How to take care of your dog

Alison Candlin

Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is one of the key things you can do to keep it happy and healthy. 

Regular grooming can become a special and affectionate ritual that strengthens your emotional bond, but it also allows you to spot new lumps or tumours, skin complaints and parasites, such as fleas or ticks, and tackle them before the problem becomes severe.

Grooming the coat


When grooming a long coat:

  • Hold the hair down at the roots so you don't tug the skin.
  • Don't yank at knots but work patiently.
  • Use a flat, wide-tooth steel comb when the slicker brush fails.
  • A dematting comb, which has blades, can be used to cut through stubborn mat. Alternatively cut vertically with scissors and brush out.

When grooming a short coat:

Short coats are easier to groom than long ones, but can be prone to matting.

  • Use a slicker brush to remove tangles. Apply firm, long strokes down the body and tail.
  • Next brush the entire coat, not forgetting tail and legs, with a bristle brush to remove dirt and dead hair.
  • Run a fine comb through feathery hair on the legs and tail.

Bath time

Always brush and comb your dog before you put them in the bath, and check the feet for grass seeds. Bathe them only when they are dirty or need a flea bath. Too much bathing can leave the skin dry and flaky. Use a gentle dog shampoo, or one designed for a specific problem such as fleas or a skin condition.

Put a rubber mat in the tub so your dog doesn't slip. Use lukewarm water to wet them from neck to tail. Shampoo the hind legs, tail and rear end, then the body, chest and front legs.

Carefully wet the head, then shampoo, covering your dog's ears and eyes so that no lather gets in. Check ears for wax, which can indicate mites. Rinse until the water runs clear: head, face and ears, then body, hind quarters and tail and finally the underside.

Wrap the dog in a towel to soak up excess, then dry from top to tail. Finish with a hairdryer on low temperature, taking care not to hold it too close.

Trimming claws

A dog's nails are softer after a bath, so now is the time to trim them if necessary. Most dogs’ nails wear down naturally.

Use canine nail clippers to cut the nails diagonally, taking off no more than a few millimetres. Ask your vet to show you how much to cut if you are unsure. Gently smooth rough edges with a nail file or sandpaper.

Take great care not to cut the nails to the ‘quick’, the pink area inside the nail; it's living tissue with blood supply and nerves.

House training

Use reward, not punishment, to teach your dog good toilet habits. Go for frequent walks – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after meals, even every hour – to give them opportunities to learn where to go to the toilet. Watch for signs that they need to go out, such as fidgeting, sniffing, going round in circles or squatting.

Once outside and in a suitable place, wait with and encourage the dog. When they have finished, collect the waste (if need be), praise them, then continue the walk for a while so they learn that walkies don't end when they have been to the toilet. It's important to ignore mistakes; if you give a dog attention (even if it isn't ‘nice’ attention) when they get it wrong, you'll only confuse them and the training will take longer.