Grooming your puppy

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Grooming your puppy brings you closer

All puppies should be groomed daily, and not merely to improve skin and coat condition. Grooming helps your puppy to get used to being handled, and it allows you to get to know your puppy's body. This is particularly important for detecting any health problems in the early months of your puppy's life. Daily grooming will let you quickly spot skin problems, such as rashes or eczema, and signs of parasites like mites, ticks and fleas. And last but not least, it’s also a great way to enhance the bond between the two of you.

Get going with grooming

Grooming your puppy should be carried out every day, whatever the length of coat, but more attention and time will be needed for longer-haired breeds. Most dogs enjoy being groomed and stroked, especially if started early.

Rewards. With your puppy's own special brush, start grooming for short sessions – just sufficient to touch them once over the whole body – and then gradually lengthen the sessions. When your dog accepts what you're doing and has stood still for a while, stop and give a reward, such as a walk, a game, or a healthy snack. This will help your puppy to realise that standing still brings rewards, which makes grooming easier and more enjoyable for both of you.

Tabletop grooming. If you occasionally groom your puppy on a table, they'll get used to that position, which could be useful when you visit the vet or a groomer. Never leave a dog of any age unattended on a table, though, as they could get badly injured if they fell. If your dog seems scared of being on a table, groom them on the floor.

Sensitive areas. Your puppy's head area is very sensitive, so be extra gentle when you're brushing there. And if you notice any discharge from their ears or eyes, consult your vet.

Wriggling. If your puppy starts to wriggle, hold them firmly with both hands until they stop. Talk to your puppy, offer lots of reassurance, and praise them when they keep still.

Keeping your puppy trim

Hair. You might want to trim your puppy's coat now and again, particularly the hair around the eyes, ears, and feet. Be particularly careful in these areas, as wriggly puppies and scissors aren’t always the best mix! If your breed needs a special haircut or trim to keep them looking their best, or if you just want to be on the safe side, get advice from a professional dog groomer. 

Nails. Your puppy’s nails will naturally wear down as they start going for walks, digging around in the garden, and exploring. Lots of people think they need clipping, but they shouldn’t do. Many dogs end up having very painful experiences if their nails are cut too short or clipped unnecessarily, and it can cause negative associations with having their feet touched. If you’re ever concerned that your puppy’s nails are too long, ask your vet or nurse to check them for you.

Do puppies need a bath?

Excessive bathing can strip the natural oils and defences from dogs’ coats. Most short- and medium-haired breeds should only need bathing if they get dirty from a really muddy walk, or from rolling in something unsavoury. If you keep longer-haired breeds tangle-free with daily grooming, the same should apply. 

Safe bathing: Slipping and sliding might knock your puppy’s confidence around bath time, and may also put them at risk of an injury. If you do decide your puppy needs a bath, put a non-slip rubber mat in the bathtub to keep them safe and secure. And remember – always use a shampoo specially designed for puppies.


Should you consider a groomer?

You can typically groom most dogs yourself most of the time. It's an enjoyable experience that brings you and your pet closer together and you'll be happy to make time for it.

However, if your puppy is going to grow into an adult with a long coat, they’re going to need a little more maintenance. In this case, haircuts and trims might be best carried out by a professional groomer. Obviously, you'll want a groomer who's going to make the grooming enjoyable for your puppy. You'll also want to enquire about their experience and training, and perhaps see other dogs that have been groomed by them.

If you're interested in a professional groomer for your puppy, your vet will be able to advise you and make some recommendations.

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS