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How to safely groom your dog at home, according to experts

Looking to keep your dog clean without constant visits to the groomers? Experts share their favorite products to safely groom your dog.
Teenage boy grooming his dog in living room
Veterinarians recommend bathing your dog at least once every three months, but avoiding frequent baths to reduce irritation.Getty Images

Dogs need frequent baths and personal maintenance to keep them looking, smelling and feeling good. But depending on the breed and size of your dog, as well as where you live, a regular visit to the groomer can be an investment.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months, but many breeds may require more frequent baths depending on how much time they spend outdoors or any skin or coat problems they might have, according to the ASPCA. Your dog’s temperament and size may also encourage you to skip out on the dog groomer for a few weeks or months at a time by providing your own at-home grooming routine.

Experts agree that certain grooming activities like haircuts, cleaning the anal gland and ear washes are best left to professionals. But other essential, less intensive grooming needs can be done at home, including bathing and brushing. We spoke to veterinarians, trainers and groomers about their favorite grooming products and how to safely use them.

SKIP AHEAD Best products to bathe your dog | Best products to brush your dog | Other at-home grooming essentials | How to groom your dog at home | What should you leave to the professionals? | How to keep your dog calm

Our top picks

How we chose the best at-home dog grooming products

To help you build an effective at-home grooming routine, we consulted experts about what to consider when bathing, brushing and blow-drying your dog. Experts told us that some grooming needs like hair trimming and shaving (and, in some cases, trimming their nails), should be left to grooming professionals. Below, is what to consider when shopping for at-home grooming supplies:

  • Coat type: Whether you’re bathing, brushing or blow-drying your dog’s hair, their coat type determines the type of product you’ll need. If your furry friend has a long, thick coat or is prone to severe tangles, or matting (think Havanese, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels), you should add a conditioner or detangling spray to their bathing routine, as well as a brush to gently get those tangles out. If your dog has short hair, you should look for an everyday brush or grooming glove to reduce the amount of fur they shed.
  • Skin concerns: If your dog has sensitive or dry skin, it’s important to limit the frequency of baths you give them since it can cause irritation and strip their skin of its natural oils. Oatmeal or aloe vera-based shampoos have skin soothing properties and fragrance-free formulas can cause less irritation, according to our experts.
  • Temperament: How well the grooming process goes depends heavily on your dog’s temperament. If your pup is nervous or new to at-home grooming, start slowly and provide them with high-value rewards — like treats, toys or positive verbal affirmations — to keep them calm and comfortable.

Best at-home dog grooming products

To help you get started on your at-home grooming routine, we shared our experts’ recommendations, included options from our past coverage and considered Select staff picks.

Products to bathe your dog

Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Dog & Cat Shampoo

This soap-free shampoo is made with oatmeal and aloe vera, which can heal dry, itchy and cracked skin in dogs, according to the veterinarians we consulted. I use this shampoo on my 5-year-old Havanese and Bichon Frise mix, Bella, because non-oatmeal based shampoos typically irritate her sensitive skin — this one, on the other hand, is gentle and has a pleasant, yet subtle, vanilla and almond scent. Her fur also feels so much fluffier when I use this shampoo compared to other options I’ve tried in the past.

Burt's Bees for Dogs Natural Oatmeal Shampoo

This dog shampoo from Burt’s Bees is a favorite of Select commerce analytics manager Amanda Smith, who uses it on her 2-year-old rat terrier mix, Mac. Smith loves the subtle honey smell of the shampoo, which is great because Mac “immediately jumps in the mud when his shampoo has a strong smell,” she says. Social commerce editor Sadhana Daruvuri also uses this shampoo on her 1-year-old Maltipoo, Bandit, and says “his fur always feels extra soft after I use it.”

The shampoo contains colloidal oatmeal (consisting of finely ground oats), honey and beeswax that’s suitable for sensitive and dry, itchy skin, according to the brand.

Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Conditioner

Though adding a conditioner or leave-in conditioner after shampooing isn’t necessary for all dogs, it can be beneficial for those with longer or thicker coats. “Conditioners can help detangle and soften the fur, making it easier to brush and reducing the risk of matting,” says Dr. Zay Satchu, co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Bond Vet. Since Bella has long, thick hair that gets easily matted, I use this option from Earthbath, which reduces redness and itchiness on her sensitive skin. I can immediately see and feel how much softer and moisturized her coat is after a bath.

Kong ZoomGroom Dog Brush

This rubber brush from Kong — which makes some of our favorite dog toys — has soft, wide bristles that work well for thoroughly cleaning your dog’s coat and gently massaging them during bathtime, according to Allie Akhmarova, owner of New York City-based grooming business Posh Groomer. You can use it to brush your dog’s dry coat, too. Akhmarova uses this tool on short-haired breeds that shed easily and it comes in a standard or puppy size.

Happy Hoodie

The Happy Hoodie, a soft and stretchy wrap that covers the dog’s ears, is a favorite of Akhmarova’s because it helps keep dogs calm and quiets the sound of the blow dryer. The Happy Hoodie can be used beyond grooming activities like bathing, nail clipping and blow drying: It can also be helpful at muffling loud noises like fireworks and thunder or keeping them calm in stressful situations, like car rides and vet trips, according to the brand. It comes in multiple sizes ranging from extra-small (for pets with a head circumference up to 10 inches) to extra-large (head circumference up to 27 inches).

Lick Lick Pad Dog Distraction Lick Mat

A lick mat is a silicone surface that you can stick to the wall of the tub and spread peanut butter, mashed bananas or wet dog food on — anything that can grab their attention “and keep both of your hands free to help you scrub their coat,” says Alison Chamberland, owner of Best in Coat Grooming Salon in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She recommends this option from Lick Lick Mat, which measures 9.5 inches by 4.5 inches, doesn’t require adhesives or suction cups, and is dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

Products to brush and dry your dog

Maxpower Planet Pet Grooming Brush

If your pet has very thick fur that gets easily matted, this grooming brush — which we previously covered in our list of pet hair removal tools — consists of sharpened, fine-rounded teeth, which help to de-shed and untangle your pup’s coat, according to the brand. Start with the side of the brush that has nine teeth to comb out mats, and finish with the 17-tooth side that traps and removes loose pet hair, according to Maxpower.

The Stuff Ready-to-Use Dog Conditioner & Detangler

You can use a leave-in conditioner or detangling spray to relieve some of the pain and discomfort of brushing your dog, especially if they have tangled or matted hair, according to our experts. Bella doesn’t shed, which means she has a lot of hair that gets matted very easily. To combat post-bath tangles, I spray this on Bella’s damp coat right after her bath, which leaves her coat smooth and significantly reduces the number of tangles —you don’t need to rinse it out after.

DELOMO Pet Grooming Glove

One of our favorite tools to reduce shedding, this flexible, slip-on grooming glove brushes away excess fuzz and dirt — it allows the hair to stick directly to the glove as you massage it over your pet. It’s made of soft rubber, so your pup feels more comfortable and relaxed while they’re getting brushed, Chamberland says. It’s one size fits all, and it includes an adjustable wrist strap for a more comfortable fit.

Dog by Dr. Lisa Slicker Brush

A slicker brush, which comes with tightly-packed wire pins angled to brush through your dog’s coat without touching too much of the skin, comes recommended by our experts. They can better remove any tangles or mats before blow-drying your pet, especially for long-haired dogs, according to Akhmarova. I brush through Bella’s coat with this option from Dog by Dr. Lisa, and it easily glides through her coat to reduce tangles. Since Bella is small in size and stature, the small version works great at giving her a quick, thorough brushing and fits comfortably in my hand. If you have a bigger dog, the brand also offers the brush in a large size.

