DIY Dog Grooming Guide

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DIY Dog Grooming

It’s a common issue for pet owners. Should you wash your dog yourself, go to the groomer or use a self-service pet wash? Taking your dog to a groomer is easier than washing your dog yourself, but it's also expensive. You have to fit into an appointment time, and your dog might not be overly fond of the groomer, making the whole experience stressful for everyone.

If you wash your dog yourself, you can save money, time and stress compared to going to the groomer. And you can do it when you need to do it instead of needing to schedule an appointment. After all, when your dog decides a mud romp is a great way to end the day, you might not be able to get an appointment with the groomer right away.

On the other hand, the whole process of getting your dog into the bathtub — and the cleanup process after — doesn't sound like a good time either. What other option do you have? A self-serve dog wash can solve many of these issues.

How to Use a Self-Serve Dog Wash

You'll be surprised at how simple a self-serve dog wash is to use. Once you try it, you'll never wash your dog in the bathtub again.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Take your dog on a leash into the dog wash facility. Once inside, secure the leash to a hook to keep your dog in place.
  2. Carefully remove any matting or burrs in your dog's fur before bathing.
  3. Allow water to get comfortably warm.
  4. Thoroughly wet and lather your dog with whatever shampoo you've selected.
  5. Rinse well to remove all shampoo from your dog's coat. Shampoo left behind can make your dog itch, and it also attracts dirt.
  6. If desired, apply conditioner and rinse again if the conditioner you use requires it.
  7. Dry your dog with a towel or a low-heat blow dryer.

To make it even easier, follow these do-it-yourself dog wash tips:

  • Brush your dog thoroughly before bath time — This will help remove loose dirt and hair, making the bath easier.
  • Be sure your dog is tied securely once in the wash station — This is also a good time for a treat, so your dog begins to associate bath time with something positive.
  • Be very careful not to get water in your dog's ears — Not only is it irritating, but it can also lead to infection. Some people put cotton balls in their dog's ears to help keep them dry.
  • Wash your dog from the neck down — This not only helps keep water out of his ears, but it also ensures you don't get water or shampoo in your dog's eyes. To wash your dog's face, use a wet washcloth. Use special wipes that are designed for cleaning the ears and around the eyes.
  • Go slowly with the blow dryer — Keep in mind that some dogs are afraid of the noise of a blow dryer, so you may need to gradually introduce it. Turn the blow dryer on and give a treat, but don't hesitate to switch to a towel if your dog seems overly stressed.
  • Check the blow dryer heat setting — If your dog is okay with a blow dryer, ensure it doesn’t get too hot. Blow dryers at a DIY dog wash are designed for use on dogs, but you'll still want to monitor the temperature.

How to Groom Your Dog Yourself and Save Money

Often just a bath and blow dry is enough when your dog is dirty, but grooming a dog consists of more than just giving him a bath. DIY dog grooming is not only a great way to save money, but it's a perfect opportunity to create a closer bond with your dog.

Materials Needed for Dog Grooming

First, you'll need to be sure you have the right tools. If you're new to grooming your own dog, you're probably asking, “What do I need to groom my dog correctly?” Gather up essential grooming tools, including:

  • Shampoo
  • Brush
  • Wipes for eyes and ears
  • Nail clipper and/or grinder
  • Emory board
  • Styptic powder or corn starch
  • Hair clipper if your dog required a hair cut
  • Scissors
  • Grooming spray

Once you have your tools, you can start the grooming process.

1. Clean Eyes and Ears

After bathing and drying your dog, it's time to pay special attention to the face and ears. Some dogs, such as Poodles, are prone to staining around the eyes. You can use special wipes designed for cleaning the eye area to get rid of the stains. Do this carefully so your dog feels safe and secure.

While you clean your dog's face, it's a good time to check the health of his eyes. Gently pull down the lower lid. It should be pink, not red or white. If the color is off, consult your veterinarian. Also check for unusual discharge or crustiness around the eye area.

Next, you'll want to clean your dog's ears. You can buy special wipes designed for dog ears. Another option is to buy ear wash and use cotton balls to clean dirt and excess wax out of his ears. Always be careful when cleaning your dog's ears. Don't probe where you can't see because you can do damage. Some dogs also need hair trimmed from the inside of their ears. Have patience if this is new for your dog.

If your dog spends a lot of time in the water, you will need to pay special attention to his ears. Put cotton balls in his ears to prevent water from entering the ear canal. When your dog gets out of the water, dry his ears carefully. You can also purchase a solution that helps dry ears.

While you are cleaning your dog's ears, look for redness, swelling, discharge or odor. These can be signs of an infection. Other signs of infection include loss of balance, excessive head shaking, rubbing ears on furniture or walking in circles. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your vet.

2. Brush Fur

Now, you'll want to brush your dog. There are many kinds of dog brushes, but you don't have to feel overwhelmed. Often the type of brush you need is determined by the type of coat your dog has.

Generally, a short coat only needs to be brushed once a week. A rubber-bristled brush will help remove dead skin, dirt and hair. If your dog has a dense coat, a slicker brush will be useful for removing mats.

