55 High Street, Cockenzie, East Lothian EH32 0DG   01875-812648


East Lothian's Premier Dog Service

Setting the standard for quality grooming




Some basic grooming tips to help you keep on top of your dogs coat between professional grooming appointments.

Basic tool set:

A medium or fine slicker brush.  These come in a variety of sizes and styles depending on the size of your dog and it's coat type.  They are wire bristle brushes and can have safety ball ends on the bristle as an option, fine on short haired dogs but these should not be used on long coats as the ball ends increase the risk of snagging and tugging the coat.  The correct way to use a slicker is in short, fast strokes in a circular fashion - down through the coat to the skin and immediately lifting the coat up from the skin and back around 4 times per second.  Hold the brush very lightly to minimise irritating the dogs skin and do not keep going over the same area.  Do not use the brush in the same way you would brush your own hair, which would be long slow strokes.

A combination wide/narrow tooth comb for dogs with long coats.  These can have quite long teeth and the proportion of wide to narrow can be 50/50 or 80/20.  The thicker and denser the coat the wider and longer the teeth need to be.

A bristle brush for short coated dogs in addition to a soft slicker brush, plus a rubber curry comb for when you wash your short haired dog.

Mat breaker.  This is for experienced users only and is used for the removal of mats too large to be easily brushed out.  This is a short comb with 6 sharp blades and has the potential inflict a lot of damage to your dog and it's coat if used incorrectly.

Coat rakes.  These come in a large variety of sizes and amount/length of rake teeth.  Some are designed for use on hand stripped dogs and the coarser varieties are very useful in removing dead undercoat on double coated dogs such as German Shepherds.

Large or small nail clippers and styptic powder.

Antiseptic coat conditioner and/or demat & detangler grooming spray.  Optionally a cologne spray.

PH balanced shampoo and conditioner specifically made for use on animals - don't use shampoo made for us, as PH balanced for humans is not the same as PH balanced for animals.

Short coated breeds:

Short coated breeds like Labradors should be regularly brushed to remove dead coat and dirt.  Give a very light spray all over first with an antiseptic coat conditioner, keeping the spray away from the dogs head towards the tail.  When washing, do not get water in your dogs ear canals, eyes or nose and use a rubber curry comb to loosen the dead coat and thoroughly rinse all traces of shampoo out with clean water.  If your dog is washed often or goes in the sea a lot, give a final rinse with some conditioner in the water to moisturise the skin.  Dry the dog as dry as you can with a towel or two and brush over in the direction of coat growth with a soft slicker or bristle brush.  Use your comb to clear the brush of removed hair.  Once completely dry, brush over again which will stimulate the production of natural oils and distribute them through the coat.

Long coated breeds:

Long coated breeds can have a wide variety of coat types and textures so you may have to use several techniques to keep the coat in good condition.  For instance, two very popular small dog breeds look very similar, the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu.  They have different coat textures and different maintenance requirements.  The Lhasa has an easier coat to maintain as it is not so fine and silky as the Shih Tzu so does not need to be groomed as often.  They do both mat however, but the Lhasa's coat is easier to demat than the Shih Tzu.  Both breeds should still be checked over every day and small mats brushed out with a slicker and combed. Give a very light spray all over first with a demat spray, keeping the spray away from the dogs head towards the tail.  Squeeze the spray into any mats with your fingers but do not saturate or rub the mat.  Try and tease them apart with your fingers and the end tooth of your comb before brushing. When brushing out mats, protect your dogs skin if possible by putting your finger behind the mat you are working on.  Attack the mat from all sides and angles to brush out.  Larger mats can be quickly split up and removed by using a mat splitter as well as a comb and brush, but this is only recommended for experienced users.  When washing, do not get water in your dogs ear canals, eyes or nose and try not to rub the coat too vigorously but use a gentle massaging action with your fingers.  It is preferable to use a shower and thoroughly rinse all traces of shampoo out with clean water.  Give a final rinse with some conditioner which has detangling properties in the water to moisturise the skin and help with brushing out.  Dry the dog by blot drying, squeezing the water out of the coat in the direction of growth.  DO NOT rub dry with a towel as this will encourage/cause mats to form.  Give a light spray with detangling spray as explained earlier and brush over in the direction of coat growth.  Once completely dry, brush over again which will stimulate the production of natural oils and distribute them through the coat.  You will achieve a better finish to your dogs coat by blow drying whilst brushing, but to do this easily you will need assistance and/or have the dog restrained and supported so you can use both your hands to co-ordinate the dryer and brush to the section you are working on.  If blow drying with a domestic hair dryer, have it set on a warm setting - not cool or hot - and start at a slow speed, going to a higher speed if the dog will tolerate the feel of it and/or the noise.  Use a flat diffuser on the nozzle to give greater control of how the air is blowing and separating the coat, which also allows a larger area to be dried a bit quicker.  Keep the dryer moving and do not concentrate on the same area of coat for more than a few seconds.  Adjust the distance of the dryer nozzle away from the coat so you can see it parting the hair and not causing it to curl back into itself which will cause whip knots.  The longer the coat, the further away the nozzle has to be and the higher the speed setting.  Completely line dry all over whilst brushing.  You will need a stand for your dryer or an assistant to hold it in position whilst you gain access to the more difficult to reach parts of your dog - underneath, between the legs, paws, around the ears and face, tail.  Be extra vigilant, careful and gentle with your brush/comb when around sensitive areas like the anus, tail base, genitals, eyes, ears mouth, and joints or loose skin.  Thoroughly check over with your comb for missed mats using the wide then narrow teeth of your comb.  DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ATTEMPT TO REMOVE MATS USING SCISSORS ESPECIALLY AROUND THE PADS, MOUTH, EYES, EARS, TAIL BASE, LOOSE SKIN, NIPPLES, ANUS OR GENITALS.

