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Grooming your pet dog is one of the most important parts of the owner-pet relationship. By touching and stroking your dog’s fur, it shows your care and compassion for your pet, and builds a stronger bond between you. Of course, grooming also serves the important purpose of keeping your dog clean and healthy.

A complete grooming session includes five steps: brush the fur, clean ears, brush teeth, trim claws, and inspect for fleas and ticks.

1) Brush your dog gently, using long strokes and a gentle brush. Long haired dogs need frequent brushings as their fur is easily matted and clogged with dirt. It is better to brush long haired dogs with long-bristled brushes or even human brushes. Shorthaired dogs are easier to take care of, and only need a light brushing with a short-bristle brush.

2) Dogs accumulate earwax very quickly, and they cause the ears to have a very distinctive odor that is extremely unpleasant. However, dogs usually resist having swabs put inside their ears, so you, or a friend, have to hold down the dog firmly, so that the dog does not wiggle around when you are cleaning its ears. Take regular cotton swabs and just put it in your dog’s ears and gently rub it around the inside of the ear canal. A dog’s ear canal is shaped like the letter S, and you will not be able to insert the swab all the way in the ear so far as to damage the eardrums, so don’t worry.

3) Brushing your dog’s teeth is one step in grooming that is often overlooked. A dog needs dental hygiene just as much as humans, and the lack of it results in tooth decay and more obviously, bad breath. Have a friend open and hold their mouth, and quickly brush their teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using dog toothpaste. This toothpaste can be bought at pet stores such as PetSmart or Petco.

4) Trimming a dog’s nails can at first be a bit unnerving, since you are probably worried about hurting your dog. However, just remember to not take off too much of the nail. Use a sharp trimmer designed for dogs. It is preferable not to use scissors because the shearing action of scissors twists the nail in your dog’ paw and causes discomfort.

5) Lastly, run your hand over your dog’s fur from back to front to see if any tiny specks pop out. Sometimes, you can actually see the fleas crawling on the skin of your dog. If you do find fleas or ticks, use a topical treatment that you apply to the skin on the back of your dog’s neck. These usually work well and prevent the reappearance of fleas for up to a month.