Dogs with a long coat need a bit more attention, so plan to set aside a little time each day to keep your dog's coat beautiful and healthy. Start with a slicker brush to remove mats and tangles. A little conditioning spray may help make this task easier, but daily grooming will also keep the matting at bay. Once you get the tangles out, use a bristle brush to remove dead skin, loose hair and dirt. Finish off with a spritz of grooming spray if desired.

3. Give Your Dog a Haircut

Once your dog is brushed, it may be time to trim carefully around his face and feet. Using scissors with a rounded or ball tip is a good way to prevent injury if your dog moves suddenly. If you plan to do more than just trimming, consider getting thinning or coat scissors, depending on your needs.

Rounded Scissors

4. Trim Their Nails

After you tended to your dog's coat, you'll want to take a closer look at his feet. Unless he gets a lot of exercise, your dog will likely need a nail trim. Not trimming nails can result in feet that are painful to walk on, but this is easily avoided by clipping your dog's nails a couple of times a month.

There are two types of nail clippers. One is a scissors type, and the other is called a guillotine. Most dog professionals prefer the scissors type of clipper over the guillotine clipper to help prevent injury.

Before clipping, gently separate the toes and trim away excess hair, which can dull your nail clipper. Then, clip the tip of each nail. You can smooth rough edges with an emery board or nail grinder.

If your dog's nails are excessively long, trim them weekly until they are the proper length. Do NOT trim too much in an effort to shorten them more quickly. This can result in cutting into the nail bed, also called the quick. This is painful and causes bleeding. It can also make your dog fearful of having his nails trimmed in the future. If you accidentally cut too deep, use styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding.

5. Clean Teeth 

An important part of grooming that many people forget is dental care. You should brush your dog's teeth regularly. If this seems like too much of a chore because your dog is uncooperative, consider that dental disease can lead to heart, kidney and liver problems. Keeping up with this yourself can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Take it slow when it comes to brushing your dog’s teeth. Buy a pleasantly flavored toothpaste designed for dogs and just do a little bit followed by lots of praise and reward. Soon your dog will look forward to this time, and you'll be able to brush his or her teeth every day.

Dog Toothpaste

Breed-Specific Grooming Considerations

Some breeds require a little extra care. Be sure to consider these needs when you set up your grooming routine.

  • Wrinkles — Some breeds, such as the French Bulldog, Shar Pei, Neapolitan Mastiff and Pug, have wrinkled faces and bodies. These wrinkles are pretty adorable, but they also need special care. Dirt and moisture can become trapped in those skin folds and cause skin irritations and infections. During grooming, be sure to clean and dry each fold of skin daily to keep your dog healthy and happy. You can use special wipes or a washcloth and gentle cleanser. Make sure you rinse cleansers and shampoo very well because residue can also irritate the skin.
  • Curly coats — Curls tend to hold on to fur, even after your dog sheds his hair. Accumulated hair form painful mats that pull on the skin. This is why daily brushing is important for breeds such as the Airedale and Cocker Spaniel. When bathing your curly dog, take extra care to rinse shampoo out completely. In the same way those curls trap loose hair, they can also trap shampoo. Shampoo that dries on your dog can cause skin irritation.
  • Floppy or hairy ears — Most dogs only need their ears cleaned on a monthly basis. But dogs such as the Afghan Hound and Basset Hound, with floppy or hairy ears, need more frequent cleaning. This is because there is less air circulation, and the ear traps dirt and moisture that can lead to infection. Give your dog's ears a wipe each week to remove dirt. If there is a lot of hair inside your dog's ears, you can also consider plucking it with a special tweezers designed for dog ears. This is not typically painful and can make it much easier to clean the ears as well as spot signs of infection.
  • Non-shedding dogs — Some dogs are popular because they don't shed, or they shed very little. Examples are the Standard Poodle and Irish Water Spaniel. While this is great when it comes to allergies or housekeeping, it also means your dog's coat will need a little extra care. These breeds will likely need daily brushing and occasional trimming to keep the coat tidy and prevent matting.
  • Tear stains — Short-nosed breeds such as the Shih Tzu and Maltese tend to tear more than other breeds. This often leads to staining. While staining doesn't really have to be treated, many owners prefer to keep those stains away. To prevent tear stains, rinse your dog's eyes daily with a special canine eye wash product. You can also wash the fur around the eyes with the same product or a contact lens solution. You should also keep the hair around your dog's eyes carefully trimmed.

Once you establish a routine, it will take much less time than you might think. And the rewards aren’t just monetary. You'll also get more special time with your pet, and you'll be more likely to notice any potential health issues. DIY grooming will keep your pet healthy, and both of you happy.

All Paws Pet Wash exists to make your job easier. We have self-contained, fully functional pet wash buildings across the country. When you use an All Paws Pet Wash Self-Serve Station, grooming your dog yourself is easy because you don't have to break your back leaning over a bathtub, and you don't have to clean up your entire bathroom after grooming. All of the supplies you need are right there. And if you have a bigger dog, you have plenty of room to get the job done — and have fun while you’re doing it.


Find a pet wash near you and start making your life easier while saving money, or contact us today to learn more about starting your own self serve pet wash business!

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