Everything You Need to Know About Grooming Your Dog at Home

I have nothing against groomers. I’m sure they’re great and I know plenty of people who drop their dogs off at the groomers for a good manicuring. When my dog, Leland, was a tiny puppy, I took him twice to a groomer. It was quite pricey and I was a worried dog-mommy the entire four hours he was there. Finally, at hour three, I called to see if he was ready to come home. It was all I could do to not worry about him and if he was receiving good care. Of course, he quivered all over when I took him the second time. At about the same time that I was taking Leland to the groomers, there was a news story that came out about a dog who died in a boxed hair dryer. I was heartbroken for that puppy and its family. The thought of losing my Leland had me determined to educate myself on dog grooming. And that’s what I did.

It took about three groomings at home to get him looking good. I will be the first to admit that I totally botched his hair the first time I tried. Thankfully, my family and especially Leland were patient with me. Fast forward 8 years and I feel like a pro (Leland) dog groomer.

Leland is a pretty high maintenance dog when it comes to grooming. He is a designer dog, as we like to put it. He is a Morkie Poo – a Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Poodle mix. Thankfully, he is a patient little pup, which allowed me to learn on the job.

For the sake of keeping a clean house, I suggest grooming outdoors. However, during those cold and rainy months, inside with a vacuum nearby works just as well. And if your dog is small enough, I would just hop into a dry bathtub and groom right there. Just be sure to gather and throw away all of the hair clippings before you give your pooch a wash, as your drain will thank you later.

Alright, let’s get started. This is how I groom Leland and you can do it, too!


I like to start with what makes Leland most nervous first to get it out of the way. In his case, it’s cutting his toenails. Since he’s a small dog, I lay him on his back on my thighs and trim the front paw nails first. Leland only gets about about 4 miles of concrete walking in a week with daily play time in the grass of our backyard, so his toenails aren’t worn down very much. I’ve found it’s much easier to frequently trim just the slightest bit of toenail off instead of waiting until they get long and trim them. I trim his toenails every time he gets bathed, which is usually once per week. If your dog’s nails are white/clear, it’s very easy to see where to cut them. If you’re unsure of where to trim them, have the veterinarian show you.


Now, I use a combination of a clippers and shears. Our dog needs a good haircut every 3 months or so. This haircut is the full-on head-to-toe trim. However, I help maintain his haircut throughout those months. To maintain, I make sure the hair around his feet, butt, eyes and ears stay trimmed and short. These are the main problem areas when the hair gets longer, catching pollen from outside, poo getting stuck and his pads being covered up by hair. I do this maintenance every month.

During the major haircut every 3 months, I start with him on his back again. I trim the hair underneath and his legs first with the shears. Then, I use clippers and get the bulk of his back hair. I follow up with the shears and trim his tail and head.


I know not every dog needs their ear hair removed, but our little pup does. I didn’t know this when I first started grooming him and he got ear infections. Ever since, I’ve regularly maintained ear hair removal. To make this easiest on him, I use ear powder that makes it easier to grip the ear hair when removing it. Then, I take tweezers and quickly pull it out of his ear. He’s not a fan, but over the years, it’s gotten easier to remove the hair and he isn’t bothered by it. My veterinarian compared it to tweezing your eyebrows. A small price to pay for no ear infections!


Ah, brushing the teeth. I don’t know one dog that likes this. I know my dog isn’t a fan in the slightest. Not even the dog toothpaste is a turn on. But, unless you want major tartar buildup and rotting teeth, it’s just something all of us dog mommies and daddies have to do (that and those giving them the teething raw hides). Just invest in a dog tooth brush and get as much of the teeth as he’ll let you, with constant positive encouragement. I do this right before I bathe him, because it tends to get his muzzle a little messy.


I’ve tried my fair share of dog shampoos and always go back to the Wahl puppy shampoo for Leland. It always smells nice and I’m not afraid to use it around his eyes (which get dirty because he has white fur) since it’s tear free. Give your dog a good rinse, lather all over with the shampoo and rinse!

Blow Out

Since we live in the south, I don’t typically blow dry his coat. He uses this time to run all over the house like a crazy dog and give my children quite a hilarious show. However, during the winter months, a good blow out makes him warm and fluffy. I use a dog brush and blow dryer on low to get his coat nice and dry.

So, that’s that! Do you think you’re ready to give it a go?

I’ve managed to get Leland’s full-blown grooming completed in just over one hour. The first few groomings I did took just over 2 hours. Don’t fret, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Be patient with yourself and be sure to give you and your puppy a little treat for all of the hard work.