DIY : Save Money and Your Dog’s Sanity — Groom Your Dog at Home.

Why groom your dog at home? When you’re a lazy ass with allergies and pets (like me), it makes sense to cut off some of your shaggy dog’s hair. My two dogs have medium-length hair. It forms tumbleweeds that blow across the windswept plains of my living room when it’s left long.

I could take my own advice and brush them daily, but after 10 years it still hasn’t happened for even two consecutive days. Besides, they act like they hate being brushed, so it’s one more unpleasant task I’d rather not have on my list of to-dos.

I started grooming my last dog in the 90’s with a set of crappy clippers I bought at Walmart. It took forever and afterward my previously cute pup looked like she’d fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. I still did it, though, because I was broke and I really didn’t care what people thought of my dog’s haircut.

When I got the two dogs that live with me now, I invested in better grooming equipment. I bought some Oster Golden clippers and an actual grooming table. All of this cost maybe $300, but I’m sure I could’ve saved at least half that amount if I’d been less lazy and found used equipment to buy.

I did my best the first few times I groomed the dogsters at home. I got the job done, but it took so long I swear their hair was growing back in before I’d finished. Looking at my handiwork, even I had to admit that Billy Ray might call and ask for his Achy Breaky Big Mistakeyback.

As I said before, I’ve never been one to let ugly haircuts put a frown on my face, but at the time I was working in a clinic with a busy dog grooming shop attached. I think those grooming shop ladies threw up in their mouths a little every time my dogs visited the clinic, but I continued to revel in oblivion.

“I’d rather be digging up dead stuff in the yard.”

My laziness got the better of me and in a weak moment, I started paying the professional groomers to do the deed for me. The benefits were vast: no maelstrom of flying fur to navigate, no little itchy dog hairs burning holes in my neck, Hollywood haircuts for the mutts and the hefty employee discount on the whole thing didn’t hurt.

I kept that up for a year or so, but eventually, I realized I’d underestimated my dogs’ antipathy toward the experience. They cowered, trembled and tried to escape each time I took them to that area of the clinic.

I couldn’t really blame them since I kind of hated going there, too. I couldn’t hear myself think over the roar of the cage-front dog dryers. Wet dogs barked at each other from the backs of small cages and fur floated everywhere. It was a stressful place for humans but it was a potentially terrifying scene for dogs. Especially for my dogs who are a bit fainthearted when it comes to chaos.

Then one of my dogs had a big bruise on the inside of a back leg after a grooming session at the shop. I’m not sure what happened, but that’s when I decided I would start grooming them myself again.

Being in a grooming shop can be super stressful for dogs. I’m sure most people never even consider this. I’ve seen dogs who were so stressed out they went into heart failure, had seizures, popped blood vessels on their eyes, developed bloody diarrhea, and tweaked their backs so badly they were laid up for a week afterward. Yeah. So no more grooming shops for my dogs.

I asked one of the groomers to show me how to wash and cut my dogs’ coats in a more professional way. What I learned made a big difference in the outcome. I’m proud to say that my dogs no longer look ridiculous after I cut their hair. OK, well, maybe a little ridiculous but that only lasts about a week until their hair grows out.

You can find videos on grooming your type of dog on YouTube. There are also plenty of good books available for purchase. Watch or read the tutorial several times before you groom your dog at home so you don’t have to stop in the middle to refresh your memory. Here’s the low-down and dirty on how I groom my dogs at home…

Groom Your Dog at Home

Time required:
60–90 minutes every three months (or as needed)

Money Saved:
$40–100 every three months over 11–15 years: up to $6,000 or more!

