From Head to Tail: Grooming Basics

February 9, 2023

Dog hairdryer

There is a lot to think about when getting a new puppy, including what type of grooming they will require. Whether you choose a puppy with a short coat, long coat, curly coat, straight coat, floppy ears, or pointed ears, every dog will need to be groomed in some way throughout their life. No matter the breed, all dogs need regular baths, nail trims, ear cleanings, and occasional brushing. Many breeds will require more, such as daily brushing sessions and haircuts. It is important to consider these things when deciding on what type of puppy you would like to make a part of your family. 

After considering what type of grooming your puppy will need, you will need to know how often your puppy needs grooming. Every dog is different and will need these services at different times. We recommend finding a reputable groomer to assist you with these questions. But when should you start grooming your puppy?

Introducing a puppy to grooming

It is important to introduce grooming to your puppy as soon as possible! Many groomers will offer grooming specifically for puppies. This service is perfect to help transition them over to full grooming eventually. A puppy groom typically includes a bath, blow dry, brushing, ear cleaning, nail clipping, and minimal cutting of the hair. 

If you do not think your puppy is quite ready for a full first puppy groom, you can still begin creating positive associations with the tools, people, and the environment in which grooming will take place. You can do this using a process called pairing. Pairing is the process in which we pair new or scary things with good things, such as food!

At the groomer

Bring your puppy to the groomer just to walk around a bit, play with some toys, and have the staff members feed your puppy treats. Your puppy does not need to have a service done every time they step foot through the door to the groomer. This will help your puppy create positive associations with both the staff and environment. 

While you are there, you may want to ask about and purchase the tools your puppy will be exposed to during grooming. A couple of items that we highly recommend working with are nail trimmers and brushes, however, feel free to work with different items they might be exposed to, such as toothbrushes and even cotton balls. Different brushes will be used depending on your puppy’s coat type, and in a lot of cases, multiple kinds of brushes will be used throughout their groom. Even if you do not know how to use these items yourself, you can still work to get your puppy used to them at home. 

Grooming at home: Handling exercises

To get your puppy used to grooming tools, you are going to use the same process as we talked about before – pairing. 

  • You will begin by holding the item near your puppy without touching them with the item. Praise and then feed your puppy while simultaneously removing the item. 
  • Next, lightly touch your puppy with the item, praise your puppy, feed, and remove the item. Be sure you are working with all areas of their body.
    • If you are practicing with a brush, make sure you contact their legs, tail, sides, tummy, back, face, ears, etc. 
    • If you are practicing with the nail trimmers, be sure to contact all of their paws and all of their toes. 
  • Continue increasing the difficulty as long as your puppy is comfortable. 

Eventually, you will want to be able to fully brush your puppy, touch each of their toenails with the clippers or even clip the tips if you are comfortable, fully clean their ears, and brush their teeth. 

If your puppy shows any signs of discomfort, such as quick head turns toward the item, nipping or biting, whining, growling, or trying to escape, move back a step or two until they are comfortable at that level. Do not move forward in the process unless your puppy is fully comfortable. 

What if I don’t have the equipment? 

If you haven’t had a chance to get some of the necessary items from your groomer, don’t fret! You can start preparing your puppy for grooming or even vet visits by feeding them some of their kibble during what we call “handling exercises.” Simply play with your puppy’s paws, tail, ears, and other body parts while feeding them out of your hand to jump-start the grooming process. Just like with the grooming equipment, go at your puppy’s pace. If your puppy is having some difficulty such as whining, yanking their paw away, or mouthing at your hands, slow down by reducing the intensity of your touch and touch for a shorter period of time. You may need to spend more time with a particular paw or ear if you notice your puppy is struggling with a specific area. 

To professionally groom or not? 

Now that you are already working through all of these processes with your puppy, can you just groom them yourself? If you are comfortable and confident that you are able to complete any of these tasks without injuring yourself or your puppy, the answer is yes! In fact, some services such as brushing should be done at home as well as at the groomer to prevent matting of the fur. If, however, you are unsure about how to do something, it is safest to leave it up to the professionals.

Check out our Highly Recommended Groomers in Kansas City blog for more information!