Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Pet Expert: At Home Pet Grooming Tips Part One

COVID-19 has certainly changed the way pet owners care for their pets. From the temporary closing of dog parks and public green spaces, to curbside pickup, home delivery, and online shopping for pet supplies, we are all adjusting to this new way of providing care for our pets – and pet grooming is no exception.

With the recent mandatory closures of pet grooming businesses, pet owners are essentially relegated to grooming in their home for the time being, presenting a new and unique set of challenges.

For many pet owners, grooming their pets at home is a daunting task – but there is hope. We have teamed up with the top pet groomer in Grey Bruce, Bekah Chapman from The Pampered Paw Spa. We spoke to Bekah about the most essential home grooming tips to keep your pets looking their best.

When it comes to grooming, all dogs require some basic universal care. You can determine your dog’s specific grooming needs based on the categories they fall into: long- or short-haired, and small, medium, or large breed.

Nail Trimming

One thing all dogs need is regular nail trims. Every dog is different, and the rate at which their nails grow will vary. If the nails are not trimmed regularly, dogs may be at higher risk for torn or split nails, foot and joint pain, and long-term issues such as arthritis. Long nails can also cause damage to furniture, floors, other pets, and people too.

Here are four easy steps to trimming your dog’s nails:

  1. If you are using nail clippers, make sure they fit comfortably in your hand and that your dog is happy and relaxed. Have a reward on hand, such as treats or a favourite toy. In the event a nail is cut too short, have a styptic powder like Kwik-stop on the ready to stop any bleeding.

  2. Familiarize yourself with the location of the nail ‘quick’ (this is the vein that feeds the blood supply to the nail), and using little snips, carefully remove small slices of nail until you begin to see a darker, soft circle where the quick begins. Trimming past this point will result in pain and bleeding for the dog. If this happens, apply styptic powder and hold it on the nail until bleeding stops, and be sure to give your dog a treat and a break – especially if they seem stressed.

  3. If you are using a nail grinder or dremel, do not simply hold it against the nail to grind as this creates heat and discomfort. Use small, light taps of 1 to 2 seconds to slowly grind the nail down. This takes more time but is less likely to cause bleeding and will not leave sharp edges as clipping does.

  4. Work through nails one by one, remembering to give lots of praise!

Bonus tips: using a rough nail file or a scratchboard to maintain nails is a safe (and sometimes easier) method for keeping nails short without having to use clippers often. A quick YouTube search for ‘scratchboard training’ yields many helpful how-to videos and this can be a fun trick for both you and your dog that can help keep those nails looking and feeling perfect in just a few minutes a week.

Ear Care

Many dogs will develop dirt and wax buildup in their ears over time. While some dogs almost never need their ears cleaned, others require more frequent care. Here’s how to check and properly clean your dog’s ears:

When your dog is relaxed and happy, take a peek inside their ears for any visible dirt, wax, or discharge. Any matted hair inside the ear, redness, bad smell, soreness, or discharge should be checked by a vet, but regular dirt and wax buildup is easily dealt with at home.

There are many excellent ear cleaners available from your local pet store; just make sure to follow the instructions on your specific brand’s bottle carefully. The process is fairly straightforward: simply apply a small amount of ear cleaner into your pet’s ear canal, rubbing around the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. This helps work the cleaner inside those nooks and crannies in the deeper parts of the ear. Using a cotton ball or pad, gently and carefully wipe away the dirt and excess cleaner from inside your pet’s ear, and repeat if necessary until the ear is clean. Do not use force or rub too hard, as the structures of your pet’s ear are delicate and sensitive.

Stay tuned next week, where we discuss the best ways to bathe, brush, and trim your dog’s coat!

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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