7 Steps for Grooming Your Pet at Home

You don't necessarily have to go to a professional groomer to make your pet's coat look shiny and healthy or to keep those ears squeaky clean. Unless your furry friend will be entering the show ring or you want a professional cut, you can groom most pets from the comfort of your very own home. All you'll need are the right tools, plenty of patience, and maybe some coaching until you get the hang of it.

Not only will grooming help control shedding, it helps your four-legged companion stay comfortable and allows you to spot certain health problems before it's too late. Plus, it's a great bonding experience with your pet. Here are seven tricks for turning your furry beast into a beauty.

Groom Your Pet From the Comfort of Your Home

Grooming tools

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Get the Right Tools

Ask your vet which tools you'll need to properly groom your cat or dog. Depending on the length (short, medium, long), type (smooth, wired, curly) and thickness of your pet's coat, you'll need different kinds of brushes and combs to get the job done right.

Brushing a dog

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Brush Gently and Regularly

Regular brushing removes dirt and dead hair from his coat, preventing mats and tangles. Based on your pet's breed, type and thickness of coat, your vet can tell you how often you need to brush his fur. You can also check out Vetstreet's breed pages for guidance.

Just remember, you don't like it when the hairdresser pulls too hard on your hair, so when brushing your darling dog or cat's fur, be gentle. If you find a tangle or a mat, don't try to pull it out — this could be very painful for your pet. Don't try to cut it out either; you might end up injuring yourself or your animal. Instead, head to a pet retailer and pick up a special brush or comb designed to split or remove mats. Or, talk to your veterinarian or a reliable professional groomer.

Cat getting a bath

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Give Him a Bath

Yes, it is possible to give your cat (or dog) a bath without the claws coming out. Set out all the supplies first — shampoo, towels, etc. While armed with treats and plenty of patience, place your pet in a tub or basin with just a few inches of lukewarm water (less if your pet is very small, or more if you have a giant dog). Use a cup to pour water over your pet. If you have a spray nozzle, that's even better. Once your pet's fur is wet, reach for the shampoo and lather up. Make sure you're using pet shampoo, not human shampoo, on Fluffy, and carefully follow the packaging directions, avoiding her face, nose and eyes. Be careful to avoid splashing your pet in the face while rinsing out the shampoo, and be sure to rinse completely — even underneath. Don't forget to rinse the feet, especially if you're using a basin that doesn't drain.

If your pet won't let you give her a bath, don't get frustrated, and don't yell or punish your pet. Take baby steps. Maybe start by just placing your pet in the dry tub with a few treats, to create a positive association. Then, wet the feet a little and gradually work your way up to a full bath. Ask your vet or a trusted groomer for their advice.

Trimming Your Dog's Nails

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Trim Those Nails

Catch your pet when she's relaxed, to give her paws a pedicure. Make sure when trimming her nails to avoid cutting the quick, which is the pink area within each nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. If she experiences pain, she's not likely to let you trim her nails again.  

Not only will shorter nails help prevent you and your furniture from getting scratched, you'll also be able to inspect her feet for problems like swelling, cracked pads or matted fur. Worried about getting scratched? Ask your vet for safety advice. If you're trimming your cat's nails, try the toweling technique to wrap your kitty up like a burrito so she can't escape.

Trimming your dog's nails? Watch carefully for signs of distress, such as panting, drooling, trembling, whining, freezing, cowering, tail-tucking, growling, or snapping. For your own safety, do not force nail trimming on your dog.

Cleaning Dog's Ears

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Don't Forget the Ears

Any dog can benefit from having clean ears, so regular ear cleaning should be part of your grooming routine. Check your pet's ears once a week or so. If you see wax, wipe the ears out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian. Never put cotton swabs into your pet's ears — you can cause injury. If your pet's ears are red, swollen, excessively waxy, itchy, or have a bad smell, see your vet as soon as possible. These things could signal an ear infection, which is painful for your pet.

Examining cat's teeth

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Brush His Teeth

More than 85 percent of cats and dogs over 4 years old are affected by periodontal disease — you don't want your four-legged companion to become part of that alarming statistic. Brushing his teeth regularly can dramatically reduce the risk of periodontal disease.

It might take several weeks to train your furry friend to warm up to the toothbrush, so start by letting her smell the toothbrush and pet toothpaste, then gradually work up to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of her mouth at least every other day. By the way, human toothpaste isn't safe for pets, so be sure to use a product approved for your pet.

Clipping the dog

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Clip If Necessary

Tired of flying fur? Then maybe it's time to clip your long-haired pet's coat. By keeping his coat short, you'll reduce the amount of hair available for shedding. Give him a bath and brush him regularly, and your fur-free floors and furniture will thank you. Not good with scissors? A groomer can clip everything short while you bathe and brush him in between appointments. Sounds sort of like how you take care of your own human hair, right?

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