It would be great if our dogs looked "salon fresh" all the time, even if they haven't seen a groomer for days or weeks. If you're between grooming visits and your pet's coat or nails need a refresher, you can fix them up yourself if you have some high-quality tools on hand. Keep reading for the best dog groomer-approved products to use between grooming visits to maintain your dog's appearance at home.
Maintain Your Dog's Coat
Regular brushing does more than just remove dead hair. It's also a way to bond with your dog, but more than that, it can prevent some serious health problems. The ASPCA says that matted hair can quickly progress from a skin irritant to an infection. A hair mat can hide a wound or bug bite. It can impede normal bathroom habits and even cut off blood circulation if it is untreated. Regular brushing and combing and removing mats with a mat breaker tool can help you prevent problems.
A brush is the most usable of all dog grooming products to have at home. Professional groomers give all of their clients a thorough brush, and it's one of the most effective things you can do at home. Groomer Emily Woods, who is working towards her APG (Advanced Professional Groomer) certification, recommends the Andis Pet Tool Slicker Brush. "It's a basic tool for any experience level," Woods says. "It works well for any thick-coated or double-coated dog." She says it's gentle enough to not scratch but is still effective, and its small size makes it maneuverable, so you're not brushing areas you don't need to or missing areas.
"Every dog that needs to be brushed for detangling also needs to be combed," says groomer Ani Corless, NCMG (National Certified Master Groomer, through National Dog Groomers Association of America – NDGAA). "This Andis Steel Comb is a classic and works for all breeds with hair over an inch that can tangle."
Use the Paw Brothers Dematting Tool, with serrated edges, on any dog with hair that can tangle. "When a mat starts to form, you can use this tool to break it apart," says Woods. "You just work in sections and it will spin out some of the mat as opposed to just taking like a big chunk out with clippers, so it's a little bit safer."
If you're trying to work out a mat with your fingers, try a light dusting of cornstarch, which creates a slippery texture. "There are sprays and things you can use for tricky matting, and a lot of them have like a silicone in them," says Woods. "Cornstarch is a great option that's quick and easy and you can do at home. And I would recommend washing the dog after using things like this."
Maintain Your Dog's Ears
Ear care is an important part of pets' wellness. "Zymox has fabulous ear cleaners," says groomer Tabatha Gruchow, NCMG. "Their Ear Cleanser is antimicrobial, helping to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. Dribble the cleaner directly into the ear canal, and gently wipe the visible area of the ear canal with a cotton ball." Consult a vet if the skin of the canal is red, rough, has tar-like gunk, or a foul odor, she says.
Maintain Your Dog's Paws, Nose
The Animal Humane Society says winter weather is known to cause problems with a dog's tender paws. They say snow and ice can increase your dog's risk of frostbite and dry out their paw pads, which can get chapped just like our lips do. Furthermore, sidewalk salt can burn their pads, get lodged in between their pads, or cause indigestion if they lick off too much. Booties can protect their tender paws, but if that's not an option, use either wipes after your walks or apply balm on their pads before their walk. The balm creates a waterproof barrier that keeps some of these problems at bay.
"Using paw wipes gets rid of foot smell but also wipes anything irritating that may have been picked up outside," says Corless. "These Petpost Paw Wipes are also moisturizing."
Maintain Your Dog's Nails
Dog owners and groomers know that having their paws handled for nail grooming can cause anxiety. But, nail grooming is an essential part of dog grooming. The American Kennel Club says that well-maintained nails are one clear sign of your dog's good health and hygiene. It is a simple procedure if done correctly, and using the proper tools helps alot. The AKC says dogs can learn to like nail grooming if you let them lick peanut butter off a spoon while you handle the nails.
"Cutting nails can be scary but it can be really helpful to file them using something like this Well and Good Nail File a bit when they get sharp," says Corless.
Gruchow concurs: "A coarse-grit nail file will work great, especially if you keep up with it regularly, a couple times a week," she says. "A nail file isn't as intimidating to most pets and pet parents as clippers or grinders."
Shampooing Your Dog
For between-grooming cleaning, Grichow likes Burt's Bees and TropiClean. "They're both widely available and use quality, natural ingredients," she says. Burt's Bees uses gentle, natural ingredients and recycled packaging. If you're shopping for a puppy, try Burt's Bees' Tearless Puppy Shampoo and Conditioner with buttermilk and linseed oil.
TropiClean's Waterless Shampoo goes on as a foam. Just gently massage it into the coat and leave it – no rinsing required, and it smells fresh and sweet. TropiClean cleansing wipes are also available. "They have a large selection of shampoos and conditioners to choose from to address the individual needs of one's pet," says Gruchow.
Cleaning Your Dog's Teeth
Cleaners such as toothpaste or gel use enzymes to break down tooth bacteria. Use it along with brushing or even as a treat to keep your dog's teeth clean.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
"Regular home dental care is just as important for pets as it is for us," says Gruchow. "TropiClean has a brushless enzymatic gel that makes oral care quick and easy." TropiClean's Fresh Breath Clean Teeth Gel showed a 43 percent decrease in tartar and plaque in a clinical trial.
"Dog teeth tend to really build up tartar if they're not taken care of," says Woods." The Pet Kiss Brighter Bite Gel product has enzymes in it so if you can just get some of that on the dog's teeth, it's really going to help to break down the bacteria."
"Both the Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste and the Pet Kiss promise similar effects," says Woods. "The Pet Kiss has a vanilla mint taste, but if your dog prefers chicken or beef flavors, the Petrodex might be a little more appealing, especially if you have a picky dog."