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Get your canine chum Crufts ready with our top dog grooming guide

OK, so Crufts has been cancelled until 2022 – and your canine companion may not be a pedigree champion, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t enjoy some extra dog pampering. Every dog deserves to look as sleek and smart as the world’s top canine contenders who are waiting with bated (dog) breath for the next time they can strut their stuff around the famous Crufts show ring.

Whether you have a high maintenance Old English Sheepdog or easy-care Whippet, regular grooming is important for every dog, whatever their breed (or mix of breeds). Grooming helps them maintain a tangle-free, glossy coat – and gives you the opportunity to keep tabs on their health. What’s more, grooming provides special one-on-one time for you and your canine chum, building that special bond you have together.

Here’s what’s included in our essential dog grooming guide so you can help your devoted dog look and feel their best.

  • Why is grooming important?
  • How often should I groom my dog?
  • What dog grooming equipment will I need?
  • Can I buy dog grooming clippers and clip my dog’s coat myself?
  • How do I choose a dog groomer?
  • Should I clip my dog’s nails?
  • Do I need to clean my dog’s teeth?
  • How often should I bath my dog?
  • What should I check for when grooming my dog?
  • How can I help my dog enjoy grooming?

Why is grooming important?

As well as helping your dog look their best, there are lots of other benefits to regular grooming. That’s why it’s important to start when they’re young, with some short, gentle brushing sessions, rewarded with a few treats and lots of praise, so that your dog associates grooming time with good things. Being regularly brushed and inspected will help your dog feel comfortable with being handled, making things such as trips to the vets much easier – for both them and the vet.

As well as feeding your canine chum a healthy, nutritious diet to support their skin and coat, regular grooming is an essential part of being a responsible dog parent that goes much further than just helping them to look good. Blue Cross advises: “Grooming is vital to prevent your dog’s coat getting matted, as well as removing dead hair, dirt and dandruff. Brushing also stimulates the natural oils in the skin and fur, which helps make for a glossy, healthy coat. But grooming isn’t just about brushing your dog’s fur, it’s also chance to check for any unusual lumps or bumps, and give them a general health check. You can use it as an opportunity to check for any signs of fleas or ticks, inspect their teeth, eyes and ears and make sure their claws aren’t overgrown.”


How often should I groom my dog?

This depends on what breed (or crossbreed) you have and the type of coat they possess. A short haired, smooth-coated hound will need a weekly groom. A rough or long-coated canine may need a daily going over. Some dogs with continually growing coats will need regular clipping. Terrier types may need ‘stripping’ to remove dead hairs in the coat that they don’t naturally shed.

Knowing your dog’s coat type can help you establish your pet’s grooming requirements:

  • Smooth – A dog with a smooth coat – such as Greyhounds, Vizslas, Boxers and Pointers – will have hair that is close to their body and require the least amount of grooming
  • Double – Dogs with a double coat – such as Rough Collies, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds – have a dense undercoat with a longer topcoat and need quite a lot of brushing to keep their coat matt free and to get rid of their dead undercoat
  • Silky – Silky coats tend to be fine and can get very knotty – although they look stunningly silky when well kept. Dogs with silky coats include Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, Irish Setters and Afghan Hounds
  • Woolly – Dogs with woolly coats have a ‘teddy bear’ look – such as Poodles, Bichon Frise, Bedlington Terriers, Irish Water Spaniels and Cockerpoos – and generally require professional grooming
  • Wire – Dogs with wire coats have a coarse topcoat and a soft undercoat – such as Airedale Terriers, Border Terriers and Schnauzers – and require clipping, trimming and hand stripping to look their best

PDSA advises: “It’s important to research the grooming needs of the specific breed of dog you have as they vary depending on coat length and texture. Check with your vet or a professional groomer if you're not sure.”

  • Daily – Long haired breeds or those with a texture of coat prone to matting will need daily brushing to keep their coat healthy. Some breeds also need their coats trimmed or undercoats stripped around four to six times a year – many people get a professional groomer to do this
  • Every few days – Medium haired breeds will need brushing a few times a week to remove the dead hairs. Depending on the breed, you may also get their coat trimmed or stripped a couple of times a year
  • Once a week – Short haired breeds will only need brushing once a week. They don’t usually need regular haircuts, though certain breeds may still need their undercoat to be stripped away

What grooming equipment will I need?

It’s important that you buy the right comb, brush or clipper to suit your pet’s fur because different tools and products work better on different dogs. If you’re not sure what’s most suitable, ask your vet or groomer for advice.

