10 DIY Dog Grooming Tips: Keep Your Pup Clean On A Budget


Last Updated: February 16, 2023 | 8 min read

Grooming Tips

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Our pups love dirt and mud almost as much as they love us. They will take every opportunity possible to jump around and get dirty, so proper grooming and bathing are essential to their health and your sanity.

There is nothing better than snuggling with a clean and fresh dog, but getting them that way is not always easy. Taking your dog to the groomer regularly can get expensive and even worrisome if you do not trust your pup in someone else’s hands.

If you are looking to save some money by grooming your canine at home, there are some critical factors to keep in mind. Here are some tips to make grooming more comfortable and enjoyable for you and your dog.

Benefits Of Grooming

Before we dive into the tips, let’s first talk about the importance of proper grooming. Keeping your dog clean goes much further than making sure they smell nice and don’t leave paw marks all over your house. A pup’s cleanliness is vital to their health and having a routine can reduce shedding, scratching, and irritation.

Having a predictable routine that your dog expects is the best thing you can do. Create a process you go through, like how you would when putting a child to bed. Get your dog in the mood for bath time by following the same steps every time before you groom them.

Not every dog is the same, so they will not all take well to the idea of brushing or bathing, so this is a critical step for you and for the potential groomer who will take over down the road. Grooming is important for your dog’s health because it helps them maintain a beautiful and healthy coat. Consistent bathing is useful if your pup has allergies or discomfort from household or environmental allergens.

Planning Ahead

Most of the work of grooming your pup comes before you even start. Your dog can tell if you are nervous, and if your pup picks up on that, they will be nervous, which will make the entire process that much more difficult.

This reason is why following a set of procedures every time is so important. You want to create a routine so they know what to expect and your dog knows they can trust you. They rely on you to be the strong one in this situation, so they could become aggressive if you do not instill trust.

Depending on the breed of dog you have, you could be in this for a few hours, so you want to plan ahead by setting all your grooming tools out ahead of time and blocking off a nice chunk of time so you do not have to rush at any point. Make sure you have enough time to tackle most of the grooming so you do not run out of time if your pup is behaving.

Having The Right Tools

Female groomer brushing Shih Tzu at grooming salon.
You wouldn’t go into battle without the proper weapons, so you shouldn’t go at your dog without the correct tools.

Not having the right grooming tools for your specific dog will not only make the job more difficult, but you could also hurt them as a result.

Dogs have many different hair types, so you want to ensure you have the right brushes. Bristle brushes work best for most hair types and should do the trick. Dogs with long hair require wire pin brushes to help break mats. If your pup has more severe mats, you could also get a mat breaker or a rake to help take care of them.

Trimming nails is one of the most stressful parts of grooming your dog, so you want to make it as simple as possible. Make sure you have the right size nail clippers for your breed, and consider the options available to you.

Shampoo is another important tool that requires immense attention, and you can even make your own. Each hair type requires a different kind of shampoo, and some dogs have allergies while others require conditioner. Shampoo is one of the most important tools to research when grooming your pup.

Brush Frequently

Brushing is the primary way to keep your dog clean. Many dog experts do not recommend frequent bathing because it can dry out their skin, but they never say you can overbrush your dog. Like with everything else, it’s best to create a routine of short daily brushings until you can gradually increase the length of each session while decreasing the frequency.

It’s important to use the right kind of brush so you can make the brushing process as comfortable as possible for your pup. Using the wrong type of brush can pull on hair, causing pain. If your dog is a heavy shedder, consider brushing them outside.

Bathe Sparingly

One of the biggest questions dog owners have is, “how often should I bathe my dog?” The answer to this depends on a few different factors. If your dog has long hair, they will need bathing more frequently than short-haired dogs. If your pup is outside a lot, they will require more baths, and if they have certain allergies, they may require less or more bathing.

Most experts advise bathing your pup at least once every three months, but certain dog breeds like Boxers may not require more than two baths a year because they typically stay clean on their own.

