After 12 years of caring for dogs, I have worked with every breed, handled every situation and answered countless questions. The most common question I am asked by new owners is how often they should groom their dogs. The answer depends on the type of coat your dog has, how much he sheds, and how much brushing and washing you want to do at home.
Please note that all dogs, regardless of breed, should have their nails trimmed at least once a month. Here are some general guidelines for how often a dog should be groomed, based on coat type.
Grooming dogs with short hair
Short-haired dogs only need an occasional bath and minimal brushing. If they are shedding excessively, ask your groomer if they offer low-shedding services. It may be called carding, FURminating or something else entirely, but most groomers offer a thorough brushing that should reduce your dog’s shedding. Keep in mind that nothing will stop shedding completely, even if you shave your dog.
Related: The best electric clippers for dog grooming
Although short-haired dogs don’t get mats, it’s still a good idea to brush them regularly at home. Brushing with a stiff-bristled brush stimulates natural oil production for a shiny, healthy coat. It also removes dead hair and skin cells and allows you to check your dog’s skin for changes or growths.
As for how often to bathe an otherwise healthy short-haired dog, a good rule of thumb is no more than once a month or when he starts to smell! Too much bathing can dry out the skin and lead to brittle hair and hair loss. Regular brushing is much more important for healthy skin. When you decide to bathe your dog at home, skip the human shampoo – it’s far too stripping – and opt for a soap-free product with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, aloe vera and herbal proteins.
Not sure which shampoo to choose? Contact your vet or groomer for advice.
Popular shorthair breeds
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Danish dog
- Miniature Pinscher
Grooming dogs with short hair and double coat
DDouble-haired breeds have a soft undercoat and a longer top coat of coarse guard hairs. The long outer coat protects the dog from the sun and helps repel dirt, parasites and moisture. The soft inner coat provides warmth in winter and is shed dramatically seasonally to keep the dog cool in summer. These big losses Episodes are known as “coat rash” and typically occur once or twice a year, depending on the climate.
Plan to groom your double-coated dog at least four times a year to help remove the dead undercoat. Invest in a wire brush or pin brush for your dog’s outer coat and a grooming rake or FURminator for the dense undercoat.
You may be tempted to shave your double-coated dog to prevent shedding or to keep him cool in the summer. Believe it or not, shaving puts these dogs at greater risk for heat stroke! What’s left of the undercoat after a seasonal coat helps keep cool air close to the skin and the double layers protect against sunburn. Nature knows best, so put down those clippers!
Popular breeds with short hair and double coat
- American English Coonhound
- Labrador retriever
- German shepherd
- Welsh Corgi
- Pembroke Corgi
Grooming dogs with long hair and double coats
Most dogs with double coats can also be classified as long-haired breeds. Like their short-coated cousins, they tend to shed seasonally and require the same brushing and maintenance as above.
However, these dogs also have long ‘feathers’ of hair on their feet, legs, bellies, buttocks and ears that require occasional trimming. This longer hair is prone to matting, especially around the buttocks and behind the ears.
If your dog gets mats, take him to a groomer to have him trimmed. Do not attempt to cut out mats yourself, as they are often very close to the skin and you could accidentally injure your dog. As above, resist the urge to shave your dog’s long, puffy coat!
Popular long hair/double coat breeds
- Husky (Alaskan and Siberian)
- Shiba Inu
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland sheepdog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Great Pyrenees
- Golden retriever
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apso
Grooming dogs with silky coats
Dog breeds with a silky coat have a single layer of fine, smooth hair that grows continuously and requires periodic trimming to maintain good hygiene and prevent matting. These dogs need to be professionally cared for.
Most people opt for short “puppy” cuts that can last two to three months. Those who choose to keep their dog’s hair long and ready for the show ring can expect to have them groomed at least every four to six weeks.
Silky dogs also need regular brushing between grooms, especially dogs with longer hair. Because their coats are so fine, they are more prone to matting. Bathing should be left to the professionals during grooming or only when necessary. Too much bathing can dry out sensitive skin and make silky hair brittle.
Popular breeds with silky coats
- Cocker spaniel
- Silky terrier
- Yorkshire terrier
- Afghan hound
- Irish setter
Grooming dogs with wiry coats
Dogs with a wiry coat are rough and coarse to the touch. They have thick, bushy hair that helped protect them from thorns and branches in their early days as hunting companions. You may notice that many wiry dogs like to dig. This is a throwback to their days of digging rabbits and other burrowing animals out of their burrows.
These breeds are less prone to matting and can often go two to three months between grooming appointments. But just because they are low maintenance doesn’t mean they are No maintenance! Hearty dogs still need occasional bathing and brushing with a slicker brush to maintain a healthy coat and avoid mats.
Since wiry dogs naturally have brittle hair, it is very important not to over bathe them. Ask your vet or groomer for a shampoo recommendation that is gentle and soap-free so that the coat does not dry out.
Although clipping is not recommended, wiry dogs have unique grooming requirements. Because they don’t shed, they lose their thick coat must be stripped by hand periodically. This process involves pulling out old dead hairs with a grooming knife and a grooming stone. Since this is a highly skilled process, it should be left to a professional groomer.
Popular dog breeds with wiry coats
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Giant Schnauzer
- Border Terrier
- Wire-haired Jack Russell
- Irish Wolfhound
- Wire Fox Terrier
- Wire-haired pointer
- Wire-haired dachshund
Grooming dogs with curly and wavy coats
These breeds are most likely to become matted. Hair longer than 1 inch should be brushed at least twice a week, and hair longer than 1 inch should be brushed daily. Most groomers recommend keeping curly and wavy hair at a maximum length of two inches.
These dogs require professional grooming every four to six weeks to prevent severe matting. Very curly dogs such as poodles need to be brushed at least three times a week, if not daily. As with other long-haired breeds, do not attempt to remove the mats yourself.
Popular dog breeds with curly or wavy coats
- Miniature Poodle
- Standard poodle
- “Designer” Poodle mixes (Labradoodles, Cockapoos, etc.)
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Bichon Frize
- Bedlington terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Grooming Brachycephalic Dogs
Brachycephalic is a term used to describe dogs with short, broad skulls. Many of these breeds have short coats that only require occasional washing and brushing. Others have long, continuously growing hair that requires regular professional care.
What sets these dogs apart from all other breeds in terms of care are their facial features. Due to their skull shape, brachycephalic dogs often have facial folds that require daily cleaning to prevent bacterial buildup, odor, irritation and skin infections. Because many of these dogs are prone to skin and respiratory problems, it is best to leave their care to the professionals.
Make sure you choose a reliable groomer who understands the unique needs associated with brachycephalic dogs. Sadly, many of these dogs have died during routine care at major chains such as Petco and PetSmart. Your dog may do better with a mobile groomer who comes to your home for services. This reduces stress and drastically shortens the process, which can make all the difference for these dogs.
Popular brachycephalic breeds
- Bulldog (English)
- French Bulldog
- Boston terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apso
- Brussels Griffon
Keep in mind that the shorter your dog’s haircut becomes, the longer he can go between appointments and vice versa. Severe felting can cause many serious complications, so regular care is imperative.