When first thinking about what kind of dog you want, you might assume that all small dogs are low maintenance and require little grooming. While it's true that some breeds, like the Manchester terrier or smooth-coated Chihuahua, require less grooming than others, all dogs need regular grooming to check for fleas and ticks, as well as occasional baths or other personalized grooming routines. Not only that, but many small dog breeds, like the shih tzu and Lhasa apso, need meticulous and frequent grooming to maintain a healthy, beautiful coat.
Professional dog groomers will gladly take care of this for you, but usually for a hefty fee. After you factor these fees into your budget, you might suddenly decide that you do have the patience and time to groom your dog at home after all. We'll go over the most important tools you need for the process.
Of course, one of the main challenges of grooming a small dog is his impatience and inability to stand still for longer than 10 seconds. That's why it's important to start training him from an early age to stay still for you. As for setup, it's best to put your small dog on a table or counter covered with a towel or nonslip mat.
Now, on to the tools.
5: Brushes and Combs
Without regular grooming, a dog's hair can start matting, which in turn traps dirt and moisture that can lead to skin infections. That's why brushes and combs are essential tools to proper grooming. Different breeds have different needs, but we'll go over some common kinds you might want on hand.
A slicker brush will be your best grooming friend for most dog breeds. You should use it to untangle knots and brush through curls. For loose hair, try a rubber currycomb, which also helps get rid of dead skin. One good brushing technique, according to experts, is to brush in parted sections, working up from the skin and out to go all the way through the coat. Then you can brush the sections back into place.
Combs are great for fixing any tangles the brush may have left behind. They range from fine-toothed to wide-toothed, and the medium-toothed comb is handy for most breeds. And don't forget the flea comb, which helps you check for fleas in addition to helping detangle hair.
4: Cotton Balls and Cotton Swabs
Be kind to your dog's little, adorable face. The face of a small dog can be delicate and require the most attention during the grooming session. This is why cotton balls and swabs are very handy tools that every home groomer should have.
Although we use them for our ears, don't use a cotton swab to clean a dog's ear. This can cause damage if you push dirt in deeper. Instead, cotton swabs are handy for cleaning out face wrinkles, such as those on a pug.
For the ears, use cotton balls dipped in an ear-cleaning solution, and gently wipe away wax and dirt. Use a fresh cotton ball for each ear to avoid cross contamination. If there's excess hair growing from the ear canals, trim it down. Clean ears are a dull pink color and aren't smelly.
To keep a dog's eyes clean and free of discharge, use a cotton ball to briskly (but gently) wipe around the eyes. Like with the ears, use a fresh cotton ball for each eye.
Cotton balls are also good for placing in the dog's ear during a bath to keep water out. They help with treating ticks, too: Simply place dish soap on a cotton ball, press the cotton ball onto a tick, and hold for a few seconds for the tick to detach.
3: Dog Shampoo
Although you don't need to bathe a dog as often as you groom it, dogs who love to be outside and active will probably require more frequent bathing. Many dog owners assume that they can simply grab some human shampoo and call it a day. But the truth is, human shampoos are too acidic for a dog's skin, and they can do more harm than good. They dry out and damage a dog's hair in the long run.
Dog shampoos, on the other hand, are balanced to fit a dog's needs. Plus, they don't tend to be very expensive. In pet stores, you can find hypoallergenic and antifungal dog shampoos. Talk to your vet to get a recommendation for your specific dog. For beginner groomers, experts also recommend using tearless dog shampoo until you learn to avoid the eyes carefully.
Make sure to get conditioner made for dogs and not humans, as well. Conditioner helps you brush out tangles and leaves the coat with a healthy shine.
2: Nail Clippers
Clipping a dog's nails is an essential part of regular grooming, but it's often the most difficult, too. Aside from being too rough on your furniture and your skin, nails that grow too long can break, which is painful for dogs. Little dogs who tend to stay indoors and don't walk on hard surfaces probably need frequent nail trimming. Try to work nail clipping into your weekly grooming routine. Many dogs don't like their paws being handled, so help your dog get used to it by caressing his paws as a puppy, preferably before you even need to trim his nails.
Little dogs will only require small pet nail clippers, which you can also use on cats. You'll find them in scissor style or guillotine style. If your dog is particularly squeamish about clippers, which some dogs are, you could also try using a nail grinder.
The most important and difficult part about clipping nails is to avoid the quick, which provides the blood supply to the nail. If you nick this, the dog's nail will start bleeding. If the pink quick is visible, it's easier to to avoid. But, some dogs have dark nails that make it impossible to see the quick. In this case, you should clip a little at a time and stop when it starts to feel spongy.
In case you do nip the quick, keep styptic powder within reach to stop the bleeding.
An often overlooked but very important grooming step is cleaning your dog's teeth. Small dogs in particular suffer from dentistry problems because of their small mouths, requiring professional cleaning more often than larger dogs. To prevent tartar and plaque buildup, experts recommend brushing a small dog's teeth every day. This seems like a lot, but not when you consider that unhealthy teeth can eventually lead to liver, heart and kidney disease.
You shouldn't use a human toothbrush or toothpaste for dogs, however. Dog toothbrushes are soft and angled for back teeth, making the process easier for the both of you. Human toothpaste is made to be spit out, which dogs don't do, and the foaming agents will make a dog sick. The foaming itself can scare a dog, too. They'll appreciate dog toothpaste more, anyway -- it even comes in meat flavors. You can find such products in pet stores or online.
Grooming at first seems like a grueling process, but the more you do it, the easier it will get for both you and your dog. And, with early training, your dog will learn to appreciate the attention.