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
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
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
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
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.
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 ocurring! 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
Broxburn & District Ringcraft Club - (no
website, call 01506-430166) Classes on Tuesday
8-10pm, Broxburn Community Centre, 205 West Main
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.
Suzanne Harris' web site also has some good
specific tips on curing problems with your dog and
is also linked from Cesar's 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.
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
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
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
ArthurShiel rescue is based in St Boswells
in the Borders
Pets Principle Blog site with all sorts of
info and recommendations
Save peoples lives after you die by registering on the NHS
organ donor register