Dog Grooming 101
Everything you need to know about grooming your puppy: tips, tools, checklists, cooperative care, and more26 minute read
Grooming your dog is about more than looking his best. It’s about keeping him healthy. Routinely trimming your puppy’s nails, cleaning his ears, brushing his fur, and performing other common tasks reduces the chance of long-term problems. It also enables you to catch any issues before they get worse.
What’s more, getting your dog used to grooming—even if he’s a low-maintenance breed—makes both of your lives easier in the long run. Say hello to increased trust and simpler vet visits.
Dog grooming is a big topic with lots of moving parts. Here’s everything you need to know!
- Regular grooming keeps your dog clean (which helps your house stay tidy, too). It also supports your puppy’s long-term health by preventing infections. And if something does look off, you’ll be able to notice problems right away.
- Many dog parents groom their dogs at home. You can also hire a professional dog groomer if you know DIY isn’t your thing.
- Introduce grooming tasks to your puppy slowly. Reward him often to build a positive association with the process. Cooperative care principles, like start and stop signals, can help your dog feel more in control.
- Your puppy’s grooming needs will vary depending on his breed, favorite activities, and your own preferences. Common tasks include nail trimming, paw pad care, bathing, ear cleaning, fur brushing, hair cutting, and tooth brushing.
- Most dogs need their nails trimmed every two to eight weeks regardless of breed or age. Your routine might vary if your active dog grinds his own claws down by running on rough surfaces.
- It’s a good idea to gently wipe your dog’s paws about once a week. Check for irritation and apply moisturizer if needed.
- Your puppy doesn’t actually *need* baths to stay healthy. Dogs with normal skin can go months or even years without being washed! You still want to get him used to the tub for the inevitable day he rolls in something smelly though.
- Most dogs benefit from regular ear care every one to two months. Floppy-eared breeds have a greater risk of ear infections, while pointy-eared dogs can usually go longer between cleanings.
- Brushing helps keep your dog’s shedding under control. It also prevents mats and tangles that might lead to skin infections.
- Some dogs need regular haircuts (think single-coat, low-shedding breeds like Poodles). Others (double-coat, high shedding breeds like Labradors and Siberian Huskies) can go their entire lives without a trim.
- Oral hygiene isn’t just for humans. Brushing your puppy’s teeth can help maintain his quality of life over time. More than 80 percent of adult pet dogs have some form of dental disease (most is preventable).
Why is dog grooming important?
Regular grooming keeps your dog clean (which helps your house stay tidy, too). Husbandry tasks like nail trimming, ear cleaning, and brushing also help your puppy stay healthy. Grooming maintains your dog’s physical structure and gives you the opportunity to catch potential issues before they escalate into a long-term problem.
Grooming keeps your dog (and your home) clean
A clean dog makes for a cleaner home. While we should never expect a puppy to be the poster child of tidiness, it’s far more pleasant to snuggle up with a freshly groomed one than one who smells like whatever he rolled in on his latest walk (you nervously suspect it was feces or a dead animal). Tasks like brushing will help control your puppy’s shedding. It’s also harder for your dog to accidentally scratch you or your guests when his nails are trimmed to an appropriate length.
Outside your house, regular grooming sets your puppy up to be a model public citizen. Dog-friendly patios expect some level of mess from their canine guests, but businesses appreciate dogs who don’t track mud, piles of hair, or a foul odor into their dining spaces.
Regular grooming helps your puppy stay healthy
Grooming is also important for your dog’s long-term wellbeing. Many grooming tasks can prevent health problems in the first place:
- Nail trimming ensures your puppy can walk with proper posture. This helps his bones, joints, and muscles remain structurally sound.
- Ear cleaning, especially after swimming, can stop infections before they start.
- Brushing reduces mats that can cause a buildup of moisture and heat on your dog’s skin. This helps you avoid hot spots, bacterial growth, and infections.
And if your dog does experience a problem? A regular grooming schedule means you’ll be able to catch it right away. It only takes a few minutes to notice a skin rash, tender joint, lump, or other irritation before it starts drastically affecting your dog’s quality of life.
Should I groom my dog myself or hire a pro?