Les Poochs Pro Brush

If you’re in the market for a durable slicker brush, Akhmarova uses this one from Les Poochs on long-haired dogs with matting. The head of the brush gently glides through your pet’s fur and the curved bristles let you get closer to the skin where most mats form, according to the brand. The brush is designed for short, soft, curly and wavy hair breeds with coats measuring up to 3 inches.

Chris Christensen 7.5-Inch Greyhound Style Comb

“After brushing with a slicker brush, I always go through the coat [again] with a Greyhound-style comb,” Akhmarova says. She uses this one from Chris Christensen, which smoothly combs your dog’s hair without snagging it. The comb has rounded corners to prevent friction and reduce breakage, according to the brand.

Shernbao SHD-1800 Cyclone Force Dog Grooming Dryer

While a regular hair dryer on a cool setting can comfortably dry your dog’s hair, a dog-specific blow dryer may simplify the process for fluffier, longer-haired dogs. This one stands on its own so you can use your hands while brushing and handling your dog, and it comes with three different blower nozzles that adjust the speed and focus of the air stream, according to Chamberland. It also includes a flexible hose that can dry different parts of your pet and a handle for easy maneuverability.

Other at-home grooming essentials

Wild One Rinseless Shampoo

Wild One’s Rinseless Shampoo keeps Daruvuri’s Bandit smelling fresh in between his baths (which typically take place every 3-4 weeks). The rinse-free spray formula is hypoallergenic, so it won’t cause allergies in dogs with sensitive skin, according to the brand. The brand recommends holding the nozzle about 3-5 inches away from the dog's coat and spraying it in a sweeping motion starting at the neck and working toward the tail. You can purchase one bottle or bundle two or three bottles for a discounted price. You can also subscribe to receive automatic shipments of the product every four, six or eight weeks on the Wild One website.

Dog by Dr. Lisa Wipes

You can use dog-friendly wipes to clean off any dirt or debris from your dog’s paws or coat after walks, keeping them from trailing any mess inside your home. “These wipes smell great and they’re super gentle, so they don’t cause any irritation on Chance’s sensitive skin,” says Select’s associate updates editor Zoe Malin. They’re vegan and include plant-based ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber extract and coconut to moisturize and soothe the skin, according to the brand.

Boshel Dog Nail Clippers

One of our favorite dog nail clippers and a favorite of Select manager of editorial operations, Shari Uyehara, are these from Boshel. They’re made with sharp stainless-steel blades to cut thicker nails on medium and large dogs. The built-in safety stop can keep you from over-clipping your dog’s nails, according to the brand, and the locking switch on the handle can help you store them safely. The clippers also come with a nail file that’s stored inside the handle.

Miracle Care Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder

While it’s best to avoid nicking the quick — a vein in the nail that can cause pain when clipped — altogether, bleeding can happen on occasion and it’s typically not a cause for alarm, according to Satchu. If bleeding does happen, “it's a good idea to have some styptic powder — which helps with pain and clotting — on hand if the nail accidentally gets trimmed too short,” Chamberland says. This powder contains benzocaine, which helps reduce discomfort and stop the bleeding on minor cuts, according to the brand. It can be used on dogs and cats of all sizes and ages. The brand recommends putting the powder on the cut using a moistened cotton applicator and applying moderate pressure for five to ten seconds.

Dremel 7760-PGK Pet Grooming Cordless Kit

A pet-friendly nail grinder is a less stressful option as it files a small amount of nail at a time, according to Chamberland. This option lets you choose between four speed options and trims nails at a 45-degree angle, which helps better maintain control and comfort when you’re using it, according to the brand.

Angels' Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes

Uyehara uses these no-rinse wipes to clean any gunk around Loki’s eyes and prevent tear stains from forming. “I noticed they're a lot more effective than using a paper towel and they're gentle, so he doesn't make a fuss,” she says. These presoaked, textured wipes are formulated with soothing chamomile extract and aloe vera to avoid irritation, according to the brand. The product is safe to use on all dog breeds over the age of 12 weeks old, according to Angels’ Eyes.

