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Brushing up

Posted Friday, 7 Feb 2014

Affiché : Friday, 7 Feb 2014

Laureen Osborne, N.C.M.G.

Every dog benefits from regular grooming and the sooner you start, the better. The first six months of a puppy’s life are filled with learning experiences. This is the perfect time to start a grooming routine. Your routine should include brushing, nail clipping, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, and bathing.

Ask your breeder or groomer to help you put together a grooming kit for your puppy’s breed and coat type. A basic kit should include: a brush, comb, nail clippers, nail powder, small blunt-nosed scissors, ear cleanser, dental products and a good-quality dog shampoo.

Your pup’s attention span will be limited at this young age, so don’t try to do too much at once. You can brush him one day, and clip his nails the next.

When you are finished a grooming session, reward your pup with an extra-special treat and lots of praise. Before long, you will both be looking forward to this time you spend together.


Brushing your dog helps to moisturize his coat and the natural oil he produces will make it shine, reduce static and help keep him clean. Regular brushing also controls shedding.

Your puppy may not look like he needs brushing at this point, but get him used to being brushed now so he becomes familiar with the process.

Your pup may try to walk away when you’re brushing him, so put him on a table and secure him so he doesn’t fall off. He may want to bite the brush. Tell him “No,” then praise him the second he stops.

Before you start to brush, use a wide-toothed dog comb to check for any tangles or mats. The comb will get caught in a tangle. Put the comb down and use your brush to remove the tangle.

Brushing sessions should last no longer than five minutes.

Nail clipping

Puppy nails are sharp, so you may want to trim off the tips once a week. You can do this procedure while he is on a table so he doesn’t move around. You could also have someone else hold your puppy while you clip his nails.

Just clip off the pointy tips of the nails, then file the sharp edges with an emery board.

If you cut a nail too short and it starts to bleed, dab the nail tip with a little styptic nail powder.

While you are working on his feet, take a look at his underpads. Make sure there are no twigs or gum stuck in the fur under his feet. The hair growing out from between his pads can be trimmed by using blunt-tipped curved nail scissors. Trimming the fur under his paws in the winter will prevent snow from sticking there.

Ear cleaning

Your puppy’s ears should be checked regularly in case he has developed an ear infection. Signs of an ear infection include red skin inside the earflap and ear canal, a dark-coloured discharge, and odour. If you’re not sure if your puppy’s ears are infected, ask your vet to take a look.

When cleaning your puppy’s ears, always use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleanser. Apply the cleanser with a cotton ball and gently swab the inside of the ear. Don’t over-clean ears – you could cause irritation.

Some dogs grow excess hair in the ear canal. Small amounts of hair can be plucked out to create an opening, allowing for better air circulation. Excess hair will be easier to pluck if a little ear powder is sprinkled in the ear canal before you start. Your groomer or breeder can show you how to safely remove the hair.

Teeth brushing

Regular brushing will really help to keep tartar in check and may prevent tooth decay and ‘doggie breath’ down the road. Introduce your puppy to teeth brushing when he is young. You can start by applying a little dog toothpaste on a finger brush and brushing either side of his mouth. Later, when his adult teeth come in, switch to a dog toothbrush. Most have a long handle that will easily reach the back molars.


Puppies may not need a lot of brushing, but they do get dirty! Try to avoid bathing your puppy too frequently (no more than once every three weeks). Instead of bathing, use a damp cloth to wipe any soiled areas, such as his groin and paws.

When you do bathe him, use a tearless puppy shampoo. Attach a hose to your bathtub or laundry sink so he can be rinsed with warm, clear running water. Towel dry him and keep him inside until he is completely dry.

Grooming by coat type

Your breed will have a specific coat type. Your breeder can tell you the type of adult coat your puppy will have.

Double coat

Many breeds (like the Golden Retriever) have a coarse outer coat and downy undercoat. When the undercoat is shed, it doesn’t fall out but stays trapped in the coat. These breeds need to be brushed regularly to remove any dead undercoat. Some breeds have a double coat that grows continuously. Poodles and Lhasa Apsos fall into this group. They need to be brushed regularly and trimmed with scissors and/or a clipper.

Recommended tools: undercoat rake, de-matting tool or rake, curved slicker brush and comb.

Single coat

A single-coated breed (or one with very little undercoat – a Doberman Pinscher, for example) tends to shed a small amount of outer coat continuously. Regular brushing will reduce the shed hair on your clothes and furniture.

Recommended tools: rubber grooming pad, soft slicker brush.


Terrier coats can be single or double and soft or coarse, depending on the breed. Terriers can be professionally clipped or ‘hand stripped’ to maintain the coarse texture of the breed’s coat.

Recommended tools: slicker brush and comb, de-matting tool, stripping knife.