Prepping for the Prettying

Prepping for the Prettying

 In This Chapter

  • Deciding what equipment and supplies you really need
  • Discovering optional supplies and equipment
  • Finding the best bargains for groomer supplies
  • Setting up your grooming room — what works and what won’t

Your own doggie beauty parlor doesn’t have to be fancy or extravagant, but it does have to be right. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time with odds and ends that really don’t work when you need them.

In this chapter, I cover the basics of what you need to groom your dog properly. Some equipment and supplies may seem a bit extravagant, but when you add up the time it takes to do the job without them, you’ll wonder how you ever managed. I also cover the costs and a proper setup so you can clean your pup in no time.
And I cover where to get these supplies and where the best deals really are. You may be surprised to discover that getting the right stuff is often no more expensive than buying the wrong stuff at a convenience place.

Gearing Up

If you read Chapter Inside and Out: What Affects a Dog’s Coat and Grooming, you know how important grooming is for your dog’s health, but now you’re probably wondering where to begin. After all, you may have a brush or comb or maybe some shampoo that you bought at the local grocery or pet supply store, but is that what you need to make your dog pretty? Will the stuff you already have work in a pinch when you have virtually nothing besides a slicker brush and a garden hose? And will the basket of dog things that Uncle Ed gave to you after Missy the Coonhound died at 15 work for you and your dog?
Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Taking stock in what you have

The first thing you need to do is take an inventory of all the equipment you already have. That includes the grocery-store nail cutters, the combs, the slicker brushes, the soft brushes, and — whatever the heck that thing is that you suspect has something to do with grooming but have no clue what it is.
In the sections that follow, you can match what you already have to what you need. There’s really no need to go out and buy a brand new set of nail clippers if the one you have is adequate for the job at the moment. So if Uncle Ed gave you Missy’s old comb and it looks sturdy and serviceable enough, you don’t have to rush out and buy another one just yet. However, you probably will need to replace that old comb after it sees a bit of use, so be prepared to do that down the road.
With all due respect to Uncle Ed and Missy, unless your uncle is a vet or into showing or grooming dogs, he probably purchased the comb at a big-box or department store along with his camping supplies, dog food, big-screen TV, and tube socks. If he was conscientious, he may have bought the items at a local pet supply shop, so the items in question may be good bargains, or they may be junk. Plenty of good pieces of equipment are out there, but so are plenty of bad ones. Don’t discount anything Uncle Ed gives you; just be aware it may not hold up to serious grooming chores, and you may have to replace it.
Say, for example, that you have some combs and brushes and an odd looking grooming thingy. Match them up the best you can with what you need and make sure that they won’t do more damage than good. Nail trimmers can get dull over time, so you’ll need to replace the blade (if the clippers are guillotine style) or have it sharpened (if they’re scissors style). Otherwise, trying to trim your dog’s nails can be a big headache.


Throw away any tools that appear damaged or rusted, including combs with bent teeth and rakes with wobbly handles. Throw out nail cutters if lubricating them doesn’t fix the hitch in the action. You can try lubricating them with light machine-tool oil. But remember that you don’t need anything that will cause problems; it’s cheaper and safer to buy new ones at this point than it is to try to fix a problem or risk an injury to you or your dog.

After matching up your supplies with what you truly need, you may find that some of your equipment amounts to the wrong tools for the type of dog you have. Again, Missy was a short-coated breed who needed a grooming mitt, but your Sasha is an Alaskan Malamute, a double-coated breed who’ll never need some pieces of Missy’s equipment. Don’t throw those tools out, though. Instead, donate them to your local humane society, where they can be either put to good use or sold to someone who can use them.


Be sure to disinfect all used grooming supplies with a disinfectant made for use on grooming tools. Otherwise, your dog risks infection from them.

What about the supplies you already have, such as the dog shampoo and flea stuff and the (whew — what is that stinky stuff?) doggie deodorant? Go through them and see what you can do with them:

– If the supplies are flea-and-tick powder or an insecticide-type treatment, throw them out. You have three reasons for doing so:

  • You don’t know how old the stuff is.
  • You don’t know whether it’s safe for your dog.
  • Better methods for controlling fleas and ticks are usually available from your veterinarian.

– If the supplies are not insecticides and are fresh, check the labels for expiration dates and to find out whether the products are pH-balanced for dogs. If they are, then you can use them if the scents aren’t too obnoxious. Remember, you have to smell your dog. (Note: Some dog shampoos and conditioners don’t carry a pH-balanced label even though they are. When in doubt, show the bottle to your vet or simply replace it with a quality name-brand product.)

– If you’re really not sure about what you have, toss them out and buy the right stuff. Just don’t tell Uncle Ed you did, okay?

After you have the pile of equipment and grooming products sorted, I bet you don’t have as much as you thought you did. So take a look at what equipment and supplies you need, which I discuss in the next section.

Gathering the essential equipment

You may need to spend some money upfront to keep your dog’s coat clean and beautiful, but a well-groomed dog is worth that expense.
Good equipment is necessary for doing the job right. You don’t, however, need to buy the most expensive equipment. In fact, some of the best equipment can be made or purchased without spending too much money. For example, I have a wonderful grooming table that a friend’s son made for me. I tell you where to find quality grooming supplies at bargain prices in the “Purchasing Your Supplies” section later in this chapter.

So what equipment must you have? Much depends on your dog’s breed. For example, an Alaskan Malamute is going to have different needs than a Poodle, and both are going to have different needs than a Bluetick Coonhound. So some of the equipment may not be optional if you have a particular type of dog. Another consideration is the type of grooming you’re doing — whether it’s for home or for show.

The following lists describe the equipment you need for basic grooming of all dogs. Yes, although these lists are quite lengthy, you probably can find ways to save money here and there. The big items (grooming table, clippers, and hair dryer) are probably your biggest investment, so buy the best that you can afford, and you won’t be disappointed later on.


You may want to contact friends or groomers who own equipment to see whether they’re willing to let you try it out on your dog. Recommendations aside, you also need to be happy with the equipment you’re using, and the only way to know whether you will be is to try it out.

For brushing and bathing

Be sure to have these items on hand:

Brushes: Cost $5 to $20.

  • Slicker brush (see Figure 3-1a): You need at least two types of slickers to handle brushing — one with soft bristles to use on faces and sensitive areas and another with harder bristles for more vigorous grooming. A slicker is a necessary brush, more or less, for all breeds except the hairless variety.
  • Flexible or rubber curry brush (see Figure 3-1b): These brushes (Zoom Groom is one) are great for long-haired and short-haired dogs. They’re good for getting loose fur out of the coat quickly and easily, and most dogs seem to enjoy their touch.
  • Grooming/polishing mitt (see Figure 3-1c): This glove has little nubs or bristles that are good for giving a once-over to a shortcoated breed. Also called a hound glove. They cost $10 to $20. 
Figure 3-1: Using a variety of brushes keeps your dog’s coat in shape.

Combs: Cost $5 to $30. All dog owners need fine- and medium-toothed combs regardless of the breeds of their respective dogs.

  • Fine-toothed comb (see Figure 3-2a): This comb works best on dogs with fine hair.
  • Medium-toothed comb (see Figure 3-2b): This comb is a good all-around basic comb.
  • Wide-toothed or coarse-toothed comb: This comb is used on dogs with lots of hair or thick hair. Most groomers prefer Greyhound style combs (or combs without handles that have teeth running from end to end).
  • Flea comb (see Figure 3-2c): You need at least one flea comb to help you check for fleas and to detangle, but because the low-end plastic flea combs are so cheap, buy a handful. Heavy-duty flea combs are a bit pricier but not by much. Costs range from under $1 to $10. 
Figure 3-2: An assortment of combs help you care for your dog’s coat.

Grooming table: I consider a grooming table essential even for home grooming because it keeps your dog secure and still. Grooming your dog while you’re standing also saves your back! The table doesn’t have to be fancy — just make sure it’s big enough for your dog to stand on and for you to work around comfortably. It needs to be equipped with a nonskid surface and sturdy legs. You can build or buy one, depending on your inclination. Cost ranges from $50 to $200.


If you invest in a grooming table, I recommend adding a grooming arm and noose (as shown in Figure 3-3). The arm and noose keep your dog centered in one place on the grooming table while you work on him. Cost is about $20 to $40. Warning: Never leave a dog unattended in a grooming noose.

 Figure 3-3: Your dog stays in one place on a grooming table equipped with a grooming arm and noose.

Mat rake (see Figure 3-4a): This tool has sharp teeth that you use to rake through a mat. They occasionally need to be sharpened. Cost is $10 to $30.

Mat splitter (see Figure 3-4b): A mat splitter is an essential piece of equipment for any dog with medium to long hair. Mat splitters come in different forms, but they work by cutting through the mat safely while you’re combing the dog’s coat. They occasionally need to be sharpened. Cost runs about $10 to $30.


If used improperly, mat splitters and rakes can cut into a dog’s skin. See Chapter Clarifying the Corded Breed’s Coif for advice on how to use these tools properly.

Figure 3-4: A mat rake (a) or mat splitter (b) is used to remove persistent mats.

Pet blow-dryer: Pet dryers are made to blow off as much water as possible to dry your dog quickly. I recommend two styles: force dryers and stand dryers. Force dryers are used for drying a dog while she’s loose; stand dryers are used for drying a dog on a table; they blow air on top of the dog. (I don’t recommend cage dryers, which fasten to a dog’s cage or crate, due to the number of overheating deaths associated with them.) Force dryers cost from $100 to $400, and stand dryers cost from $400 to $1,000, making these dryers less practical for most home groomers.


