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Cutting My Dog's Hair: A Guide To Dog Grooming At Home

Written by Ella White


Yorkie getting a hair cut

Keeping your dog’s coat sleek and clean isn’t just an aesthetic benefit – it’s good for your dog’s overall health too. Not only does regular grooming keep dirt, germs, and other bacteria at bay but it’s also a good way to get to know your dog’s body, so you can quickly identify any lumps, bumps, and changes.

But on a day to day basis, a clean coat makes it more enjoyable to snuggle with our furry friends. So washing, brushing, and even cutting your dog’s hair at home in between bookings at the puppy parlor works in everyone's favor.

Whether your pup could do with a little extra freshening up between grooming sessions, or you own a high-maintenance breed like an Afghan Hound or Poodle whose coat needs a touch more love, getting into grooming at home is good practice.

The first step is to get your dog used to it – you might have noticed how much they resist having a shower or bath. So being sensitive with your touch will help them adapt more easily to their at-home grooming regime. Reward them for good behavior, stop if they seem to be uncomfortable or in pain, and try to stick to the same routine each time so they can learn exactly what to expect.

And before you start, brush up your knowledge on the best tips and requirements for grooming your particular breed. Remember, some dogs should never have their coats cut and for some, it’s essential. 

Before you get to cutting your dog's coat, it will need to be brushed and washed, just like human hair at the salon.

How much brushing your dog’s fur needs will depend on their breed and the length and thickness of their coat, and how prone they are to shedding. But to keep your pup in the best possible condition, brushing once or twice a week is recommended. For long-haired breeds use a pin brush with long, rounded pins. For short and medium length coats, a bristle brush is best. 

To get started, brush right from the root of the hair, getting down to the skin. Run the brush the full way through the length of the fur. This method stimulates blood circulation within the skin to help release dandruff, and will ensure that all healthy oils are distributed throughout the lengths of their coat.

Be sure to look out for matted areas of fur, anything that might be stuck in their coat like burrs or grass seeds, and any damage to their skin like cuts and nicks.

Now your pup's coat is brushed, they’re ready for a wash. Brushing before washing is advised because hairs can split and become damaged if they’re brushed when wet, and shampooing can make knots harder to remove. It also helps to remove excess dirt and grime before washing. So it’s best to start with a sleek coat.

Unless they’ve been out in the mud, most dogs only need to be bathed once every month or so. Too much washing can remove the natural oils from their fur, which will dry it out. But when they are in need of a clean, start by putting your dog in the tub or shower and wetting them with warm water. Lather a good quality, dog-friendly shampoo into their coat working from the neck backwards. Keep their head as dry as possible for as long as possible as this is what starts them on a never ending cycle of shaking off! 

Rinse the shampoo thoroughly, like you would your own, then rub them dry gently with a towel. For longer coats that take a while to dry, you might want to use a hair dryer on a cool setting. Once dry, brush their fur through one more time.

Some owners give their dogs mineral oil eye drops before showering to help keep their eyes moist in the water, and cotton balls to prevent splashes getting in their ears.

It’s time for a trim. Once your dog’s hair is brushed, washed and dried, they’re ready for a cut. Professional groomers use a grooming table that secures the dog in place during their haircut. This prevents nervous pups from moving around and potentially getting nicked by the scissors.

Use the sharp end of your scissors to clip the long fur around your dog’s face, feet, and tail. When cutting the hair on their ears, it can be hard to know where the coat ends and the skin begins, so always keep your other hand along the ear to avoid trimming too close.

Dog’s fur should always be cut when dry and fully brushed. Don’t cut matted fur with scissors, and always cut slowly to avoid accidents if your dog happens to move quickly.

Many dog owners that choose to cut their dog’s coat prefer to use clippers or a shaver rather than scissors. Though they don’t offer the same precision, they do reduce the risk of accidentally harming your dog as they move around during their grooming session.

As with a scissor cut, your dog’s fur must be dry before you begin the shave. Use a sharp blade and hold it flat against the skin, starting at the neck and working backwards down their body. Be especially careful around their joints like underarms, hips, and thighs and use a higher number blade like a 10 in these areas as well as around their face and genitals.

Shaving a dog is a tricky process. Not only do you need to be able to keep your dog still while you work, you also need to know just how to clip each area of the fur, while checking that the blade isn’t becoming too hot.

Usually, it’s recommended to leave doggy haircuts to professional groomers unless they’re in desperate need of a cut and you can’t get to the salon.

Some dog breeds are prone to a buildup of gunk and mucus around their eyes. To clean this, use a moist cotton ball and wipe gently as and when it’s needed. Avoid using any products or ointments near your dog’s eyes.

Dog’s ears can collect oil, dirt, and grime. So to keep them clean, use a damp cloth or cotton swab. Stick to cleaning the outside of the ear only, and be sure to get into any skin folds that are especially susceptible to soreness and infection.

If your dog needs their ear cleaned professionally or medically, or their ear hair plucked to avoid blockage, book an appointment with your vet or trusted groomer.

Whether you’re grooming your dog from home to save money, or because you can’t get a slot at the salon, there are some tips and tools you’ll need before you get started.

  • Use the best brush for your dog’s coat type
  • Invest in quality scissors or clippers
  • Pick a mild dog-friendly shampoo (never use human shampoo)
  • Have some dog toothpaste and other products (again, never human toothpaste)
  • Keep a dedicated towel for cleaning up dirt and drying your dog
  • Know how to check your dog’s pads for excessive dryness
  • Know when your dog’s nails need clipping (it’s best to get this done at the groomers)
  • Keep your dog’s teeth brushed at least once a week
  • Check their ears for oil build up or yeasty smells that indicate infection