Whatever the breed of your dog, at one point or another he will have to be groomed. You have two choices – groom him yourself or take him to a professional.
Grooming your own dog at home can seem like a daunting task but getting your dog to trust a professional groomer can be equally as hard. Read on to learn the advantages and drawbacks of each method.
A squeaky clean dog getting dry!
Why do I need to groom my dog?
Patch has just come in from the garden and his paws and mouth are covered in dirt. You look past him and see he has been digging up plants again. You sigh and promptly lead him towards a bath. 15 minutes later and he looks like a new dog.
We all know that dog grooming at home includes a bath to get rid of visible dirt and horrible smells but were you aware that it’s also an important way to check on your dog’s health.
When you brush and bathe your dog you are up close and personal with him. This gives you a great opportunity to assess his overall health. There are several things that you can check for that may alert you to common issues such as yeast infections, gum disease, dry eyes or impacted anal glands.
If you notice any of the following symptoms you should get in touch with your vet:
- Foul breath
- Runny nose and eyes
- Redness, rashes or sores on the skin
- Tartar on teeth or irritated gums
- Signs of fleas, ticks or worms
- Swollen areas of the body
- Areas of pain or irritation
- Broken or loose claws and teeth.
Grooming different types of coats
The breed of your dog may also help you to decide whether or not you are going to groom him at home or not. Most short haired dogs require minimal grooming so if your dog falls into this category you may feel comfortable grooming him at home.
Other dogs, however, have more demanding needs and may need a higher level of care. These can include:
Long haired breeds
Image courtesy of Antikon from Wikimedia.
Long and luxurious coats are a beautiful sight but as owners of these dogs know – it takes time and effort to keep them that way. Long hair can matt easily especially around areas such as the paw pads and under the armpits. The hair also needs to be trimmed often around the dog’s backside so that that it isn’t soiled when nature calls.
It is also crucial that long haired dogs are bathed regularly to keep the coat smooth and shiny. On the other hand too many baths and the use of harsh shampoos can strip the hair or natural oils, which will cause tangling.
Dogs with long coats include: Bearded Collie, Maltese & Afghan Hound.
Double coated dogs
Image courtesy of Pug-ktfrey from Morguefile.
Dogs with double coats have a layer of fine undercoat below a layer of course guard hairs. This can be particularly difficult to brush as some grooming tools do not effectively remove the undercoat.
Specially designed deshedding tools effectively remove loose undercoat hair and prevent the dead hairs from getting stuck within the dog’s coat.
Dogs with double coats include: Pugs, Australian Shepherd & Chow Chow.
Woolly haired dogs
Image courtesy of Frei-Sein from Wikimedia.
Woolly haired dogs will have you looking at a set of shears rather than a comb. Their thick hair is almost sheep like and although it can be tempting to shave it off, it’s much better to try and maintain it. This is because the thick coat is there for a reason – it protects their skin. Plus once you shave it all off it is likely it will never grow the same again.
Woolly coats are prone to matting and as double coated dogs it is essential to remove loose undercoat hairs. The right brush is needed to penetrate the thick textured hair.
Dogs with woolly coats include: Poodle, Curly Coated Retriever & Bichon Frise.
Image courtesy of Puli-Gabor from Morguefile.
Cording is a style of coat that requires patience and regular grooming. The style resembles dreadlocks and is only possible with certain dog breeds. In order to look neat and not messy the hair must be cared for throughout the cording process.
It needs to be kept clean as they strands of hair are like a magnet to dust, dirt and twigs. At the same time, the coat cannot be washed too often as it can take hours to dry.
Dogs commonly seen with corded coats include: Puli, Komondor & Bergamasco Sheepdog.
Image courtesy of Arnosch Withal from Morguefile.
Wiry coats are similar to woolly/curly coats but, as the name suggests, they have a coarser texture like wire. Depending on whether you like the wiry texture or not there are different ways of maintaining the coat.
If you want to accentuate the texture of the dog then you must ‘strip’ the coat. ‘Stripping’ involves gently pulling out the outer coat hairs by hand or using a tool. Unlike the use of clippers or scissors the rough wiry outer coat is manicured rather than just bluntly cut.