Many dog parents groom their dogs on their own. You can also hire a professional if you know that’s not your thing. DIY grooming requires a personal time investment and some at-home resources, while professional grooming requires you to trust someone else with your puppy.
Here are some factors that might affect your decision:
- The intensity of your dog’s grooming needs: There’s a big difference between occasional brushing and all-over haircuts. Many dog parents are happy to perform small touch-ups but leave larger undertakings to the pros.
- Your comfort using different dog grooming tools: Most people can quickly learn how to trim their puppy’s nails, clean his ears, and complete other standard tasks. But there’s no shame if you don’t feel comfortable grooming your dog by yourself. Professionals exist for a reason!
- The amount of time you have available to groom your dog: Life gets busy, especially when puppies are involved.
- How easy it is to find professional groomers in your area: Depending on where you live, you might be pushed to tackle more grooming tasks yourself.
Pros of handling your puppy’s grooming by yourself
- Grooming your dog at home is cheaper. You might need to invest in a few tools like specific brushes or nail clippers, but you’ll be able to save on labor costs in the long run.
- You’re directly involved to avoid any bad grooming experiences. You know and love your dog. You can customize the process to his individual needs from the get-go.
- When done the right way (more on that in the next section) grooming can be a great bonding experience between you and your puppy.
- You don’t have to communicate with a third party. Fit your puppy’s grooming into your own schedule without worrying about appointment availability.
Pros of paying a professional to groom your dog
- Professional groomers provide expert insight. They have in-depth knowledge of different dog breeds, coat types, and common issues. This can be especially valuable for first-time dog parents of high maintenance breeds.
- Groomers have the necessary supplies already set up in a designated space. You won’t have to clean up any messes yourself.
- Some puppies are actually calmer when being handled by a stranger (think about kids behaving for someone who isn’t their own parent). This is likely because professional groomers have years of experience maintaining a calm, steady presence with multiple dogs.
How to find a quality dog groomer
Grooming is necessary. It can also be a stressful and sometimes invasive process for our dogs. It’s imperative that you fully trust anyone who handles your puppy. One of the best ways to find a reputable groomer is through word-of-mouth recommendations from fellow dog parents. You can also turn to your local trainer or veterinarian for a referral.
Questions to ask your professional groomer ahead of time
Once you get in touch with a potential groomer, ask some questions to make sure you understand their process. These might include:
- Can I see the grooming facility ahead of time? A quick meeting can ensure you know exactly what to expect. Where will your dog be housed before and after his groom? How many dogs are in the space at the same time?
- May I watch the first time you groom my dog? Not everyone wants to do this, but it’s fair to ask. Observing your groomer can give you insight about your dog’s behavior and comfort.
- What are the services you provide? You want to find a groomer who has experience with all of the grooming tasks your individual dog will need. This way you can go in for “one and done” appointments.
- What products do you use and recommend? If your dog has allergies—or if you simply prefer certain ingredients—it’s a good idea to know ahead of time.
- What kind of training and certifications do you have? There’s nothing wrong with helping an amateur family friend get their grooming business off the ground if you’re comfortable with it, but you want to know what you’re getting into. Professional groomers should have certifications that show experience and continuing education.
- Do you have liability insurance? This gives you peace of mind that if an accident occurs during a grooming appointment, all your dog’s medical expenses will be covered.
- What is your protocol in case of an emergency? We hope nothing ever goes wrong. But if it does, you want to know exactly how your groomer will handle the situation.
How to prepare before a grooming appointment
Most professional groomers are happy to handle your dog’s grooming from start to finish. You don’t need to do too much ahead of time, but it’s a good idea to:
- Note anything unusual you’ve noticed about your dog’s nails, fur, or teeth.
- Check that your puppy is feeling physically healthy. If he’s sore, he might not appreciate being maneuvered into position.
- Make sure your dog is comfortable being away from you. Build his comfort interacting with strangers, or set up a meeting to introduce him to your groomer before his first actual appointment.
How can I get my puppy comfortable being groomed?