Kin + Kind Nose & Paw Moisturizer

“I use this moisturizer on Chance’s dry skin, including his paws and elbows, to relieve any itching and irritation,” Malin says. It also has a roll-on applicator, which makes it easy to tackle any dry spots on their nose and body, according to Malin. The moisturizer is formulated with coconut oil, beeswax and jojoba seed oil to lock in moisture, as well as shea butter to soften the skin, according to the brand.

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Dog & Cat Poultry Flavor Toothpaste

Experts recommend regularly brushing your dog’s teeth with a pet-safe toothbrush and toothpaste in addition to giving them dental chews to maintain the health of their teeth and gums. A solid dental cleaning routine can be established during your regular grooming activities: “Teeth brushing can be done daily or at least a few times a week — it is the best way to avoid tartar buildup, maintain oral hygiene and avoid big dental bills down the road,” says Robert Haussmann, a certified dog trainer and co-founder of Dogboy NYC. A dog-friendly toothpaste like this one from Vibrac, which I use on my own dog, can inhibit plaque from forming on your pet’s teeth and is safe if they accidentally swallow it, according to the brand. I pair it with this dog toothbrush that comfortably fits on my finger.

Dexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Cleaner

After long walks around the city or fun-filled trips to the dog park, Bella’s white paws are usually dark gray — I add warm water and a dash of Bella’s favorite dog shampoo into this paw cleaner to get them right back to normal. I insert her paws one at a time into the tumbler, which includes a layer of thick silicone bristles — I slowly move her paw in an up-and-down motion and allow the bristles to gently scrub to remove any trace of mud and dirt. Both the tumbler and bristles are also top-rack dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up.

How to groom your dog at home

There are plenty of benefits to brushing and bathing your dog regularly: In addition to removing built-up dirt, dead skin cells and allergens like pollen from a dog’s skin and coat, at-home grooming can help you save money, build a stronger bond with your pet and give you more control over the grooming process, according to Satchu. Before diving in, experts told us there are a few things to know when it comes to trimming, bathing and brushing their hair.


Haircuts that require clippers or scissors should be left to professional groomers as you may accidentally injure your pet, according to the experts we spoke to.

As temperatures rise during the summer, many dog owners believe it’s necessary to shave their dogs to help them cool off. However, long hair can “help keep a dog cool by acting as an insulator, similar to how insulation in your home keeps the AC inside,” Satchu says . In fact, experts advise against shaving dogs with long or double coats in the summer since it can increase their chance of overheating and getting sunburnt.


Most dogs can benefit from a daily brush and a bath monthly. Frequent baths though “may result in drying out of the skin and coat, or even in the skin becoming irritated,” Satchu says. As a general rule of thumb, dogs shouldn’t be bathed more than twice a month to avoid “stripping their coat of their natural protective oils,” says Dr. Stephanie Austin, a veterinarian and former medical director at Bond Vet.

To ensure that there’s no water in the nose or shampoo in the eyes and thoroughly rinse your pet. It’s also important to avoid getting water in their ears to prevent ear infections.

Experts recommend always using pet-specific shampoos as human products are more likely to cause skin irritation, according to Satchu. Aloe vera- or oatmeal-based shampoos are great due to their skin soothing properties, according to Austin, and fragrance-free shampoos are least likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions for dogs with very sensitive skin.

Brushing and blow drying

Always ensure you’re brushing your dog before and after bathing them, especially long-haired breeds.

“Matting in your dog's coat will trap shampoo and hold moisture at the skin [while bathing] that can cause rashes and sores,” Chamberland says. She suggests using a long-pin slicker brush paired with a brushing spray to help detangle longer, thicker hair.

Proper brushing after a bath is also a must, no matter the breed. “If a dog is not properly brushed out afterwards, it’ll result in mats that pull skin and make your pet feel uncomfortable,” Akhmarova says.

