Grooming My Puppy

March 16, 2023
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Regular grooming is essential for maintaining your puppy's health and well-being. It's best to start a grooming routine when you bring your puppy home, making it a positive and enjoyable experience for them. Your puppy's grooming needs will vary depending on their breed and coat type. For instance, some dogs have short, tight coats while others have long coats that need frequent grooming to prevent mats. Some breeds touted as "non-shedding" also require regular grooming to prevent matting. You can opt to keep your long-coated dog in a full or show coat or a more wash-and-wear version. 

You can decide whether to groom your puppy yourself or pay a groomer. Many people use a groomer for puppies that require clippers to trim and thin their coats. Short grooming sessions that include treats can make your puppy look forward to the experience. Start with brief sessions and gradually increase the duration, finding a quiet place to work and plenty of treats.

Grooming Tools

To keep your puppy looking spiffy, you will need various grooming tools depending on your pup's breed and coat type. Some of the essential grooming tools are:

  • Pin brush: A soft cushioned brush with straight pins (without bulbs at the end) for long or double-coated puppies
  • Metal comb: A comb with multiple-size teeth
  • Soft-bristle brush and hound glove: For short-coated puppies
  • Soft cloth: For wiping around eyes and ears
  • Slicker brush: For some areas on your pup and thick but short coats
  • Small curved scissors with blunted points: For trimming around the ears, face, and feet
  • Regular pair of hair scissors: For feathering and body trimming
  • Thinning shears: For thick coats and long feathers
  • Soft chamois towel: For drying the puppy quickly
  • Dog blow dryer: To dry the puppy using tepid air instead of hot air
  • Mitts: Made for wiping the puppy's feet on muddy outings
  • Nail-trimming tools: Guillotine nail cutter, scissor-type nail cutter, and rotary grinding tool
  • Doggie toothbrush or soft children's brush: For daily tooth care, along with flavored toothpaste made especially for dogs (never use human toothpaste)
  • Rubber finger brushes: For those who are more comfortable with these brushes for daily tooth care.

Consulting a good breeder or groomer can also provide valuable advice and tips on grooming tools and techniques.

How to Trim Your Puppy's Nails Safely and Easily

Trimming your puppy's nails can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. With a few simple steps, you can make it a positive experience for your furry friend. Here are some tips to help you trim your puppy's nails safely and easily.

Preparing Your Puppy's Nails

Before you start trimming your puppy's nails, it's ideal to have already trimmed them. However, if they haven't been trimmed, you have 10 to 14 days to prepare. Start by holding your puppy's paws every day, and then do a quick hold and release, followed by a treat. You can do this with your puppy in your lap or on the floor or a grooming table.

Getting Your Puppy Comfortable

Once your puppy is comfortable with paw handling, hold each paw a bit longer and eventually squeeze the paw gently. Touch each toe to make sure your puppy is relaxed about having their feet handled. You can also rub a nail trimmer along the pad and toes, and give treats if your pup stays calm. If you're using a rotary tool, run it near your puppy's paws but not touching them. You want your puppy to get used to the noise.

Trimming Your Puppy's Nails

When trimming your puppy's nails, be cautious not to cut too far back. Puppies have thin nails with an obvious curve and a "hook" at the end. The thicker part of the nail has nerves and blood vessels, so you want to remove only the hook. If your puppy fusses when you start trimming, just do one or two nails and stop. You can do more later!

Dealing with Accidents

If you accidentally cut your puppy's nail too short and it starts to bleed, don't panic. You can use a silver nitrate pencil, quick-stop gel, styptic powder, or a bar of plain soap to stop the bleeding. These products can be purchased at your local pet supply store. Alternatively, you can use a rotary tool to cauterize the nail with heat. However, be careful not to cut too short, as there is still a risk of bleeding. If you notice bleeding after trimming, confine your pup and apply treatment.

Special Considerations

When using a rotary tool, trim any fluffy hair on your pup's feet before using the tool to prevent it from getting caught. Additionally, these tools can become hot and cause discomfort, so make sure to check how warm it feels before use. Be cautious not to trim too far back, as the sensitive "quick" can become exposed.

Some dogs have dewclaws and extra toes that must be trimmed regularly. If left untrimmed, they can curl around and grow back into the pad or become loose and get caught, causing injury. While there is discussion about whether or not to leave dewclaws on, they must be trimmed regularly. Some researchers believe that dogs use their dewclaws when running or holding objects, but others feel the risk of injury is high enough to justify removal.

Tips for Brushing Your Puppy's Coat

Brushing is an essential part of maintaining your puppy's coat. Regular brushing can prevent matting and remove loose fur, making your puppy look and feel his best. Here are some tips for brushing your puppy's coat based on coat type.

Short-Coated Puppies

For short-coated puppies, a hound glove can do the trick. Rub your puppy's coat with the glove to loosen up any dead hair, and follow up with a soft-bristle brush in the direction of the hair coat. Moisten the coat lightly with a spray of plain water or dog hair conditioner first. Breeds like Greyhounds and Weimaraners only need weekly grooming.

Medium-Coated Puppies

Dogs with a medium coat, like Labrador Retrievers, Corgis, and German Shepherd Dogs, shed but do not tend to mat. Use a hound glove to loosen up dead hair and follow with a short pin brush, slicker brush used gently, or a comb to remove hair. Brush in the direction of the hair coat, but back-brush small areas during heavy shedding times.

Double-Coated and Long-Coated Dogs

For dogs with a double or long coat, brushing can be more complicated. Use line brushing to ensure that all hair is groomed, without leaving clumps or mats in any areas. Do one area per session if your puppy gets impatient. Use a slicker brush or comb for feathers and on the tail if your puppy has a fluffy tail, and use a comb to detangle hair in sensitive areas like the armpit and behind the ears.