Blue Cross has a handy guide to basic dog grooming tools:

  • Pin brushes – Good for smoothing out small tangles and removing dead fur from both the coat and undercoat. These brushes have metal pins with rounded ends to make it comfortable for your dog. The longer the pins on the brush, the better it is for dogs with longer, thicker coats
  • Slicker brushes – These brushes have short, fine hairs on a flat brush and are suitable for removing knots from short to medium coat breeds, or those with curly fur. The pins are angled to avoid scratching the skin while brushing, but don’t apply too much pressure – and look out for any pins sticking out at the wrong angle
  • Rubber brushes – Ideal for removing dead fur and massaging the skin to encourage natural oils to be released, which make a dog’s coat look healthy and glossy
  • Grooming mitts – A useful tool for removing dirt and dead hair from short-coated breeds, but not recommended for dogs with medium to long-haired coats
  • Undercoat rake or de-shedding tools – These tools (such as Furminator and Groomi) are brilliant for gently removing the dead fur from a dog’s undercoat, while still brushing through the topcoat and removing any dirt. These are particularly useful for dogs that moult frequently
  • Bristle brush – These brushes are ideal for finishing off grooming, and for quick maintenance brushes in between brushes. They brush through the topcoat, removing dead fur and dirt while stimulating natural oil production

Can I buy dog grooming clippers and clip my dog’s coat myself?

There’s nothing stopping you, as long as you buy safe and appropriate dog grooming clippers, but bear in mind that professional groomers have had lots of training and you could end up giving your canine pal a show-stopping hair cut – but not in a good way.

Blue Cross warns that clipping: “Is not as easy as some people think it looks. Unqualified DIY clipping not only runs the risk of your dog coming out the other side with an unintentionally extreme haircut, but it can also result in injury to you or your pet – especially if you have a particularly lively or boisterous hound. If you do choose to invest in your own set of dog clippers, ensure you do plenty of research before grooming your dog. Get specific instructions on the type of breed you have, use dedicated equipment with safety guards and, if using scissors, make sure they have rounded ends when tackling sensitive areas. It’s vital that you can keep your dog calm and under control when clipping is being done, so a second pair of hands may well be needed.”


How do I choose a dog groomer?

If you have a dog that needs clipping, trimming and stripping to keep their coat in good condition, it makes sense to have it done professionally – but choose your dog groomer with care.

Blue Cross advises: “As the groomer you choose will be responsible for the welfare of your dog when it’s in their care, it’s important that you choose a reputable individual or salon. The grooming industry is currently unregulated, but there are a number of things you can consider to help make the right choice.”

  • If possible, ask your vet for recommendations on good local groomers. Failing that, can any of your dog-owning friends or family endorse a groomer?
  • Look out for groomers that are members of trade bodies such as the Pet Industry Federation – this is a strong indication of a well-qualified and reputable groomer
  • Ask about qualifications. Although dog groomers are not legally required to have any, it’s a good sign. The most recognised qualification in the UK is the City and Guilds
  • Does the groomer check that your dog is up to date with vaccinations, flea and worm treatments? This is crucial in preventing the spread of diseases, infections and parasites
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a tour of the premises if you want some extra reassurance – a good, reputable groomer would be happy to show you around

Should I clip my dog’s nails?

Dogs usually wear their nails down naturally, but some may need them clipped regularly, especially if they don’t walk much on tarmac, have very bowed legs, or have reduced mobility due to injuries or arthritis. Occasionally the dew claws (the nail on the upper, inner part of a dog’s foot) will overgrow as they don’t reach the ground during walking. If you think your dog’s nails require clipping, check first with your vet. A veterinary nurse can show you how to do this safely and advise you on the correct products to use. Never use human nail clippers on dogs – their claws are rounded and need a specialised dog nail clipper.


Do I need to clean my dog’s teeth?

Dogs can get pretty much all of the dental issues humans do – although they are not prone to cavities, they can still develop problems such as tartar, plaque build-up and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Severe dental disease can result in teeth needing to be taken out (requiring an anaesthetic) or permanent damage to the underlying bone.

Dogs Trust recommends: “It is a good idea to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed when your dog is a puppy. If you didn't get your dog as a puppy, tooth brushing can start as soon as your new dog is settled in your home and you feel comfortable doing so.”

