Grooming Tips for Your New Puppy

Published Oct. 30, 2023
A puppy gets a bath.

When you bring your new family member home, getting that fluffy puppy coat groomed may not seem like a priority. But a proper introduction to grooming is an important part of raising a well-socialized and healthy dog.

Whether you plan to manage grooming at home or take your pup to the salon, here are some tips to make sure grooming becomes a stress-free part of your puppy’s life.

Why Puppies Need Grooming

Keeping a dog well-groomed is extremely important in maintaining their long-term health. Routine grooming involves coat brushing, bathing, nail trims, and dental care.

Long-haired dogs also need to be comfortable with having their hair trimmed, and long or floppy-eared dogs may benefit from routine ear cleaning.

No matter the breed, try to create positive associations for your puppy with these procedures as early as possible. If they are up to date with their boosters, aim to get your puppy to a professional groomer for the first time by 12 to 14 weeks of age.

The ability to easily form positive associations with new experiences decreases dramatically after four months of age, so you do not want to wait until after the final vaccines.

Long-haired breeds like Maltese, Yorkies, and some spaniels, as well as curly-haired breeds like Poodles, Doodles, and Bichons, may need professional grooming even earlier to keep their hair from getting too long and matted.

Pet parents who are comfortable with brushing, bathing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing are welcome to do most of these procedures at home.

However, it’s still a great idea to involve a professional groomer in your puppy’s socialization, just in case they ever need to visit one as an adult.

No matter the breed, try to create positive associations for your puppy with these procedures as early as possible.

Benefits of Grooming Your New Puppy

Grooming is an important part of dog hygiene.

The primary goal of grooming is to keep the skin, nails, and teeth healthy and clean. A pup’s coat that is not properly maintained can become matted, which can lead to skin infections and even loss of circulation.

Good oral hygiene helps prevent certain kinds of heart and kidney damage. Nails that grow too long can painfully break, and may even grow back into a dog’s paw pads.

There are emotional benefits to good grooming as well. When introduced properly, it can be a very calming activity for both you and your dog. Grooming in animals is a social activity.

Grooming also allows you or your groomer to conduct a frequent, detailed inspection of parts of your dog that you may not otherwise closely examine.

Groomers frequently find ear infections, bumps, scabs, or even parasites like fleas that you can then bring to your vet’s attention.

There are emotional benefits to good grooming as well. When introduced properly, it can be a very calming activity for both you and your dog. Grooming in animals is a social activity.

How Often Do Puppies Need to Be Groomed?

How often a puppy needs a professional grooming depends on several factors.

More frequent trips (every two to three weeks) may be beneficial in young puppies (under 6 months of age) to establish positive routines, even if it is not strictly necessary for hygiene purposes.

Don’t forget to take some photos of your puppy’s first grooming or that precious first puppy haircut!

For the average adult dog, a routine of every four to six weeks for bathing, nail trims, and—if needed—a haircut is reasonable.

Even short-haired dogs should be brushed at least weekly between grooming appointments. Dogs with long, flowing, or curly hair may require daily brushing to avoid matted hair.

Your groomer should be able to help you determine a regimen that is right for your dog, based on breed and lifestyle.

Tips for Grooming Your New Puppy

Finding a Groomer

Just like finding a vet, it’s important to find a groomer who makes you feel comfortable because your puppy may be spending a lot of time with them.

Reviews online and recommendations from friends, family, and your vet can be great places to start. Make sure the grooming facility has hours and locations that work for you.

Visiting a facility before you make an appointment can be very helpful. Make sure it is clean and that work stations are well-maintained.

It’s reasonable to ask to see where dogs are kept between appointments and pick-up time. Some groomers may even allow you to watch them work.

If you are looking for breed-specific cuts, be sure to ask how familiar the groomer is with those standards. Having vaccination requirements (rabies, DHPP, and kennel cough) is a great sign that the groomer is invested in the well-being of dogs and their care.

Preparing for Grooming

Try to lay some groundwork with your puppy before dropping them off for their first appointment.

Even if you aren’t comfortable using grooming tools, you can make sure that your puppy is comfortable being handled. Teach your puppy to accept handling of their nose, ears, belly, and feet. This training is best approached with frequent (multiple times per day) short (less than five- minute) sessions involving lots of praise and tasty treats.

For the appointment itself, try not to make a big deal out of things. The more nervous you are for the appointment, the more nervous your puppy will be.

Avoid long goodbyes and try your best not to be too excited when picking your puppy up from their appointment. If everyone acts like this is a boring, routine experience, your pup will be less likely to be anxious about it in the future.