Luckily, you can use a blow-dryer for humans that’s equipped with a noheat setting to get the same effect; a dryer like that sets you back only $10 to $20.

Towels: You can use your own towels or splurge for some that you use only for grooming your dog. If you decide to buy towels specifically for your dog, get white towels that you can easily toss in the washing machine with some detergent and bleach. Cost ranges from nothing to $20.

Tub: You can bathe your dog for free in your home bathtub or sink (if you have a Toy breed), or you can go all out and splurge on a professional grooming tub (which I address in the “Adding optional equipment and supplies” section later in this chapter).

Undercoat rake: This tool is for dogs who have thick undercoats or who shed quite a bit. Undercoat rakes have either two sets of teeth (see Figure 3-5) or a single set that’s long enough to pull out the dense undercoat. To work properly, the rake teeth need to be as long as your dog’s coat. Cost is $10 to $30. 

Figure 3-5: An undercoat rake is used on dogs with thick undercoats.

For clipping and neatening

Be sure to have these items on hand:

Electric clippers: Electric clippers that are made for trimming dog hair are available in either rechargeable or plug-in styles. What you need depends largely on your dog and what kind of grooming you’re doing. If your dog doesn’t require a clipper-intensive grooming session — just a touchup here or there or the removal of a mat — then you can probably get away with a cheaper clipper (labeled for pet home use). If you plan to do several styles or show cuts or to work on more than one dog, you’re probably looking at a more expensive clipper. Cost is about $40 to $300.

Most clippers come with some type of blade, but you need other blades, depending on what type of clipping you’re doing. See Chapter Spiffing Up Short- and Medium-Coated Breeds for more about clipper blades. Cost of blades is $15 to $60 each.

If your clippers don’t come with lubricating oil, be sure to pick some up to keep your clipper blades well-lubricated and in tip-top working condition.

Forceps and clamps: Not for surgery but rather for caring for the ears, these tools are the same as surgical instruments; they’re sold through grooming shops and mail-order catalogs. Cost is $10 to $20.

Nail cutters: These cutters can be either scissors-style (see Figure 3-6a) or guillotine-style (see Figure 3-6b), but they must be the appropriate size for your dog, and they need to be sharp. The guillotine-style has a guard and a blade that slides forward when you push down on the handle. The scissors-style operates much like a pair of scissors. Some scissors-style cutters have a safety gauge that helps keep you from trimming too much of the nail and quicking the dog (that is, cutting the pink part — see Chapter Giving Your Dog a Great ’Do: Clipping Basics). You can replace the blades in guillotine-style cutters, but you can’t do that with the scissors-style. Instead, you must have the scissors-style cutters sharpened. Either type of cutter works fine, and which one you use is pretty much a matter of personal preference. 

Figure 3-6: Nail cutters make doggie pedicures simple.

Toothbrush for dogs: I prefer the finger toothbrushes, which fit on your finger because they give you good control when brushing your pooch’s teeth. They cost between $5 and $10. You can use a less expensive human toothbrush in a pinch.

Other important equipment to have on hand

Be sure to have these items on hand:

First-aid kit: Just in case your dog gets injured, you need a first-aid kit. See Chapter It’s Showtime! Grooming a Dog for the Ring for more information about assembling the right kind of first-aid kit for dogs. Cost is $10 to $50.

Grooming diary: You need a notebook or journal in which you can make notes on what you’ve done and how the grooming session went (see Chapter What Good Grooming Is All About). Cost is $1 to $10.

Spray bottles and plastic bottles to hold supplies: Cheap and easy, you can buy them just about anywhere for $1 to $5. Use them to hold liquids like doggie shampoo or detangler solution.

Tack box: This storage box is where you put your equipment and supplies. You can get one that’s fancy or one that’s plain, depending on your budget and tastes. You can even use plastic storage containers to keep all your different kinds of equipment and supplies separate. Cost is $25 to $200.

Stocking up on important routine supplies

In this section, I talk about supplies you must have, stuff that you’re probably going to purchase again and again, including shampoos, conditioners, and other items that you’re going to use on your dog.


You need to purchase supplies that work for dogs, not people. Shampoos that work for people often are not intended for a dog’s coat and can dry out or damage your dog’s hair. Can they work in a pinch? Yes, of course, but they’re not good over the long term. People toothpaste, however, should never be used on dogs, because it contains fluoride, which is quite toxic to dogs when swallowed.

The good news is that many professional-grade supplies are inexpensive when you know where to buy them. For example, a professional-grade shampoo can cost $10 to $30 a gallon, an amount good for dozens of washes.


