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Karla's Grooming Tips

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One, Two, Three – Groom

Now you’re ready to apply the basics of good grooming to your dog. First of all, what kind of coat does he have? The following categories of coat types will help you identify – and groom – your about-to-be-spiffy pal.

Coat Care – The Long And Short Of It

By Karla Addington-Smith

The most important aspect of good grooming is regular brushing with the correct brush. Brushing removes undercoat as it separates topcoat. Brushing prevents matting as the process distributes natural oils throughout the coat, making the skin healthier and the coat shinier. Your dog will not only look better…your best friend will feel better! And you won’t find as much hair on your furniture and carpets. To do the best job, you need the right tools. (See ‘Tools of the Trade’ below.) Once you’ve decided which brush and comb are best suited to your breed’s coat type, you will want to get your dog off the floor, out of your lap and onto a raised surface to effectively brush all parts of his body. A grooming table, or bath mat placed on a counter, works well but a grooming table is even better! Keep one hand on your dog at all times, or secure him by a grooming arm and loop restraint to prevent him from jumping or falling. (Remember never leave your dog unattended on a table!) Beginning at a rear foot, work your way up and over the entire body by parting the coat and brushing from the skin out in short strokes. Pay special attention to friction points, behind the dog’s ears, under its front legs and around the hocks on the rear legs, which are easily matted. Be sure to remove the collar or harness so that you do not miss those areas.

Use a comb to test what you’ve brushed by placing it in the coat parallel to the skin. Do not drag the tips of the tines along your dog’s skin…this can cause un-necessary discomfort. The diameter of the individual tines should be narrow with a coarse spacing. This allows the comb to penetrate the hair, instead of pushing it flat.

Smooth-Coated Breeds

Smooth-coated breeds like the Smooth Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher and Basset Hound posses a short, close-lying topcoat with little or no undercoat. This coat type is the easiest to care for because matting is not a consideration. A smooth coat has specific shedding issues as the individual hair is pointed at the tip and will penetrate fabrics making it more difficult to remove than shed undercoat. Use a Rubber Curry Brush to remove loose hair and to polish the coat…or a stiff bristle brush, or hound’s glove against the growth of coat to loosen dead hair and skin. Then brush with the growth of coat to remove debris and distribute natural oils.

Short Double-Coated Breeds

The Australian Cattle Dog, Anatolian Shepherd and Labrador Retriever are examples of breeds that have short, double coats consisting of coarse, straight topcoat approximately ½” to 1 ½” long with thick, downy undercoat held against the skin. Though considered short coats, some of these breeds will have slightly longer furnishings in the rough of the neck, rump and tail. These breeds’ water-repellent coats keep them warm and insulated while working in water or cold climates. This coat is easily maintained although excessive shedding occurs seasonally. A slicker brush used against and then with the growth of coat will loosen dead hair and skin. Be sure to lift the coat, brushing from the skin out. Pay close attention to the ruff of the neck and the rump, where undercoat is thickest. A comb will help remove undercoat from these areas. A DeShedding tool is suitable for use on this coat type but should not replace the regular use of a brush.

Medium Double-Coated Breeds

The Golden Retriever, Norwegian Elkhound and Rottweiler are medium-double coated breeds consists of straight, coarse topcoat approximately 1″ to 2.5″ in length and may be longer on the neck, rump and tail, creating a soft finish to the outline of the dog. The coat is water-resistant with dense undercoat all over the body and especially heavy around the neck, rump and tail. This coat type requires frequent routine brushing to remove shedding undercoat. A slicker brush used against and then with the growth of coat will loosen dead hair and skin. Be sure to lift the coat, brushing from the skin out. Pay close attention to the ruff of the neck and the rump, where undercoat is thickest. A comb will help remove undercoat from these areas. A DeShedding tool is suitable for use on this coat type but should not replace the regular use of a brush.

Long Double-Coated Breeds

Due to the length and amount of coat on breeds such as the Chow Chow, Collie, Samoyed and Newfoundland, the grooming process can be back-breaking work. Sticking to a regular grooming schedule is important to keep these dogs in peak condition. A long-double coat consists of straight, coarse topcoat approximately 2″ to 5″ in length and may be longer on the neck, rump and tail, creating a soft finish to the outline of the dog. Brush your dog thoroughly with a slicker brush, making sure to part the coat and brush from the skin out. Remove the loose undercoat with a large, wide-tooth comb. The wider tined end of a small stainless-steel comb can be used for the smaller breeds, such as the Pekingese and Pomeranian. Use a mat comb for severe matting around the neck, rump or tail. Or matts can be isolated and removed inconspicuously with a coarse thinning shear.The coat is water-resistant with dense undercoat all over the body and especially heavy around the neck, rump and tail. This coat type requires frequent routine brushing to remove shedding undercoat and reduce the potential for matting in the rough, rump and tail coat.

Long-Haired, Drop-Coated Breeds

The texture of long coats will vary from coarse to silky depending on the breed. Some breeds have double coats, others only single coats, but all the dogs have naturally long coats that “drop” or hang down from the body.

As beautiful as the Lhasa Apso, Maltese and Afghan Hound (to mention a few breeds) are, the challenges of caring for a longhaired breed may not be practical for some pet owners. Their long, profuse coats can easily become matted, necessitating a lengthy and expensive grooming session. A mat comb can help, but sometimes the coat just can’t be saved. If this is the case, clip the matted hair off the dog before bathing. An alternative would be to keep the coat at a shorter, more manageable length.

These long, straight coats need delicate treatment. While exhibitors generally use the rigid, straight bristles of the pin brush to prevent splitting and thinning – the pin brush glides through well-maintained coats and is excellent for finishing or fluff drying – this brush is not ideal for pet owners because it doesn’t remove the undercoat, which is one culprit behind troublesome matting. Pet owners should use a slicker brush when working on these drop-coated breeds.

Brush out, systematically, in layers from the skin out. Test with a comb as you move through the coat, dematting if necessary.

Flat-Coated Breeds

Breeds such as the Irish and Gordon Setter, American and English Cocker Spaniel possess a flat-coat consisting of coarse straight, or slightly wavy, flat-lying topcoat with longer silky furnishings. Undercoat may or may not be present and can be sparse or abundant depending on the breed. The body coat is generally easy to maintain, however, the longer furnishings which can adorn the dog’s legs, rump, undercarriage, tail and ears can easy become matted as any groomer who has ever worked on an American Cocker in full coat can attest!Brush with a slicker brush, paying close attention to the long furnishings. Test with a comb and use a mat comb on problem areas. Or matts can be isolated and removed inconspicuously with a coarse thinning shear.

Curly-Coated Breeds

The Kerry Blue Terrier, Bichon Frise and Poodle are breeds that have a curly-coat consisting of crisp topcoat and woolly undercoat. Together, the two coats create a dense yet soft hair covering on the dog. Curly coated dogs are generally shaped by scissor to achieve the correct breed profile for show. Many pet owners opt for a shorter clipped style to allow for easier care. Curly coats must be prepared correctly for shaping by drying the hair straight from the skin out, known as fluff-drying. This procedure stands the coat up and off the body and will retain a freshly groomed finish for a longer time.

A properly dense coat will hold the shed coat against the skin. This is why many believe the poodle and other dense, curly coated breeds to be good pets for people with allergies.

Brush your curly-coated dog thoroughly with a gentle variety slicker brush, paying close attention to friction points. Test with a comb and use a mat comb if necessary.

Hard-Coated Breeds

Special treatment maintains the desired hard coat texture of breeds such as the Cairn, West Highland White, Airedale and Welsh Terriers. A hard coat consists of a crisp, wiry, flat-lying topcoat and a soft undercoat. Some breeds may have a hard jacket and silky furnishings making these dogs more vulnerable to matting. Special treatment known as “hand-stripping” or “carding” is necessary to maintain the desired harsh texture of hard coats.

For most pet owners, however, hand stripping is viewed as unnecessary. Proper breed silhouette can be achieved by a combination of clipping and scissoring techniques, though after time will soften the coat.

Hard coats rarely become so matted that a clip down is needed. Unfortunately, coat texture will vary from soft to hard due to breeding, grooming technique and upkeep. Some dogs may have a harsh jacket and silky furnishings, which is more vulnerable to matting.