Helping your puppy habituate (get used to) being groomed is one of the best things you can do as a dog parent. Introduce grooming tasks slowly. Reward your dog often to build a positive association with the process. Consider cooperative care principles, like start and stop signals, to help your puppy feel more in control and ensure a good experience.
Why it’s important your puppy accepts common grooming procedures
Even if you plan to hire a groomer for most of your dog’s care, you want to get your dog used to regular handling. This creates a better life for both of you in the long run.
- Proper conditioning makes sure grooming isn’t scary for your dog. A professional groomer might be able to work your puppy through the process even if he’s nervous, but it’s best if he’s properly comfortable from the get-go.
- If you’re grooming your dog yourself, his comfort makes the process easier for you too. If your puppy feels okay about the grooming tools and procedures, he won’t squirm or complain. You can complete necessary tasks more quickly.
- Teaching your dog that grooming is a safe, normal process builds trust. The more things your puppy gets used to with your guidance, the more adaptable he’ll be the next time he faces something new.
- Positive grooming experience makes vet appointments simpler too. Many of the skills your puppy needs for grooming (like holding still and accepting touch) come in handy during physical exams.
How to get your puppy used to being bathed, brushed, and more
Start when your puppy is young
The younger you expose your dog to a grooming routine, the better. Puppies are most open to learning about the world in their first few months of life. If you get your puppy used to common tasks from the get-go, grooming should be a seamless process throughout his life.
It’s also simply easier to handle a small dog. Build your puppy’s comfort and cooperation when he’s little — you won’t have to struggle when he reaches his full size.
Take the conditioning process slowly
Another reason it’s a good idea to start conditioning your dog to grooming early on: It gives you more wiggle room to take things slowly.
It’s tempting to rush the process. After all, we know grooming is safe and shouldn’t be a big deal! But we can’t expect our puppies to understand that nail trims and baths are okay without our help. Never force your dog into something he isn’t ready for.
Prioritize positive associations with the grooming process
You want your dog to be both comfortable and calm when being groomed. Comfortable in that you definitely want him to enjoy the process—calm in that it won’t be very productive if he’s bouncing off the walls with energy. Here’s how you can create the right mindset.
Comfort with grooming:
- Generously reward your dog as you teach him to tolerate handling. Your ultimate goal is to build an association that “grooming = good things” like delicious treats and affection.
- Break tasks into small steps and go through each one slowly. For example, start simply feeding him for sniffing the nail clippers in your hand, then praise him for staying calm while he hears their sound, then eventually work to picking up his paw.
- If he seems uncertain at any point? Take a break to decompress. Ask if you pushed him too far too soon, and return to an easier step in the process the next time you start a session.
Calmness while being groomed:
- Remember that your puppy feeds off of your own energy. Move slowly and steadily.
- As you introduce new parts of the grooming process, take a few deep breaths and speak in a gentle voice.
Consider cooperative care principles
Cooperative care is a growing movement in the dog training world. It involves giving your dog as much agency as possible over his grooming care. You can use “start” signals (like a chin rest or lying on a particular mat) to let your dog show you he’s ready for a grooming task. If at any time he becomes uncomfortable, he can give a “stop” signal (like lifting his head or leaving the mat) to say he needs a break.
Why is cooperative care successful?
- Cooperative care deepens your bond. Listening to your puppy’s cues fills his trust battery—which makes any inevitable situations where you do have to just “get it done” easier on everyone. Let’s face it, sometimes our dogs get injured or develop an infection, and we don’t have the time to slowly condition specific care. If your trust battery is full, you don’t have to worry about those moments hurting your relationship in the long run.
- When your dog feels in control of what’s happening, it’s easier for him to work through stress on his own.
- Think about it like yourself at the doctor or dentist. The fact that you can verbally tell your provider “Hey, I need a minute” is a welcome comfort for most patients.
How do I fit grooming into my dog’s schedule?
There’s a lot to do as a dog parent, especially during the puppy phase. If grooming feels like just one more thing you’ll struggle to keep track of, don’t worry. A consistent schedule will set your family up for success!
Good routines stack multiple responsibilities together to make dog parenting feel more manageable. Instead of treating each task like a separate to-do item, combine them into groups.
- Gentle brushing is a great before bed activity. Consider tacking it on after your puppy’s nightly playtime or bathroom break.
