Whether you have a high-maintenance dog like a poodle or schnauzer or a wash-and-wear dog like a Dalmatian or cattle dog, there's going to be some degree of grooming involved in keeping your pup healthy and presentable. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks that can be applied to dogs of all shapes and sizes to make grooming a little less stressful on all parties involved.
Start young. Getting a puppy used to being bathed or having her nails trimmed will make it much easier when the little ball of fur won't just fit in the kitchen sink anymore. For those who adopt an older dog, make grooming a fun part of the daily routine. When you bring the dog into their new home, they have a lot to learn; start now by making grooming something fun. Decide on a special, post-bath treat; some dogs respond well to being allowed to chew on a certain toy while getting their ears cleaned or taking a special floaty toy in the bathtub.
Long-haired dogs can be prone to matting, which can make both brushing and bathing a painful chore. Invest in a commercial conditioner designed for dogs and available at your local pet store; applying conditioner and gently working out the mats will keep her from fearing the brush. Cornstarch or baby oil can also be applied to stubborn mats to help smooth fur and work out tangles before brushing.
Brush before a bath. This way, fur will be smooth and mat-free; getting tangled fur wet will only make your dog uncomfortable. And before brushing, spray your dog with a light coat of water or condition from a spray bottle -- it'll help smooth their fur and make brushing a more pleasant experience.
Be respectful of the dog's sensitive spots. Dogs generally don't like water in their eyes and ears, so use a damp cloth to clean her face while keeping the shampoo and condition away from the face.
If grooming is a continuous problem, make sure there's no medical reason for your dog's discomfort. Make sure there are no raw or itchy patches of skin that can be irritated by brushing too hard, or that are created by using a harsh shampoo.
Dogs will be dogs, and at some point in their lives even the best trained dog will get into something yucky. Getting sticky substances like tar or sap out of fur can be painful, but most sticky mats can be softened by applying peanut butter or shortening and working the mat loose with your fingers. Olive oil can also be used to loosen a clump of something nasty on fur. For other, more solid masses like gum, try freezing the mat with an ice cube and breaking it loose of fur.