Ask a dog-owner friend to share the expense of buying a gallon of doggie shampoo and conditioner. The amount that you both save on supplies is well worth the effort. Split the supplies up in plastic bottles and label them clearly.

The items in the following sections need to go in your tack box. For more about organizing your tack box check out the section on “Organizing Your Accoutrements” later in this chapter.
So check out the supplies that you really need.

For brushing and bathing

Be sure to have these items on hand:

Conditioner for dogs: Sometimes called cream rinse, dog conditioner is used after the shampoo to help keep the coat shiny and to prevent tangles. The conditioner needs to be pH-balanced for dogs (in other words, don’t use human hair conditioner). Choose one that you can rinse out (versus a leave-in coat conditioner, which I discussion later in the “Optional supplies” section). Cost ranges from $10 to $30 per gallon.

Detangler solution for dogs: You spray this solution into snarls and mats in your dog’s coat to make combing them out easier. It’s generally intended for medium- or long-coated dogs. Cost is $10 to $20 per quart.

Shampoo for dogs: This shampoo needs to be pH-balanced for dogs (shampooing your dog often with human shampoo can harm her coat and skin). Ask your vet to recommend a shampoo appropriate for your dog’s coat, or look for a professional-grade grooming shampoo, which almost always works better than the grocery store varieties. You can get them in several varieties: scented (in all sorts of wonderful smells), hypoallergenic, antifungal, specifically for white or black coats, tearless (a great option for beginning groomers), waterless (for cleaning up your dog in between baths), and so on. Unless you have a specific problem that you’re trying to address (ringworm, hot spots, and allergies), you’re better off staying with a good dog shampoo that cleans the coat but isn’t medicated. You can pick one that smells really nice, too. Cost is $10 to $60 per gallon.

For clipping and neatening

Be sure to have these items on hand:

Cotton swabs: Not for ears, cotton swabs are used to clean around wrinkles. Cost is less than $5.

Eye topical ointment: This ointment is used to protect your dog’s eyes when bathing. Cost runs about $5 to $10.

Otic solution for dogs: This solution is applied to your dog’s ears to keep them clean. See Chapter Giving Your Dog a Great ’Do: Clipping Basics. Cost is $5 to $10.

– Sterile cotton balls: You need cotton balls for cleaning ears and around your dog’s eyes and to keep water out of ears while bathing your dog. Cost runs less than $5.

Sterile cotton gauze: Sterile gauze is used for cleaning ears and around eyes. Cost is less than $5.

Styptic powder: A powder with styptic qualities, or the ability to halt minor bleeding, this substance often is used on bleeding nails. Cost is less than $5.

Toothpaste for dogs: Malt, chicken, or some other dog-pleasing flavor — what a great way to brush your dog’s teeth! Cost is $5 to $10.

Other important supplies to have on hand

Be sure to have these items on hand:

Paper towels: Cost is $1 to $2.

Plastic storage containers: Tupperware, Glad, or Ziploc are good ones. They work for everyday use in grooming. You need them to hold stuff. Cost is $5 to $10.

Resealable plastic bags: Ziploc or Glad zipper bags are good ones for everyday use in grooming. Use them to hold equipment or supplies. Cost runs less than $5.

Adding optional equipment and supplies

In this section, I focus on equipment and supplies that are optional. I use the term “optional” loosely, because you may find that you can’t do without socalled optional items in certain circumstances, such as when preparing for the show ring or handling a specific type of (or even difficult) dog.
Without a doubt, other equipment and supplies that you may find useful or helpful are available. When considering them, use your best judgment on whether you think they’ll work for you and your dog.

Optional equipment

Tools you may need but for the most part are considered optional include

Bathing noose: This device usually affixes to the side of a tub with a suction-cup. It fits around the dog’s neck and holds him in one place while you bathe him. Cost runs $10 to $20. Warning: Even though a strong dog usually can pull free from this device, never leave a dog unattended in a grooming noose.

Bait pouch: Used to hold treats while showing your dog (see Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business). Cost is $1 to $10.

– Bow, ribbons, and other “girlie” dog embellishments: You know what I’m talking about. You’ll pay $5 to $10.

Grooming apron: Like any other apron, this one keeps hair and grooming stuff off your clothing. Cost ranges from $10 to $30.

Grooming harness for the grooming arm (described in the “For brushing and bathing” section earlier in this chapter): This contraption keeps the dog standing while you groom. Cost is $10 to $25. Warning: Never leave a dog unattended in a grooming harness!

Nail cauterizer: A high-tech version of styptic powder, this tool cauterizes the nail and stops the bleeding if you accidentally cut to your dog’s nail to the quick. Groomers like to use this tool because it’s fast and seals the cut right away. Cost runs $20 to $50.

Nail grinders: Some dogs can’t stand the nail clippers but can deal with a nail-grinding tool, similar to a rotary tool. Cost is $40 to $60.

