Expert Advice on How to Groom Your Dog

Updated on March 9, 2018
Susan May Gudge profile image

Susan was educated at the Montreal School of Dog Grooming and became a certified esthetician for dogs and cats in 1988.

What Style of Table Should I Use?

An important thing to remember is the dog's safety. A slip-proof surface is necessary in order to allow the dog to feel confident and not at risk when it is on a table. I use a heavy, grooved rubber mat for safety as well as easy cleaning.

Never leave the dog alone on the table for even a few seconds. A slip leash attached to a special holding bar or to the wall behind the table is not there to allow you to leave the dog unsupervised and step out of the room. Strangulation can happen if precautions are not taken. The leashing is there to keep the animal secure when used correctly so that he/she stays on the table and does not hop off during some precision work. Used properly, it gives the dog a feeling of security when it is already used to the idea of collars and leashes, and keeps it still for the groomer's art.

A waist-high table is convenient for groomers, and saves the artist from having to bend over while working and prevents back injuries. It also puts the animal at eye level, making it easier for the groomer to talk to it and encourage it (often).

When introducing the dog to a table, take your time and be patient. Some dogs will fear being on the table as it may remind them of veterinarians and needles. Sometimes, I find that it is best to put the dog on the table, talk encouragingly for a short time at first, then let it down and tell it how great and brave it was. Take a short break, encourage it, then repeat the process until you see the dog relax on the table. Only start the actual grooming when the dog feels secure and at ease being so high off the ground.

Oster Clippers

Oster Classic 76 Professional Clipper W/2 Blades And Free Original Oster 10 Pc Guide Comb Set
Oster Classic 76 Professional Clipper W/2 Blades And Free Original Oster 10 Pc Guide Comb Set

I find that the Oster Clipper is one of the best clippers for dog grooming on the market. I presently own six of them as a professional groomer. I would not use any other brand than Oster for clippers and blades. This kit comes complete with the grease (for the bearings), the oil (for the blades), extension combs (for longer clips) and a few other accessories for the serious groomer, both professionals and amateurs.


The Clipper

Before you have bathed the dog, it's best to shave off all hair that will not be wanted. Do not worry too much about it being uneven or ragged—that will be fixed up during the finishing after the bath and blow dry. It is not much use wasting shampoo on hair that will not be there when the final styling is done.

For long jobs, you will need Oster's Clipper Cooler called Kool Lube. I would never think of clipping a dog without a can of Clipper Cooler on hand. This is a spray that is sprayed directly on the blade in use to keep it cool and prevent burning of the skin of the dog. Clipper blades can reach extreme temperatures and also jam with hair if not kept lubricated and cool with spray. I use it liberally while the blades are in motion, turning away from the dog every few minutes to spray the hot blades.

Oster Kool Lube III Spray Coolant, 14-ounces
Oster Kool Lube III Spray Coolant, 14-ounces

I have always trusted Oster Clipper Coolant to keep my expensive blades in perfect working order. This is a necessary spray to keep clipper blades cool while clipping a dog. Without it your blades may overheat and cause burning of a dog's sensitive skin. Trust Oster, it is the best product around.


Clipper Blade Numbers and Function

Each blade size has a purpose. Listed below are the main blades that are used and what they are used for. Depending on the dog and the style you wish to have, you may not need each and every one.

  • #4 and #5: Leaves a slight fuzz and is mostly used for the dog that is not too badly matted but needs a full shave; these blades leave a soft coat as protection against the sun. These blades are not to be used on the genital areas and anus.
  • #7 and #8 1/2: Gives a closer cut and is mostly used on the backs and heads of dogs like Schnauzers or dogs you wish to contrast the back (short) and the skirt (unshaven long belly hair). They leave a clean, precise look to the head and back. These blades are not to be used on the genital areas and anus.
  • #10: This blade is one of the most important and versatile of the blades. It is used to carefully shave the genitals, around the anus, the underarms, and the small area in front of the penis of long-haired male dogs. It can also be used to remove the little tuft of hair that puppies usually have at the tip of the penis sheath. It gives a close, neat shave for the ears. You can also use this blade for creating fine lines that separate the Poodle pompoms (line down the back, ribs, legs, tops of the ears, face). The #10 is effective for getting under severe mats or for a full shave-down of badly matted dogs. Never use scissors to cut a mat out. Many dogs are injured by scissor cuts. It's better to just shave it out rather than take a chance of cutting the delicate skin.
  • #15: I call this blade the "foot blade" since it is only to be used on the feet. It can remove the matted hair between the pads of the feet and between the toes. It is also used to give that clean, neat, naked Poodle foot. It should never be used on the body of a dog.
  • Extensions: These plastic comb-looking items clip onto the #10 blade to give a longer length to the hair. They come in many different lengths for the desired length of hair that will be left on the body of the dog.

