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Dog Grooming Basics: What to Know

Grooming can not only keep your dog looking and feeling great, these sessions can also double as an excellent opportunity to bond with your pup. In this post, our Scottsdale vets offer tips on the basics of dog grooming.

Grooming for Dogs

Your dog's grooming needs will vary based on their lifestyle and breed. Longer-haired dogs typically need more grooming than shorthair breeds, and dogs who spend more time outdoors will need more grooming sessions than those who spend most of their time curled up on the couch. 

That said, basic grooming for dogs usually involves bathing, brushing, nail trimming and haircuts (depending on breed). 


To help remove dirt and debris from your dog's coat and keep their skin healthy, your pup will need a regular bath. However, bathing your dog too frequently can cause skin irritation, increase risk of fungal or bacterial infections and damage hair follicles. 

Your dog's specific bathing schedule will depend on their fur type and how dirty they get. Bathing your dog once a month to once every three months should be enough. Use warm water and lather with shampoo that's been specially formulated for dogs (since shampoos formulated for people can also cause skin irritation). 

Does your dog have curly or long hair? Your vet may be able to recommend conditions and detanglers formulated for dogs to help make brushing easier. Use as directed. 

Many dogs are nervous around water. If this is the case for your pup, start slow. Try standing your dog in a dry bathtub and offering a treat for good behavior. Gradually progress to having your dog stand in a dry bath while you use a wet sponge to clean them. Make incremental moves toward giving your dog a full bath. 


While some dogs might be hesitant about the bathtub, many love to be brushed. Brushing removes dead hair from your dog's coat, which helps prevent matting and skin irritation and keeps it shiny. Most breeds will be fine with a regular weekly brushing to keep them looking good. You might also be happy to notice that this should reduce the amount of dog hair around your house. Dogs with longer coats or active outdoor lifestyles might need to be brushed more frequently, while shorthaired breeds may only need to be brushed once a month. 

Nail Trimming

Be sure to use a clipper specifically designed for dogs when trimming your dog's nails. A rotary trimmer can be a safer alternative, but it will take longer to use. By beginning nail trimming while your dog is still young you will learn to be more confident and your dog will likely be more tolerant of having you clip their nails.

If your dog doesn't like having their feet touched, work up to nail trimming by gently stroking your dog's feet until they get used to the feeling. Once your dog will tolerate having their feet touched, begin by trimming just a single nail. Always reward good behavior as your dog becomes less anxious about nail trimming.

If you’re not comfortable trimming your dog's nails yourself (or if your dog won't tolerate it), consider having it done by a qualified professional.


When it comes to haircuts, different breeds have different needs. Speak to your vet or a professional groomer to find out exactly how often (or if at all) your dog should get a haircut, and how best to go about it. To cut your dog's hair at home, bathe your dog first using good quality dog shampoo, and then towel dry and brush. Use sharp scissors to trim the fur around the face and feet, and electric clippers for the rest of the body. 

If you'd prefer to avoid the mess of doing haircuts yourself, or if your dog is anxious or fidgety, you may want to take your dog to visit a professional groomer. Dog groomers have all the tools and are trained in keeping dogs relaxed throughout the grooming process.

Grooming Anxious or Nervous Dogs 

Grooming is an important part of caring for your dog's wellbeing. Matted fur, goopy ears, and overly long nails are uncomfortable for your dog and can lead to more serious health issues if left unattended. Bathing to brushing, ear cleaning to nail trimming, grooming can quickly become a nightmare if your dog is nervous or anxious about the grooming process. 

Below are just a few ways that you can help your dog to relax and enjoy the grooming process:

  • Make sure your dog gets lots of exercise before grooming begins.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Offer treats for good behavior.
  • Be gentle. Dogs love to be pet. Give your dog lots of pats and hugs throughout the grooming process.
  • Use a calming aromatherapy oil (such as lavender oil) on your fingers as you pet your dog and run your hands through their fur.
  • If your dog is very nervous you may want to consider using a calming dog pheromone diffuser.

Basic grooming combined with regular exercise and annual examinations including essential vaccines and parasite prevention will help to keep your dog happy and healthy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time for your dog's regular grooming session? Contact our Scottsdale vets to book an appointment. We can help you keep your dog looking and feeling their best.

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Book Online (480) 391-3699