When it comes to baths, use your judgment. If your dog smells or their fur is muddy they most likely need a bath. Don’t bathe your dog because you feel like it. A dog’s skin has natural oils that are necessary to protect them and promote hair growth. If you bathe them too frequently, their skin becomes dried out, irritated, and even infected.

Use A Specific Shampoo

There are few things more important to grooming than choosing the right shampoo for your dog. Before you even think about taking one off the shelf, you want to make sure it is suitable for their breed and skin.  If they have sensitive skin, shampoos like these are a great choice.  It’s also wise to pick a shampoo for your dog’s breed or coat.  If your pup is a golden retriever, they probably need a different shampoo than that of a Husky.  Climate, temperature and skin conditions will also have an impact.

Many different shampoos exist to meet different needs. Certain moisturizing shampoos contain vitamins, oatmeal, and honey, which are ideal for treating dry and itchy skin. Much of the manufactured shampoos contain harmful ingredients, dyes, and fragrances that cause allergies to your dog’s skin.

If you have difficulty getting that fresh smell out of your pup, they might benefit from a deodorizing shampoo that promises the scent will last for an extended period. It’s essential that when you choose this kind of shampoo, you buy one that does not contain any artificial fragrances.

Matted Hair

Mats pull on the skin, causing pain and irritation. If your pup has matted hair, it’s important not to cut it out with scissors because you could cut it into their skin without knowing it. Companies make special shampoos or conditioners to help with fur that consistently gets matted, but the best way to prevent this from happening is through frequent brushing.

Matting is common in lots of long-haired breeds, as well as senior pupsIf your pup has matting, you’ll likely want to combine regular brushing habits with trimming with dog hair clippers.

Nail Trimming

Most dogs will require nail trimming at one point or another, so you want to keep an eye on their nails. Like everything else you want to create a routine around this, and if trimming their nails during their regular grooming becomes too much for them, you could do it the day after you groom them.

Many people are unsure about when they should trim their dog’s nails, and a good rule to follow is; when you can hear your canines’ nails on a hard floor, you know it’s time. Between each cut of the nail, be sure to reward your pup for good behavior and take your time so you do not cut into the quick.

The quick is the pink area inside the white nails. You’ll notice a small black dot in the center of the nail. As you are making your way up when you start to see this black area, you know to stop. Using a tool like a Dremel can help.

Brushing Their Teeth

Owner brushing teeth of cute dog at home
Brushing your dog’s teeth is an essential part of grooming (and maintaining good oral hygiene).

You can (and should) brush your dog’s teeth at home regularly (daily is recommended). But some dogs prefer that you don’t brush their teeth. In fact, some dogs are downright terrified when you try to take a toothbrush to their mouth. Luckily, there are a number of different DIY tooth cleaning methods you can use if your pup hates it when you stick a toothbrush in their mouth. There’s no point in making sure your dog smells great, to turn around and have to deal with stinky breath or oral disease.

Consider Grooming Outside

Grooming your dog outdoors not only makes it more enjoyable for them, but it also makes cleanup easier for you. Just beware of creating bad habits. If you bathe your pup outside all the time, trying to do it inside could throw them off and cause bad behavior.

Take Breaks & Make It Fun

Go with your dog’s behavior, especially in the beginning. If pup seems stressed out, like whatever you are doing is too much for them, stop. Take a break, reward your canine with a treat, and do what you need to do to make your dog feel comfortable again. Remember your dog plays off your emotions, so never get upset with them for acting out during a grooming session.

Make memories with your dog by having a good time while grooming them. If your pup is having fun, then they will warm up quickly to grooming time and look forward to spending that time with you in the future. Understand that your dog is not perfect, and he or she will misbehave and cause you to stress, especially in the beginning. Power through it and know grooming will improve the more you do it.

Common Mistakes

Labrador Retriever Puppy getting a Bath
Bathing your dog outdoors is an option, but make sure you keep to a routine spot year-round.

You want the best for your dog, and understanding how to groom them properly is the key to your success. Regardless of what kind of dog you have, we all need a little help every now and again. Here are some of the most common mistakes dog owners make when attempting to clean up their pups.

