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DIY at home dog grooming: All the basics

Dog getting bathed at home grooming

At home grooming is the best option for many pet parents and definitely is the most cost effective and affordable dog grooming option. With an investment in basic tools, time, and plenty of patience, you can make dog grooming an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. 

You may also be interested in our article on professional dog grooming to weigh the pros and cons!


DIY At Home Dog Grooming Basic Tools

Dog Nail Clipper, Slicker Brush, Double Sided Comb, Open Knot Comb
Double Sided Comb, Nail Clipper, Slicker Brush, Open Knot Comb

Buy a good but basic version of each of the following tools, and to be extra organized, keep them altogether in a dedicated dog grooming tool container. Don’t use human versions of these products as they’re not designed for a dog’s pH-balance.

  • Comb (medium toothed)
  • Brush (slicker brush)
  • Dog Shampoo & Conditioner – our favourite is FURminator, approx $7
  • Dog Grooming Scissors
  • Dog Toothpaste & Toothbrush
  • Dog Nail Clippers
  • Dog Ear Cleaning Solution (you can make a DIY dog ear cleaning solution with apple cider vinegar and water)


DIY At Home Dog Grooming Advanced Tools

Dog nail dremel for filing down dog's nails
Nail dremel for filing dog’s nails

As you advance as a DIY dog groomer, you may want to try different tools or have different specific needs for your pet’s coat. Some common advanced at home dog grooming tools are:

  • Dog Grooming Thinning Shears
  • Open Knot Comb
  • Nail Dremel
  • Pin Brush, Curry Brush
  • Electric Clipper
  • Specialist White Fur Shampoo
  • De-shedding tool, Rake
  • Flea Comb
  • Styptic Powder (for cuts from toenail clipping)


General How To DIY At Home Dog Grooming

These general instructions are breed unspecific. Always google “Dog grooming tools/tips for Your-Dogs-Breed” to get a list of specific tools and basic techniques that are specific to your dog’s breed. A small amount of research at the start is a huge investment into proper grooming and getting tips and tricks and learning about things like undercoats (literally a second coat on a dog and the reason why some shed so much). It won’t take you longer than 5 minutes but it will be worth it.

Dog getting a DIY at home dog bath

  1. Clean your dog’s ears
  2. Trim/clip any unwanted hair
  3. Clip nails
  4. Pre-bath brush (brushes are breed dependant, but generally first use a slicker brush and then a pin brush)
  5. Check for fleas, ticks, lumps, bumps, anything out of the ordinary!
  6. Bathe pet with dog shampoo and optional conditioner
  7. Dry your dog either with a towel or a hairdryer on low setting
  8. Finish with a thorough brushing


DIY Dog Grooming Challenges and How-to Overcome

Great DIY Dog Grooming book with foreward by Cesar Milan himself! I got my copy for less than $10 on Kindle

Unless you have a very unusual pet, at home dog grooming is not all unicorns and rainbows. You will face a challenge or two during your DIY dog grooming.

  • Some dogs will initially react to water and a bath as if you were submerging them in lava
  • Some dogs will be like aquadog in the water but become a fussy princess when getting their nails clipped
  • Some dogs will squirm like they’re wearing tiny tight levis filled with fire ants through the whole process

The key is to stay calm, consistent, and patient and soon every bath-time and grooming-time will show marked improvement. Eventually you’ll wear your old bath stories proudly like war medals. Until then, just take it slowly, listen to your dog and never push them too far in one session. The secret is taking baby steps, lots of positive reinforcement and treats, and last but not least, keeping yourself calm throughout.


Common DIY At Home Dog Grooming Problems & Solutions

  • Problem: Your dog is overwhelmed by the water
  • Solution: Start by practicing just being in the bathing area and pouring small amounts on the dog while rewarding with a high value treat (if they will take it!) and lots of praise
  • Problem: Your dog hates nail clippings
  • Solution: Practice regularly touching the clippers off the dogs paws and rewarding with a high value treat until your dog is relaxed when the clippers is around sensitive paws
  • Problem: Your dog won’t sit still while being brushed
  • Solution: Practice sit and stay, and then introduce the brush with plenty of treats, gradually increasing the time between treats and always returning the dog to the sit stay position when they break.

The key is problem solve the situation creatively, take it slowly whatever the situation, and have lots of patience.


At-Home Dog Grooming Tips and Watch-outs

Dog grooming thinning shears
Dog grooming thinning shears. $9 at

Don’t get hung up about expensive tools or go out and buy $100 of products at once. Don’t obsess over if Oat & Apple scented Shampoo is better than Classic Fresh. Start small with good quality basic tools and products and upgrade or experiment with new products overtime as you learn what works for you and your pet and what both of your preferences are. A common mistake of new pet owners is to run out and buy too many new pet products and tools in preparation for every possible pet scenario, but ultimately the vast majority of this stuff will go unused. You do not need a lot of dog grooming tools or equipment to have your own at home dog grooming salon.

To hide your new dog groomer mistakes, a thinning scissors is a great addition to a regular flat grooming scissors. You might think two scissors is going overboard, but trust me, a thinning scissors is easier to get started with and is very forgiving when cutting angular places like faces and bums!

Teaching older children and teenagers dog grooming and making it their responsibility is a great way to build work ethic, and also frees you up to do other things!


A Note on Dog Toothbrushing

Dog with dog toothbrush
Don’t judge yourself if you can’t 100% master the toothbrushing – just stick with it and make sure not to make the experience too stressful or you may make your dog hate the process even more! Just stay consistent and keep rewarding with positive praise and treats. We’re working on unravelling the dark magic of dog toothbrushing and will post an article about it soon.


What Next?

Now that you know all the basics about DIY at home dog grooming, maybe you want to learn all there is to know about professional dog grooming or read this article with a price comparison of typical professional dog grooming services so you know how much money you’re saving by doing it at home!
If you have anything to add, or have found a typo and want to return it to me, please comment below 🙂

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