The Grooming Game

A beautiful and healthy coat begins with the basics.

By Kyra Kirkwood |

Page 1 of 4

Just like us, dogs require good hygiene habits-combing, bathing, conditioning, nail trimming and teeth brushing. Plus, grooming your dog can be a bonding experience. In the wild, wolves groom each other in the pack, creating an almost social atmosphere. By bathing and brushing your dog, you continue this instinctual ritual. 

Start Early
Experts say its never too early to start grooming your dog. You want to socialize them to grooming, says Peggy Harris, national certified master groomer, owner of the ABC & D Pet Salon in Columbus, Georgia, and member of the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA).

Too many owners wait a long time before bathing and grooming their new dog. But Nancy Han of Albany, California, a national certified master groomer, says she's even bathed 5-week-old pups with great success. Its really important for puppies because they get used to being handled. 

Baby Steps First
First, begin with basic obedience skills. Enroll in a puppy kindergarten class to socialize and introduce your dog to good behavior, and start teaching the basics: sit, lie down, stand and stay. Obedience will help when it comes time for the soap and water, and also makes it easier for future grooming sessions done by a professional, experts say. Its the best thing you can do for yourself and your puppy, Harris says. The obedient dogs are the best dogs in the bathtub.

Introduce grooming by touching the puppys feet, gently peeling back its ears, lightly wiping its face with a soft towel, lifting its lips, running your hands down its back and picking up its tail. This is also good preparation for a lifetime of vet visits and regular health checks.

Get your pup acquainted with the tub or sink before you fill it with water. Line the area with a non-slip pad or towel so your puppy won't slip around and get scared.

Above all else, make grooming a positive experience. Praise your puppy with treats and words when it stands in the tub or holds still while you play with its paws. Make sure it knows from the start that grooming time is fun. 

Tools of the Trade
With all the products on the market today, how do you know which ones to buy? Brushes by the buckets, shampoo by the semiits all so confusing. Can't you just use some of your own shampoo and an old hairbrush? What about dish soap? It got the grease off your casserole dish last night, so it should work on Fidos grass stains. Right? Oh, so wrong.

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