Dog grooming: everything you need to know

August 4, 2023 - 10 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Dog taking a bubble bath in grooming salon

You can’t be a responsible dog owner without being a responsible dog groomer.

Regular grooming transforms your pup's appearance, leaving them with a shiny, well-maintained coat that breathes health and vitality. But beneath the furry surface, regular grooming is immensely beneficial to their overall health and well-being.

Brushing and bathing eliminate dirt and allergens from their coat, which can help them avoid skin irritations, infections, and allergic reactions. Just as importantly, you’re more likely to spot worrisome skin conditions if you make sure your pooch’s coat remains clean, trim, and tangle-free.

And okay, sure, there’s nothing wrong with helping your canine companion look their most furbulous.

Read on for some essential tips and information about dog grooming.

The Health Benefits of Dog Grooming

Who doesn’t love a poofed-up poodle or a fragrant Frenchie?

But well-groomed doggos get more than just bright eyes and bushy tails—they get happier, healthier lives.

We’ll spare you a deep-dive into the health benefits of grooming your dog—we already wrote that article! But here’s a basic overview of why grooming is so important for your pet’s health:

Skin and Coat Health

Regular grooming, including brushing and bathing, can help keep your dog's skin and coat in tip-top shape. Brushing removes dirt, debris, and loose fur, which helps to prevent matting and reduce the risk of skin irritation. And bathing removes allergens, dust, and parasites, which can result in a cleaner and healthier coat.

Ear and Eye Care

A committed grooming routine lets you examine and clean your dog’s ears and eyes, which may help you detect early signs of infection or skin issues in sensitive areas.

Dental Hygiene

Dental care is arguably a kind of grooming—and an extremely important one at that. Professional dental cleanings, tooth-brushing, and other dental treats and products can help prevent dental health conditions. (Also, does anyone like stinky breath?)

Bonding and Stress Relief

Grooming sessions are opportunities for you to bond with your pup and may even help reduce their stress and anxiety. Taking your dog to a professional groomer is also a great way to help them develop socialization skills.

Early Detection of Health Issues

This is absolutely critical. When you closely observe your dog’s body and skin while grooming them, you might notice worrisome health issues like lesions, infections, or even tumors. In fact, you might notice such issues at other times—like during an up-close-and-personal play session—but you’re less likely to spot them if your pupper has overgrown, matted fur. It’s always best to detect skin conditions sooner rather than later.

The bottom line: Grooming isn’t just cosmetic; it’s a key part of raising a healthy pup.

Professional Grooming vs. At-Home Grooming

At-home grooming and professional grooming can both play an important role in keeping your pup healthy (and gorgeous).

Professional Grooming: Expertise and Convenience

Professional groomers are usually certified experts, so let’s be honest: Unless you’re a preternaturally gifted pooch-shearer, a professional will probably do a better job than you.

Professional Dog Groomer in a Pet Salon with Poodle

Grooming pros possess in-depth knowledge of various breeds and coat types, ensuring that your pup receives specialized care that’s tailored to their unique needs. These experts can handle complex coats and delicate trims with care and finesse.

They also have access to specialized tools and equipment, such as high-quality clippers and shears, which ensure a safe and efficient grooming experience for your dog. And, of course, entrusting your dog’s grooming to a professional can be a major time-saver.

Dogs may need to visit the groomer as often as once every four weeks or as little as three to four times per year—it all depends on the breed and how you’re grooming them in between sessions.

Grooming Your Dog At Home

No matter how talented your groomer is, they won’t be able to take care of all your dog’s needs. There’s a lot of grooming you’ll need to do at home! But this can be a good thing: Your dog will feel safer and more comfortable in familiar surroundings and with familiar people.

Grooming your dog in a relaxed home environment makes things calmer and easier and helps foster a bond between you and your pup. It also gets them used to close interpersonal interactions and your touch.

Woman cleans dog's paw with a shower hose

And home grooming lets you tailor your routine to match your dog’s patience and comfort level. Whether you’re brushing their fur, giving them a trim, bathing them, brushing your teeth, or clipping their nails, taking care of things at home can allow you to give them breaks whenever necessary. It also enables you to take care of different tasks on different days.