Removing Stuck-on Items

If your puppy gets something stuck in his coat, try using oily lotions, peanut butter, or cooking oil to loosen it. If these methods don't work, cut the item out with scissors, being careful not to nick your puppy's skin.

Remember to keep grooming sessions short and positive by using treats and planning them after a walk or game to tire your puppy out. With these tips, your puppy's coat will be healthy and shiny.

Tips for Giving Your Puppy a Bath

Bathing a puppy can be a wild experience, especially the first few times. Here are some tips to help you prepare and make it a positive experience for both you and your furry friend.

Organizing Your Supplies

Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary supplies organized and within reach. This includes shampoo and conditioner, a large towel, a waterproof slip lead, treats, cotton balls, and ophthalmic ointment.

Choosing the Right Shampoo and Conditioner

There are many different types of shampoos and conditioners on the market. If your puppy came from a reputable breeder, they may have recommendations based on your pup's breed and coat texture. Use medicated shampoos only if your pup has a skin problem. Always check if conditioner or shampoo needs to be diluted before use.

Setting Up the Tub or Sink

Place a nonslip mat on the bottom of the tub or sink to prevent your pup from slipping. Use a handheld sprayer if possible to direct water where you need it. Set the water at a tepid temperature before adding your puppy to prevent scalding or chilling.

Giving Your Puppy a Bath

Wet your puppy thoroughly and lather them up with shampoo. Rinse thoroughly to avoid drying out the skin, causing dandruff, and itching. Offer treats periodically to make it a positive experience. Once your puppy is rinsed, let them shake off the water before scooping them up into a towel.

Drying Your Puppy

Use a towel to dry your puppy's coat thoroughly. For fluffy puppies, you may need to use a blow dryer made specifically for dogs. Never use a human hair dryer, which can get too hot and damage their delicate skin and hair. Start on the lowest setting and never blow directly into their face or ears. Most puppies will accept the dryer if you start blowing on their back or lower legs.

How to Take Care of Your Puppy's Ears

Different Ear Types, Different Needs

Just like people, puppies have different ear types that require different types of care. Puppies with ears that prick or stand up typically don't have any issues, but those with long, heavy, or hairy ears that hang can be prone to problems. It's important to make it a habit to examine your puppy's ears at least once a week.

Performing an Ear Check

When you look inside your puppy's ear, it should be a light pink color. If your puppy has hanging ears, you'll need to lift the flap to inspect it closely. A small amount of brown wax may be visible, but the ear should generally be clean and pink.

Routine Ear Care

Regular ear care is simple and easy. If your puppy's ear is clean and pink, there's no need to do anything. If there's a slight amount of brown discharge, wipe the ear gently with a cotton ball dampened with ear-cleaning solution. Avoid using vinegar or alcohol, as they can sting. If your puppy swims a lot and tends to get "swimmer's ear," you can use diluted vinegar, but only under the guidance of your veterinarian.

During your weekly ear check, be sure to feel for mats behind your pup's ears if they have little ear fringes. This is a common place for mats to develop, but you can trim them carefully with a comb between the mat and your puppy's skin to avoid cutting them.

Signs of Ear Problems

Scratching at the ears, rubbing the face and ears along the floor, whimpering, or showing discomfort when you touch the ears or rub the head near the ears can all be signs of potential ear problems. If you see red, moist inflammation in the ear, it could indicate a yeast infection related to water getting into the ear canal or a food allergy. Dark brown discharge that looks like coffee grounds could be caused by ear mites. A bad smell, especially if accompanied by pus-like discharge, is a sign of an ear infection. If you notice any of these signs, it's important to schedule a veterinary appointment right away. Avoid using cotton swabs in your puppy's ears, as the ear canal turns at the bottom, and you could damage tender tissues.

Tips for Keeping Your Puppy's Eyes Healthy and Clean

Your puppy's eyes are likely one of the reasons you fell in love with them, but it's important to take care of their delicate eye tissues to ensure they stay clean and healthy. Here are some tips for eye care and identifying potential issues:

Routine Care

Puppies have a habit of sticking their faces where they don't belong, so it's important to wipe their eyes gently every day to remove any dust, dirt, or lint that may have accumulated. Use an approved eye wipe or a damp, warm washcloth. If there's any dried discharge by the eye, compress the area with a damp, warm washcloth for a few minutes to soften the crusts before wiping them away.

Tear Stains

Certain puppies, particularly those with white, fluffy faces, may develop reddish-brown stains near their eyes. This is caused by the porphyrin pigment in tears that have overflowed the tear canal in the eye. While some puppies may have small tear ducts that can't remove a large amount of tears, others may have chronic eye irritation due to factors like ingrown eyelashes, living in a dusty area, or teething. If your pup has constant tear stains, it's best to have your veterinarian check for any underlying medical cause, such as an eyelash problem or a blocked tear duct. Use a diluted boric acid solution or artificial tears to clean the eyes twice daily if needed, but avoid using antibiotic ointment as it can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Eye Discharges to Worry About

If your puppy has a thick, goopy yellow or green discharge, it could indicate an infection in or around the eye, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Eye infections may also cause pink swelling of the conjunctiva or squinting. A bright yellow discharge in the spring or fall with no other signs may just be a pollen buildup, which should respond to flushing the eyes twice daily with artificial tears.

Eye Injuries

Some puppies, particularly those with large, round eyes like Pugs, are prone to eye injuries. They may also pick up seeds and dirt in their eyes when running through tall grass and weeds or rolling on the ground. Additionally, puppies may be exposed to dust and dirt when crawling under furniture or due to forced-air heating blowing dust around at their eye level. Check your puppy's eyes for any changes twice daily to identify any potential issues before they worsen.

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