Brush your hard-coated dog thoroughly with a gentle variety slicker brush, paying close attention to friction points. Test with a comb and use a mat comb if necessary.

Matted Coats

Dematting your dog’s coat is absolutely no fun for you or him! Regular brushing and combing will eliminate the likelihood of having to participate in such un-pleasantries. In the best case scenario, you can use a dematting spray worked into the mats, making it easier to pull them apart with your fingers. They can also be loosened with a slicker brush and split with a mat comb. There are no magic tricks when it comes to getting out mats – nothing replaces elbow grease!

Mat combs are extremely sharp; always work with the sharp edges facing you. Secure the dog’s skin by pulling it taut. Place the mat comb behind the mat and with short, quick strokes pull the mat comb through the mat. Do not use a sawing motion. This is rather like taking off a Band-Aid: it hurts much less if you do it quickly.

Matting can hide a variety of skin afflictions. If the dog’s coat is in firm clumps or, worse yet, is matted like a rug onto his skin (“bullet-proof” as one groomer friend calls it), the coat must be clipped as short as needed to remove the mats. By this time, the dog’s health and comfort are definitely suffering, and esthetics should be the last consideration.

Tools Of The Trade

Slicker brush: The bent wire bristles of the slicker brush are best for removing undercoat from most coat types. This brush also aids in dematting long and curly coats. The slicker comes in a variety of sizes and bristle stiffness. A light-coated small dog would require a small, gentle slicker. A big, double-coated breed would benefit from a large, stiffer slicker. Use the slicker by parting the coat and brushing, from the skin out, in short strokes.

Bristle brush: Bristle brushes come in a variety of sizes, shapes and firmness. The bristles may be made of boar’s hair or nylon. This brush is effective on smooth, short coats only. Use this brush against the coat growth to loosen dead hair and skin, then with the growth to remove debris and polish the coat. A very soft bristle can be used to apply grooming powder or chalk on coated breeds.

Pin brush: The long, rigid metal bristles of the pin brush work well for fluff drying and general care of long coats in good condition. Since this brush does not remove undercoat, it is best used by the exhibitor on dogs that receive daily grooming attention. Part the hair and brush from the skin out. Pull the brush through to the hair ends to distribute natural oils throughout the coat. Wide-tooth comb: This type of comb typically has long tines, set apart one-quarter inch, for easy penetration into long, double coats. It is perhaps the best undercoat-removing tool available.

Combination comb: The best multi-purpose comb is stainless steel with fine tines that easily penetrate the thickest of coats. One end has teeth narrowly spaced; the other end is more coarsely spaced. This comb is used to test what you have brushed and for helping hair to stand for shaping with scissors.

Rubber curry brush: My favorite for smooth-coated breeds! The firm, rubber nubs of this brush grasps and removes the loose pointed hairs from smooth coats as it distributes natural oils and polishes the coat. Mat comb: The blades of the mat comb are placed under the mat and pulled through. This action splits the mat into smaller clumps so that it can be brushed out more easily. Much care should be taken when using this tool – the blades are extremely sharp.

Environment and Hormones: A Hairy Topic

Your dog’s environment has a direct impact on the look and feel of his coat. For example, natural daylight, or lack thereof, can trick the dog’s coat into excessive shedding. Dog hair grows in cycles. Shedding is generally greater in spring and fall as new hair growth begins. When the number of light hours increases, the coat becomes less dense and more coarse as sebaceous secretion increases.

This process allows for air circulation throughout the coat – a kind of air-conditioning system. When days shorten, shedding increases as new hair growth begins. The coat thickens, sebum production decreases and the hair’s insulating properties are enhanced.

There is also a constant exchange of moisture between the dog’s skin and his environment. Just as humans suffer the effects of dry, artificial heat, lack of humidity can wreak havoc on coat, especially during winter months. Constant temperatures and a regular schedule of light and dark hours, with the avoidance of extended artificial daylight, could decrease the severity of the natural shedding process, and a humidifier will go a long way in adding moisture to the dog’s environment.

Sebum, produced by sebaceous glands, helps keep skin supple and coat glossy. The production of sebum is directly affected by androgens and estrogens – male and female hormones. The hormonal level in your dog will change as a result of being spayed or neutered, or whelping a litter, and it’s possible the coat will be affected. A decrease in sebum production reduces the rate of hair growth and allows for moisture loss, which causes brittleness and coat breakage.