A single professional grooming session can be a bit of a whirlwind for your dog—so much is done to them so quickly. But diligent home grooming gives your furry friend some space to relax and lets them bond with their best friend (you). This comfort, familiarity, and relaxed pace may make the whole experience more enjoyable for them—or at least less overwhelming.

Finding the Right Balance 

A lot of dog parents opt for a combination of at-home and professional grooming.

If you want your dog to receive the highest level of grooming expertise, you’ll need to take them in for regular visits to a professional. Professional groomers can also handle specific tasks, such as breed-specific cuts or intricate trims, that may be challenging or impossible for you to achieve at home.

At the same time, grooming your dog at home in between professional appointments helps you maintain their coat and skin health. You can (and should) manage simple tasks like regular brushing, ear cleaning, and dental care at home.

Person holding dogs mouth open

One other thing to keep in mind: Maintaining your pup’s coat in-between grooming appointments makes it easier for your groomer to do their job, and makes your dog’s experience at the groomer much easier. For instance, a groomer is more likely to cut or nick your dog’s skin if they need to shear away fur that’s severely matted.

Deciding between professional grooming, at-home grooming, or a combination of the two depends on your dog’s individual needs and temperament. Whatever approach you choose, just make sure you take care of your dog’s coat and skin in one way or another.

How to Groom Your Dog at Home

Some of the most important aspects of at-home grooming are regular brushing (both of the fur and tooth variety!), bathing, ear cleaning, and nail clipping. Here are some basic best practices for grooming your dog at home:

Prepare the Space

Choose a quiet, well-lit area in your home. A non-slip surface, such as a rubber mat, can help keep your dog steady. Gather any grooming tools you plan to use, like brushes, combs, nail clippers, ear cleaners, or a toothbrush. Make sure all the tools are in good condition, and right for your dog's specific needs.

Brush

Start by gently brushing your dog's coat to remove any loose fur and detangle knots. Use the appropriate brush or comb for your dog's coat type. (For dogs with long or thick fur, consider using a slicker brush to remove tangles more effectively.) Brush in the direction of hair growth to prevent discomfort.

Bathe and Dry

Regular baths are essential, but don’t bathe your dog TOO frequently. Excessive washing may strip your pup’s coat of its natural oils, leading to dry skin and coat. Also, be sure to use a dog-specific shampoo and warm water, and always rinse thoroughly so you don’t leave any residue. After you bathe them, pat your dog dry (unless you’re eager to watch them shake water all over your home).

Trim Nails

You should trim your dog's nails regularly—as often as every 3–4 weeks—especially if you observe that their nails aren’t being worn down naturally. Long nails can cause discomfort and may lead to gait issues. They can even break and cause infections. Just be sure you don’t cut into the quick, which can be extremely painful and cause bleeding. Use a sharp and reliable pair of dog nail clippers to make clean cuts.

Clean Ears

Regularly check your dog's ears for dirt, wax, or any signs of infection. Clean them gently using a dog ear cleaner and a soft cloth or cotton ball. Never insert anything deep into the ear canal, which can cause injury.

Weimaraner at grooming salon getting ear cleaned

Brush Teeth

Dental hygiene is crucial for your dog's overall health. Regularly brush your dog's teeth using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Do so once a day, if possible! Poor dental hygiene can lead to plaque buildup, gum disease, and even systemic health issues and infections. Your dog will likely need professional dental cleanings at some point, but effective at-home dental care will likely mean they’re not necessary as frequently.

Trim with Clippers

Some pet parents aren’t comfortable grooming their dog with clippers at home; it requires patience, practice, and a relatively calm pup! So it’s fine if you leave this to a professional. If you do try your luck at clipping your pooch’s fur, make sure to invest in high-quality, dog-specific clippers that are right for your pup’s coat type and your desired length. Before clipping, make sure your dog's coat is clean, dry, and brushed free of any tangles. Be extremely careful around sensitive areas like their ears, paws, and tail.

Even with a relatively low-maintenance dog, you’ll always need to do some grooming at home. Leaving everything to your professional groomer simply won’t keep your canine companion healthy, comfortable, and beautiful.

How Often Should You Groom Your Dog At Home?

