dogs won’t mat, you can brush them while they’re being shampooed or after the fur has dried.
Grooming Mistake No. 5
Giving Your Dog Daily Baths
Canines shouldn’t be washed nearly as often as humans. Daily baths strip your dog’s coat of its natural oils and can make dry skin even worse.
How often you wash your dog depends on three factors: their lifestyle, their coat type and their skin conditions. Barring any skin issues, bathing your dog once a month should be sufficient.
If you notice that your dog’s skin is dry or irritated, and you bathe your dog often, opt for less baths in the future.
Grooming Mistake No. 6
Neglecting Their Nails
When you take your dog in for professional grooming, nail trims are a part of the service. Don’t skip this important step when you’re doing the regular grooming at home.
Long nails can have many negative impacts on your pup's health and happiness, including causing pain when your dog walks, possible infection if they grow into the paw pad and even arthritis in the feet if your dog suffers from chronic long nails.
A good rule is to trim your dog's nails once a month. Dogs who run or walk a lot on pavement may need their nails cut less than that, while dogs who spend most of their time inside or on the grass may require nail trimming every couple of weeks.
4 Dog Grooming Dos
Now that you know what not to do, consider the following dog grooming to-dos:
- Start grooming early! Get your pup used to grooming as young as you can by performing at home grooming steps, including brushing.
- Use the right shampoo for your dog. If your dog’s skin is sensitive, use a dog shampoo made with tea tree oil, like John Paul Pet Tea Tree Shampoo for Dogs, as the oil can relieve itchiness and help calm the skin. Conditioners made with aloe vera, like Zesty Paws Itch Soother Dog Conditioner with Oatmeal & Aloe Vera, and certain medicated shampoos, like Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Medicated Anti-Itch & Allergy Relief Soothing Oatmeal Medicated Shampoo, are also effective. If your dog has a skin condition, ask your veterinarian what type of shampoo is best to use.
- Brush regularly between baths. Brush at least every other day. This will keep your pup from getting knots and tangles.
- Brush your dog’s teeth. While it’s not technically part of a typical grooming session, brushing Fido’s teeth is an extremely important task that shouldn’t be skipped, as poor dental hygiene can lead to health issues. Learn more about the importance of brushing your dog’s teeth (and how to do it!).
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Expert input provided by Laurel Birmingham, former health staff manager at the Pasadena Humane Society; Tracey Ditto, groomer and owner of Fur The Love in Flower Mound, Texas; Julia Blackwell, Pupwell founder and doodle expert; Colorado-based groomer Tauyna Stites; and Kimi H. Kan-Rohrer, RDHAP, BSDH, a clinical specialist-dental hygienist at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of California, Davis.
Additional reporting by Diana Bocco.
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