Advise your groomer if you have noticed anything that makes your pup nervous and be sure to ask how they did afterward. You may be able to help lay more groundwork at home for the next visit.

If your puppy is still anxious about grooming, feel free to ask your vet for advice.

Grooming Services

They may vary between facilities, but the basic services provided by most groomers are as follows:


A bath is needed for all coat types.

Most groomers bathe dogs by massaging shampoo into the haircoat from the top of the head to the tail, typically avoiding the face and ears.

It’s important to use shampoo made specifically for dogs, since human shampoo is not formulated to support the unique properties of dog skin. The shampoo is then thoroughly rinsed before the drying process.

Bathing alone usually takes 30 to 40 minutes, though the duration may vary depending on the dog’s coat and the equipment used by the groomer. Drying can take substantially longer in some cases.


Like human nails, dog nails consist of a thick keratin shell that is produced by a soft base known as the “quick” at the end of the toe.

For dogs whose nails have grown too long, groomers will use nail clippers or specialized grinders to shorten the keratin shell while being careful not to trim the sensitive quick.

A nail trim can typically take 10 to 15 minutes for well-behaved dogs, but dogs who are anxious about having their feet handled may require more time.


Toothbrushing is available at many grooming salons, but it’s also something that you can do at home. Many dentists recommend daily toothbrushing for our canine companions to promote the best oral health.

There are many styles of toothbrushes, some very similar to the ones we use and others that fit over the finger, making them easier for much smaller mouths.

The brush is used to apply dog-safe (fluoride-free) toothpaste and gently brush away tartar and debris from the tooth surface.

A quick five minutes every day can help keep your pup’s teeth healthy and sparkling.


Anal glands are specialized sacs in a dog’s rectum that contain scent-marking material.

This material normally expresses when a dog defecates, and therefore most dogs don’t need help expressing these glands on a routine basis.

Signs that a dog may need their glands expressed are scooting on the ground or excessive licking.

If your dog needs frequent anal gland expression at the groomer, it may be wise to talk to your vet about investigating allergies, parasites, or digestive issues that can be treated.

Some dogs may have structural issues with their glands, and routine expression at the groomer is a reasonable way to manage them.


Some dogs need routine ear maintenance. Dogs with floppy ears may benefit from regular removal of earwax, using an ear-safe cleaner and a cotton ball.

However, it’s important to leave deep ear cleaning to the professionals. Inserting Q-Tips into the ear canal carries the risk of rupturing an eardrum.

Some curly-coated breeds like Poodles and Doodles may also benefit from having hair removed from their ear canals, because it can trap dirt and debris.


The final brush-out and trim at the groomer usually depend on the dog’s breed. Short-coated breeds may just need a quick 20-minute brush after they are dry.

For breeds like Huskies and Pomeranians with their thick undercoat, extensive blowouts and brushing with specialized combs are typically necessary. Some groomers prefer to do this before shampooing them.

Haircuts can vary, with some pet parents preferring breed-style cuts and others looking for basic puppy trims with all the hair at the same length.

Make sure to discuss your preferences with your groomer before the appointment, and they can give you a better expectation of how long the grooming process will take.

With all these steps, many full-service appointments will take three to four hours!

Grooming Tips for Your New Puppy FAQs

What is the typical price of grooming a puppy?

Although it can vary by region and salon, you should expect to pay between $40 and $75 for a full-service grooming.

Breed-style cuts will likely cost more, while a bath and nail trim may fall at the lower end of the price range. Be sure to ask each potential groomer what is included in their services when comparing prices.

Can I use a puppy grooming kit?

A puppy grooming kit is a great thing to have at home, even if you plan on using a full-service groomer.

You can use home grooming supplies to keep haircoats in shape between grooming appointments or to work on positive reinforcement and desensitization training.

You can find pre-made kits or assemble your own set.

A complete grooming kit should include, at a minimum, a brush suitable for your dog’s hair type, nail trimmers, a toothbrush, and dog toothpaste.

If you are comfortable with using clippers, there are sets available for home use.

However, grooming pets with scissors can be extremely dangerous and should generally be avoided unless you are a professional.

Whether you groom your puppy at home or take them to a fancy salon, routine grooming will keep your puppy looking and feeling their best for years to come.

Teaching your puppy (and yourself) to enjoy this important process early on will help make it an easy part of your dog’s lifelong care.

Featured Image: Eva Blanco/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Jamie Lovejoy, DVM


Jamie Lovejoy, DVM


Dr. Jamie Lovejoy graduated from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 after an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology. ...

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