- You can do a short cooperative care session at any time of day. Morning and evening mealtimes are great for training.
- Take a look at some complete example puppy schedules in this article.
And if you’re going to be doing multiple grooming tasks at once, you should think about their order:
- Brush your puppy before trimming his hair.
- Cut your dog’s fur while it’s dry. If he needs a bath, give him one after to help remove any stray hairs.
- You can do your puppy’s nails, ears, and teeth at any time. Some dog parents prefer to clean ears before a bath in case the solution gets in their puppy’s fur.
- If your dog tolerates some tasks better than others, consider starting with the hardest so you can end on an easy note.
What kind of grooming does my dog need?
Your dog’s grooming needs will vary depending on his breed, favorite activities, and your individual preferences. Common dog grooming tasks include nail trimming, paw pad care, bathing, ear cleaning, fur brushing, hair cutting, and tooth brushing.
Brushing your puppy’s fur
Most dogs need to be brushed at least on occasion. Routine brushing can help you keep your puppy’s shedding under control and catch potential skin problems right away.
How often do I need to brush my puppy?
Depending on the length and texture of your puppy’s fur, he might need to be brushed anywhere from once a day to once every other week. Gauge your dog’s:
- Coat length and texture: Most short-haired dogs with smooth coats only need occasional brushing. Long-haired breeds require more frequent combing to prevent painful mats, especially those with thick undercoats or a wiry hair texture.
- Shedding level: Your puppy’s shedding is influenced by both his breed and environment. Some dogs grow more hair in cold temperatures, leading to increased shedding when the weather warms back up. Dog parents often find themselves brushing more often in the spring months.
Generally speaking, you can’t “over brush” your dog as long as you use appropriate, gentle tools. A quick comb never hurts.
What’s the best way to brush my puppy?
Brush your dog in the direction his fur grows. Gently comb through his coat’s entire surface area with a few wide strokes, then focus more closely on spots like around the base of his tail where excess hair collects.
How can I get my dog used to being brushed?
Compared to nail trimming or ear cleaning, brushing is a non-invasive process. Most dogs can learn to be comfortable with it quickly. That said, it’s still important to condition your puppy at his own pace!
First get him used to the sight of the brush. Then practice the brush moving on top of his fur (not yet pressed against his skin). Finally move on to actual strokes. Remember that pulling or tugging can be uncomfortable. Practice lots of short, easy sessions when your puppy’s fur doesn’t have any tangles. This way he’ll have a bank of positive experiences to fall back on in case an individual grooming session goes south. Slowly work up to thick areas or mats, and reward your dog regularly for staying still.
Dog brushing tools
- Brushes: Standard dog brushes are great for minor tangles and mats. Slicker brushes remove loose undercoat as well.
- Combs: Combs and rakes have bristles that are closer together to remove more dead hair.
- Brushing gloves: Some companies sell rubber gloves that have ridges to remove your dog’s excess fur as you pet them. This can be a great option for puppies who are uncertain about new tools, especially early in the conditioning process.
- Deshedding brushes: Deshedding tools like Furminators can be controversial. Even professional groomers disagree on their merits. Regular slicker or rake brushing might achieve similar results. The general consensus is that deshedding tools can be fine in moderation. Frequent use can remove too much of your dog’s undercoat, damage their top coat, or cause skin irritation. Every dog parent gets to make their own risk assessment weighing the costs and benefits.
Trimming your puppy’s fur
Non-shedding breeds need regular haircuts to prevent their coats from becoming matted or interfering with regular activities. Most other dogs don’t need to have their fur trimmed, but many do benefit from occasional touch ups to keep things neat.
Does my dog need to have a haircut?
Some dogs go their entire lives without a single haircut. Others get trimmed regularly, even as often as every couple of weeks!
Two main things determine whether or not you need to cut your puppy’s fur:
- Breed or coat type: “Fur” and “hair” are often used interchangeably to describe our dogs’ coats. Many groomers define the terms differently, though. They say double-coated dogs (most shedding breeds) have fur while single-coated breeds (like poodles) have hair. In general, dogs with fur only need occasional spot trims because their coats will naturally stay at a certain length. Dogs with hair, on the other hand, need routine cuts.
