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Grooming Puppies: When & How to Do It

Discover the joys and jitters of grooming your adorable puppy for the very first time, be it in the comfort of your own home or with the help of a professional groomer. Join us on our blog as our Cincinnati vets explain puppy grooming and share valuable tips for ensuring a seamless experience for everyone.

When should a puppy be groomed for the first time?

Puppies have excellent memories, so they can easily recall their initial experiences, which include grooming. Therefore, ensuring that the first grooming session is stress-free and enjoyable is essential. Here's how you can begin preparing your young pup:

  • Familiarize your puppy with being touched: To ensure your puppy's comfort, gently acclimate it to being touched on its fur, paws, nails, ears, and teeth from a young age. Perform this regularly before introducing it to a brush.
  • Introduce them to water gradually: Our puppy can get used to water by slowly introducing them to a warm tub of water. Start with the water level just above their paws and gradually increase it with each dip. This will help them get used to being wet.
  • Familiarize them with shampoo scent: If you already have a preferred puppy shampoo or know what the professional groomer will use, let your puppy sniff it off your fingers or put a small amount on their paws. This will help them get used to the scent.
After your puppy becomes comfortable with being handled, you can start grooming it at home by brushing and combing its fur. This will help it get used to the tools a professional groomer might use, such as a brush and comb. When your puppy is around 16 weeks old, typically when it has received all its scheduled vaccinations, you can either groom it yourself or take it to a professional groomer.

How to Groom Your Puppy at Home

To prepare your puppy for grooming, it's essential to start early and familiarize them with basic grooming activities such as being touched and getting wet. This will help reduce their nervousness and anxiety when it's time for a grooming session.

Brushing Your Puppy

Here are the steps we recommend for brushing your puppy to make the process smoother:

  • You can gradually introduce grooming when your puppy is accustomed to being held, touched, and exposed to water. Start by allowing them to sniff the brush and comb and gently touch the brush to their fur so they can get used to the sensation. Do this for about two minutes at a time, several times a day, rather than immediately trying to tackle any knots.
  • After roughly five days of getting your young pup used to the tools, slowly start grooming them.
  • Establish a consistent grooming routine for your puppy, as they respond well to set schedules. Before grooming, please take a few minutes to play with your puppy to make the start of the grooming process fun and to help them relax. Choose a quiet and calm location, such as a mat in the bathroom, for grooming each time.
  • When brushing your pet, start with the larger body parts, such as the back and sides, and then slowly work your way to more sensitive areas like the belly, head, and legs. If you encounter a knot, don't pull it forcefully. Instead, place your hand on the skin to prevent discomfort, and gently comb out the knot with firm, quick strokes.

Every puppy has its own grooming needs. If the puppy has long fur that tangles easily, it should be brushed every day to prevent knots and mats. Otherwise, brushing once a week should be sufficient.

Bathing Your Puppy

Here are the steps for giving your puppy a bath at home:

  1. Fill a tub, sink, or basin with a few inches of warm water
  2. Thoroughly wet their fur (you can use a jug, hose, or pitcher) and apply a shampoo specially formulated for puppies. Lather it all over their back, legs, armpits, belly, and groin, but do not put water or shampoo on their head or face because it can irritate places such as their eyes, mouth, and ears. Never use human shampoo on your dog because it's bad for their skin.
  3. Thoroughly rinse off the shampoo with a jug, hose, or pitcher until the water starts running clear.
  4. Gently pat your puppy down with a warm, dry towel. Keep your puppy warm until it is completely dry. You can do this by keeping it in a warm room and providing it with a warm bed or blanket to lay on.

It would be best if you bathed your puppy once a month. If your pup gets dirty or/and is covered in mud, you may need to wash it more often. If your pup's skin is sensitive, you can wait a little longer between bathing sessions. If you aren't sure how often you should bathe your puppy, don't hesitate to ask your vet; they will inform you of your puppy's bathing needs.

Hair Cuts and Nail Clippings

We understand you might feel anxious about grooming tasks like cutting your puppy's fur or trimming their nails. That's why taking your pup to a professional groomer who can handle these tasks is a good idea. It's crucial for your puppy's health that these tasks are done correctly. Professional groomers have the tools, training, and equipment to groom your dog safely.

Different dog breeds have specific haircuts for puppies, so it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian about the appropriate cut for your dog and the scissors you should use.

When clipping your puppy's nails, it's important to use dog nail clippers designed for that purpose. Take it slow and trim only small portions at a time, leaving them slightly longer. Cutting them too short can cause bleeding and discomfort for your puppy. If you're not confident in performing this task, it's best to have it done by a professional. Puppies generally need more frequent nail trims compared to adult dogs, and the frequency depends on their breed. Consult your vet to determine the specific nail clipping needs for your puppy.

How to keep a puppy calm during grooming

Here, we have provided some tips on how you can keep your puppy as relaxed and calm as possible while you are grooming them:

  • Stay calm and talk in a relaxing voice
  • Start getting your puppy used to being touched, brushed, and wet as early as possible
  • Play with them beforehand to calm them down and associate the start of a grooming session with playtime
  • Establish a set grooming routine and schedule for your puppy
  • Take breaks when needed and move at your puppy's pace
  • Provide your puppy with treats and reward good behavior

The Benefits of Grooming Your Puppy

Here are some of the benefits of regularly grooming your puppy:

  • Your pup looks and feels better in general 
  • It provides you or a professional with the opportunity to find fleas, mites, or other skin conditions
  • Your puppy will smell better
  • Getting rid of mats that can cause your puppy pain and discomfort
  • You can clear away dead skin and shed fur

Regular nail trims keep their claws from getting too long, which could cause pain, bad posture, and bone deformations.

When can I take my puppy to the groomer? 

You can generally take your pet to the groomer once they are around 10 to 12 weeks old and have received their first vacation. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you have any questions about puppy grooming or need to schedule your puppy's first vaccination, please contact our Eastgate Animal Hospital today.

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