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Dog Grooming - The Role Hygiene Plays in Good Dog Health


How important are grooming and hygiene for my dog's health?

How important is grooming and hygiene for your health? Most of us would answer that it's either somewhat important or very important, depending on your personality and lifestyle. Everyone wants to feel clean and presentable. I don't know that dogs necessarily care about being presentable in most cases, but nobody wants to feel gross and dirty and itchy. Good hygiene and grooming practices are essential for long-term happy, healthy dogs.


Dr. Menolly Cote
Freeport Veterinary Hospital

Do all dogs require grooming?

All dogs require some sort of help with hygiene over their lifetime, but not all dogs require professional grooming. There are certainly some breeds that need to have regular grooming in terms of haircuts and maintaining coats. Just to give you an example, some of our doodle breeds such as Maltese, Yorkie, Labradors, and other dogs like that that have continuously growing hair versus fur are dogs that may benefit from regular professional grooming—that is unless you want to learn those skills yourself. But for your average dog that is not one of those particular breeds, hygiene is still essential. We want to make sure that they maintain good dental hygiene, good body hygiene, and healthy nails. Regular nail trimming or nail maintenance, keeping their coat brushed and clean, and regular teeth brushing are essential tasks.

What do I need to do when grooming my dog?

What's your dog's comfort level around grooming? Ideally, if we're starting as a puppy, we want to condition them to have a positive association with grooming. Try to make nail trims fun, make getting brushed fun, and associate those tasks with food or some sort of fun activity or playtime afterward. But also, if you have a dog that has had some not stellar experiences previously, work with them to counter-condition. Make sure your dog is comfortable in the space that we're grooming. If you’re having the dog take a bath, ensure you have good traction, water temperature, and those sorts of things. If we're trimming nails, work on counter-conditioning or even scratchboard training as a good alternative. Condition to toothbrushing as well, as most dogs that you come out with a toothbrush are going to be confused and a little worried about what you're doing, but we have great resources for helping you help your dog learn to have their teeth brushed in a comfortable manner.

How does regular grooming contribute to the good health of my dog?

Keeping your dog clean and in good condition is going to maintain good health overall. Regular grooming will allow you to have an in-depth look at your dog, so you may notice a little bump or scrape or scratch that you hadn't before. It's going to help loosen any dead fur that needs to be groomed out, especially our Labradors, Shepherds, or Huskies that blow their coat once or twice a year. We want to make sure that we're checking ears, that there's not a significant wax buildup or signs of infection, or a smell or redness. Checking their teeth regularly as we're grooming to make sure there are no growths in the mouth and that teeth don’t look painful or discolored is also essential.

As we're trimming nails, make sure the nails look healthy. When things are wet a lot of the time, we do see dogs with more cracked or broken nails, which we would notice if we were starting to trim their nails or are keeping them clean. Keeping your dog clean is a way to regularly examine your dog more closely than you might when you're just snuggling or petting them.

How soon should I start to groom my dog?

Immediately, within reason. If you have a dog coming into your household with some fear or anxiety, you don't want to go running at them with a pair of nail clippers or a brush. But if you're starting with a puppy that's pretty happy and comfortable, having concise little sessions where you're building a positive association with the nail clippers or with a brush or looking in their ears can help develop a lifetime of good hygiene practices.

What should I do for my puppies first grooming?

If you're going to a professional groomer, I would check with that particular groomer on what they recommend because they will often have a manner in which they like to do things. They might want you to come in for a short visit beforehand to do a little meet and greet, or they might let you set up the expectations before your visit. If you're doing grooming at home, start by building some positive associations before you even get to the bathing aspect or the grooming aspect. Build some familiarity with the toothbrush or the nail trimmers, or things like that can be helpful. Pairing food with these activities can be beneficial. But if you have questions or concerns about how to prepare or how to ease into things, give us a call or check our website at freeportvet.com for several great resources on training and conditioning.

How often should my dog be groomed?

That depends on lifestyle. If your dog's relatively clean and doesn't do a whole lot, they may get away for several months without bathing. If your dog is Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown as my dog is, they should frequently get baths.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (207) 865-3673, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Grooming - FAQs


Dr. Menolly Cote
Freeport Veterinary Hospital

Is there such a thing as bathing a dog too often?

If you're using a good quality dog shampoo and doing a thorough rinsing, no. You could probably bathe your dog almost daily, and they would be fine, provided your dog is healthy and doesn't have any skin conditions. That being said, unless your dog is super excited about having a bath every day, it's probably not worth your while or your dog's mental health to pursue that level of bathing. But if you're finding that your dog requires a weekly bath because of their activities, then you could easily maintain that sort of schedule, provided you're using a good quality dog shampoo.

Is it better to groom your dog at home or have it done by a professional groomer?

I don't know that I can say for everyone that there's one answer. Whether to go to a professional groomer depends on your dog's breed, what you're looking for, your dog's anxiety, or concerns around grooming—all of these things can make a big difference one way or the other. And so situations that I think a professional groomer can be helpful are in dogs that need regular trims of their hair because of their breed. For example, in the case of a Yorkie that you do not want to maintain a show cut on, you probably want to get a little puppy cut regularly. Dogs that have a constantly-growing coat, like poodles, need to be groomed regularly. And by having a professional groomer do this, you end up with a better result than trying to do it ourselves. Grooming is something that they've spent a lot of time learning to do and honing their skills, so they can often come up with a better finished product than we may be able to.

When you have a situation where you need to bathe your dog every once in a while, and you don't mind the mess and the hair, there's no problem with doing it at home. But say you have a Newfoundland or a Great Dane and it's the dead of winter, it may be worth looking at getting a professional to help you with that so that you don't have your giant 150-pound dog crammed into your shower. When you do the bath on your own, these large dogs are often drying for a few days because of the thickness of their coat.

There are many things to consider there. And if your dog has mild anxiety or fear around visiting a groomer, chat with us. We may be able to help you work with that, either with some anti-anxiety medications or some counterconditioning work to get them comfortable with visiting the groomer.

Does my dog need to be vaccinated and on flea control to go to the groomer?

I would say yes. Ultimately that's up to the groomer as to what they require. Most groomers are going to require a rabies vaccination, a distemper vaccination, and kennel cough. And I would think most groomers would want to know if your dog is on flea and tick control. I really couldn't speak for them, but those are good general health recommendations for your pet overall.

If my dog has behavior problems, will they be welcomed by a groomer?

That really depends on the groomer. We certainly have a list of groomers that we feel confident can handle minor behavior or anxiety-related concerns while being groomed. Give us a call if you are looking for recommendations. But also, if you're finding that your dog is having consistent issues with grooming, it's worth talking to us and maybe setting up some counterconditioning plans so that we can prevent or reduce these problems in the future.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (207) 865-3673, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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