Much of the above is applicable to heavier coated larger breeds such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, but you will also need to use a coat rake to remove excess or dead undercoat.  The best way to do this is by blow drying and brushing first, then using the rake as if it was a slicker brush when the coat is dry with the dryer blowing the coat in the direction of growth.  But, ALWAYS start at the outside of the coat gradually working down to the skin, and from the rear up towards the head and the thighs/chest upwards.  Do not use the rake on the tail.  Be careful to only rake the coat that is being blown in the direction of growth and not to rake coat being blown in any other direction or the rake will snag/cut it.  Do not try and take out too much coat at once or it will snag and hurt your dog.  For the denser areas where lots of coat gets tangled, keep a hold of it with near the skin with one hand whilst working your way down to the base of the mat from the end.  Mats that are too tangled are best clipped out after reducing in size as much as possible by brushing.

Nail clipping:

Not all dogs need to have their nails cut.  Those that are well exercised will have their nails naturally worn down, but if they have dew claws, they may still need to be clipped.  Only attempt nail clipping if you are confident in your ability and comfortable with the process as you can hurt your dog by accidentally cutting the nails too short.  If you start and find you are unable to complete even after attempting only one nail - stop!  Dogs are extremely perceptive and will immediately sense if you are nervous or apprehensive, causing them to struggle which significantly increases the risk that you will cut a nail too sort or hurt a digit by trying to restrain too firmly.  Doing this can have an extremely adverse effect on your dogs willingness to be groomed in the future and have it's nails cut again.  It is best to have assistance to restrain and support the dog and only take off the very tips of the nails to start with until you become familiar and more confident with the process.  In doing this, it means  that the dog will not be harmed and will be more compliant.  White nails are easier to clip than dark nails simply because you can see the quick showing pink inside.  However, the quick extends further towards the tip of the nail than you can see and is nearer to the underside than the top.  Always cut nails by lifting the paw backwards and looking from the underside.  You will usually feel with your nail or see a ridge or hook on the underside.  It is usually safe to clip up to this part of the nail, but beyond that may cause pain and bleeding.  If a nail is cut too short you will need to apply styptic powder which has a mild anaesthetic and blood coagulant which eases the pain and quickly stops the bleeding.  Trimmex and Nail Safe are two popular brands available in pet stores.  If you don't have styptic powder you can use flour as the starch will help with the coagulation but will not be as effective or ease any pain.  Dogs that have excessively long nails can usually have quite a bit taken off them, but be aware that as nails are allowed to grow too long, the quick also grows longer with them.  It will gradually recede back towards the digit with frequent (weekly or fortnightly) close clipping, but will take several months of attention.  It is vitally important that nails are not allowed to grow too long as it adversely affects the bone structure of the paw and lower part of the leg muscles/tendons, causing pain and difficulty walking.  There is no better way to prevent these problems than regularly exercising your dog in accordance with it's needs and energy level.

Above all, stay calm, be patient, work methodically, carefully and meticulously when grooming your dog and it will be a better experience for you both.  If you feel yourself getting frustrated, stop and take a break to prevent an unnecessary accident or a bite occurring!  If you can't manage it - you know our number.



Some sites that may be of interest to you.  Please inform us of any broken links or other content you want us to list here.



East Lothian Dog Training Club - classes run in Aberlady.

Broxburn & District Ringcraft Club - (no website, call 01506-430166) Classes on Tuesday 8-10pm, Broxburn Community Centre, 205 West Main Street, Broxburn.

Scotgroom - based in Carluke, Lanarkshire offering grooming training for professionals and pet owners, plus grooming services for pets and the show ring. It's where we trained.

Cesar Millan's tips for problem behaviour - having problems with your dog? Lots of practical tips are available on this internationally renowned dog psychologists web site.

Jan Fennell is the UK's very own original Dog Listener.  A renowned author on her methods, Jan was originally inspired by The Horse Whisperer Monty Roberts.  She uses ‘Amichien® Bonding’ to change undesirable behaviour and to reinforce desirable behaviour in animals.

Top Dog Tips is a USA based online magazine full of useful tips and interesting articles.



Village Vets - based in Longniddry

Dunedin Veterinary Centres - based in Tranent but also have surgeries in Prestonpans, North Berwick and Dunbar.  Excellent pet health information is available on this site.

Links Veterinary Group - based in Haddington but also have surgeries in Musselburgh, North Berwick and Dunbar.

Gordon Veterinary Group - Gordon Veterinary Group is a long established (1834) companion animal and equine practice based in Musselburgh, Bonnyrigg and Penicuik.



East Lothian Dog Warden - part of East Lothian Council services

SSPCA - Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Scottish Kennel Club - the Scottish division of The Kennel Club



Dogs Trust are nationwide, but this link is for the West Calder centre

Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home at Seafield in North East Edinburgh

Dog Aid Society are at Blackford in south Edinburgh

ArthurShiel rescue is based in St Boswells in the Borders



Pets Principle Blog site with all sorts of info and recommendations


Homo Sapiens

Save peoples lives after you die by registering on the NHS organ donor register

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