Professional grooming tub: This option is an expensive one, but if you can manage it, it’s a wonderful way to bathe your dog without hurting your back. Cost is $200 to $2,000.

Pin and bristle brushes: These brushes are two other types of brushes that can be helpful but aren’t necessary if you have a slicker brush. Cost is $5 to $10.

Ramp or step stairs: Stairs or a ramp is a good device for getting your dog either into/out of the tub or onto the grooming table without hurting your back or forcing a geriatric dog to jump. Cost is $50 to $200.

Scissors (or shears): For styling and clipping (see Chapter Spiffing Up Short- and Medium-Coated Breeds). Cost ranges from $10 to $75 or more.

Shedding blade: This grooming tool has small teeth like a serrated knife (but they’re not sharp). Shedding blades are usually shaped like a loop attached to a handle, and they pull out a heavy undercoat quickly. Cost is $5 to $25.

Show slip collars: Used when showing your dog (see Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business). Cost runs $15 to $40.

Shower spray attachment: A spray attachment makes water coming from a faucet into a more-showerlike spray, making dog bathing easier. Cost is $20 to $50.

Stripping knife: This tool is used for stripping the coat to remove dead hair and is used only for stripped breeds (see Chapter Tidying the Tresses of the Long-Haired Breeds). This tool is optional because it’s specific for stripped breeds, and many stripped breeds can be clipped. Cost runs $10 to $20.

Thinning scissors (or shears): For thinning the coat or blending one layer in with another. They cost $20 to $40 each.

Tub mats: This antiskid protection helps your dog keep her footing in the tub. Cost runs $5 to $20.

Optional supplies

Supplies you may need but which are considered optional for the most part include

Bath wipes: For in-between touchups. Cost is $5 to $10.

Chalk: Used mainly to mask blemishes in color to give your dog’s legs even appearance (mostly in show dogs, see Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business). Cost is $5 to $10.

Cornstarch: Used for chalking show dogs’ legs (see Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business), cornstarch provides a much more natural look than white chalk, and it isn’t  as abrasive or expensive as chalk. Cost runs less than $5.

Deodorant sprays: Doggie deodorants give your canine a scent other than Eau de Mutt. Cost ranges from $5 to $10.

Doggie hair mousse: For the stylin’ dog. Cost is $5 to $15.

Ear powder: Use this product if you pluck your dog’s ear hair (see Chapter Giving Your Dog a Great ’Do: Clipping Basics). Cost is $5 to $10.

Gel: Yes, sparkle gel has hit the pets, too. Cost runs $5 to $10 for glittery glamour.

Hot spot spray: Used for reducing itching and clearing up hot spots, or sore, itchy, inflamed skin. Cost is $5 to $15.

Leave-in coat conditioners: These conditioners are useful for dogs with dry hair or dogs that are shown a lot. They usually give the coat the look and feel of a specific texture, depending on what you’re trying to do with the coat. Cost is $10 to $30 each.

Medicated shampoo for skin conditions: Cost is $20 to $100 per gallon.

Pet tear-stain remover: Not all dogs get tear stains, so tear-stain remover isn’t vital for all breeds. Cost: $5 to $15.

Where’s the flea and tick stuff?

You may notice what appears to be a distinct oversight on my part when it comes to mentioning flea-and-tick items. The reason is a good one. Up until ten or so years ago, fleas and ticks usually were handled with grooming products like flea dips and sprays for the animal, flea bombs (or other such nasty devices) for the home, and insecticides for your yard and lawn.
All those items involve chemicals, rather poisonous ones at that. What’s worse is that these insecticides react with each other, so the stuff you put on your dog is affected by the stuff in your house or on your lawn. What’s more, dog flea products can be toxic to cats, so you have to be careful if you have feline friends.
In recent years, however, researchers figured out not only how to kill the bugs but also how to prevent them from growing up and reproducing on your dog. As a result, a number of new systemic flea-and-tick-control products are available from your veterinarian. These products can be administered either topically (spot-on) or orally, and not only do they kill the fleas and ticks, but they also stop them from reproducing, thereby ending the infestation permanently.
So if you have a flea-control problem, the first person you need to talk to is your veterinarian. He or she has the right systemics and can recommend control products that work together more safely than any of the ones you can choose on your own. See Chapter Grooming Emergencies: Knowing Doggie First Aid for more info.