  • Lack of preparation – Everything in life requires a small amount of training and preparation. By being here reading this, you have already taken a big step towards properly grooming your pup. If you have a new puppy, you want to make sure you read up on grooming and understand how to develop good habits. Luckily, many dogs enjoy bath time, but if your dog doesn’t, don’t be alarmed.
  • Not brushing enough – This issue applies to long-haired dogs. When you soak your long-haired pup with water, it increases the chances that they will experience matting. You want to make sure you brush your canine thoroughly before bathing and immediately after while their hair is still wet. If you can, brush them again once they are mostly dry. Regularly scheduled brushing will ensure they do not get matted.
  • Creating bad habits – Bad habits are a huge one. You need to make sure your dog understands that you’re getting down to business and it’s not playtime. You, as the pet owner, also need to understand that it’s not playtime. It might seem fun to wash your pup down and then play with the hose for a while, but that is not reinforcing good habits.

Once you start grooming, you need to follow through and do the same thing every time. Your dog is also not used to having certain areas touched, so you do not want to teach them to run away or jump when these areas get handled. Following strict rules will make grooming easy for you and also for groomers who may take care of your pup later on.

Final Thoughts

Grooming is an essential part of canine health and something that you want to take seriously. Every dog is different, and every breed has unique requirements that means as a pet owner, you need to stay up-to-date and well-informed. Many things can go wrong when grooming your dog, and only one thing can go right. Be sure you are creating positive habits that make your pup enjoy bath time, and always use the proper tools to get the job done right.

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  1. Elaine Jefferies

    I have a Senior dog, a Cocker Spaniel mix. I’ve had her quite a few years now. My brother took her off the street. The regular groomer closed up shop after the pandemic. My dog is getting skin tags on all parts of her body. Her hair gets unruly & long if not trimmed but I worry the groomer will cut too close. I’ve had a mobile groomer trim/groom her but a skin tag was cut off. I was able to treat it & it healed but I don’t want that experience again, not for her or me.

    Any suggestions for me doing it myself?

  2. Any suggestion for how to clean my dogs waxy skin? Around my male terriers “shaft”, he has a waxy dirty area, that doesn’t seem to come clean with dog shampoo. It’s probably not hurting anything (no itching or licking), and it never looks clean.

  3. Thank for sharing 10 DIY Dog Grooming Tips. I will follow your tips to groom my dog in Calgary or I will take to the Best groomer in Calgary

  4. Thank you for the article, I have a yorkie and want to groom it by my self, I have been doing it for a while, but I need to know how and give her a good care. I would like to have more information on how to do this.

  5. Thank you for this great article! We only once sent our dog, Chico, to a groomer, and it was a really traumatic experience for him… he was literally shaved to the skin because he was completely matted (stray dog). He didn’t want to leave the house nor even to the yard! So I took over the task, and still do it since years ago.

    The only part of his body he does NOT want to be touched is his beard (he’s a long hair dog) and it took me some time to figure out how to tackle this. But I figured it out: making him sleep!

    When it’s time to go over his beard we move to a blanket on the floor, I caress and relax him until he falls asleep (it takes just a few minutes of pampering him), and then I can go through his matting in that area, always talking to him in a soft voice to keep him quiet. Of course, I have to proceed as fast but gently as possible. It works! Thanks again for this very helpful post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by to share your experience, Isabel! We do the same with our dogs. We started trimming nails ourselves when we watched all the hassle of taking them in to get them professionally groomed. It’s not difficult to do on your own once you’ve had some experience. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  6. Thank you, that was helpful. My dog can be nippy when her feet are touched, so when I cut her nails I put one of those adjustable cones (to stop dogs biting their wound or whatever) around her neck so she can’t reach back and nip me. I think she tolerates that better than she would a muzzle. Also I have my husband stand at her head and praise her and after each foot, give her a little treat.

    1. Glad you found it helpful, Sarah! Something else you can test, is putting peanut butter on your forehead while grooming. They will sit and lick it off during bathing or during nail cuts. It helps keep them distracted if you don’t mind a forehead with a little peanut butter on it! Good luck!

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