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Grooming tips for a professional job done at home
By Jessica Turquette–Owner of the Moab BARKery

Having a clean dog is awesome! They smell great, look their very best and often act accordingly. Dogs that leave our grooming studio are at their finest and it takes a long list of steps to get them there. These steps are why you pay someone else to do it as well, it’s hard work. You can do a pretty good job at home without the fancy dryers and tubs, but you will need some good tools, good shampoo, lots of elbow grease and towels! Because you don’t have a 4 horsepower dryer at home, you will often have to rely on your dog air drying, therefore the majority of work needs to be done before the bath!

First step is to brush, even if you are going to shave your dog you will want to brush first and find any potential mats. If you find a lot of mats, stop and shave. If you find a few mats work them out.

Brushing a smooth coat dog: Get a shedding blade, furminator or rubber curry and brush with the grain of the coat. You will get mostly downy undercoat that is dull and has a softer texture than the top coat. This can take 2 to 10 minutes in a session and should be done weekly if not daily. These breeds shed the most!

Brushing a double coated dog: Use a slicker, stripping blade or comb to remove the hair from these breeds. Brush with the grain of the coat and be prepared for a ton of hair! Brushing these dogs should take 10-30 minutes a few times a week but some as little as once a week is necessary depending on outdoor activity. These breeds often get puffy mats around their back feathers, chest and around their collar area. These places need more attention. These coats are dense, so make sure you get down to the skin before bathing them otherwise the shampoo will never make it there. Brushing too much in one area with any of the tools that work well on this type of coat will irritate the skin and be careful when working on mats. Make sure you hold the skin on the top of the area you are brushing so you pull less on the skin and more on the hair. Many people shave these breeds in the summer to keep them cool. Shaving off their fur does keep them cooler, but it’s not great for their coat and can often grow back much thicker and even have some bald patches too.

Brushing a dog with hair (not fur): These dogs require frequent grooming so brush these dogs weekly if not daily. Many of these breeds have shaved bodies and legs, but have long ears and tails for style, and that requires a lot of attention. If you are doing the shaving or cutting at home I recommend you brush these dogs before you shave to get a more even look. You will often need to brush in many directions to get the hair to stand up as shaving or cutting both make the hair lay down.

If you noticed that regardless of what type of dog you have I recommend brushing at minimum weekly and before bathing. Dogs need a lot more brushing than they do washing. Their fur or hair has natural oils that help maintain their coats luster but also helps with water resistance. Brushing does far more for your dog than washing, and it’s the key to a healthier coat.

Next step is bathing your dog. Washing dogs of all breeds is pretty much the same. Use room temperature or warm water, never hot or cold! Soak your dog’s coat till they are wet to the skin. Apply a diluted shampoo (I recommend at least 4 parts water to soap even up to 10 parts water to soap. Work shampoo into mild to medium lather. Do not make a huge bubble monster with your dog, it will be very hard to rinse clean. You want a loose, even lather all over, and DON’T forget their feet! Your dog’s feet are the only way they can sweat. They have glands in them and because of the way they are shaped are a moist environment and can be very smelly. Dogs with long hair or fur can develop mats in their feet that need to be cut or shaved out. Make sure you rinse those feet as well as wash them. Another part of the wash that should come last is the face. Waiting till the end of the bath to wash your dog’s face will also lower their need to shake. If you have tearless soap make sure to wash around the outside of the face and mouth staying away from the eyes, otherwise rub your dog’s face with a wet towel to clean around the eyes and mouth. Make sure you rinse and rinse and rinse. Rinse back and forth, even against the grain of the coat so you ensure they get rinsed down to the skin. You want to make sure there are no soapy areas left before you start drying.

Next Step is drying. Drying your dog with a dryer makes the biggest difference between a groomer’s job and home job. But if you dry the right way your dog will still look great. When using towels make sure to rub back and forth with short coated breeds but use more of the scrunching motion with double coated or long hair breeds. Not too rough, you don’t want to cause mats just remove water from the coat. Use more than one towel, and make sure to get the feet, tail and face the driest. This is a great time for a walk if it’s warm outside as the movement will speed the drying.

Another important step once your dog is dry, give them another brushing. Any hair that was loosened up by the wash can now be removed, and will give your dog that finished look. This is also when you want to do any hair cutting and shaping. Make sure to trim around the feet, eyes, ears and the base of the tail to get a polished look. These spots get the dirtiest so they need the most attention, and trimming. Make sure to clean in the ears as well, using a cotton ball and a gentle cleaner with a witch hazel or alcohol base to help promote a dry environment. If the ear is bright pink, red or smelly be very careful. Make sure to talk with your vet about this, as ear infections are serious.

Last step to follow, everything your dog gets at the groomer, is nail trimming. Nails grow at very different rates. Some dogs need them trimmed every few weeks while others just a few times a year. Active dogs can go years between nail trims. The most important part is to stay on top of any overgrowth and trim often if necessary. Long nails often can’t be trimmed short enough because the quick has become long as well. If your dog is small use the scissor style, if your dog is medium or large I recommend the type that look like pliers. A dog of any size can also have their nails trimmed with a grinder. This is a small hand tool that has a small circular bit. By grinding the nails, there is a smoother finish and often can be shorter as the quick is easier to avoid. This takes much more time and skill, and often dogs need to get used to it. Healthy nails are very important, so make sure to stay on top of your dog’s nails.

Doing a professional job at home means you need to work as hard as the professionals, if not harder since you lack the equipment. The good news is you can break any part of these steps into small bits; trim nails one day brush the next, you get it. Taking your time, and being thorough is the most important part of making your dog look the best. If you are unsure about what tools to use, ask. Make sure to give your dogs lots of love and reassurance to make it more enjoyable for everyone.

MoabBarkery website

Dog Friendly Walks/Hikes in the Moab Area
Trail or Walk Difficulty Length
(one way)
Proximity to Downtown
MillCreek Pathway
easy 1.1 miles Little to no driving
Starts at 100 S & 100 W
Portal Overlook
(trailhead @ Jaycee Park)
Hard 2.0 miles 25 min drive N on US-191 to W on Utah 279 (4.2 miles)
Moab Rim Hard 3.0 miles
(to Hidden Valley trail)
8 minute drive 2.6 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Negro Bill Canyon
(aka William Grandstaff Canyon)
Moderate 2.0 miles 10 minute drive N on US-191 to
W on Utah 128, 3 miles
Hunter Canyon Easy 2.0 miles 25 minute drive (mild off-road)
7.5 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Corona Arch Trail Easy/Moderate 1.5 miles 25 minute drive N on US-191 to
W Utah 279 (10 miles)
Hidden Valley
(trailhead at end of Angel Rock Rd)
Hard 2.0 miles 10 minute drive S on US-191
3 miles to Angel Rock Rd
Fisher Towers
(trailhead 2.2 miles off Utah 128)
Moderate 2.2 miles 35 minute drive N on US-191 to Utah 128, then 21 miles

Tips for enjoying your time with your dog here in the Moab area:

  • Bring lots of extra water for you and your dog.1 gallon per day for every 60lbs of dog!!
  • Don’t let dogs chase wildlife (especially coyotes, they can lead dogs into an ambush).
  • In the city, dogs are required to be leashed, but on public lands off leash with voice control is allowed.
  • Slickrock and sand is very abrasive!  Check paw pads often, or buy and use booties.
  • If it’s over 85 degrees only consider early AM or late PM hikes, daycare or leave your dog at home.
  • Pack out my poop!  Seriously or the other hikers without dogs will eventually demand no dogs allowed!


To see past articles about animals, pets and their care check our archives.

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