Purchasing Your Supplies

Okay, so now you have your list of equipment and supplies that you need to buy. Looking over the list of what you have versus what you need or want (doesn’t that $2,000 grooming tub look cool?), you discover that you still have quite a bit to purchase. If you’re like me, you’re on limited funds and you’ve checked your bank account and decided that although you want to buy the best stuff, you don’t want to take out a second mortgage to do it.
So where do you purchase your supplies? Do you go to the local big-box retailer and look for a grooming table? Do you look at the local pet boutique for ribbons and bows? Do you go pick it up at the local grocery store and ask the store manager which comb works best with your dog’s undercoat?
I ask these questions in jest, because I’m sure you know by now that you’re unlikely to get a lot of help from places that don’t specialize in grooming equipment. That doesn’t mean that these places won’t have what you’re looking for, but rather that you have to know what you’re looking for and whether it’s going to work for you. The sections that follow can help you discover where best to make your purchases.

From the grocery store

The grocery store isn’t the first place that I’d look for pet supplies unless I was really in a pinch and had to pick something up right away. Grocery stores are great for getting groceries, but pet-related items are more of a convenience than a quality thing. Oh yes, they’ll have doggie shampoo and combs and whatnot — and some may be of decent quality — but you can buy betterquality stuff elsewhere for the same price or less. It’s kind of like using the cheap bargain-brand shampoo on your hair. Yes, it works. Yes, you’ll live with it, but no, you won’t always be 100 percent satisfied with the results.
The positive side is that when you have the grooming implement in your hand, you can actually see the quality of the item, feel it, and (when the store clerk isn’t looking) try it out on your own hair. (Did I say that?) Seriously, if you need something now, the grocery may or may not have it. But if the store does have that item and you need it now, the grocery is a fine place to buy it.

From big-box retailers

Big-box retailers are kind of like super-duper discount department stores, and some of them even have grocery stores in them. They carry a wider variety of merchandise that usually includes more pet equipment and supplies. You know them as Wal-Mart, Target, and a number of other big-box stores that cater to people buying everything from pet supplies to breakfast cereal and prom dresses.
Big-box retailers usually have a pet section where you can purchase grooming equipment. They frequently have tools and supplies at a pretty deep discount because they buy in bulk and pass those savings along to consumers. You’ll probably find a fair number of name-brand pet supplies and maybe some small distributor items too, but for the most part, you’re not going to find much in the line of specialty equipment — so you may not find everything that you’re looking for.
Like the grocery, one positive side to going to big-box stores is that you can touch and see the product you’re going to buy, feel the instant gratification of checking something off your list when you buy it, and experience a fun shopping trip even if your bank account suffers, because big-box stores have so many different things on sale.
You can also buy generic supply items like cotton balls, towels, plastic containers, and the like from a big-box store. (You thought I was joking about the bank account thing, didn’t you?)


One thing you need to keep in mind when going to the big-box stores is that although they usually have the best prices, that isn’t always the case. Try shopping around if you can.

From big-box pet supply stores

If I’m going to talk about big-box discount department stores, I may as well talk about the big-box versions of pet supply stores like PETCO and PetSmart. These supply stores cater to guess who? You! Well, they cater to the pet owner. These stores offer you aisle upon aisle of pet stuff, including doggie grooming equipment and supplies. Why, you’ll feel like you’ve gone to doggie nirvana.
The neat part of going to these stores is that you usually have more than one brand and more than one choice when it comes to the things you need to buy. You’ll find plenty of doggie shampoos, conditioners, spritzes, sprays, deodorants, combs, brushes, and myriad assortment of other grooming products. You’ll probably find a grooming table and maybe a doggie blow-dryer, but you may not have quite the choice you have when you look in catalogs or on the Internet.
However, you still have the ability to touch and handle the merchandise and actually have it in your possession after you leave the store. Most pet supply stores also have trained staff who at least try to assist you with your choices.


If groomers are on staff (and they usually are), you may be able to ask for advice about what equipment and products they like to use. Some of the store’s own brand supplies are usually a bit less expensive than other namebrand or specialty items, and they’re usually pretty good quality.

One downside to these mega–pet supply stores is that their prices can be very good or very bad, depending on the item and the demand. For example, you can save a bundle on shampoo but spend too much on clippers.

From très chic pet boutiques

The pet boutiques thrive even in places where the big mega–pet supply stores exist, simply because they’re trendy and they serve a niche. No, they’re not going to give you the cheapest price on your dog’s kibble. In fact, pet boutiques probably aren’t going to carry your dog’s kibble, unless your dog eats a specialty brand that isn’t carried by the big mega–pet supply stores.
Because these shops are so specialized, you’re likely to walk into one, chat with the shop owner, and come out with some top-notch stuff — especially if she caters to show folks. You probably won’t have a lot of money left, but you’re bound to get some good advice and even suggestions for grooming your dog. If the shop doesn’t have the supplies you’re looking for, ask the shop owner. She probably can order it from her supplier within a few days.
The downside of pet boutiques is, of course, the price and in some cases, selection. If you have to special-order anything, getting it may take a few weeks. Nevertheless, getting to know someone who’s knowledgeable about grooming items is kind of nice.