Skills Built:
Dog grooming (obv.), self-reliance, tenacity, patience, canine communication

Dog Sanity Saved:

Tools You’ll Need:
Shampoo (diluted)
Scrubby tool (optional)
Clipper blades — at least two
Snap-on combs for clipper blades (optional)
Grooming table or a non-slip mat on a counter or table
Scissors (be super careful with these) or thinning shears
Kool Lube spray
Clipper oil
Blade wash
Old toothbrush to clean clipper
Paper towels or rags to clean clipper
Bags to collect clipped hair
Dremel tool for nails
Personal protective apparel — optional but fun for scaring the neighbors
Lots of patience and forgiveness for your dog (cheese helps) and yourself (wine helps)

General Procedure

Wash your dog really, really, really well.

Wash once, rinse, then wash again. If you leave any greasy spots in the coat, your clipper blades will get dull before you can say stinky dirty dog. The best trick I ever learned from groomers is to dilute your shampoo. Using diluted shampoo helps it penetrate the coat faster.

Take an empty shampoo bottle, fill it about 25–33% with shampoo and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake well then apply it liberally to wash your dog. I use a little rubber scrubby thing sometimes, but one of my dogs cries when I use it, so be warned it may not be suitable for every dog.

Skip the Blow Dryer

Towel dry your wet dog then let him air dry. I almost always wash the dogs one day then clip them the next day. Professional groomers might not approve, but I refuse to hassle my dogs with scary blow-dryers. Brush out long coats after they’re completely dry.

Set Up Your Grooming Station

I use an inexpensive grooming table, but a countertop with a non-slip mat would work fine. I don’t use the kind with the arm after seeing a dog lose its life to a similar contraption. If you need to use the arm and noose, never let the dog out of your sight while he’s restrained.

Make sure your clippers are clean and have a good sharp blade attached — I use an Andis 2 Speed clipper as recommended by my grooming friends. It’s nice because it doesn’t have the thing in it that blows the clipped hair all over your face like my old Osters did. I use a #10 blade on my dogs. It cuts the hair nice and short so it’s like velvet. It takes about three months for it to grow out to their normal three-inch length hair.

Change the Clipper Blade Frequently

Follow your grooming mentor’s instructions. Keep the blade COOL. I keep at least two blades ready and switch to a cool one ever ten minutes or so. I put the hot one on an ice pack so it will cool faster and be ready when I need it. Not switching blades when they’re hot can burn your dog or at the very least cause discomfort. Kool Lube on the blades helps a little, but you still need to switch to a cool blade when the one you’re using gets hot. Check often!

Trim Nails

If you plan to trim nails on the same day, have your Dremel tool handy. I always do nails on a different day to spread out the unpleasant encounters for the sake of everyone’s sanity.You’ll probably have to train your dog to accept having his nails filed. Check out this videoto learn how (and watch ALL the videos on that channel while you’re at it).

I don’t use nail clippers. They’re more likely to cause discomfort when used by inexperienced handlers. A Dremel tool is easier for a beginner to use and less likely to draw blood. Don’t touch it to the claw for more than a few seconds at a time because filing generates a lot of heat which can cause pain. Be very careful if your dog has long hair so it doesn’t get tangled in the tool.

Manage Your Expectations

You need to keep your expectations realistic the first few times you groom your dog at home. Remind yourself it’s about maintaining good hygiene, reducing stress for your dog and saving money. Unless your dog’s going in the show ring, it doesn’t matter how he looks. Your skills will improve over time and your dog will be grateful to be spared the overstimulating experience of the grooming shop.

If your dog isn’t used to being groomed, go slowly. Almost all dogs can be trained to tolerate some grooming. If you have trained your dog in basic obedience, that’s an excellent place to start before you train him to allow grooming. You might not be able to do a French poodle clip, but you can get the mats and dirt off and keep him healthy if you have some patience and persistence.

Aside from saving money and stress, you will build a closer relationship with your dog. You’ll come to understand his likes and dislikes better. Surely you’ll discover that using your brain to work with your dog works a lot better than trying to use muscle to overpower him.

Don’t wimp out and say it’s too hard. You are above average… a Go-Getter and a Doer. Make it happen!

photo credits: Patti Abbott “My grooming, my best friends!!!” cc by-sa 2.0

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