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How to Groom Your Dog at Home, According to Experts

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With in-person dog-grooming appointments off the table for a while due to social distancing, pet parents who previously relied on professionals to keep their pups looking sharp are having to make other plans. Yes, at-home grooming is a hassle (at best), for even the most patient dog owner. But regular grooming is key if you want to avoid unpleasant smells or having someone mistake your beloved pet for a feral dog. Whether your Shih Tzu’s mane keeps getting tangled, your Rottweiler’s nails are overgrown, or your Chihuahua suffers from dry skin, we can help.

We asked groomers, pet experts, and veterinarians for advice and recommendations on the best products and grooming tools for dogs. “It’s important to keep any grooming sessions short,” says Erin Askeland, pet behaviorist and training manager at Camp Bow Wow. According to her, pet owners will have the most success if they can get their dog to associate grooming sessions with attention, treats, and praise rather than stress and being upset. Below, Askeland and six other experts on everything you need to bathe, brush, and trim your dog yourself in a way that’s safe and as easy on your pet (and you) as possible.

Bathing your dog

Dr. Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, recommends bathing your dog no more than once a month (unless it comes in contact with a skunk or has a medical condition). Otherwise you risk drying out its skin. When it is time for a bath, Samantha Schwab, a resident pet expert at Chewy, likes the Booster Bath grooming center. She calls it “the ultimate bathing experience without stepping foot inside a groomer’s.” This portable tub takes as much stress and anxiety as possible out of bathing: It comes with a safety harness that gently holds your pet in place, while you get 360-degree access to wash every inch of it quickly and painlessly — which you certainly can’t do in your kitchen sink. The tub also comes in three sizes to fit a variety of breeds.

The best bath accessories

Schwab recommends these gloves because they “allow you to give your pet a massage with an added benefit of cleaning and de-shedding with its fur-nabbing rubber nodules.” The gloves can be used to de-shed your pet both in the bath and out.

Unlike traditional shower heads and hoses, the Aquapaw gives you “direct control over your pet and the water flow for a clean and quick wash,” says Schwab. Plus, since the water flows from a scrubber in the palm of your hand, you can lather, scrub, and rinse at the same time, giving your pet a much deeper clean.

Shampoos and conditioners

Melissa Mitchner, CEO and founder of the Bark Shoppe, is a fan of Nature’s Specialties shampoos and conditioners because they are made in the U.S., and are nontoxic, biodegradable, and concentrated, so you get a lot for your money. She recommends the EZ Shed Conditioner for double-coated breeds like Shiba Inus and Pomeranians, because it breaks up excess pet hair, reducing future shedding.

“The scent of TropiClean’s papaya and coconut shampoo and conditioner immediately sends you on a mental vacation to Mexico (even though you’re at home giving your pet a bath),” says Schwab. Plus, a two-in-one product ensures that you spend more time playing with your pet and less time bent over the sink.

For in-between bathing, Askeland and master groomer Joshua Morales suggest using waterless shampoo to keep your pet looking and smelling fresh. Morales recommends this one from AdVet Hygienics, a brand he likes for its all-natural, soothing ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin E, arnica, echinacea, and horsetail extract. He recommends spritzing your pup with waterless shampoo before brushing or combing to help break up tangles without pulling hair or hurting your dog.

Wipes

For keeping your pup’s face free of drool, eye boogers, and food debris, Mitchner recommends using a washcloth and warm water, or some of these gentle hypoallergenic conditioning wipes around their eyes, ears, and chin. Wipes are also a great way of keeping whatever your dog steps in outside out of your house. Schwab loves the “durable and extra wide” wipes from Pogi’s that “are perfect for getting in the nooks and crannies of your pet’s paws after a long and muddy trip to the dog park.”

Dog hair dryer

Both Mitchner and Morales told us that letting your pooch air-dry after a bath is a bad idea. Morales says it’s a recipe for matted fur, and Mitchner says leaving your pet wet can lead to skin irritations and yeast infections. Although Mitchner says you can use any hair dryer on your dog, dryers such as this one that are designed specifically for pets don’t have heating elements, which is safer and won’t dry out your dog’s skin. If you do use a traditional hair dryer, she advises starting with the dryer on a cool low setting. If your dog is comfortable with the experience, you can turn it up higher.

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