From groomer-supply stores and catalogs

My favorite way to shop is through groomer-supply mail-order catalogs. It’s sort of like having a discount shop just a phone call away.
In most cases, you can find exactly what you’re looking for as you peruse various groomer and pet-supply catalogs — and usually for much less than what you’d pay at a retail store or specialty shop.
One downside of buying from catalogs is that you don’t necessarily have the ability to inspect the item firsthand to determine whether it’s something you really want. However, if you’ve seen the item and can get it for a lower price, shopping by catalog is well worth the effort.
Another problem with buying through a catalog is that you must wait for it to be shipped to you. Depending on the shipping mode used, your order can take from a day to almost two weeks to be delivered.
Mail-order buying has two more major drawbacks. First, you need to be reasonably certain that the company is reputable and will replace an item or refund your money if you’re not happy with it. Secondly, some catalog companies offer tremendous savings only to have that savings eaten up by shipping and handling fees. When shipping something big like a grooming table or a tub, companies can tack on some pretty hefty charges.


Whenever you can, make your mail-order purchases from a company that waives shipping charges on most orders.

From dog shows

A less-obvious place to shop for grooming supplies is at dog shows. Most major cities have dog shows at one time or another during the year, and on the East and West coasts, dog shows occur nearly every weekend.
You can find out what shows are in your area through the American Kennel Club Web site at or through the Dogpatch, which maintains a calendar of events on its Web site at
Dog shows are great because not only do you see people preparing their dogs for the ring, but you also receive some good grooming tips simply by watching handlers and owners and finding out what works for them. If you ever wanted to see the proper cut on a particular dog, a conformation dog show is the perfect place. Just be sure to stay out of the way as handlers rush their dogs to the ring. And be sure not to be a pest while someone’s grooming, especially right before the ring time. Furthermore, never pet a show dog except with permission from the handler.


Most big dog shows have plenty of vendors with grooming supplies, and you can often buy some deeply discounted items on the last day of the show or when they run show specials, offering special prices during the show.

The downside to shopping at a dog show it that it can be hit or miss. You may find exactly what you’re looking for, which is great, but although you may find plenty of good deals, you still may come home empty-handed. If you’re attending a conformation show, you can use it as a resource. Otherwise, don’t go completely out of your way just to attend, hoping that you’ll get a really good bargain.


Like catalogs, the Internet is quickly becoming a favorite place for pet owners (me included) to shop for pet supplies and equipment. So much so that catalogbased groomer and supply houses, mega–pet supply stores, and even trendy pet boutiques now offer products for sale online. Being online makes buying your grooming supplies easy, even at 2 a.m. when no bricks-and-mortar stores are open. You can also use online resources to make a list of what you need to pick up either directly from the (nearby) store or by calling in a phone order.
The good part about the Internet is that you can find some great bargains. However, just like mail-order companies, you can’t examine the item instantaneously, so you have to guess whether the product will suit your needs. You also have to wait for the product to be delivered, and you may have to pay shipping and handling charges that eat up much of the savings you earn by shopping the Internet.


Always be careful when dealing with companies on the Internet. Make sure that you deal only with known reputable companies, because too many crooks are lurking online, trying to steal your credit-card numbers. If you do make purchases online, be sure that the company has SSL (secured socket layers) that keep the transaction safe from unscrupulous people. Lastly, if you’re not sure about the company, you can use a transaction service like PayPal, which serves as an intermediary between buyer and seller, protecting the integrity of the transaction. You can learn more about PayPal, an eBay company, at its Web site:


Many companies offer Internet-only specials that reward you for ordering online. Take advantage of them whenever you can.

Setting Aside a Grooming Space

After you have all your equipment, you have to figure out not only where you’re going to put it but also where you’re going to groom your dog. Grooming requires enough room to brush and comb out your dog without getting in the way of cooking dinner, watching TV, or doing laundry. It takes a lot of room.
Your grooming area doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to be located where you can take your dog to work on him without many distractions. After all, you don’t need kids underfoot while you’re trying to trim your dog’s coat, and you don’t want your dog running around while you’re trying to bathe him.
The basic needs for a grooming place are as follows:

– Enough room to set up your grooming table.

– Good lighting so you can see as you work on your dog.

– Adequate isolation that puts you far enough away from the beaten path in your household that you can work on your dog without any distractions.

– Enough power outlets for clippers and blow-dryers.

– Sufficient running water that you can use to bathe your dog (or close proximity to a bathroom).

– Adequate climate control. The area needs to be heated well enough to ward off drafts in the winter, and it needs to be cool enough in the summer to prevent overheating.

– Enough shelves and storage areas to keep grooming supplies stowed safely.

Plenty of possible areas exist. The sections that follow look at each of them.

