DIY Dog Grooming: With These Supplies You Can Skip the Groomer

Watch this video to see how contributor Danielle Braff grooms her dog. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarde

This was a budget blemish I could not ignore: My dog’s professional grooming cost more than my own hair cuts. At $80 plus tip every three months, little Lola’s dog spa days were adding up quickly.

Once we went into lockdown, and Lola’s fur was getting out of control (aka, smelly and matted), I realized I needed a better solution. Forget baking my own bread: I decided to groom my own dog.

I have an elderly cocker spaniel, and unless you’re planning on an extravagant dog show-ready look, you should be able to follow my tips to give your pup a simple grooming that’s just about as good as you’d get at a professional groomer. The best part: Once you pay for the initial supplies (mine cost about $200), you’ll never have to shell out another dime for your dog’s grooming needs.

Make sure you have tons of treats to reward your dog for staying calm and being still. Also, be aware that this may be a two-person job — at least the first few times, as your dog becomes accustomed. One person should hold your dog and calm him while one should do the grooming.

Here’s the goods on DIY dog grooming and a DIY dog wash.

What to Do and What’ll You’ll Need

There are some basic services that go into DIY dog grooming, and each requires a few supplies for the perfect dog haircut. The first few times, grooming your dog will take about an hour, but it will get quicker as you get more comfortable.

Nail Trims

For trimming your dog’s nails, you have a choice: a nail grinder or a dog clipper. A nail clipper is the quiet option, and it’s inexpensive  — less than $10. And you can clip your dog’s nails quickly. But if you’re not careful, you can cut the quick of your pup’s nail, which can hurt and cause bleeding. Nail trimming should be part of your dog’s monthly maintenance routine.

The grinder is a little more expensive and it takes a few more minutes, but it’s not as easy to hurt your dog. Since I’m totally new to this, I went for the grinder option ($29.99 on Amazon). To grind your dog’s nails, hold his paw steady and simply press the grinder to each nail. If your dog is nervous, ask someone to hold a spoon of peanut butter that he can lick while you’re doing this. Extend his nail by pushing your thumb up and back on the pad, and avoid going past the curve of the nail. If cutting or grinding your dog’s nails is too much for you, this is the least-expensive grooming service to outsource. Usually, you can get your dog’s nails clipped at any groomer or vet for $5.

Trimming the Face and Hard Spots

For grooming your dog’s fur around his face and other detail areas, you’ll need a smaller clipper. I use the Turn Raise Pet Grooming Clipper ($24.99). At just a half-inch wide, this tiny clipper is great for trimming around your dog’s eyes, his ears, in between his toes and all the spots you may be a bit nervous around. If you have a really tiny dog, you could use this for his whole body, but it may take a little while. It really depends on your dog’s breed.

My dog — who is very anxious — seems to love this clipper. The tool quiet and perhaps feels like a bit of a dog massage. The doing part is pretty self-explanatory — just shave the fur carefully. You can’t really hurt your dog with this pair of dog clippers.

Trimming the Body Fur

You’ll need a bigger clipper for this. Splurge for the Andis ProClip ($199), which you can also snag on Ebay for about $60 (I bought a used one this way, and it’s great). It glides beautifully, it doesn’t snag and it’s effortless. Most importantly, it’s pretty quiet, so it won’t scare your dog.

I recommend not getting the cordless version, so you don’t have to worry about charging the tool in the middle of a dog grooming session. You will also need a blade to attach to your clipper. Grab an Andis blade. These vary in sizes, but I’d try a size 3 initially so you don’t cut super close to your dog’s skin.

The shaving part is also pretty simple as long as your dog will sit (or stand) still. At first, expect him to be a little nervous. You may need someone else to hold him while you shave. But with an electric razor you can’t get too close to his actual skin, so it’s pretty hard to hurt your pup. The worst that can happen is that you’ll give him an uneven cut. But keep in mind that the blade can get pretty hot, and may be uncomfortable on  your dog’s skin. So check every few minutes — and if it is hot, spray this ($8) directly onto the blade, and it’ll instantly cool it down.

Cleaning the Ears

If you have a cocker spaniel or another dog with long, droopy ears, then you’re probably familiar with this part as you should be doing this routine once a week. Grab one of these wipes ($13) and wipe the inside of your dog’s ears. Put it in deeply, and wipe until there’s no more dirt or grime. You may need several per ear.

Brushing the Teeth

I use a regular human toothbrush and add a pea-size amount of dog toothpaste ($10) to brush my dog’s teeth.

Bathing Your Dog

Using warm water, give your dog a nice scrub to get rid of all the dirt and loose fur. You don’t technically need any accessories for this besides a dog shampoo, but these gloves really help with shedding, as they remove fur while massaging your dog. Finally, brush your dog’s fur, and he’ll look like a show dog. Or at least a groomed dog.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.