Dog Grooming For Beginners

Grooming your dog at home can save you a lot of money over the course of a year. We started grooming our dog with great success. If you need a crash course in dog grooming for beginners, we have all your answers from one newbie to another. 

Our dog is a terrier mix that we got from the animal shelter a little over a year ago. He is about 10 pounds, but grows a ton of hair and sheds like crazy. The coronavirus put us in an interesting situation where he desperately needed to be groomed, but his shots were expired so we couldn't take him to the groomer, and we can't take him to the vet to get his shots because #quarantine, so Derek and I took it upon ourselves to groom him on our own several weeks ago.

I'm going to preface all of this with: We are not professionals. We had no clue what we were doing. If you groom your dog at home you do so at your own risk. 

At Home Dog Grooming For Beginners:

First, Wash Your Dog:

Our dog's fur was pretty gross at this point and super matted in a lot of areas, especially around his bum and paws. We gave him a bath using this oatmeal dog shampoo. This helped to smooth out all of his hair so that the trimmers would glide through it more easily. If the fur is matted down and stuck together, it will snag in the trimmers and could possibly hurt your dog.

Where to Groom Your Dog At Home:

We groomed our dog right in our master bathroom on our counter. We took everything off of the counter and set it in our bathtub with the curtain closed so that any fur that got airborne wouldn't get all over our personal hygiene items. We then just set Chester right up on the counter and he did really well. Derek and I took turns positioning him while the other groomed and trimmed, and Chester honestly didn't really move, bark, yelp, or anything the entire time. He just sat there and took it like a champ.

In hindsight, we saw one of our neighbors grooming their dog outside on their porch and this actually sounds like a much easier idea. We will totally be doing this next time. 

Best Clippers for Dog Fur:

We have a hair trimmer that we bought several years ago for me to cut Kyle's hair with. We originally thought that it would be too loud and scare Chester, but then had a friend tell us they used a human hair trimmer on their dog and nothing bad happened, so we decided to go that route and use ours. When we were done we sanitized the entire thing with bleach so we could go back to using it on humans again.

We used the #3 guard on the trimmer for his back, legs, neck, belly, and every part of him had a large enough surface area for the large trimmer to easily reach. This is the trimmer we used.

Derek also has a smaller trimmer that he uses for his beard. We used the smaller trimmer on his paws, legs, near his bum, and genital area (sorry yes, I went there). This is the beard trimmer we used.

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How We Knew How To Cut Our Dog's Hair:

Before we attempted the initial cut, we typed into youtube, "how to groom a terrier". We had a pretty good idea on what to do because we know what his fur looks like when it's professionally groomed, but seeing someone else do it in a video first gave a lot of peace of mind that it wouldn't be too difficult.

Our dog is super low maintenance, so we basically trimmed it all down like a buzz cut and called it good, except for some fine details.

Before you groom your own dog at home, I highly recommend watching a couple videos first to see how other people groom your particular breed.

Grooming The Fine Details:

The hardest parts for us to groom were around his face, genitals, and paws. They're just super small areas and our trimmers with the guards on were much too big to get into those spaces.

We ended up taking the guards off and using the blade right on his fur to get to these area. For the paws, we pushed all his hair up so that it was going opposite of the grain and sticking up, and then very carefully buzzed off the fur that was standing up. We never put the blade itself against his body, and only used it to remove the fur that was sticking up away from his body. We did this along his legs, genitals, and any other areas that had unruly hair that was sticking up that the trimmer could not get to with the guard on.

If this makes you nervous, or you don't have a stead hand, definitely don't do it. Derek and I took turns doing this and felt really confident that we had a steady enough hand to not make a mistake. Obviously when you take the guard off you're assuming risks, but that was how we were able to get the closest trim.

Derek has a really tiny pair of scissors for his beard that we used to trim the fur around Chester's eyebrows, mouth, and face area. We simply picked up the long, excess fur between two fingers, and trimmed it down like a hair dresser would at a salon. We made sure to only ever cut above where our fingers were holding the fur and not below. Cutting below where you're holding the fur would risk poking them in the eye and things like that. Always cut above your fingers!

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When You're All Done: 

Derek took Chester into the other bathroom to wash off all the loose fur that was hanging out on him while I cleaned our bathroom. I find it best to work from top to bottom, so I cleaned all the fur off of the counter, and then sprayed and wiped down our cabinets, and then swept the floor. We then moped the floor to make sure that all the little fur particles were fully off the floor and wouldn't transfer to other areas of the house.

How Long Does Grooming Your Dog Take?

I think between the bath at the beginning and the end, and the trimming in between, it took us about two hours. With practice it could probably become a lot quicker over time. Update: We've groomed our dog at home three times now, and our most recent attempt only took 30 minutes!

Is Grooming Your Own Dog Worth It?

Yes! It honestly wasn't that bad. Considering every time we go to the groomer we pay about $75, I would much rather do it at home for free. The only caveat is that we don't feel super comfortable trimming his claws on our own, and so I do think we would still pay $10-$15 for him to have that done somewhere else! Update: We've saved almost $300 since quarantine started by doing this on our own. Totally worth it!

Do you groom your dog at home? I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments! 

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