Do not, however, allow this possibility to dissuade you from neutering or spaying your pet. Besides the obvious advantage of avoiding unwanted litters, the benefits include, for females, reduction or elimination of hormone-related diseases and prevention of pyometra and tumors; for males, prevention of testicular tumors and prostate problems. These ‘pros’ far outweigh the problem of split hairs.

You can enhance coat and skin health by feeding your dog a high quality balanced diet, brushing his coat regularly and using detergent free shampoos as well as a conditioning product that will smooth and seal the coat.

Together, these steps will provide most any fur kid the optimum in coat and skin health, comfort and social acceptance!

Dematting ~ An Unnecessary Evil

By Karla Addington-Smith

Dematting is the physical removal of mats from a dog’s coat. The process can be unnerving for the groomer, uncomfortable for the dog and expensive for the owner.

Though there are many detangling and dematting agents, sprays and powders on the market, nothing can replace preventative maintenance when it comes to matting hair.

Routine and thorough brushing along with proper bathing and conditioning of the coat can prevent matting in all cases.

Some coat types are more susceptible to matting than others. These coat types are:

  • Long coats

  • Curly coats

  • Silky furnishings on flat and hard coats Long double coats

Contributing Factors

There are contributing factors to matting. The obvious is neglect of routine brushing and basic coat care.

Correct brushing technique removes undercoat and separates the individual strands of topcoat. It stimulates the skin and distributes natural oils throughout the coat. A healthy, pliable coat is less likely to become heavily matted than a dry, damaged coat.

Undercoat is a culprit of matting. The fine, soft undercoat becomes entangled with topcoat. The two different textures of coat can become woven together during the dog’s regular movement and normal activities.

Testing what was brushed with a comb will help the groomer identify any remaining areas of heavy undercoat, matted or tangled topcoat.

Friction points are especially prone to severe matting. These areas are behind ears, under the dog’s collar, cheeks, under the forelegs, the flank, the rump and tail.

Coats not sealed properly with a conditioning product after bathing are very prone to matting. Leaving the cuticle “open” after bathing creates rough texture.

Cuticle grasps cuticle and the individual hair shaft’s become entwined. This creates static electricity and friction, not a good combination for maintaining a healthy, mat and tangle free coat.

There are no magic tricks when it comes to getting mats out of a coat. A systematic approach using a detangling product with the assistance of a dematting tool can, in most cases, help to save most of the dog’s coat.

However, there are situations when the struggle of dematting should be avoided and the coat should be clipped as short as necessary to remove the mats.

These Situations Would Include:

  1. If the dog has a felted coat, in firm clumps or matted like a rug onto his skin, the dog must be clipped as short as needed to remove the mats. When a dog is in this kind of retched condition, the dog’s aesthetics should be the last consideration. By this time the dog’s health and comfort are definitely suffering.Matting can hide a variety of skin afflictions. Be sure to warn the owner of what clipping away the mats might uncover. Many times professional groomers are blamed for causing a skin irritation after exposing an existing problem.

  2. The individual sensitivities of the dog create a painful or potentially dangerous grooming session. Geriatric pets and puppies are far less tolerant of the dematting process and rightfully so. If a generally good natured dog must be held down or muzzled for dematting, the dog should be trimmed short.

A visit to the grooming salon should be as pleasant as possible for the dog, the groomer and the owner. The dog’s health, safety and comfort should ALWAYS be your first concern.

DeMatting Combs And Rakes


Dematting combs and dematting rakes are used to slice clumps of matted hair into smaller sections for easier removal. These tools come in a variety of comb and rake styles in different sizes. Some styles can accommodate right or left handed groomers, some have replacement blades available. All, however, have sharp edges that can cut skin as easily as hair.

Always hold the dematting tool by the handle and use with the sharp side of the blades facing you.

Any dematting tool that uses sharp edges to split the mat is randomly cutting the coat which leaves the individual strands of hair rough and uneven. The dematting process damages coat and makes it more susceptible to future matting. That is why it is important to loosen the mats or tangles with a slicker brush before using a dematting tool.