A groom room of your own

The most ideal situation is having a separate room in which to groom your dog. A spare bedroom, a modified utility room, or even a basement can be made into a fabulous doggie beauty parlor. Just knock out the walls, add dog bathing tubs, wall-to-wall storage units, and you’re all set.
But most people aren’t made of money, and in some cases, space is at a premium. When that’s the case, you can sometimes make do with a room doing double duty for grooming. A spare bedroom can quickly be made into a grooming area, and then after everything’s put away, it becomes a spare bedroom again for your Aunt Emma when she visits with that yummy apple pie and homemade liver treats. Just be sure to clean the bedroom thoroughly, or she may not come back to visit.
Make sure that you check out unused or underused areas of your house. That nook under the stairwell, a small utility room, or that sunny alcove that doesn’t have anything in it can be converted into a grooming area. Although the requirements for power and water may have you scrambling, having a place to set up your grooming table and tack boxes is all that you really need for most of your grooming procedures. And remember, your grooming table folds up so you can stow it in a closet whenever necessary.


You may have to invest in some space heaters during the wintertime if the area you choose is normally drafty.

The bathroom

If you’re planning to bathe your dog, the bathroom tub is going to become important unless your dog is small enough to bathe in a sink or laundry tub. The bathroom tub doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs hot and cold running water, a nonslip mat, and a bathing noose to keep your dog in place while you’re bathing him. You may want to use an extra hair trap to remove the hair from the water before it goes down the drain, blocks your pipes, and forces you to endure an expensive visit from the plumber.
The location of the bathroom in relation to the grooming area is important. Having your grooming bathroom near the grooming area is helpful, because you won’t have to shuffle a wet dog through so much of the house. Just be sure that the bathroom is kept free of drafts in the winter and has proper air circulation through the summer.

The great outdoors

If you don’t have enough space to do your grooming in the house, you can try setting up a grooming area outside. After all, you can give your dog a bath with a hose and then pop him up on the table for a brushing, right?
Well, maybe. First of all, grooming a dog outdoors isn’t an ideal situation. For one thing, you can’t control the temperature or weather. Grooming your dog during an electrical storm would be quite sporting to say the least, don’t you think? So you can’t control the temperature, the wind, the rain, or the snow, thus making outdoor grooming downright uncomfortable in most circumstances. What’s more, windy conditions probably will get dust and dirt in your dog’s clean hair.
Certainly bathing a dog outside has advantages. After all, after you bathe him, the dog can shake himself off without getting water everywhere. Many dogs tolerate outdoor baths, but I guarantee that your dog will detest being bathed in nothing but cold water, unless the air temperatures are higher than 90°F (32°C).


Dogs chill easily whenever the air temperature is below 80°F (27°C).

Lastly, the outdoors means many distractions for virtually any canine. Certain noises and activities can startle or frighten your dog, and squirrels, kids playing, other dogs, and other similar distractions can turn an otherwise routine grooming session into a disaster.

Dog washes: Options for grooming when you have no space

If you live in an apartment or have little or no space to groom your dog, don’t despair — you still have options.
One recent innovation is the opening of grooming salons that enable you to groom your dog yourself. These do-it-yourself dog washes give you the best of both worlds. They provide really good facilities with dog tubs, grooming tables, and even doggie blow-dryers so you can groom your dog either with their equipment or yours. These salons may charge extra for shampoo, towels, and so on, but you conveniently bring your dog and use their facility without messing up your house.

Organizing Your Accoutrements

After you have your grooming area planned out and your equipment and supplies gathered, it’s time to organize and put everything together. You want to organize and assemble your equipment according to the tasks you’ll be performing. For example, you want to have all your bathing supplies in one area so that you have everything you need in one spot when bathing your dog. Organize your supplies as follows, using a separate plastic container for each supplies category:

Brushing supplies

  • Brushes
  • Combs
  • Mat splitter
  • Mat rake
  • Shedding blade
  • Spray bottle of detangler solution
  • Stripping knife

Bathing supplies

  • Conditioner
  • Cotton balls
  • pH-balanced shampoo
  • Protective eye ointment
  • Towels and a blow-dryer

Clipping supplies

  • Electric clippers with clipper oil or lubricant
  • Extra clipper blades (as needed)

Toothbrushing supplies

  • Doggie toothbrush
  • Doggie toothpaste

Ear-care supplies

  • Cotton balls
  • Drying towels
  • Ear powder (optional)
  • Forceps
  • Otic solution
  • Sterile gauze

Face-care supplies

  • Cotton swabs
  • No-rinse shampoo
  • Tear stain remover
  • Towels
  • Washcloth

Toenail-trimming supplies

  • Cauterizer or styptic powder
  • Cotton balls
  • Toenail clippers or nail grinder

Show supplies (Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business provides a list.)

by Margaret H.Bonham