Finding a groomer that you trust with your dog is much like finding a hairstylist for yourself. Once you find one you love, you stay with them forever, or until someone moves away. When that situation happens, we find ourselves asking for referrals, reading through Yelp reviews, and going through trial and error. That situation is hard enough with a young dog but becomes far more stressful when you have a senior dog. In many cases, grooming senior dogs at home is the best choice.
Senior dogs, just like senior people, like routines. The love of the familiar is not limited to seniors, but it is more exaggerated in them. They also often have particularities that take a little time to learn and to adapt to. A new groomer must be patient, gentle, and skilled with seniors.
The challenge of finding a grooming for your senior dog
As you start to look around, you might find that some groomers state they do not take dogs over 13 years old or those with underlying health conditions. It’s only natural to be offended when you see this, but try to remember they are doing you a favor by weeding themselves out of your selection process. You don’t want to go to someone who does not want to groom your dog.
Not everyone is good with older dogs. Seniors and geriatrics often have pain from arthritis or stiff and sore joints. They may snarl or snap if touched the wrong way. They can also have more sensitive skin and hate the hairbrush. Their eyes may be more sensitive to shampoo getting in them, and they may have fragile nails or dry pads. Of course, all of these conditions can be present or absent in a dog of any age. It’s just more common to see them in older dogs.
DIY grooming senior dogs at home
In some cases, it might be best to forgo finding a new groomer and take the task upon yourself. The stress of going to the groomers can be too much. Maybe your dog hates the car ride, or can’t tolerate being kenneled. Perhaps there is a health concern, and stress would only exacerbate the situation.
Tools for grooming senior dogs at home
If you’ve decided to do grooming at home, here are some items that will make your experience easier. With a few useful tools, you will find grooming to be more efficient and have professional-looking results.
Brush and Comb
You probably already have a hairbrush for your dog, but it’s essential to have one that will get through to the undercoat. Some brushes only reach the top layers of hair.
A good slicker brush is essential for most dogs. If your dog has a long coat, longer pins can help get through all of the hair. Chris Christensen has the Big G and the Big K long pinned slickers, both of which are excellent for long or thick coats.
A pin brush is also a great tool to have for dogs with long hair. They come in various pin lengths and spacing, so choose appropriately for your dog’s coat.
A bristle brush is great for short-haired dogs. You may think your short-haired dog doesn’t need to be brushed much. But it’s essential to stimulate the skin and to get dead hair out of the coat.
You will also want to buy a comb with both course and finely spaced teeth. The course side of the comb is excellent for breaking up any mats or snarls. The fine side will get the hair out once you’ve broken it up.
A nice grooming tub can make your life so much easier. No more kneeling on the bathroom floor, trying to stop your dog’s feet from falling into the kitchen drain, or chasing your dog down with cold garden hose water in the backyard.
The tub you choose will depend on the size of your dog. You can sometimes find used tubs in the classifieds that will save you quite a bit of money. Flying Pig makes a great stand-up plastic tub that fits inside your bathtub. It has security hooks, an efficient drain, and is just the right size for a small or medium-sized dog. It can hold up to 150 lbs but is best for a dog up to 40lbs.
Hose attachments are another item that makes grooming senior dogs at home easier. Waterpik’s Pet Wand with WaterComb Spray helps your shampoo go farther and penetrates thick fur with ease. It’s easy to install, and you have the option to use it in either the tub or with the garden hose.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Now is a perfect opportunity to do your research and find a product you and your dog genuinely love. If finding a product without parabens or toxic ingredients is important, take a look at 4-Legger, Natural Groomer, or Earthbath.
If you liked the results from your previous groomer, you can ask what product they used and buy it. But it’s also a great time to experiment and find something that is right for you. Your groomer was probably buying a product in gallon-sized jugs. You will need to consider what volume you are going to need when you make a selection. Don’t buy too much of one thing when you are starting. You may find that you don’t like it, so smaller bottles are best, to begin with.