- Your lifestyle: Your individual environment and lifestyle will affect your puppy’s grooming needs. For example: While many dog parents trim the fur around their dog’s paw pads (this increases traction on flat surfaces) some choose to leave it for protection against cold weather or rough terrain.
How should I trim my dog’s fur?
While your dog won’t be embarrassed if you don’t get his hair length quite right, you should still be careful while trimming his fur. Slow, steady movements minimize the risk of injury! Start with an overall clipper trim if you need to groom his entire body. Then touch things up with scissors afterward. Pay attention to fast-growing areas like the base of your dog’s tail and underside of his paws. Even breeds who don’t need regular grooming can benefit from occasional trims in these spots.
Most important: Keep tabs on your puppy’s body language as you cut his hair. Take a break if he shows signs of discomfort!
How can I get my dog used to haircuts?
Haircuts can be frightening for dogs. Holding still while an unfamiliar tool comes so close to their skin is no small feat—especially if your clippers vibrate loudly.
Like all grooming tasks, you can help your puppy feel comfortable with fur trims by slowly introducing the process at a young age. Build a positive association with the sight, sound, and feeling of your scissors or clippers by rewarding him often.
Fur trimming tools
- Scissors: Many groomers use both straight and curved scissors to trim their dogs’ fur. They work well for touch ups around the face, paws, and hind end.
- Electric clippers: Clippers come in a variety of blade sizes and designs. They’re best for large surface areas like whole-body shaves.
Bathing your puppy
A bath is probably the first thing to come to mind when you think of dog grooming. Generally speaking, we should only bathe our dogs when necessary, but messy puppies might need to be washed more regularly.
Are baths really necessary for my dog?
Your puppy doesn’t actually need baths to stay healthy. His fur is full of natural oils that should stay balanced on their own. Most dogs with normal skin can go months or even years without a full wash unless they’ve developed a strong odor.
How often should I bathe my dog?
Depending on how much your puppy likes to wade in mud (or roll around in who knows what) you might want to give him a bath anyway. There’s no set frequency to follow. Just be aware that too much washing can dry out his skin and fur.
The exception is dogs with skin conditions or environmental allergies. They might require regular soaks as prescribed by a veterinarian.
How can I get my dog comfortable with baths?
First, get your puppy comfortable being in the bathroom itself. Some dogs feel nervous about the small space and bright light. Then build a positive association with the tub by rewarding your dog for going near or inside it. Next work on the feeling of being wet and gently massaged. Keep sessions short and sweet!
It’s also a great idea to experiment with slightly different processes to see what your dog likes best:
- Does your dog feel comfortable standing in water? Or is he happier with the drain unplugged?
- Does your dog like being rinsed with a handheld hose attachment? Or does he prefer a gentle stream from a cup or bowl?
- Does he like to lick peanut butter or another treat while you bathe him? Or does he do better with short breaks to take food throughout?
How should I dry my dog after a bath?
Depending on your dog’s coat type and your location (read: whether or not you’re okay with him getting your carpet or furniture a little wet) you have multiple options to dry him after a bath. Here are a few common approaches:
- Use a blow dryer—either designed for dogs or your own on a cool setting—to dry your puppy’s fur right away.
- Use a soft towel to absorb initial drips.
- Let your dog air dry either by roaming freely around your house or “placing” (staying in one spot) on top of a towel or raised cot.
Things to watch for when bathing your dog
Pay close attention to any skin dryness, redness, or irritation when bathing your dog. That’s a sign you might be washing too frequently. Baths are also a great opportunity to look for ticks, fleas, or anything else that seems unusual.
Dog bathing tools
- Shampoo: Depending on your preferences, you might use a liquid or bar shampoo. Look for gentle ingredients that won’t dry out your dog’s skin.
- Handheld hose attachment: This isn’t necessary, but it can make bath time a lot faster.
- Fragrances or deodorizers: Some puppy parents opt to use an additional fragrance or dog deodorizer after a bath.
- Blow dryers: There’s nothing wrong with letting your dog air dry, but blow dryers can get the job done quickly.