Technique: Loosen the matted coat with a slicker brush before using the dematting tool. Secure the dog’s skin by pulling it taut. Isolate the mat and place the dematting tool behind the mat. Keeping your wrist straight, use short, quick strokes to pull the tool through the mat. Do not use a sawing motion. Brush the area again, test with a comb. Repeat the process as necessary.

If at any time the dog’s skin becomes red or irritated due to brushing or dematting, it is important to move to a different area of the dog’s body and place a soothing lotion on the irritated skin.

Thinning Shears Tool: A Coarse tooth thinning shear of 26 or 30 teeth can be used to discretely remove individual small mats from long or drop coats. Care must be used to avoid cutting the skin. NEVER pull the mat away from the skin to cut it out. Chances are you’ll get a plug of skin with it.

Technique: Isolate the mat or tangle, taking care to lift away the coat that will hang down to cover the area after the mat is removed. Open the thinning shear and carefully place it parallel to the skin so that it will capture the matted coat when closed.

Close and open the thinning shears two times and remove from the coat. Repeat the brush and comb procedure. The matted clump should easily brush out of the coat. If it does not, then repeat the process.

Detangling Agents Tool: Detangling agents are products that can be applied to matted or tangled coat to facilitate mat removal. These products generally contain ingredients that coat the hair shaft, making it slippery and pliable, making the matting easier to untangle while causing less damage to the coat.

Technique: Apply the spray or powder to the mat. Work it into the coat with your fingers. Loosen the matted coat with your fingers. Brush with a slicker, test with a comb and repeat the process until the mats are removed.

 🐶 Dental Care

Brushing Up On Preventative Maintenance

By Karla Addington-Smith

Preventative maintenance is an important aspect of good health. Whether canine or feline, this principal applies to your best friend! The foods you feed, vaccinations and steps taken against heartworm disease and flea and tick infestation are all part of preventative maintenance in health care. Yet, 85% of all dogs and cats over the age of four are affected by periodontal disease. This condition is progressive, and left unchecked, can become irreversible. Untreated periodontal disease causes pain, bad breath, receding and infected gums and tooth loss. Bacteria from oral infection enters the blood stream and becomes systemic in nature. Pets can then suffer from heart, kidney or liver failure. But, before you run for the tube of Crest and your old toothbrush, read on…

Preventing periodontal disease takes many forms. Passive prevention, such as feeding dry food, crunchy treats and providing rawhide products and chew toys will help your pet naturally remove plaque and tarter. But like people, routine brushing of teeth, is the only really effective way to prevent gum disease and tooth loss in your dog or cat. It’s not only more convenient, but healthier too, to use dental hygiene products designed especially for pets. Most dogs and cats find the taste of pet toothpastes more palatable and far less offensive than human toothpastes. Better taste means increased usage and better results. Dogs and cats can’t rinse and spit so be sure your pet toothpaste does NOT contain fluoride which will irritate your pet’s stomach. Pet toothpaste contains a higher level of abrasives to clean more quickly and effectively. A specially designed pet toothbrush, or finger tip brush, is a better fit to your pet’s mouth and will make the process more enjoyable for both of you.

Like any preventative steps, starting early in your pet’s life will help him to accept the procedure. It may take a few brushing sessions for you and your furry friend to get comfortable with the process, but with these tips you’ll be an expert in no time!

First, be sure to choose an appropriate time and place and stick with it throughout the introduction period. Be sure to give lots of praise during the process and perhaps a special treat afterwards. Begin slowly, you may lift the lips the first few times to get him used to being handled around the mouth. Gradually, you begin to touch the teeth with your fingers. Once you are able to touch your pet’s teeth, you can introduce the toothpaste. Let him smell and lick the paste on his own. You may than apply a small amount of toothpaste to a gauze wrapped finger or finger brush and rub his teeth. Once you’ve gotten this far, it is time to introduce the toothbrush.

