In partnership with Wondercide
Alli Graf is a celebrity dog groomer and lover of animals based in NYC. Alli’s business is mainly in Manhattan, but she also grooms pups outside of the city and around the world including Morocco and the UK. She’s an expert in keeping dogs looking beautiful, while making sure that they feel loved and healthy, too.
Some of Alli’s notable clients include sisters Claudia and Margo Oshry and their Instagram-famous Pups With No Job, Theo and Magnolia, F-Factor’s Tanya Zuckerbrot and her handsome pups Henry and Hudson, as well as professional foodie and founder of @EatingNYC, Alexa Matthews, and her cuddly fur baby Cosmo.
Here are a few of Alli’s top tips for best doggo grooming practices for bathing, drying, brushing, and skin care. These tricks-of-the-trade are great to use between professional grooming appointments and will help puppies as well as older pooches enjoy the experience more. Your groomer will thank you too.
Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, it is now recommended that you may bathe your dog as frequently as is necessary — as long as you use a shampoo that is meant for dogs. Dog shampoos are specifically formulated for their skin and hair, which are different from human skin and hair needs.
Using human shampoo on your pup can strip away the essential oils that a dog’s skin needs to be healthy. If you do see dry and flaky skin, it might mean you should try a new soothing shampoo like Wondercide’s shampoo bars or cut back on the frequency that you’re bathing your dog.
Some quick bathing tips:
- Be sure to fully brush your dog all over before a bath. Get rid of any existing knots you may find so that they don’t get tighter, bigger and more matted once they are wet.
- Avoid getting shampoo in the eyes! This can be very painful for your pup and may possibly lead to an ulcer. If you do accidentally get some soap in their eyes, just rinse thoroughly with cool water.
- Avoid getting water in the ears as well. Always point the water down if you’re using a sprayer or hose and never point or pour water up or inside when washing by the ears. Because of its shape, a dog’s ear canal can easily trap water which can easily lead to an infection.
- If you’re worried about your dog’s sensitive skin, try the Hypoallergenic or Oatmeal and Honey Shampoo Bar from Wondercide! Pups love these bars for a little extra TLC. The shampoo bar is designed so that you can bathe your dog with only one hand, while holding your pup with the other. Your dog will feel extra supported this way and it’ll help you if he or she tries to escape the bath.
After bathing, use a towel to towel dry and then let your pup air dry until about 50-70% dry — letting the air do half of the work for you and cutting a potentially stressful experience for your dog in half. As you then use the blow dryer and brush until they are fully dry, it’s important to constantly keep the hot air moving so you don’t burn your dog’s skin.
Your pup may not like the blow dryer, but eventually they’ll learn to be OK with it the more often you bathe and dry them. Desensitizing them to loud noises such as the hair dryer will make professional grooming sessions a lot less scary for them. Using loud noises at home such as vacuum cleaners or even just blow drying your own hair, will help your pup get familiar with the sound.
After you’re done blow drying, spray Wondercide Flea and Tick Pets + Home on your dog's coat and paws to give them plant-powered protection against pesky critters like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes It will make time outside worry-free.
Brushing is very important in keeping your dog well-groomed and their skin and coat healthy. Brush your pup as often as you can! If you can’t brush your dog every day, shoot for a few times a week. Separate the hair when brushing and really make sure to get all the way down to the skin, not just the top layer of the coat. Be sure to brush everywhere, especially the hard to get to places, like behind their ears and under the front legs.
It is super important to take care of matted hair as soon as it occurs. Mats form when the hair becomes tangled and wraps around itself, forming tightly wound knots which can grow tighter, bigger and closer to their skin if not brushed out fully. Unfortunately, matted clumps can become super painful to your pup (sometimes affecting their mobility), and can become a hazard when they prevent oxygen from reaching the skin beneath their hair causing infections. We never want our dogs to be in pain, or to create spots that can become a breeding ground for bacteria if mats aren’t brushed out properly. This is why it’s so important to have a brushing routine for your dog and to start it early on as a puppy.
Another key component to grooming is what type of brush you’re using. An amazing slicker brush is really your best bet at maintaining a matt-free coat! Slicker brushes are available from a variety of brands online or in store, and are a must-have for perfect grooming.
Does your dog run away whenever you pull out the brush? Dogs are creatures of habit and like to stick to a routine. Have a special place in your home that is a delegated “brushing area”. This way your dog will view this as part of life rather than punishment. Another good trick is to brush after a long day or after a long walk when your dog is tired. Establishing a brushing routine in combination with consistency will keep your dog’s coat and skin extra healthy between grooms.
Don’t forget about your dog's skin underneath their hair and on their paws! Just like our human skin needs lotions and oils to stay hydrated sometimes, so do our dogs! Be sure to find products specifically for dogs as their skin requires different essential oils than humans do.
If you notice that your dog is scratching or licking in one area in particular, this may be due to hot spots, rashes, bug bites or flea dermatitis that you can’t see beneath their hair. Try spraying Wondercide’s Skin Tonic Spray on the itchy areas to give your dog some relief! This is a great product to have on hand, made with neem oil and steam-distilled essential oils that soothe anything itchy. Of course, if you don’t notice any improvement it is best to contact your vet.
For those of you who live in colder climates and get a lot of snow, Wondercide’s Skin Tonic Oil is a great option for your little one’s paws when they get really dry. Made with cold-pressed neem oil (“the curer of all ailments”) and other plant-powered ingredients, like Lavender and Castor, this product powerfully softens and conditions problem areas. Just take a bit of the oil and gently massage into all four of your puppy's paws to hydrate their dry, flaky skin. This can be a relaxing, massage-like experience for your dog and who doesn’t love a massage?
Be sure to check with your vet before you start a grooming routine, but once they give you the green light, start grooming your puppy ASAP! It’s easy to introduce them to grooming with at home baths but also get them in with the professional groomer as soon as possible even if it’s not for a full haircut. You want to desensitize your new puppy to this new experience — the new sounds, touches, and even smells — and have them learn quickly that grooming will not harm them, because it can be very scary at first! Give them lots of love and reassurance to help build their confidence.
Grooming is a lifelong relationship for a dog! You want your pup to view it as “part of life” rather than a punishment. Set them off on the right path from an early age and you’ll have a very well behaved and relaxed dog!
Desensitizing young puppies to touches, noises and being handled will help them with socialization in so many aspects of their life. Play with their feet and gently tug at their ears once in a while-- desensitizing them to these touches will make it a lot easier when you want to do any home grooming and also much easier for the professional groomer!
How you can help
Always remain calm and confident when doing any of the above. You are in charge and your dog will sense your alpha energy. If you treat brushing and grooming with the same sense of optimism that you have when throwing a bone or a ball, your dog will be just as happy.
Waiting until the end of the day or after playtime will make it easier for brushing. Approaching grooming when your dog has a calm and relaxed mind will help make the process easier for the both of you.
Speaking of staying calm, a calm mind makes for a more relaxed and most importantly, confident dog. Building confidence is so important during home groomings and groomings with a professional. Praise your dog and help them attribute positivity and affirmation to grooming!