Is your puppy’s fur looking a bit more Wurzel Gummidge than Crufts champion? Maybe you’re wondering how to go about puppy grooming? Or you’re thinking about getting a puppy and asking how you’d go about brushing them, when they should get their first puppy groom and how often.

There’s more to consider when it comes to puppy grooming than you might think.

Honestly, with some long-haired dogs, they need to go to the groomers more often than we need the hairdressers, but hey ‘they’re worth it’ right?

We’ve created this guide to tell you all you need to know about puppy grooming. In this article we’ll cover:

  • Why puppy grooming is important 
  • When should your puppy have their first groom
  • How to groom your puppy yourself
  • How to make the puppy grooming process tangle free
  • Puppy grooming tips based on your pup’s fur type

Don’t forget as well as making your pup look like they just stepped out of the salon, puppy grooming is great for bonding with your pup too! 

Worried about puppy grooming? It’s a lot, isn’t it? Yes, having a long-haired puppy does mean you’re going to be more involved in the grooming, but the beauty of them is most long-haired puppies don’t shed, so the choice is yours, really. Short-haired and less grooming, but your vacuum cleaner will do the work, or long haired and more grooming required.  

If you’re wondering where to start with grooming, you can find information in the Zigzag puppy training app. There’s also a team of puppy training coaches to help you with whatever struggles you’re having with grooming your puppy. 

wet golden-haired puppy getting a bath
Photo by Benjamin Lehman on Unsplash

Why is puppy grooming important?

Puppy brushing and puppy grooming helps to keep your puppy’s skin and fur clean and free of dirt. Whether you have a short-haired puppy that needs brushing to get rid of the dead hair, or a long-haired puppy who needs brushing to make sure their coat stays tangle-free, they all need some grooming.

Of course, grooming isn’t just about puppy brushing. Grooming your puppy means looking after their nails and teeth too. The full beauty service is required for our pooches, pampered or not!

puppy with a head towel getting brushed
Photo by Hayffield L on Unsplash

At what age should the puppy have their first groom?

A puppy’s first grooming can be a little daunting, but we can help. If you have a long-haired puppy then it’s likely that their breeder will have begun the grooming process for you. Breeders will be used to grooming their adult dogs and will have wanted the pups to have got used to washing, brushing and drying while still young. 

In short-haired breeds, the breeder will likely have done lots of handling exercises and checked the puppy’s ears, eyes and teeth, so they should be well used to being handled by the time you bring them home.

Once home, you’ll want to keep up the good work. Long-haired puppies especially need combing and brushing often, and short-haired dogs enjoy the fuss too.

Contact your local dog grooming salon to find out what they recommend for your puppy. Pop by the groomer the sooner, the better. Even if your puppy is in a carry bag they can get used  to the sound of the dryers and the smell of shampoo. That way, when they start going there, it won’t be such a shock.

At home, you can teach them that being in the bath is fun by just having some treats in the bath with them and a little bit of water, don’t wait until they NEED a bath to teach them bath time is fun. 

How to groom a puppy?

To give a puppy a full groom at home, you’ll want to wash and dry them, comb out any knots in their fur, clean their ears, trim their claws and check and brush their teeth.

For day to day grooming, brushing their fur and brushing their teeth is usually sufficient for most puppies. However, they may need more frequent ear cleans, skin wiping, and eye checking, depending on the breed. 

How to groom and trim a puppy’s nails

When you first bring your puppy home, you may need to trim their nails, as they can be sharp, even if they’re still short! This part of puppy grooming needs to be done with care and thought. It can be tempting to jump straight into this, but it’s best to work up slowly, from just feeling your puppy’s claws to actually clipping the nail. Here’s our step by step guide to trimming your pup’s claws 

  1. Start with the right claw clippers, and a pot of deliciously tasty treats.
  2. Clip one claw and give your puppy a reward for letting you do it.
  3. You can do just a couple of claws at a time and then have a little break. It depends on how your puppy feels about nail trimming. 
  4. Keep going until all the paws have had their nails clipped.
  5. Make sure you don’t cut the nail too short, as if you cut the quick, it will bleed and be sore.

How to brush a puppy’s fur

Whether you have a Cockapoo, an Afghan Hound, a Dachshund or a Staffie, they all need their puppy fur brushing. Even short-haired breeds enjoy the massaging effects of being brushed. Brushing is an essential part of puppy grooming. It gets dead hair and skin out of their coats, distributes the natural oils, and it stimulates blood flow keeping the skin healthy and the coat shiny.

  • For a puppy’s first grooming session I like to load up a lickimat with delicious peanut butter, wet puppy food or lactose-free soft cheese. Stick the mat to a wall or have it on the floor for the puppy to get into.
  • You’re now free to concentrate on puppy brushing without them biting the brush! 
  • In the long-haired dogs, start brushing at the end of the fur so that any knots can be brushed through from the ends, rather than starting at the root as this can be sore for them.
  • For all coats, there will be bits of your puppy they don’t mind being brushed and bits they probably hate! Do a part they don’t mind first, then somewhere more sensitive after. 
  • Take as many breaks as you need to. Brushing should be a pleasant experience and not one your puppy resists or dreads!