It is not necessary to fully open your pet’s mouth and brush the inside of the teeth at first. You can keep the mouth closed, lifting the lips to expose the teeth as the plague and tarter forms on the outside of the teeth along the gum line. Place the brush at 45 degree angle toward the gum-line and using small circular motions begin brushing. Pay special attention to the back teeth. Once the routine is established it is important to brush every day as tarter develops from plague in as little as 24 to 48 hours. If you are using the Triple Pet 3-Head Brush, you can simply place the brush over the teeth and gently move the brush back and forth in small motions.

In addition to routine tooth brushing, your pet will benefit from regular visual inspection of the mouth and gums. A healthy mouth will have firm, pink gums. Teeth will be white with little or no discoloration. Red or bleeding gums, two sets of teeth, uneven wear or broken teeth, tarter and or receding gum lines, and a foul odor emanating from the mouth, should all be reported to your veterinarian. Good oral hygiene is good preventative maintenance! An important part of caring for your best friend!

Caring For Your Dog’s Ears

By Karla Addington-Smith

Ear care is an important part of maintenance grooming and one that has direct impact on the comfort and health of the dog.

The inside of a healthy ear will appear naturally pink and is free from odor. A small amount of wax in the canal is normal.

A dog that displays any of these ear conditions listed below should be referred to a veterinarian and the groomer should not attempt to clean the ears:

  • Inflamed or swollen ears

  • A strong or foul odor

  • Seeping or discharge

  • Scabs or crusting on the ear leather

  • An abundance of ear wax

  • A dark or black crusty layer inside the ear canal

  • Head tilt or vigorous head shaking

Ear Types

Button, rose and prick or otherwise erect ears naturally allow for better air circulation, especially on smooth, short-double and long-double coated breeds which are naturally free of hair growth in the ear canal. These are the easiest ear types to maintain as healthy ears will require only routine swabbing with a cotton ball moistened with an ear cleaning solution and checking of the ears for mites, infection or other problems.


Drop Ear: The ear leather is long and folded, hanging down and covering the ear orifice as on a Beagle. Drop ears require extra care, especially ear leathers covered with heavy coat, such as the Cocker Spaniel and other sporting breeds. This ear type can prevent air circulation in the ear canal creating a moist environment that is a prime target for infection and bacterial growth.

Removing Hair From The Ears

Breeds of dog that naturally grow profuse facial hair will also grow hair in their ear canals. A few examples of these breeds are:

  • Airedale Terrier

  • Schnauzer

  • Kerry Blue Terrier

  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

  • Bichon Frise

  • Poodle (All varieties)

  • Bedlington Terrier

  • Portuguese Water Dog

These breeds should have the hair removed from the ear canal to allow air to circulate into the ear canal to avoid ear infections. Allowing air to reach the ear canal helps to keep it dry and deters bacteria growth.

The most simple technique for removing hair from the ear canal is to lightly dust ear powder into the ears so that you can grasp the hair close to the skin and gently pull it out with your fingers.

Hemostats can be used close to the skin to assist you in stubborn cases. Blunt tipped ear scissors can be cautiously used on puppies when hair in their ears is not ready to let go or for dogs that object to the plucking.

Hemostats Or Hair Pullers

Tool: Hemostats (sometimes referred to as hair pullers) come in a variety of sizes and styles. They may be 4.5 to 6.5 inches long, curved or straight, ratcheted or not. These tools are different from typical tweezers because they have finger-hole handles which provide a better grip and pulling power.

Technique: It is helpful to clip away thick or heavy coat from the ear opening before using the hemostats, this allows you better access to the inside of the ear.

Hold the ear leather back so that the ear opening is fully exposed. Use your fingers to gently pull the hair in the ear canal towards the opening so that you can see the skin. Lightly dust the ear canal with depilatory ear powder.

Carefully insert the hemostats into the ear opening and firmly grasp a small amount of hair at the base. Gently pull the hair out of the ear. This is done by a combination of sight and feel. Be careful not to pinch the skin.

Tool: Ear scissors are small, rounded tip scissors that facilitate the removal of hair from the ear opening and canal. They are particularly useful for gently trimming away thick hair from the ears of puppies that is just not ready to be plucked by fingers or hemostats.

Dogs with very sensitive ears and geriatric dogs may be less likely to reject this procedure than plucking.

Technique: It is helpful to clip away thick or heavy coat from the ear opening before using ear scissors for better access to the inside of the ear.

