Proper coat care is the mainstay of grooming. However, given the huge variety in coat types, length and texture, there is no simple way to provide a generalized "guide" to grooming. Most companion dogs do fine with a regular brushing every week or two, which helps to manage shedding and distribute natural oils from the skin. Long-haired breeds obviously require much more care to keep their coats in good condition than do short-haired breeds – especially to prevent matting and tangles. Show dogs need even more particular grooming. Terriers in show coat require special hand-stripping or "plucking" to remove dead hair from their coats, which is time consuming. Most dogs are best groomed on a sturdy table or bench, covered with a rubber or other nonslip pad for secure footing. Grooming tools vary widely in price and quality, with each breed having its particular "way" of being best groomed.
When doing coat grooming for pet dogs, most people just use a stiff brush. If the dog has a long, thick coat, it may be better to first start with a wide-toothed comb, combing from head to tail, looking for signs of fleas, growths, and mats. By using a wide-toothed comb first, you can minimize hair pulling. Follow up combing by brushing with a wire or bristled brush made specifically for grooming pets to remove dead hair. Hair mats can be removed by simply isolating them from the rest of the hairs, gently splitting them into smaller clumps, and then, while firmly holding the skin underneath, pulling the mat upwards and towards the head. Never use scissors to cut out mats because you may accidentally cut the skin underneath. Hopefully, with regular routine grooming, mats won't become a problem.
Bathing should be done on an "as-needed" basis. Frequency depends on the individual dog, and your veterinarian should be consulted regarding the most appropriate bathing schedule for your pet, and which shampoo product should be used. Dogs tend to have very sensitive skin, and they generally do not tolerate heavily perfumed products. Too frequent bathing can dry out the skin and deplete it of essential oils.
Ears are an extremely important part of pet hygiene. Most dogs' ears do not require constant cleaning. However, their ears should be examined every few weeks, especially in dogs with hanging ears or those living in hot, humid climates. Alcohol should not be used in a dog's ears, as it is extremely drying and can cause painful allergic reactions. Mineral oil and combinations of white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and water are often recommended for ear cleaning. There are a number of products presently on the market that were developed specifically for ear cleaning as well. Warm water and a soft cloth or cotton ball are effective, as well.
Cotton-tipped swabs should not be used to clean your dog's ears at home, because they can distribute debris deeper into the inner ear canal and can inadvertently damage the ear drum. Instead, wrap a dampened soft cloth or tissue paper around your index finger and clean the ear canal gently.
Keeping your dog's nails trimmed is important to maintaining the health of his paws and also to ensuring that he is comfortable. Nails that are not cared for properly can become ingrown or broken, both of which greatly increase the chances of infection. Nail care should start at a very young age so that the dog accepts it as routine and pleasurable.
Routine eye care is very simple for our companion dogs. A simple cleaning with a soft moistened cloth to remove any debris is usually all that is necessary. Some breeds, with long light hair, tend to get stains from eye discharge, which can be difficult to remove. There are a number of products available to clean the eye area.
The anal sacs are normal anatomical structures on either side of a dog's anus. Sometimes, these glands become impacted and uncomfortable. Signs of this include a dog scooting its bottom along the ground and frequent licking at the anal area. Impacted anal sacs need to be emptied. This is best first done by your veterinarian, but he or she can easily show you the fairly simple technique. Impacted anal glands tend to become infected, making surgical attention necessary.
Dental disease is prevalent in our companion animals. Plaque and tartar can cause painful periodontal disease and eventually to tooth loss. Most veterinarians recommend regular brushing of our pet dog's teeth several times a week. This can be done with a child's toothbrush and some canine toothpaste. Specific canine tooth-brushing devices are also available. Don't use toothpaste made for people. If plaque and tartar build up, the dog will need to be put under general anesthesia for a scaling dental procedure.