The Bath

Once you have removed most of the unwanted hair, it is time for the bath. This stage can be quite traumatizing to the dog. Again, a slip-proof rubber mat is a good idea on the bottom of the bath. I made a simple platform to put on the bottom of the bath. The panel is made of wood and has a two-inch wooden support under it on one side and one-inch wooden support on the other side. The rubber mat is glued to the top of the panel. This platform keeps the dog's feet out of the soapy water and drains the dirty water to the drain. It will also prevent scratching of your bath by the dog's nails. Easy to make and a nice tool.

A hook can easily be installed on the wall at the back of the bath to clip a loop-leash to keep the dog steady and prevent it from hopping out trailing soap and water around the house. Patience is a virtue, as they say. Start out slow, trickling the water on the dog (a handheld telephone-type hose is a good idea to control where the water goes). Get the dog used to the sound of the water and make it fun. Talk to it and encourage its bravery.

One major problem is not rinsing properly. If any soap is left, it can cause some serious skin problems. Rinse, rinse, rinse. Apply the soap, work it in well, and then rinse it out. When fully rinsed, repeat. The first wash will remove most of the dirt and oils and grime. A second wash ensures your pet is clean. Rinse well until you feel the coat is squeaky clean. For good measure, rinse again to be sure. Also, make sure when washing that the water temperature is comfortable and never too hot and never too cold. I test the temperature of the water on my wrist. It should be hot enough to "melt" the dirt and oils in the coat but not hot enough to burn the animal. Dogs are sensitive, especially the newly shaved areas. Remove the excess water using a clean, fluffy towel. Remember to encourage the dog and tell it how wonderful, clean, beautiful, and sweet smelling it is.

Bathing Platform

How to Blow Dry Your Dog

Use a brush as you work. I blow dry the dog's hair against the grain on clipped areas. This raises the uneven hair to make it ready for the next stage (the second clipping), and ensures that it ends up in an even clip. Make sure the blow dryer is not too hot. Warm air is all that is needed. Gently stroke the hair using a flat slicker brush until it is completely dry.

Once I am sure that the dog is clean and dry, it is time to do the second clip. Using the Oster Clipper, I repeat the clipping that was done before the bath. This second clip removes the uneven hairs that were stuck down before the bath/dry, and gives a clean, neat finish to the clip.


Now we have reached the final stage. This will make or break your art work on your dog. It is important to have really good scissors; they are a worthy investment. There are two basic scissors you will need:

  • Long blades: These scissors are used to round out the ears, paws, and skirts of the dog.
  • Short blades: These scissors are ONLY to be used for the underside of the feet. Between the pads of the foot, long-haired dogs tend to have slippers (long hair beyond the pads) that should be removed. Be very, very careful not to cut the pads. Take your time and remove all excess hair

I never use the tips of either of these scissors for any of the work. Terrible accidents could happen that way. I only use the middle of the blades. Also, reserve these scissors only for use on your dog. They should not be used to cut materials or threads or any other use except hair. I keep a spare scissor for anything that is to be cut that is not hair. Good quality barber scissors can last decades without having to be sharpened if used right. Dull scissors can cause you frustration when the fine hairs refuse to be cut. I cannot stress this enough: hair scissors are only for hair.

Groomed and Beautiful

Learning to groom your own dog can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you are not confident, then go to a professional. If you are fearful, your dog feels your fear. It may take some practice and perhaps a few ugly mistakes, but in time you will become proficient in your art . . . and it IS art.


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