When you shampoo your dog, be sure you dilute the product. Regardless of what the label says, you can dilute any shampoo. Just take an empty soda liter and add just a little shampoo to a lot of water. That way, you will be sure your dog is thoroughly wet for shampooing. This helps the shampoo get through to the skin and do the most efficient job it can. Many groomers agree that shampooing twice is in good practice.
Depending on the breed of your dog, you may be able to forgo buying a dryer. But if you have a long-haired or thick-coated dog, you will want to invest in a dryer. Most groomers used forced-air dryers because they are very efficient. But they are expensive and very loud, which can cause anxiety in some dogs.
Stand dryers look like human hair dryers, but they are mounted on a stand, so it’s hands-free. Again, they can be very noisy and force too much air for sensitive seniors.
For small to medium, long-haired dogs Duz Dryer is a great solution. It can either be mounted on the wall or sit on a table. It has a flexible hose, so you can quickly move it to whatever position you need. The air settings are very gentle, both in force and temperature, and it’s quiet. Even the most sound-sensitive senior dogs enjoy Duz Dryer. It’s compact and looks great too!
There are many different clippers to choose from and at all different price points. Be realistic about what your needs are. If you are only going to clip the hairs between the paw pads and the sanitary area, the MiniArco could be a perfect solution. It’s easy to use safely, and it gets the job done right.
If you have a bigger job to do, find a clipper that stays cool and has interchangeable blades and combs. Cordless clippers can be helpful when you are trying to manage your dog and keep him safe on the table. You might also like one with variable speeds.
Be sure to buy clipper spray such as Andis Cool Care. A cooling spray will help keep the blade from burning your dog’s skin.
If you are going to be trimming the face, paws, or skirt, a good pair of scissors is essential. You can choose rounded ends to make you feel safer if you are worried about poking your dog.
Scissors have a considerable variation in price. Consider starting with an inexpensive pair to see how much you are actually going to use them and then buy a nicer pair if needed.
Thinning shears or blenders are helpful if you are trying to create a tidy paw or smooth different areas. Cheap thinning shears can be uncomfortable to hold, but a rubber finger ring can make it a lot nicer.
Nail grinder or Nail clippers
Depending on your dog and how much he tolerates having his nails clipped, you can decide between a nail grinder or a nail clipper. Nail grinders are helpful because you are less likely to hurt your dog by grinding through to the quick. With clippers, you have to be careful not to nip this area, which includes a blood vessel and nerve. But both do a great job, and it’s just a matter of preference on which you like.
Some groomers use a Dremel, which is just a name brand of a grinder. The bit may be wrapped with fine sandpaper or a diamond bit inserted to grind the nail. Grinding nails can create a lot of dust that may cause eye and nose irritation in your dog. Choosing one with a safety cap and various ports for the nails helps cut down on the excess dust. This could be a better solution for grooming senior dogs at home.
A grooming table is a very nice thing to have. The non-slip rubber surface helps tremendously with safety. Also, it’s nice to have a dedicated surface to do nothing but grooming on.
A Groomers Helper is a tool to help keep your dog secured on the table. You may have to try grooming a few times to see what your needs are.
If you don’t want to buy a grooming table, a bath mat with a rubber backing on top of the kitchen table is essential for grooming senior dogs at home and is an inexpensive alternative.
Massage your senior dog
Incorporating a few simple massage techniques when you groom senior dogs at home, can help them relax and feel more secure. Check out my post on how to massage your dog at home.
Rewards of grooming at home
Grooming senior dogs at home is incredibly rewarding. There is nothing like looking at your beautiful fur child and knowing that you pampered and fluffed him to perfection. Your relationship will grow deeper as you get used to each other in this process. You will learn to work with each other to get the job done with love, kindness, and patience. Grooming can be a real joy and enrichment in you and your dog’s lives. You may just wish you didn’t wait until your dog was a senior to get started!