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When & How to Groom a Puppy for the First Time

When & How to Groom a Puppy for the First Time

Grooming your puppy for the first time can be an anxious experience for both you and your pup. Our New Hope vets explain the importance of grooming your puppy and offer you tips on how you can make the process easier at home, and for professional grooming appointments.

Grooming Your Puppy for the First Time

Because puppies have excellent memories they easily remember their first experiences including grooming. This is why it's important to make the initial session as stress-free and pleasant as possible.

You can begin the process by helping your young pooch become comfortable with you touching their fur, paws, nails, ears, and teeth from as young of an age as possible. You need to do this often, before introducing your pup to the brush. You can also get them accustomed to the water and being wet by dipping their paws into a warm tub of water that goes just above their paws, gradually introducing more water each time you dip them. If you have already picked out the kind of puppy shampoo you want to use or know the one your professional groomer will be using, you can let your puppy get used to its scent by letting them sniff it off your fingers or even by putting a small amount on their paws.

As soon as your young pooch is used to being handled, you can start brushing and combing them at home, this also gets them used to the tools a professional groomer might use (a brush and comb). Then when your puppy is about 16 weeks old, you can give them a full grooming session or bring them to a professional groomer, this will be around the same time they have received all of their scheduled puppy vaccinations.

Grooming Your Puppy at Home

As we said earlier, you should get your puppy adjusted to the grooming basics such as being touched and getting wet as early as possible, so when it comes time to groom them they won't be as nervous or anxious.

Brushing Your Puppy

Here are the steps we recommend taking when you are brushing your puppy, to help make the process more smooth:

  1. When your puppy is used to being held, touched, and exposed to water, you can easily introduce the actual grooming (not yanking and going immediately for the knots). Begin by letting them sniff the brush and comb, then gently touch the brush to their fur so they can get adjusted to the feeling of the brush. Do this for about two minutes at a time several times a day.
  2. After roughly 5 days of getting your young pup used to the tools, slowly start grooming them.
  3. Implement a grooming routine and be consistent because puppies respond better to routines. Before grooming them, play with them first for a few minutes to associate the start of this routine with fun (it also makes your puppy tired and calmer for grooming). And select one quiet and calm location where you will groom them every time, such as a mat in the bathroom.
  4. When you start brushing, begin with larger body parts such as the back and sides and gradually work your way to harder-to-reach and more sensitive parts such as the belly, head, and legs. If you come across a knot don't yank, place your hand on the skin (to prevent the tugging feeling), and comb the knot with firm, quick strokes.

Every puppy has their own needs for how often they have to be combed and brushed. If their fur is longer and gets tangled more easily, you should brush them every day to prevent knots and mats, otherwise, you can brush them once a week or so.

Bathing Your Puppy

Below we have listed the steps for bathing your puppy at home: 

  • Fill a tub, sink, or basin with a few inches of warm water
  • Thoroughly wet their fur all over (you can use a jug, hose, or pitcher) and apply a shampoo specially formulated for puppies. Lather it all over their back, legs, armpits, belly, and groin, but do not put water or shampoo on their head or face because it can irritate places such as their eyes, mouth, and ears. Never use human shampoo on your dog because it's not good for their skin.
  • With a jug, hose, or pitcher, completely rinse off the shampoo, until the water starts running clear.
  • Gently pat your puppy down with a warm, dry towel. Keep your puppy warm until they are completely dry. You can do this by keeping them in a warm room and providing them with a warm bed or blanket to lay on.

Preferably, you should be bathing your puppy once a month. If your pup gets dirty and/or is covered in mud, you may need to bathe them more often. If your pup's skin is sensitive you can wait a little longer between bathing sessions. If you aren't sure how often you should be bathing your puppy don't hesitate to ask your vet, they will be able to inform you of your puppy's bathing needs.

Hair Cuts and Nail Clippings

We understand how you may be nervous about cutting your puppy's fur or trimming their nails, which is why you can bring your pup to a professional groomer who can complete these tasks for you. It's essential for your puppy's health that these tasks are completed properly. Professional groomers have the tools, training, and equipment required to groom your pooch safely.

There are specific puppy haircuts for each breed and you can ask your veterinarian about the cut you should give your dog and which scissors you should use.

When you are clipping your puppy's nails, use specific dog nail clippers and only cut little bits at a time leaving them a little longer, because if you accidentally cut them too short your puppy will bleed and it will cause them discomfort. So if you do not think you can perform this task, have it done professionally. Puppies also need their nails trimmed more frequently than adult dogs, and the rate at which they grow depends on their breed, so speak to your vet about your puppy's nail clipping needs.

Keeping Your Puppy Calm During Grooming

Here we have provided some tips on how you can keep your puppy as relaxed and calm as possible while you are grooming them:

  • Stay calm and talk in a relaxing voice
  • Start getting your puppy used to being touched, brushed, and wet as early as possible
  • Play with them beforehand to calm them down and associate the start of a grooming session with playtime
  • Establish a set grooming routine and schedule for your puppy
  • Take breaks when needed and move at your puppy's pace
  • Provide your puppy with treats and reward good behavior

Grooming Your Puppy Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of regularly grooming your puppy:

  • Your pooch looks and feels better in general 
  • It provides you or a professional with the opportunity to find fleas, mites, or other skin conditions
  • Your puppy will smell better
  • Getting rid of mats that can cause your puppy pain and discomfort
  • You can clear away dead skin and shed fur
  • Regular nail trims keep their claws from getting too long which could cause pain, bad posture, and bone deformations

Is your puppy ready for their first grooming appointment? Contact our New Hope vets to book an appointment.

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