Hold the ear leather back so that the ear opening is fully exposed. Use your fingers to gently pull the hair in the ear canal towards the opening so that you can see the skin.


Carefully insert the ear scissors into the ear opening and snip away the hair. This is done gently and by a combination of sight and feel. Be careful not to nick the skin.


*SPECIAL NOTE: Hair deeper in the ear opening is generally easier to remove by plucking than the hair around the ear opening. You may need to use a combination of ear scissors and plucking to remove most or all of the hair from the ear canal.

If at any time the ear begins to look red or irritated, stop, and apply a soothing lotion to the affected area.

At what point in the grooming process is it best to clean ears?

In preparation for bathing, the dog’s ears should be packed with cotton to prevent water from entering the ear canal. This allows you to thoroughly wash the ear leather and opening without getting water in the dog’s ears. It is extremely important to remove the cotton from the dog’s ears after bathing. Routinely cleaning ears after bathing will serve as a reminder to remove the cotton from the ears before sending the dog home.

Cleaning The Ears

All dogs regardless of coat or ear type will benefit from regular ear cleaning. This is an opportune time to visually inspect the ears for irritation, infection or mites. If the ears appear healthy and normal, then you can proceed with cleaning.

Ear cleaning is not a quick wipe of the ear with a dampened cotton ball. It is an important process that requires your thoughtful attention and visual inspection.

For small to medium size dogs, a full size cotton ball may be too large to fit into the ear opening to thoroughly cleanse the ear and remove all traces of wax or dirt. You may need to tear a cotton ball into smaller pieces.

The cotton ball, or piece, should be moistened with a professional formula ear cleaner free of alcohol or peroxide, which is drying to the tender ear tissue. Choose a non-oily, pleasant smelling professional formula.

With a firm but gentle touch, wipe inside the ear opening and as far into the opening as your finger will go. For very small dogs, you may opt to wrap the cotton piece on the end of a hemostat to allow better access to the ear. Or you may use a well padded cotton swab.

A dog’s ear canal is V-shaped so penetrating deep enough to cause harm would be very difficult to do, however, probing too deeply may be uncomfortable for the dog and should be avoided. Do not insert anything into the ear deeper than you can see.

Once you have swabbed the ear you will need to look at the cotton ball. Does the process need to be repeated to assure you have thoroughly cleaned the ear?

This process is even more important for dogs that have had ear powder placed in their ears. If not physically removed by cleaning, the ear powder can build up preventing air flow and contribute to an infection.

Nail Trimming Pointers

By Karla Addington-Smith

Nails left to grow unchecked can become a painful and disfiguring problem for the dog. Nails can grow so long that the foot becomes splayed and the digits twisted.

Dew claws can grow completely around and back into the foot causing an abscess.

Nails can splinter and become snagged in carpeting, tearing the nail below the quick.

Visually inspecting and trimming nails as short as possible without cutting into the quick is yet another very important part of the maintenance grooming process.

Some groomers prefer to clip nails before the bath. If a nail were to be trimmed too short and bleed, this would allow any blood to be removed from the surrounding coat during bathing.

Others prefer working on nails after the bath as nails may be softer and easier to cut, especially on large dogs.

White or light nails are generally easier to trim than black or dark nails as the darkening of the quick line is plainly visible.

Close inspection of black or dark nails will usually show a faint line where the new growth is shinier than the old growth.

Other evidence of the new growth is a more narrow extension of the nail.

These are general guidelines for determining where a dark nail can be safely trimmed.

Special Note* A dog’s rear nails are generally shorter than the front nails due to the natural friction created as the dog walks. Keep this in mind when trimming the nails as you will probably cut more from the front nails than the rear.

It is always safer to trim away small pieces from a nail, stopping to inspect the underside of the nail for the quick before trimming more from the nail.

Only practice makes you faster and better at determining how much to take off.

Always use nail trimmers suitable for the size of the dog.

Try to avoid cutting the nails so short that they bleed by clipping just the tips of the nail on a regular basis.

ALWAYS have styptic powder within arms length. You should NEVER have to leave a dog with bleeding nails to go find the styptic powder.