Dogs with wiry coats include: Irish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier & Schnauzer.
If you want to groom dogs with these types of coat at home, you must be prepared to invest in quality dog grooming supplies and have plenty of time and patience. If this all sounds a bit much it may be wiser to seek professional help from a dog groomer.
DIY dog grooming
It’s a no brainer, right? If you do it at home it’s going to be cheaper! Well, not necessarily. Initially you will have to shell out for a complete grooming kit which (depending on the dog) includes things like:
- Hair scissors
- Good set of Electric clippers
- Dog shampoo & conditioner
- Detangling product
- Dog toenail clippers
- Dog toothbrush & toothpaste
- Ear cleaner/Otic solution
- Old towels
But the good thing is that once you have purchased these dog grooming supplies you have them to use and they will only need replacing when the products run out or the equipment ceases to work. Over time this will probably be more cost-effective than using a professional.
Other advantages for dog grooming at home include:
- You are not required to leave your dog alone at the salon. This is beneficial if your dog is nervous around strangers.
- Your dog will be less stressed or excited during grooming as he does not have to travel to a different environment to be groomed.
- Grooming can be completed at a time that is convenient to you.
- If you are patient it is a good skill to learn.
- If your dog does not enjoy being groomed then you can do it slowly or a bit each day.
- There are short dog grooming courses you can take to learn the basics.
Professional dog grooming
Even when you have researched all the dog grooming tips in the world (or at least on Google) you will most likely never be as good as a full-time dog groomer. They’re called professionals for a reason and their experience will ensure that your dog is looked after and the whole process is made as enjoyable and quick as possible.
There are many reasons why you may wish to visit a professional groomer:
- When the fur and bits of your dog’s toenails are strewn across the floor, you just get to go home. They clean up all the mess and you don’t have to worry about it.
- Groomers are used to the wiggling and protesting of an uncooperative dog during a grooming session. They have the right grooming tables and equipment that have been designed to keep your dog still and in reach at all times.
- Sensitive areas such as nails need to be trimmed in just the right place to avoid any painful accidents. Dog groomers are well practised in completing these tasks.
- Mobile dog groomers come to your house so that you and your dog do not have to travel.
- You’ll receive advice on your dog’s health. For example, they can recommend dietary changes if your dog’s skin is too oily or dry.
- It is a smarter choice for some dog breeds with harder to maintain coats such as the Poodle, Afghan Hound or Pekingese.
A close up of a dog getting its nail's clipped
Choosing a professional dog groomer
The best way to choose a dog groomer is to ask for a recommendation from a friend that gets their dog groomed. They’ll be able to give you honest feedback and share with you any experiences they’ve had with local grooming places. If your friends don’t use this type of service, ask for a recommendation from your vet, pet store or local animal shelter.
Once you have a few in mind, go and visit them without your dog. See what sort of establishment it is, how much space there is, and how many customers are in the dog grooming salon. This will give you an idea of what the place is like and remember - go with your gut feeling. If you don’t like the feel of the place then keep looking.
Things you want to look for include:
- Number of staff
- Customer happiness
- Space between worktops
- Types of products used
- Dog grooming prices
- Caged areas and separation of animals.
If you are happy with the environment, take your dog there to meet the staff and get him used to the whole process. Get the groomer to feed him a couple of treats so that he has a positive association with the place. Do this a couple of times before you book an appointment.
Any professional dog groomer will not mind the visits. In fact they will be pleased that you have made the effort to get your dog accustomed to the environment before the big day!
Your choice to groom your own dog or visit a dog groomer is based upon your dogs needs, comfort levels, and personality. If you still can’t make up your mind, consider trying to groom your dog at home. After some practise you may find it‘s easier than you thought and if not you can seek out help from a professional dog groomer.
A good selection of grooming tools and products will help you to keep your dog looking his best.
So what are your thoughts? Do you do it yourself or choose a professional?
Amy is part of the My Pet Warehouse team. She is a copywriter, social media co-ordinator and a self-confessed pet lover. Amy shares a house in Melbourne with her partner and a rambunctious little Pug called Chowski. She has been writing professionally for two years but her love of writing began many years before.
You can find Amy on Google+