Trimming and filing your puppy’s nails
All dogs require at least some nail maintenance—regardless of breed or age—though your puppy’s activity levels will affect your personal routine.
How often do I need to trim my dog’s nails?
Most dogs need their nails trimmed every two to eight weeks. It’s best to trim your puppy’s claws long before they start to touch the ground when he stands. This will make sure the quicks (the soft cuticles that contains each nail’s blood vessel and nerves) stay at a manageable length.
Alternatives to nail cutting include scratch boards and frequently walking on rough surfaces. Some particularly active running and hiking dogs can go a few months between trims.
How short should I cut my dog’s nails?
Your puppy’s nails should be short enough that they don’t touch the ground when he stands still. If they grow too long, they can affect his posture. This eventually leads to gait, joint, and muscle problems.
Some dog parents keep their dog’s nails slightly longer if they regularly engage in activities like trail running. As long as his claws aren’t hurting his ability to stand straight up, your puppy’s exact nail length is up to you.
What’s the best way to trim my dog’s nails?
You can cut your dog’s nails with a pair of clippers or a dremel tool. Some dogs are startled by the sharp noise of clippers, while other struggle with the vibration of a file. Experiment to find what works best for you! Many dog parents trim with clippers first and then use a dremel to round out the edges.
The trick to successfully cutting your dog’s nails is to remove as much as possible without reaching his quick. The quick is usually easy to see on clear claws as a pink cylinder, but it can be challenging to find on dogs with black nails. Here’s what you can do:
- Make small cuts with your nail clippers or file. Don’t take off more than a sliver at a time.
- Check the nail surface after each trim. If it’s white or gray all the way across, keep cutting.
- As soon as you start to see a black circle in the center of your dog’s nail, stop trimming. This is the pulp surrounding the quick.
If your dog’s quicks are long and you’re trying to get them to recede, it’s best to have short sessions a few times a week. This way you can make progress while minimizing the risk of injury.
What if you do cut your dog’s quick? It happens to the best of us. Stay calm and feed your dog some high value treats to maintain a positive association. You can use styptic powder to quickly stop any bleeding. And remember that nail injuries usually look worse than they actually feel. Take a few steps back in your conditioning process to rebuild both of your confidence before your dog’s next nail trim.
How do I get my puppy comfortable with nail trims?
Follow the conditioning principles mentioned in the above section when getting your dog used to having his nails trimmed. Remember that socialization involves exposure to all parts of a certain situation! For nail trims specifically, you want to get your puppy used to:
- The sight of the nail clippers or dremel
- The sound of the clippers or dremel
- Being gently touched by the tool (without actually clipping or turning the dremel on)
- Having his paws held and nails spread apart
Eventually you can work up to the full picture of a nail trim from start to finish.
Nail trimming tools
- Nail clippers: Dog clippers come in classic scissor and guillotine varieties.
- Nail file or pet dremel: These are sometimes called nail grinders.
- Styptic powder: While we hope to never accidentally cut our dogs’ quicks, it happens to the best of us. Styptic powder quickly stops any bleeding.
Caring for your puppy’s paw pads
Paw pad care is often an afterthought for dog parents, but our dogs’ feet can take a beating. Walking on hot concrete, rough trails, and even itchy grass causes discomfort. Regular cleaning and moisturizing keeps problems at bay.
How often should I moisturize my dog’s paw pads?
A few things affect your dog’s paw pads:
- Favorite activities: The more active your dog is, the more often you should check on his paws. Common risk factors for paw pad problems are hiking and walking on gravel or rough asphalt.
- Climate: Winter’s cold, dry temperatures—and the road salt that comes with them—can wreak havoc on your puppy’s feet. Dogs in humid, warm climates won’t need as much paw care.
It’s a good idea to gently wipe your dog’s paws about once a week. This way you can catch any potential issues (like cracks, slivers, or embedded burs) right away. Apply a paw balm if you notice excess dryness.
Paw pad care tools
- Paw balm or protectant: You can also use natural moisturizers like coconut oil to soothe cracked paws.
