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Introduction to Grooming a Puppy

Written by Anna Hollisey


little black puppy in soapy bath

Do all puppies need grooming? When and how should you begin? What are the essentials that you’ll need to buy? Here’s an introduction to grooming your pup.


Should You Groom Your Puppy?

Puppy coats are often very fine and soft so do they really need grooming?

Maybe not – yet. But almost every dog will need some kind of care for their skin and coat. So it’s important to introduce them to grooming as soon as you can.

Why Groom?

Grooming your puppy will prevent unsightly (and uncomfortable) knots. It removes dead fur, promoting healthy skin and a lustrous coat. If your puppy has started to explore the long grass and undergrowth, brushing will remove debris and seeds from their coat, potentially preventing irritation and infection. 

If your puppy is going to grow a double coat one day, they’re going to be more prone to matting which can not only be very uncomfortable for them, but also dangerous. Getting them used to a groom before the added complication of the second coat comes in, means they’ll be more likely to enjoy their necessary grooming sessions when they’re older

Grooming is also a fantastic enrichment activity, they’re learning important information as well as getting used to being handled. They get your undivided attention for a while which not only keeps them very happy, it’s stopping them creating their own entertainment, possibly at the expense of your furniture. 

For all those reasons, brushing your puppy is a useful habit. And don’t stop at brushing: good dog-grooming involves a few other important tasks, too.

Key Grooming for Dogs

A well-groomed dog is likely to be more comfortable, nicer to pet, and less prone to accidents and parasites. Here are the key tasks that you’ll want to include in your pup’s new grooming routine!

  • Flea, tick, and worm treatments. Your veterinarian will explain the best options when you take your pup for their first checkup. Some dogs take an oral flea treatment, while others have a spot-on medication. Certain types of parasites are rife in parts of the country, and obsolete in others. Ask your vet for advice and call them if you have any questions about the best treatments to use. Keeping your dog protected against fleas, ticks and worms defends them against allergic reactions and also prevents your home from becoming infested (which is very difficult to shake).
  • Claw trimming. Many dogs will naturally wear down their claws as they walk and run on abrasive surfaces like sidewalks and stones. But sometimes – such as when they suffer an injury or become more sedate in their senior years – you’ll think about trimming their claws. Long claws can become uncomfortable, lifting the toes and affecting your dog’s posture. You can prepare your puppy for this early in their life by checking their paws as part of your grooming routine. (In future, you’ll want them to feel comfortable with paw handling in case they are injured or get stones between their toes.)
  • Tooth-brushing. Surveys frequently show that only around 8% of dog owners brush their dogs’ teeth daily. It can be difficult to remember – but even a weekly or twice-weekly brushing will help to keep your puppy’s teeth clean and disease-free. Start using a finger brush, which fits over your finger for easy use. Get your pup used to it early (beef flavored toothpaste helps!) and remember to never ever use human toothpaste.
  • Grooming their coats. Some dogs need more brushing than others. The flat-coated Labrador, for example, won’t need much more than a rub-over to remove mud. But silky Red Setters and thick-coated Retrievers will benefit from frequent grooming. You’ll discover that certain areas – like under the ears and around the rear end – are prone to developing matted fur, but frequent brushing can prevent it. See below to introduce your puppy to the dog brush!
  • Cleaning their ears. Pups with floppy ears – especially water-loving breeds – might need to have their ears cleaned in the future. You probably won’t need to do it yet, but let them learn to accept having their ears handled. If they start swimming, bring a towel and give their ears a gentle rub to dry excess water. This can prevent ear infections, which emerge from the damp, warm conditions beneath ears.

Introducing Your Puppy to Grooming and Handling

Just like socializing your puppy by exposing them to people, animals, and children, grooming your puppy starts with conditioning. 

In the first instance, it’s important that you do it. As their main carer, you’ll be the one that your puppy is learning to trust. Don’t let kids or friends become involved until your puppy is accustomed to grooming.

How to Start Grooming

Start with a mock routine (we’re not looking for Crufts-standard results!). Choose a soft puppy brush and, at a time when they seem restful, stroke it across your puppy’s head and back very gently, with soft pressure. At this early stage, you are only letting them know that the brush is nothing to fear. Don’t try to brush them for a while: just do one quick stroke, and reward them with treats. It’s all about positive reinforcement.

If your pup becomes over excited or anxious about the brush, stop and let them become calm, with lots of gentle (non-rousing) praise. You’ll try again on another day.

If they’re still happy, start to introduce different kinds of touch. Lift their ears to look inside and ‘ask’ to see their teeth. Speak gently and open their jaw, examine for a second and let them go with a word of praise. They’re just learning that they can trust you – eventually they’ll have to accept these examinations from a veterinarian, too. 

When Should Puppies Visit a Professional Groomer?

Not every puppy will need professional grooming. It will depend on their breed and your choice. If they’ll be attending the salon then it’s wise to introduce them to it very early. They can go from the age of around 16 weeks (when fully vaccinated) and a good groomer will know that their first appointment is mostly about adjusting!

Choosing a Dog Groomer

The best way to pick a groomer is to ask for recommendations. Check with friends or your veterinarian. Arrive at the groomer and don’t like the way they interact with your pup? Trust your instinct and try a different groomer next time. It’s important to find someone you’re comfortable with – if you’re worried, your pup will pick up on it. When you find the right person, you’ll know!

Further Reading

Which dogs need the most grooming? Find out about different types of dog coat/learn/dog-lifestyle/your-guide-to-dog-coats. Ready to try grooming at home? Read our guide to learn how to groom your dog/learn/dog-lifestyle/how-to-groom-your-own-dog. Learn about the different types of claw clippers and how to trim dog nails at home/learn/dog-health/how-to-cut-your-dogs-nails. If you’re surrounded by fluff, we also have a guide to clearing away dog fur/learn/dog-lifestyle/how-to-get-rid-of-dog-hairs-at-home