Everyone knows you’re supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, clean your car when it’s uncomfortably dirty, and maybe launder your selvedge denim jeans once every two years if you dare. But how often do you need to clean your dog? And what does cleaning your dog even entail?

Let’s start with some basics...

Brushing

How often you need to brush your dog depends on what type of coat he has and his shedding patterns. Keep in mind that there is how often you need to brush and how often you should brush.

You need to brush enough to avoid any health issues. For example, if you allow a dog’s hair to get tangled and matted it can be painful to your pup. How often you should brush is more a question of your concern for aesthetics and, maybe more importantly, cleanliness. In other words, do you care if you’re one of those friends who people hate visiting because they always leaving covered in dog hair?

Google Your Dog’s Breed

The first thing you should do is google your dog’s breed (or the breed whose coat your mixed dog most resembles) and find out how often it’s recommended you brush.

For example, the Vizsla with it’s short hair and lack of undercoat only requires weekly brushing while a Poodle with it’s coat that easily matts requires daily brushing, or more than likely, the attention of a professional groomer.

Don’t assume that the length of your dog’s coat will automatically determine how often you need to brush. A long-haired dog like the Great Pyrenees only requires weekly brushing because of it’s mat-resistant and tangle-resistant coat.

The American Kennel Club website is a great resource for finding out how often your dog’s breed requires brushing.

Pay Attention to Shedding Patterns

Again, find out when your dog sheds, if ever. He could shed year round or he may only shed during different seasons. You’ll want to brush more frequently during shedding seasons.

Tools of the Trade

Although there are many different shapes and sizes, there are basically three different brush types:

  • Bristle brushes: Bristle brushes can be used on all coat types, and vary according to the spacing between bristles and the length of the bristles. In general, the longer the hair coat, the more widely spaced and longer the bristles should be. Also, the coarser the hair, the stiffer those bristles need to be.
  • Wire-pin brushes: Wire-pin brushes, with or without rubber-tipped ends, are the preferred choice for pets with medium to long hair and those with curly or woolly coats.
  • Slicker brushes: Slicker brushes have fine wire bristles and are especially useful for removing mats and tangles.

Types of Hair

The right brush and brushing technique will depend on your dog's hair type.

Short, smooth coats (most Retrievers, Hounds, Chihuahuas, etc.) Brush with the coat's grain using a soft to medium bristle brush with short, closely spaced bristles.

Short, wiry coats (Terriers, etc.) Brush with the coat's grain using a slicker brush or a firm bristle brush with short, closely spaced bristles.

Medium to long, flowing coats (Golden Retrievers, Spaniels, Setters, Lhasa Apsos, etc.) Brush with the coat's grain using a wire-pin brush or a soft to medium bristle brush with long, medium- to wide-spaced bristles. Use a slicker brush for mats and tangles.

Harsh, outer coats with soft, woolly undercoats (Sheepdogs, Collies, Shepherds, Chows, Pomeranians, etc.) Brush with the grain on the outer coat and against the grain on the undercoat using a wire-pin brush or a firm bristle brush with long, wide-spaced bristles. Use a slicker brush for tangles and mats.

Thin, delicate coats (Yorkies, Maltese, etc.) Brush with and against the coat's grain using a wire-pin brush and a soft slicker brush for tangles and mats.

Bathing

You don’t have to give your dog baths. True story. But if your dog is especially dirty (e.g. covered in mud) or is emitting an undesirable scent (i.e. he stinks) you may wish to give him a bath. So the flipside is, you can give your pup a bath as often as weekly, if you take care to use products that won’t dry out his skin.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Shampoo - Don’t use a shampoo for humans. There are shampoos specially formulated for dogs and even for your dog’s specific coat.
  • Towels - To dry off your pup, but also to dry yourself off after he shakes water all over you (just kidding...but maybe seriously)
  • Cotton Balls - Helpful for keeping water out of your dog’s ears

The basics of bathing:

  1. Brush your dog first to try and remove debris and tangles that will only get worse with bathing
  2. Gather all of your supplies including toys and treats if he hasn’t learned to love bathing yet
  3. Put your dog in the tub
  4. Rinse him off with warm water
  5. Lather with your dog shampoo
  6. Rinse him thoroughly being sure to remove all of the soap
  7. Squeeze out as much of the water from his coat as you can then use the towel
  8. Brush him to continue removing water
  9. Keep him in a warm place until he’s completely dry

Teeth

Bad oral hygiene leads to bad breath and worse. There are a couple options when it comes to caring for your dog’s teeth:

Teeth Brushing

Don’t use human toothpaste as it could be toxic to your pup. There are toothpastes as well as brushes specifically formulated for dogs. How often should you brush? That’s up to you. You don’t have to brush your dog’s teeth daily but getting your dog comfortable with the idea of brushing will serve you well in the future.

Dog Tooth Wipes

Using dog tooth wipes is similar to brushing, minus the toothpaste and the brush. You simply rub the wipes against your dog’s teeth.

Dental Treats and Chews

You can give your dogs treats specifically designed to remove plaque build up. Almost any kind of chew also has a positive effect on your dog’s oral hygiene as the gnawing helps scrape off plaque.

Clipping Nails

In general, your dog’s nails should be short enough that they don’t touch the ground when he walks. How this translates into the frequency with which your dog’s nails needs to be trimmed depends on your breed of dog and what type of surfaces they spend their time on. Harder, rougher surfaces will perform some of the job of trimming for you while softer surfaces, like your couch, won’t. Most dogs need their nails trimmed every 3-8 weeks.

Many dog owners trim their dog’s nails themselves. Provided your dog is conditioned to be okay with trimming and you take care to learn not to cut them too short, there’s no reason you need to visit a professional groomer for a simple nail trimming.

Cleaning Ears

You should expect to clean your dog’s ears about once a month, but it’s a good idea to regularly check for dirt, scratches, parasites, or other discharge. Cleaning your dog’s ears is simple. Moisten a cotton ball with mineral oil and gently wipe out the ears, going no deeper than the first knuckle on your finger.

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