1. Start your dog young.
One of the biggest concerns with a new dog is training: "sit," "stay" and "no barking" are just a few of the commands dog owners hope their pets will master. Grooming shouldn't be any different. That's why it's so important to start your pup young and be consistent, according to Linda Erickson, grooming expert and salon manager. "We always recommend that if you have a new puppy, and you're able to, start at an early age and get them comfortable," she says. "And if you adopt an older pet and they haven't experienced a bath, [give them treats] in the tub and let them know it's a positive experience before even turning on the water." Photo: Fuse / Getty Images
2. Make sure your cat feels safe.
Anyone who owns a cat knows it's difficult to get them to do what you want them to do. But that doesn't mean it's impossible—you just have to make them want to do what you want. "Cats live in the realm of 'You're not going to convince me that this is what I want to do,'" says Alexandra Mason, groomer and marketing manager at . "Catnip is the way to go. And don't try to put them in the sink; a dry bath is fine. Let them sit on the couch or their favorite spot—wherever they're happy—and use a chamois cloth, like you'd use with a car." Cats are much more sensitive than dogs, both emotionally and physically. "You want your cat to feel secure; that's the biggest thing for a kitty, to feel secure. You always want to be really gentle with them, too. Their skin is different; it's much thinner than a dog's," Erickson says. Photo: Shutterstock
3. Brush and then bathe.
"One big mistake I see pet parents make is neglecting to comb their pet before a bath. It is super-important that people do this, because whatever tangles the pet might have, if they get wet, that makes them hard to dry, and then when they do dry, their fur cinches up," says Mason. Whether they're canine or feline, be sure to run a comb or brush through their fur before they're cleaned to get rid of any tangles. Photo: Jamie Grill / Getty Images
4. Detangle slowly, and with care.
If you had long hair as a child, you probably know what it feels like to have someone carelessly yanking a comb through your tangled tresses. Now imagine that all over your body! So take care when brushing your pet. "Toss some cornstarch on those tangles, which loosens them up and provides friction. Then you can pull them apart with your hands so you're not pulling at their skin," Mason advises. Photo: iStockphoto
5. Wash and rinse in the right order.
After wetting your pet, soap her up from back to front, washing the face last. "What pets don't like is water in their eyes and ears, so the head should be the last part you bathe because they like it least," Erickson says. Then when you're rinsing, reverse the order. "Start at the head, and rinse everything off their face, and be very diligent about rinsing all the soap off. A lot of people don't think about it, but you should rinse from the top down." Francine Barnes, owner of in Glenview, Illinois, agrees, emphasizing how important it is to protect your pet's eyes. "You don't want to burn the eyes. They'll tear and scratch and rub their face on the carpet," she says. "Which will cause rug burn, so then you've created another problem." Photo: Don Mason / Getty Images
6. File their nails.
Cutting your pet's nails can be a challenge, whether it's because they fight you or you're afraid you'll cut them down to the quick (the upper part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves). To prevent any problems, use a standard nail file that you can get at any drugstore instead of clippers. "You can get the same results if you buy a 99¢ emery board," Mason says. "Just use a nail file and sit on the couch." If you do decide to clip, go slowly and have the right tools on hand. "People are afraid to cut their dog's nails, especially the black ones because you can't see where the quick is," Barnes says. "Just be sure you have [a styptic powder], so if you do cut a nail too short…it will stop bleeding." Photo: Shutterstock
7. Take teeth-brushing slowly.
Periodontal disease is a huge problem for many pets—especially dogs—and often occurs because owners overlook the importance of daily (or even weekly) oral care. Brushing your pet's teeth should be an essential part of their care—but it can be tricky. "You can start by putting a little toothpaste on your finger and letting them lick it off," Erickson suggests. (Use pet toothpaste, such as .) "Then slowly lift up their lip and run your finger around their mouth, giving them a treat if they did a good job. A lot of dogs love the treat and it can be a good bonding experience, as well." Erickson says that once your pet is used to having you touch their mouth, you can either use a rubber finger toothbrush or a regular bristle brush. "The finger toothbrush can break down more quickly, but personally I like it because a dog sees a long toothbrush come at them and is like, 'Whoa! What's that?' So it might be good to start with the finger toothbrush."
8. Choose a brush based on the type of fur.
What kind of brush you use depends, of course, on what kind of fur your pet has. But how do you choose? "There are many different types of brushes on the market. A helps distribute the skin's oil; it's square around the top with multiple tiny pins, so it's great for any kind of coat," Erickson says. Use a slicker brush for both long- and short-haired cats, as well as a comb for long-haired cats. A slicker brush also works well for an undercoat, if you have a double-coated dog breed. There is also a , which has wider pins, and works well for dogs like a Shih Tzu, as well as a , which is great for dogs with a short coat, like a boxer or a beagle. With this brush, Erickson recommends using a "circular motion on your pet to remove the hairs and stimulate the skin," Erickson says.
9. A healthy coat starts within.
Just as what humans eat affects the health of their skin, the food your pet eats will make a difference in their coat. To ensure a thick, shiny coat, opt for wholesome foods that feature meat and meat meals as the first two ingredients. Recommended brands include Nulo, Wellness and Castor & Pollux. You can also supplement their diet. "You might want to include some fish oil. For a cat and a small dog, only give a quarter of a teaspoon per day. For a medium to large dog, give a teaspoon mixed in with their food," Mason recommends. "Within a few weeks you should see a bit of a difference." You can also add shine to a dog's coat by applying olive oil to it. "An olive oil treatment works pretty well for dogs," Mason says. "You just wet their coat, apply a little layer of olive oil all around—be careful of their eyes—and let it set for 15 to 20 minutes." Then rinse them off as usual. Photo: Shutterstock
10. Don't forget their eyes and ears.
Eyes and ears need regular cleaning as well. For the ears, Barnes recommends using rubbing alcohol. "I like to put it on a cotton ball, then gently go around the outside of the ear, and then [lightly around the inside edge] because if there's any bacteria, it kills it. If your dog is a swimmer, it will also dry out any water in the ear," she says. For the eyes, water or saline solution should do the trick. "If your dog's eyes are runny, take cotton [soaked] with warm water and instead of pulling the gunk off, let it get moist first, then pick at it," she says. "You can also use eyewash, especially if [you're in an area] with pollen, to flush their eyes out." Photo: Shutterstock