Your dog’s breed, coat type, and individual needs will determine how frequently you need to groom them at home. Here are some guidelines:

Short-Coated Dogs

Beagle hero image

Breeds with short fur, like Beagles or short-haired Dachshunds, usually need less grooming than breeds with longer fur. Brushing them once or twice a week is often enough, though you may need to brush them more than this during shedding seasons. Keep in mind that not all short-haired breeds are the same; some, like Pugs, are actually very heavy shedders.

Don't underestimate the importance of regular brushing for short-haired dogs. It helps distribute natural oils and remove loose fur, minimizing shedding and creating a shiny coat.

Aside from brushing, it’s wise to bathe these breeds (roughly) every six to 12 weeks—sometimes more or less depending on the specific breed. Plus, you’ll want to trim their nails at least once a month.

Medium-Coated Dogs

Dogs with medium-length fur, like Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, may require brushing once or twice a week to prevent matting and tangling. (During shedding season, you need to brush them as frequently as once a day.) 

In addition to brushing, giving them regular baths every 6–8 weeks will keep their coat clean and fresh. Use a gentle shampoo suitable for dogs to avoid skin irritation. You likely won’t need to clip their nails more than once every month, but do keep an eye on them, since individual nails can grow at different rates.

Long-Coated Dogs

Husky

Breeds with long, luxurious coats, such as Siberian Huskies and Shih Tzus, need to be brushed very frequently to prevent tangles and knots—often up to 3–4 times a week, or even once per day during times of heavy shedding.

To keep their coats clean and free from debris, these long-coated pups should receive a bath every 4-6 weeks or so. And you should trim their nails every 3–4 weeks, since overly long nails can become very uncomfortable and even affect their mobility.

While frequent grooming is essential to the skin health of all dogs, longer-coated breeds are especially at risk. Longer hair can lead to even worse matting, which in turn can lead to severe discomfort and other skin conditions. On top of that, regular grooming makes it easier for you to identify existing skin problems like lesions and tumors, which are more likely to remain hidden under long, matted fur.

Double-Coated Dogs

German Shepherd Lying on the Ground

Some breeds, like German Shepherds and Border Collies, have a dense undercoat. You’ll usually need to groom these dogs at least twice a week—sometimes much more if they’re shedding heavily—to remove loose fur from the undercoat and prevent matting.

These breeds need regular baths every 6–12 weeks, depending on their activity level, cleanliness, and the specific breed. And you should clip their nails every 3–4 weeks to avoid any discomfort or breakage.

Dogs with minimal shedding

Golden cockapoo laying down

Some dog breeds, like Poodles and Cockapoos (most of the Doodles, really!), shed very infrequently, which makes them even more prone to matting. It’s important to brush them at least 4-5 times a week, and truthfully, once a day would be wiser.

And brushing alone won’t do it: It’s extremely important to bathe these pups every 6–8 weeks, or even more if needed; this will help keep their coat clean and healthy. And you’d be wise to clip their nails every 3–4 weeks.

One last note: Unlike those heavy-shedding pups who can effortlessly blanket your couch with fur, these low-shedding doggos need regular haircuts. You may need to trim your pup’s coat as often as every 6–8 weeks or as little as three or four times a year; it all depends on the breed and the individual dog. A professional groomer will likely need to handle these haircuts.

Also remember: Regular brushing and grooming sessions let you check for skin conditions that might require vet care, such as lumps, irritations, or tumors. Hopefully you won’t see any problems, but if you do, a committed grooming schedule might help you and your vet catch those issues sooner.

How ManyPets Can Help

Grooming your dog isn’t just about aesthetics; it's a crucial way to maintain their health and happiness. ManyPets doesn’t cover grooming, but if you discover any skin conditions or other health problems while grooming your pup, the ManyPets dog insurance policy may reimburse you for veterinary costs.

On top of that, the (non-insurance) ManyPets Wellness Plan can reimburse you for over-the-counter dental products like toothbrushes and chews, as well as professional dental cleanings and other types of preventative healthcare.

Learn more about our dog insurance policies and Wellness Plan today, and give your dog the protection they deserve.
*This article is written for informational purposes. It is not a substitute for advice from a licensed professional. If you have any real-life concerns or questions regarding grooming or related health issues, please contact a licensed expert, such as a veterinarian.


David Teich
Lead Content Editor

David Teich is Lead Content Editor at ManyPets. He loves pets, Scrabble, Oxford commas, and typing loudly.