How to brush a puppy’s teeth 

Like all puppy grooming, it’s worth starting puppy teeth brushing when they’re still very young, so that it’s something they get used to having done. It will save your puppy’s teeth and your dog dental bills in the long run.

Use one of the on finger toothbrushes with some meaty flavoured doggy toothpaste at first. That way your puppy will probably be happier, especially if it’s your puppy’s first time at puppy teeth brushing. 

If your puppy isn’t keen on you touching their mouth, then it can be worth paying attention to some handling exercises (it’s all in the Zigzag puppy training app). That way they learn that it’s honestly ok! 

How to clean a puppy’s ears

Puppy ears should be clean and fresh and not smelly! Ear mites are common, especially in puppies, so make ear cleaning and checking just another thing you do. 

Prick-eared breeds like French Bulldogs, and many of the Terriers have ears that act like funnels and collect a lot of dirt, so they need to be cleaned and checked regularly.

Spaniels, poodles, and many gundog breeds and crossbreeds have very hairy ears that need to be kept clean, and often the fur is plucked or clipped. Ask your vet or groomer which method is best for your puppy. 

Even if you have a short-haired dog, with dropped ears, you should still clean and check their ears as who else is going to?! 

Use plenty of treats and, to begin with, just a clean cotton pad to wipe any dirt. If they are dirty, then use an ear cleaner.

What do you need for a smooth puppy grooming process?

All the gear and no idea, yes sometimes it can feel a bit like that with grooming your own puppy, but having some of these items will make the grooming process go a lot smoother.

Brushes and combs

Long-haired dogs will need a comb and then a flexible slicker to tame their tresses. Use a mat splitter if they’re really knotty as brushing the knots can often really hurt. 

Short-haired dogs will enjoy a rubber slicker style brush or one with rubber teeth to get the dead hair out and distribute oils through their coat.

Wirehaired dogs will like a slicker brush to get dirt and dead skin out of their coat. As well as make it nice and shiny! 

Puppy Shampoos and Conditioners

Don’t use anything too harsh on your puppy’s fur and also make sure it’s dog-specific as their skin has a different pH to human skin. Oat based shampoos soothe skin, whereas other shampoos also condition the coat well.

You can also buy a separate dog conditioner if you want to go that extra mile!

Nail Clippers

You want the best nail clippers for the job, so choose a pair that cuts nice and cleanly. You can also get nail grinders which are a bit like Dremels for your puppy’s nails, and some people find these preferable to use. If you have a very small puppy then nail clippers designed for cats can work well. 

Ear Cleaners

You’ll want a dedicated ear cleanser to make sure your puppy’s ears stay clean and germ-free. Epi-Otic ear cleaner is good, and we like the look of the Pro Pooch Ear Cleaner – never squirt ear cleaner directly in your puppy’s ears. Always use it on some cotton wool pads. Ear wipes can also be good for a quick once over. 

A bath mat

It’s important that your puppy doesn’t slip around when they’re in the bath as they might feel unsafe. Ensure there is a non-slip surface in the bottom of the bath (or sink) so that they don’t slide around. It’s also worth popping a suction pad mat on the wall to spread with your puppy’s spread of choice so that they have something to do while you’re bathing them. 

Outside bath:

If you don’t fancy putting your puppy in your own bath, or you have a bad back and can’t lean over, maybe this portable bath is perfect for you? We thought it was a good idea anyway! 

wet puppy getting hair dried and brushed
Photo by J. Balla Photography on Unsplash

Puppy grooming tips based on their breed

Each breed of dog has different grooming needs, and we want to make sure your puppy’s first grooming experience goes well. Check with your dog groomer or breeder to find out what you should pay close attention to in your breed but here are some ideas.

Spaniel puppy grooming tips

Spaniels need their ears kept clean and dry!  These water-loving gundogs also need a trim now and again and will need brushing and checking over as they can get brambles in their fur and get a bit tangled up. 

Puppy grooming tips for French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers

French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and other prick-eared breeds need close attention to ear and eye grooming, but their coat doesn’t need much work. 

Grooming tips for ‘wrinkly’ puppies

Bulldogs, Pugs, Shar Peis and anything else wrinkly like Dogue de Bordeauxs need their wrinkles cleaned and checked regularly as they can get mucky and sore if left to their own devices.

Grooming curly and long-haired puppies

Curly-coated and long-haired breeds (Cockapoos, Cavapoos, Maltipoos, Labradoodles, and Poodles and poodle types) will require extensive coat grooming and regular trips to the grooming salon.

Grooming advice for wire-haired puppies

Wire or rough-haired breeds like Irish Terriers, Welsh and Airedale Terriers, some Dachshunds and Border Terriers will need hand stripping twice yearly. This is a skilled job and time consuming for the groomer but is essential to keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy.

Grooming tips for Afghan Hound puppies

Afghan Hounds are in a class of their own as their fur is very long and quite human-like! These guys need regular washing and blow-drying and a lot of brushing. Not for the faint-hearted. 

There is so much more to grooming that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one article, however hard we tried! While you’re here you might want to read about when puppies lose their teeth

There’s a step by step programme for puppy grooming in our Zigzag puppy training app. We also have a team of puppy training coaches who’ve got experience with a wide array of dog breeds. They are always happy to help with any questions you may have.