It’s important to get your dog’s coat as dry as possible after their bath since a damp coat creates the risk of hot spots and irritation. Chamberland suggests using a blow dryer on a cool- or low-heat setting to prevent pain and discomfort. You should gradually get your dog used to the sound of the dryer and be sure to have treats handy.

Regular brushing outside of bath time can also be a good way to avoid tangles while keeping your dog's coat shiny and healthy. Short-haired dogs also benefit from regular brushing to keep their coats healthy and reduce shedding. “It’s also a great way to check for fleas and ticks, too,” Haussmann says.


If you notice your dog’s nails are making a clicking sound on hardwood floors, if they’re having trouble moving around on non-carpeted surfaces or if their nails are getting caught or tearing often, these are all signs that they’re overdue for a nail trim, according to Austin. However, if your dog lives in a city and walks often on cement, they’ll typically get a natural trim.

Be mindful that there’s a vein in the nail called the quick — the blood supply and nerve located in the core of the nail — that, if cut, can be painful and may bleed considerably. It’s not unusual for this to happen, especially since some dogs have longer quicks than others and it can be difficult (if not impossible) to note where the quick is when trimming nails on certain dogs with darker nails, according to Satchu. “You could start by trimming just a little at a time to avoid [the quick] or leave it up to the professionals,” Satchu says.

What should you leave to the professionals?

Cutting your pet’s hair, expressing anal glands, cleaning their ears and sometimes trimming their nails should usually be left to professional dog groomers for safety, according to Satchu. A trim or shave, for instance, can result in serious injury if there’s an accidental slip of the scissors or razor.

“I don’t recommend trying to groom your dog with scissors — far too many times, I’ve had to stitch up a patient after an at home grooming accident,” Austin says. You should also avoid putting anything down your dogs’ ears, such as a cotton ball or Q-tip, without discussing with your veterinarian first, Austin recommends.

It’s usually best to seek a professional if your dog has severe mats or clumps of tangles that lie close to the skin, according to Satchu. “Professionals have the experience and tools to remove these mats safely without injuring their skin,” she says.

The potential for injury isn’t the only reason professionals advise against using equipment to cut or shave hair: “From an esthetic perspective, I strongly dislike fixing home cuts,” says Akhmarova, noting she often sees holes in the coat or crooked ears. “It’s an expense you should calculate for when welcoming certain breeds into your home,” Haussmann adds.

How to keep your dog calm and comfortable

Most groomers and trainers we consulted recommend starting puppies early with grooming activities. Those under 14 weeks “are in a developmental stage called the critical period — during this stage, puppies are very open and malleable to new experiences and can learn to enjoy grooming if the experience is made positive for them,” Haussmann says.

It can also be helpful to pair grooming activities with something exciting or delicious. “Start slow and gradually add the length of time or difficulty,” says Shelby Semel, founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training. She recommends letting your pup lick peanut butter off of a spoon or a lick mat while gently brushing their back, cleaning their paws or while they're in the bathtub. For more anxious dogs, you can start by simply walking into the bathroom, turning on the water, giving them a few treats and walking back out, according to Chamberland. “This will get your dog used to the sound of the water and start associating hearing the water with getting treats,” she says.

When it comes to nail-trimming, you can hold your dog's paw and give them a high value reward, like their favorite treats. “Teaching your dog to ‘give paw’ will greatly help them be comfortable with paw handling and, from there, you should build them up to feeling comfortable with nail trims,” Haussmann says.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Zay Satchu is the co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Bond Vet.
  • Allie Akhmarova is a professional dog groomer and owner of Posh Groomer in New York City.
  • Robert Haussmann is a certified dog trainer and co-founder of Dogboy NYC. He is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Counselors.
  • Alison Chamberland is a professional dog groomer and owner of Best in Coat Grooming Salon in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Shelby Semel is a professional dog trainer and founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and serves as the head of training and behavior at Animal Haven Shelter in New York City.
  • Dr. Stephanie Austin is a veterinarian and former medical director at Bond Vet.

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