Cleaning your puppy’s ears
Some dogs almost never get their ears cleaned while others suffer from chronic infections. Even if your puppy is a pointy-eared breed without other risk factors, it’s a good idea to get him comfortable with the process.
How often should I clean my dog’s ears?
While pointy-eared breeds need their ears cleaned less often than floppy-eared ones do, most dogs benefit from regular cleanings every one to two months. Routine ear care can prevent many infections in the first place and help you notice signs of irritation before they become worse.
How can I tell if my dog has an ear infection?
Regular care can prevent most ear infections, but sometimes they happen despite our best efforts. Your dog might be especially prone if he loves to swim or lives in a humid climate. Symptoms of ear infections include:
- Shying away from ear rubs
- Excess head shaking, scratching, or rubbing
- Strong odor
- Brown or dark yellow discharge
- Redness or swelling inside or around the ear
If your dog seems bothered for more than a day or two, or if you see any blood coming from his ear, call your vet right away.
What’s the best way to clean my dog’s ears?
There are two main ways to clean your dog’s ears. The most common technique is to wet a cotton ball, gauze pad, or soft towel with some ear cleaning solution. Gently place it all the way inside your dog’s ear—move slowly so you don’t cause discomfort, but make sure you get deep enough to reach any build up. Wipe from inside out, repeating as necessary until your wipe comes back clean.
You can also pour cleaner directly into your dog’s ear. Tilt his head so his ear canal sits upright, squeeze out a quick stream of solution, and slowly massage his ear base for a few seconds. Allow him to shake his head to dislodge any build up. Then use a cotton ball or soft towel to clean up excess solution.
Specific ear cleaners might come with their own instructions you should follow.
Ear cleaning tools
- Gentle ear cleaner: Look for ear cleaning products that are designed with soothing ingredients to minimize any stinging sensation.
- Cotton balls or towel: Soft, porous textures will wipe away wax, dirt, and other buildup in your dog’s ears.
Brushing your puppy’s teeth
More than 80 percent of adult dogs have some form of dental disease. Brushing your puppy’s teeth can prevent him from becoming part of that number! Paired with safe chewing opportunities and a balanced diet, at-home dental care can keep your puppy’s teeth healthy throughout his entire life.
Do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?
Not every dog parent needs to brush their dog’s teeth. If your puppy is still an adolescent — or regularly enjoys species-appropriate chews like bully sticks or frozen meal enrichment — his pearly whites might stay polished on their own.
That said: It’s a good idea to practice at least occasional brushing to get both you and your puppy used to the process. Most dogs need routine teeth cleanings by the time they’re seniors. Brushing can minimize the number of dental procedures your dog needs anesthesia for as he ages.
If physically brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t an option right now, you might consider dental powders that you sprinkle on top of his daily meals.
How should I brush my dog’s teeth?
Brush your dog’s teeth in short, frequent sessions to maintain a positive association. Regular breaks will make sure neither of you get overwhelmed!
As you clean your dog’s teeth, consider the dental habits you’ve learned for yourself since childhood. Try to brush all tooth surfaces, and pay special attention to hard-to-reach back molars where food buildup is most common.
How can I get my dog used to teeth brushing?
Brushing your dog’s teeth involves holding his head still, keeping his mouth open, and touching sensitive facial tissue. Work up to the full picture in small increments: Start by rewarding him for letting you handle his snout, then for pulling back his lips, then for gently rubbing his teeth, and so on.
Using a toothpaste or powder that your puppy enjoys can also make a huge difference. The right flavor turns the process into a treat rather than a chore!
Teeth cleaning tools
- Toothbrush: Different types of dog toothbrushes are available online or at most pet stores. Some dog parents simply use disposable human toothbrushes.
- Toothpaste or tooth powder: Experiment with different flavors and textures to find what your dog likes best.
- Scalers and scrapers: These tools can remove plaque buildup more effectively than soft toothbrushes. Sharp points can injure your dog’s gums if he moves around while you scrape, use scalers with caution. Practice small steps first.
When in doubt, consult with a professional
Every dog has different needs. If you have questions about grooming your puppy, your veterinarian or professional groomer should be able to help! Over time you’ll develop a routine that works for your family.