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FIVE GREAT DOG GROOMING TIPS

Grooming your dog at home is fun and easy. Best of all, he'll look and feel great afterward! Follow these five grooming steps to keep your dog looking and feeling his best:

Step 1: Start slowly

To help your dog get accustomed to regular grooming, gently handle his legs, feet, mouth, ears and head several times a day for a few weeks without attempting to clean them. Soon he'll get used to this and keeping him clean will be a piece of cake.

Step 2: Wipe your dog's eyes

Dogs often get discharge at the inner corners of their eyes. This runny goo should be removed before it irritates their skin. Simply wet a cotton ball or washcloth with warm water and gently wipe away any discharge. A moistened baby toothbrush can gently remove dried debris from the hair near the eyes.

Call your veterinarian if you notice a lot of discharge, or if it's thick and greenish or yellowish, as it could indicate an eye irritation, known as conjunctivitis, or an infection.

Step 3: Clean your dog's ears

Check your dog's ears once a week. If they look dirty, put a little mineral oil on several cotton balls. Lift each earflap and wipe the skin folds and any visible parts of the ear. Be sure to never insert anything into your dog's ear canal.

Call your veterinarian if your dog's ears smell bad or ooze thick, dark brown or yellow green discharge, as that can be a sign of an infection.

Step 4: Clean your dog's teeth

Just like ours, your dog's teeth can decay and become infected. In fact, studies show that by age three, 80% of dogs exhibit signs of gum disease.

But before you grab the brush and make for their molars, get your dog used to the idea by gently massaging his lips with your finger in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice per day. Gradually move your finger into his mouth until you can massage his gums and teeth. Don't expect immediate success, though. Getting your dog used to this new practice could take several weeks.

Once your dog is comfortable with having his teeth and gums massaged, you can introduce a toothbrush. A dog-specific toothbrush, a washcloth or a piece of gauze will work great.

Start by washing your hands (be sure to wash your hands afterwards, too). Using circular or back-and-forth motions, brush the surfaces of your dog's teeth and gums next to their cheeks. Your dog may resist letting you lean the inner surfaces of his teeth. Don't force the issue; very little tartar accumulates there anyway. Then wipe with a clean, damp cloth to rinse.

Only use a toothpaste formulated for dogs or a mixture of baking soda and water. Dogs can't spit and human toothpaste will upset their stomach if they swallow it.

You can help fend off plaque by serving dry food or by offering your dog hard, crunchy treats. There are also a wide variety of dental chew toys from which to choose.

Step 5: Finish with paw care

Washing your dog's feet helps rinse away trapped dirt, especially after playing outside. A washcloth and warm water is all it takes, or you can simply add it to your dog's regular bath time.

For medium or long-haired dogs, you'll need to trim the hair between their nails and pads. Tiny mats, fleas and debris love to hide in these little spaces. Blunt-tip baby fingernail scissors will make quick work of this task, or ask your groomer to trim these little hairs during your pet's next groom.

If you can hear your dog's nails on tile or cement, it's time for a trim. There are special nail clippers that can help you get the job done. If you've never trimmed your dog's nails before, watch our handy how-to video for tips.

Get started with some basic grooming supplies >