Here’s the charity’s guide to brushing your dog’s teeth:

  • Purchase some enzymatic dog toothpaste and a brush from your vet. Enzymatic toothpaste helps break down plaque and reduces bad breath. Never use human toothpaste as this is toxic to dogs
  • Pop a little bit of the toothpaste on to your dog's food. This will help them get accustomed to the taste
  • After a few days, put a little bit on your finger and encourage your dog to lick it off.
  • When you feel confident enough, rub your finger across your dog's teeth and gums without toothpaste to get the dog used to the brushing action. You can then apply some of the toothpaste to the teeth using your finger. If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point, stop what you are doing. Continue this approach slowly over a few sessions until your dog is used to the taste and sensation
  • You can now try using a toothbrush. There is no need to full open the mouth to do this; by lifting the upper of lower lip you will have access to the teeth. Brush all the teeth using a circular motion concentrating on the gum line. Once your dog is used to the sensation of the brush, you can add the toothpaste. Ideally tooth brushing should be repeated every 24-48 hours

How often should I bath my dog?

If your dug is muddy, you may be able to just give them a rinse in warm water. If they are really mucky or have rolled in something horrendously smelly (hello fox poop...), make sure you get a pet-safe shampoo for them as human products have different Ph balances. Check with your vet first if your dog has a skin condition to make sure the shampoo will be suitable. If your dog smells bad but hasn’t rolled in something unspeakable, then discuss this with your vet as this may indicate a skin or ear infection.

Blue Cross advises: “It’s not always necessary to bath dogs, unless they are dirty or have skin problems, in which case seek your vet’s advice. Washing them too much can strip a dog’s coat of natural oils. But if you are washing your dog at home, you can do this in a bathtub with a non-slip mat indoors or, if the weather permits, outside.”

Top bath time tips:

  • Detangle any matted fur before washing as this will only get worse during shampooing
  • Saturate your dog’s fur with lukewarm water before applying the shampoo
  • Avoid the face, mouth and ear areas and sponge wash these with clean water instead
  • Massage the shampoo in for at least five minutes for a good, thorough cleanse
  • Ensure you rinse thoroughly as any shampoo residue can irritate your dog’s skin
  • Towel dry your dog or, if he or she is comfortable with a hairdryer, ensure it’s put on a cool setting

What should I check for when grooming my dog?

Grooming is a great way to give your dog a regular health check, which should be a standard part of your routine, along with all the usual parasite prevention treatments and vaccinations from your vet. Things to look out for include lumps or bumps, sores, redness, rashes, bald spots and evidence of parasitic infestations such as ticks and fleas.

Also check your dog over for thorns, burrs and grass awns  – these are grass seeds that look like little darts and, once they pierce the skin, can move through the body, potentially ending up in internal organs, causing serious damage. Areas to concentrate on are paws (between the toes and pads), ears, nose and belly.

While grooming your dog, take a close look at their ears – ear infections can be extremely painful and, if you notice any of the following symptoms, your pet will need to be treated by your vet:

  • The inside of the ears is inflamed or moist
  • The ears smell odd
  • Your dog shakes their head or constantly scratches their ears
  • The ears contain more or a different kind of discharge than usual (a little wax is normal)
  • Your dog whines or yelps when you examine their ears

If you notice a change in your dog’s skin or coat, this could be a sign of something serious, so always consult your vet.


How can I help my dog enjoy grooming?

Many dogs, especially puppies, need encouragement and positive reinforcement when you first introduce them to a grooming routine. Blue Cross explains: “A negative association can develop because the longer the period of time between brushes, the more uncomfortable it can be for them; the more out of condition their coat becomes the more unpleasant it can become for them to be touched or stroked, let alone bathed or brushed. In extreme cases, this can then have a negative impact on the way they perceive human interaction altogether. So it’s crucial that you get a handle on the problem as soon as possible and tackle it in the right way that’s best for your dog.”

Follow these tips to help your dog build up their grooming confidence and can start enjoying all the attention:

  • If your dog is scared of being brushed, try taking a few steps back. Get out a few brushes but don’t use them, so your dog can just get used to them being around
  • Help them associate the brushes with something good by producing them at the same time as something your dog really likes, such as some tasty food
  • Gradually reintroduce brushing by touching your dog very gently with a soft brush starting with short sessions, making sure you always reward them well for taking part. If problems with grooming persist, consult your vet for further advice

Is your dog a Burgess dog? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

At Burgess, all our dog foods are made using premium ingredients to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your dog happy and healthy – from puppy, to adult and senior. We’ve also developed foods to meet the specific nutritional needs of working dogs, Greyhounds and Lurchers, and dogs with sensitivities. And we’re very proud of our Paul O'Grady's 'No Nasties' dog food range, which comes in Hypoallergenic and Grain Free varieties and is, in Paul's words: ''the best food you can feed your dogs.’'

All Burgess dog food is a complete food. This means, whatever variety you choose for your dog, it will contain all the nutrients they need in the correct balance.


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