An alternative to a potentially stressful outing to the groomer is to groom your dog at home…by yourself!!
Wait…come back! It make a lot of sense if you’d just keep reading.
Sadly grooming seems to be an often overlooked part of keeping senior dogs healthy, but I have no idea why, especially because it’s such an important aspect of health and wellness. Is it possible our attitudes towards the “old” has something to do with it not being worthwhile? Anyway…
The importance of grooming
Aside from the obvious necessity of keeping your dog clean, it’s a great bonding experience and it gives you the chance to have a thorough check for any lumps and bumps you may not have discovered otherwise.
When is home grooming a good idea
It’s not uncommon for dogs who are losing their hearing, sight or perhaps even experiencing dementia, to become anxious, stressed and easily spooked. Trips to the groomer that used to be met with excitement, okay maybe just tolerance, may now be events to be feared. In order to prevent unnecessary stress, doing all or at least some of the grooming yourself in a familiar and safe environment will be a big help.
Okay, let’s get started!
Dog grooming supplies
There’s no “one brush fits all” so it will likely be a case of trial and error to find “the one.” Take my dog Red for instance – her favourite brush has short rubber bristles, and when she feels that on her she’s ecstatic and can sit there for an hour. Keep in mind lumps, bumps and thinner skin when making your selection.
I had a look on Amazon to check out the selection of dog clippers. Wow…I stopped counting at 30!! How do you decide? To be honest when I bought clippers to use on my deaf and blind sweetheart Josephine, I based my decision on price. I didn’t want to waste a lot of money for something I might have only been able to use once.
If price isn’t your main or sole criteria, other things to think about would be finding clippers that:
- don’t make a lot of noise
- are comfortable and not too awkward to hold
- have a decent battery life if you want battery operated
There are a few different types of nail clippers, so if one doesn’t seem to be the right option for your dog, you have others to choose from. Nails are the one thing I would never do on my own, I leave that to the vet staff or groomer but I know people who are okay doing it themselves so it’s down to preference and comfort level.
Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly helps keep them disease and infection free, and the best way to do that is by using a mild ear cleaner specifically made for dogs. Please be gentle!! Be sure to cut away any matted or dirty fur around the ears before getting started.
Gauze pads are another item to have in your grooming supplies basket because they’re great for bleeding injuries (not that your grooming will cause blood to be shed!), and for use with a liquid ear cleaner.
Towels are super important for drying your dog off after his bath. I use 2 bath sized on my little 10lb Maltese Jack, so if you have a bigger dog have a few on hand. If you have to leave your wet dog to get another towel, you know he’s going to jump on the couch and use it to dry himself off, right!!
You can use your own hair dryer but put it on a lower setting and keep the nozzle a few inches away from your dog’s fur. If he’s never been near one before, get him used to it before turning it on and blasting him with it!!
Over the course of a few days or so first show him the dryer when it’s off, and if he’s fine give him a treat. Then have someone turn it on away from him, on low, and if he’s fine give him a treat. Then have the person move closer with it, each time he’s fine give him a treat. You want to gradually get to the point where he’s not even bothered when he feels the warm air on him. This will help make the grooming experience pleasant.
Dog dental care products
I’ve never known any of my groomers to brush my dogs teeth, but whether any do is not something I can comment on. I am mentioning it here simply because oral hygiene should be part of your dog’s grooming routine. There are several types of toothbrushes to choose from, even ones that fit over your finger so hopefully you’ll find something he finds agreeable. Toothpaste needs to be specifically made for dogs, and it comes not only in the paste formulation, but also in gels, sprays, wipes and powders.
As with every other grooming product I’ve mentioned, there are tons of shampoos to choose from. I prefer one as natural as possible for sensitive skin or an oatmeal based formulation.
You can bathe your dog in the sink, bathtub (in the tub itself or a baby bathtub), shower (like Jack above), new recycle bin (like my husband is doing with Red and Josephine above) or outside in the garden if it’s a nice warm day. Be sure to put the hose and nozzle on a gentle setting. Use a very mild dog shampoo, or whatever your vet recommends if he has a skin condition. I prefer natural products, no chemicals needed please!! If they don’t test on animals, even better.
Dry your dog as much as possible with towels. My dogs love a good massage so while I’m drying them, they get the massage at the same time. Do it slowly and gently, and appreciate the bonding time.
If you still need to use a blow dryer, put it on a low setting and brush him at the same time. You want him as dry as possible, so he doesn’t catch a chill.
On a regular basis
Clean the gunk out of his eyes with a bit of warm water on a gauze pad.
Check ears for any smell or discharge, which could signal infection. Any concerns, call the vet.
Check teeth for plaque, you want to see pink gums, and notice if there’s any bad breath. Mouth problems could be either dental disease, or a more serious condition. A trip to the vet is in order – sooner rather than later.
Ideally you want to brush your dog’s teeth daily, but if that’s not possible, “often” will have to suffice.
If your dog has had diarrhea check the fur around his butt. If you need to do a quick trim, use small scissors, and baby wipes or doggie wipes will clean things up nicely.
If your dog can’t stand being fussed with for long, keep grooming sessions short. You may give him a bath one day, brush him the next.
If your dog is older and less tolerant of the cold, you may not want to clip her too short, and put a sweater or coat on her for extra protection.
You know your dog well, so during one of your grooming sessions you may discover a lump or bump that hadn’t been there before. Please see your vet as soon as possible if that happens.
If your dog will be standing while being groomed, make sure it’s on a non-slip surface. If he’s more comfortable lying down, then lying down it is.
If you’re not feeling too confident about clipping your dog’s nails or fur, you can either take lessons on how to do it properly, watch one of the many videos available on YouTube (I’ve included one below!) or make an appointment to have a mobile groomer come to your home.
A How-To video
Visuals make things easier so I’ve included a video I quite like to show you the process, especially the clipping part, from start to finish.
Why and how to groom your dog at home – conclusion
Grooming is such an important aspect of your dog’s overall care, and should not depend on his age for it to happen. Whether you decide to do the whole grooming process at home, or just give him a bath and let a groomer do the rest is entirely up to you and your comfort level. The important thing is that it gets done and your dog will feel so much better.
Is your dog still okay about going to the groomer, or have you started grooming him yourself? Is he enjoying it better now that it’s you? Any tips you’d recommend first timers just trying it out? Leave your comments and tips in the comment box below.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations, fostering and my spay/neuter project called FIxing Spain.