If a nail is trimmed too short and begins to bleed, it is important to pack the nail with styptic and apply pressure to the nail to be sure the blood has stopped flowing and is sufficiently coagulated. Otherwise, as the dog walks to the owner’s car if may begin bleeding again.

Always use a professional quality dog nail trimmer. These are designed to accommodate the shape of the dog’s nail. NEVER attempt to use a human nail trimmer, even on the tiniest of dogs.

The quality of the nail trimmers is an important consideration as using dull or inferior quality tools can create a potentially dangerous, painful, or at the very least, frightening experience for the dog or the groomer. Dull nail trimmers can crush, rather than cut the nail causing the dog unnecessary pain and creating a jagged edge on the nail. Low quality trimmers or nail clippers not in good working order can pinch the nail, becoming lodged on the nail. Needless to say, this would not be a pleasant experience for any dog.

Nail Scissors

Tool: Nail scissors are designed to open completely, making them perfect for toy breeds of dog and cats up to 15 pounds. They are especially useful for trimming dew claws that have grown around and back into the dog’s skin.

Technique: Small dogs may feel more secure about nail trimming if they are held closely between your upper arm and side. Use your hand to gently pull the paw forward and squeeze the paw to spread the digits making access to the nails easier. Inspect each nail before trimming. Be sure to include dew claws

Pliers Type Nail Trimmers

Tools: Pliers type nail trimmers come in a variety of sizes for medium to giant breeds. The simple and sturdy design makes them a favorite of veterinarians and professional groomers everywhere. Beginners may find the safety cutting guard on some pliers type nail trimmers of benefit. The safety guard prevents placing the nail too far through the opening of the cutting edges. This allows you to trim just a little of the nail at a time. Pliers type nail trimmers can be held so that the nail is cut from side-to-side or from top-to-bottom, making them easier to handle and position for trimming the nails.

Guillotine Nail Trimmers

Tool: Guillotine nail trimmers require that they be used to cut the nail from the underside of the nail up. Proper placement of the trimmer on the nail is especially important for best results. These nail trimmers are more appropriate for small to medium size dogs under 40 pounds. Regular blade replacement is necessary to keep the nail trimmer in good working order.

Technique: Whether using the pliers type or guillotine nail trimmers it is important to secure the dog so that you can safely reach each paw for inspection and trimming. Hold the dog’s paw securely and gently squeeze the center pad to extend the digits. Inspect the nail for the quick line. Place the nail through the opening of the cutting edges of the trimmer and cut the nail in a smooth stroke.

*SPECIAL NOTE: Some dogs, especially geriatric dogs or large breeds with hip dysplasia will aggressively object to what appears to be having it nails trimmed. When in fact, it is the way in which it is being handled that the dog objects to. It is important to be in tune with how you are trying to manipulate the dog’s body in order to trim its nails.

Lifting a rear leg up at the hip of a dog with dysplasia is extremely painful. Learn to work with the dog to get certain tasks accomplished. Instead of lifting the dog’s leg, try bending at the waist or squatting to the required height to get the task completed.

Nail File

Tool: A V-shaped dog nail file is specifically designed to accommodate a dog’s nail. Filing the nails is an important finishing step to trimming the nails. This quick process will remove the rough edge left from trimming. It helps to prevent the nail from snagging on carpets or fabrics as well as reducing the potential of scratching wounds on both the dog and its owner.

Technique: Hold the dogs paw firmly, supporting the individual digit as you use the file. Place the V of the file on the nail and pull in one direction using the entire length of the file if possible. Repeat on each nail until the nail is relatively smooth.

Nail Grinder

Tool: An electric nail grinder can be either corded or cordless. It uses a small grinding stone spinning at a very high speed to file the nails. One must have a strong, steady hand working on a calm dog to use the grinder properly. It is important to keep the tool away from hair and skin as it can catch the hair and become entangled and in an instant you can have an unsightly bald spot. This is a handy tool for dogs being shown in confirmation, obedience and agility as regular use will keep nails very short and smooth.


Technique: Secure the dog, extending the paw forward. Hold the paw firmly and brace the individual digit as you begin using the grinder. Be sure the dog’s coat is out of reach of the grinder. Gently place the spinning grinding stone against the nail. Shorten to the desired length. Repeat the process until all nails have been shortened and are smooth.

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