Is it OK to groom your own dog?

All dogs need grooming of some kind, from a basic bath and nail trim to an elaborate hair cut. Your dog’s particular needs will depend on breed and fur type. Here are some do’s and don’ts of do-it-yourself grooming .

In regard to grooming there are three basic types of dogs: short haired, long haired, and nonshedding.

Short haired

Most short haired dogs do not require professional grooming although you may appreciate having it done from time to time. A good brush-out with professional grade equipment and a high-velocity blow dryer can leave your short haired dog cleaner and softer than you could do at home. 

Short haired dogs can be bathed in the bathtub or shower at home. Because they can shed a lot, it is important to brush regularly with something like a Furminator. A rubber brush like the Zoom Groom can remove even more hair while bathing. A groomer’s hack for drying is to use a chamois cloth like the kind for washing the car. This absorbs more water from the coat and saves money since you don’t have to wash multiple towels. 

Be cautious with human hair dryers! They can get really hot and they don’t have much velocity. During the summer you can just let your short haired dog air dry. Just be sure not to let him outside right away because you know what dogs do when they are wet! During colder weather you can use your own hair dryer but don’t put it too close to the skin. Better yet, turn up the heater, wood stove, or fireplace and let your dog dry on some warm bedding. 

Long haired

Long haired dogs can be bathed at home but it takes a little more work. For these dogs, the most crucial part of their beauty routine is brushing. Dogs with a thick undercoat like Huskies should be brushed with a rake followed by a slicker. During the times of year when they blow their coat – if you have a Husky you will know what I am talking about – you will need to brush and pluck out dead fur daily.

Dogs with long easily matted hair like Golden Retrievers should be brushed at least twice a week. The rake can remove dead undercoat, the comb can untangle the long feathery hair, and the slicker is good for finishing. 

Long haired dogs can take 45 minutes to dry with a professional grooming dryer, so you won’t be very successful using your own hair dryer at home. As with a short haired dog, remove as much of the water as possible with a chamois and give them a warm clean place to dry.

Goldens and some other long haired breeds are prone to ear infections, so be careful of getting the ears wet. If you clean the ears, use wiping pads or oil drops. Do not flush the ears unless recommended by your veterinarian as this can make an infection worse. If the ears smell bad, it’s time for a vet visit for proper treatment. 

While bathing at home can save money, I do recommend professional grooming for long haired dogs if you can afford it. A groomer can remove all the dead undercoat and also trim excess fur and furnishings to make home maintenance easier. 

Non shedding dogs

This category includes breeds of dog who have hair that does not shed but grows very long like human hair. While the lack of shedding is convenient, most of these dogs will require professional grooming. However, there are some things you can do at home and some ways you can save money on grooming. 

Doodles are very popular today. Because they are a mixed breed their hair type varies, but ideally they have more Poodle-like hair that does not shed. Some, like Goldendoodles, can have copious amounts of hair that tangle easily, while Bernedoodles tend towards thicker, wavier hair that is easier to manage. There are many variables. 

The #1 way to save money on grooming is to brush your dog daily. Not just brush, but brush properly. Stay tuned for videos on brushing specific kinds of dogs, but here’s a quick hack. For Doodles, brush from the bottom up lifting each layer of fur. This is called line brushing. Use a slicker followed by a comb down to the skin to make sure the fur is not tangled. Many people just brush on top and this is not adequate.

Dogs with more of what we call a drop coat, which parts in the middle and hangs down — how we did our hair in the 70’s — like Shih Tzus and Yorkies can be managed to some extent at home. You can use a slicker and a comb if the hair is not tangled. 

The key to ease in grooming these breeds is to keep them short. Long hair and fancy trims look great in pictures on Instagram, but in reality these styles are a ton of work. Most dogs do well with ¼-¾ inch on the body depending on the time of year and weather. This keeps them clean and free of foxtails and mats.

There are many home grooming kits available for purchase on Amazon and in stores like Petco and Tractor Supply. These outlets even have higher quality clippers available like Andis which is what I use in my shop. If you are going to use clippers I recommend you join a DIY grooming group on Facebook or take some classes like Go Groomer on YouTube. Using electric clippers is a lot more complicated than it looks and if your dog looks like a bad lawn mowing job you’ll be sorry! You also don’t want to cut your dog’s skin which can happen if you don’t handle the clippers properly.

One thing people don’t realize is that the dog’s fur must be clean, dry, and combed out down to the skin for clippers to work. The clipper blade is basically a comb, so if the comb won’t go through the fur, neither will the clipper. You can’t just pick up the clipper one fine day and give your dog a haircut with no preparation. 

Overall I do recommend professional grooming for these types of dogs. I do know people who keep their Doodles, Shih Tzus, etc.  in a full long coat but it requires a daily investment in proper brushing. Grooming every 6 weeks will keep them healthy and comfortable.

If you go very short you may be able to extend the time between grooming sessions, but for the love of god do not show up at a grooming salon twice a year with an overgrown, matted dog! Grooming a dog in that condition is hard on both the groomer and on the dog. It can take 2-3 hours and is painful and tiring for all involved. 

You may have seen videos of mats being clipped from dogs and, while this is possible, it is risky when done by a non-professional. A very short clipper blade can cause nicks or rashes if improperly used. I don’t even remove mats with this method. I have other hacks that work for me and leave the dog with more coat to work with instead of being shaved bald. 


Let’s talk about matting. Six months ago I opened my own grooming shop and it’s going great. As I welcome new clients and see their dogs for the first time, I see a lot of matted fur. This happens for a lot of reasons: it’s been too long since the last grooming, improper or infrequent brushing, or a particularly difficult hair coat. Some dogs are matted all over, while others are matted in the trouble spots like “armpits,” under the ears, and the neck where the collar rubs. 

NEVER try to remove mats with a scissors. You can very easily cut your dog’s skin right open and be on your way to the emergency vet. Mat removal is time consuming and difficult which is why your bill for grooming will probably be high the first time. You may be able to tease out small mats with a slicker brush and comb, but if the matting is bad just invest in a professional grooming and vow to brush daily afterwards. 

Stay tuned for more articles and videos on dog grooming how-to.