Your puppy didn't come with a full set of instructions, so if you're like most first-time owners, you have lots of uncertainties. All dogs benefit from being groomed. To help you get started, here are the answers to some commonly asked grooming questions.
When should I start grooming my puppy?
Start today. Your puppy doesn't really need to be brushed right now, because he is basically a fluffball; his puppy fur is soft, it doesn't tangle and it doesn't shed. But it's important to get him used to being brushed, so that by the time he does need to be groomed, it's already part of your routine together. You will have learned how to brush him, and he will have learned how to hold still!
How often do I need to clip his nails?
You've probably already found out how sharp those little toenails are! Every couple of weeks, clip off the pointy tips, then file them with a nail file. This might be easier to do with one person holding the puppy while someone else mans the clipper. When he grows up, once-a-month nail clipping should be often enough.
He has a lot of 'accidents' – when can I give him a bath?
Bathing a puppy younger than 12 weeks old isn't a good idea. You can clean problem areas by using a wet cloth. Pour a little puppy shampoo on the cloth and wipe the soiled area, then rinse to remove any shampoo residue. A small puppy can be rinsed in the sink; a larger pup may have to go into the laundry tub. Place a rubber bath mat under his feet so he doesn't slip, or scratch the surface.
Do I have to clean his ears?
Generally, dogs that have upright, pointed ears need less ear cleaning than floppy-eared dogs. This is because the earflap covers the ear canal, creating a moist environment that can lead to problems. Ask your vet to recommend a good ear cleanser that will suit your breed.
Will he need to be professionally groomed?
Every breed benefits from professional grooming, even it's only for a good brushing and bath. Some breeds need to have their hair trimmed and styled and this is best left to a professional.
How do I find a good groomer?
Ask friends, neighbours or your veterinarian to recommend a good shop. Look for a groomer with credentials (such as a certificate from a grooming school). Ask the groomer if they have experience grooming your particular breed.
Dogs shouldn't be bathed and clipped in the winter, right?
There's no problem bathing your dog in winter. Take him to a professional groomer, who will use high-speed equipment to dry him quickly and completely. If your breed requires regular trimming, choose a slightly longer style for the colder months, but keep up with his grooming appointments.
What equipment do I need to buy for grooming?
You will need a slicker brush, long-toothed comb, nail clippers and clotting powder, ear cleanser, small blunt-tipped scissors for trimming and a good-quality dog shampoo. You can buy what you need at a pet-supply store. Keep in mind that professional-quality equipment may cost more, but it will perform better and last longer.
How can I control shedding?
The key word here is "control." You can't stop your dog from shedding, but you can keep the hair off your clothes and furniture. Regular brushing with the right equipment is the best way to keep shed hair from falling everywhere. Some dogs shed a lot, depending on their breed; some shed very little. If you notice your dog is shedding more than normal, talk to your veterinarian.
Is there something I can buy that removes tangles?
There are products available, but they don't really work. A better approach is to prevent tangles from forming in the first place. Tangles or mats are usually made of shed hair that's stuck in the coat and needs to be brushed out. A mat can also form when an object (like a burr) becomes tangled in the coat. Gently pry the mat apart with your fingers, and brush it until the object loosens.