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Humane Society of Greater Rochester

After weeks of staying safe at home during this COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably thought once or twice about giving yourself an at-home-haircut. Bangs, perhaps? But for your furry friend, proper grooming is about more than just aesthetics, it’s often essential for their health and wellness. To ensure your pet’s health and happiness, we’ve compiled a number of pet grooming “do’s” and “don’ts” with the help of our Behavior & Training Team to help you through this time until your favorite pet groomer or dog wash reopens safely.

While haircuts aren’t essential for us, they can be for our furry friends!

DO help your pet feel comfortable around grooming tools.

Tangles and mats are a major concern for pet owners, particularly those with long-haired furry friends. Tangles and mats can cause irritation to the skin, and are best dealt with by brushing your pet’s coat daily.

For some pets, a simple brush can seem like a scary thing. Lollypop Farm Behavior & Training Manager, Rebecca Lohnes, recommends starting off slowly, especially if your pet seems uneasy. “Using a high value food such as peanut butter or cream cheese is a great way to introduce your pet to a brush if they are fearful,” said Rebecca. “You can start slowly by offering the treat while the brush is near them. Work up to using the brush with them, keeping initial sessions short and trying again slowly on another day until they are relaxed and comfortable.”

It’s important to make sure that before you groom your pet, they’re comfortable around the tools that you’ll be using.

For pets who are still reluctant to be brushed, sometimes the best tool is simply your hand. “My short haired dog doesn’t enjoy being brushed,” said Behavior & Training Supervisor Brittany Smith. “If I need to get some extra hair off, I will brush him just using my own hands. You can do some extra petting and massaging outdoors, and that will typically take care of all the excess fur without stressing him.”

DON’T use products intended for human usage on your pet.

With some of our favorite online shopping sites having longer-than-usual delivery times, it can be tempting to use a human trimmer or even shampoo that you have around the house on your pet.

While your personal shampoo may smell fabulous and better than your pup currently smells, these products often contain chemicals that can irritate your pet’s skin or damage their coat. Human shampoo doesn’t have the proper pH balance for your dog’s fur, and use could result in an unexpected trip to the vet. Many stores like Pet Supplies Plus have options available locally, and are currently offering free same-day delivery on all orders over $35 placed before 1 p.m. daily, as well as free curbside pick up.

Additionally, human hair clippers and beard trimmers are designed differently than professional pet grooming tools, with different blade lengths and safety guards. Even using items like nail trimmers designed for other species can be harmful. These tools may cause significant damage to your pet’s skin, or sensitive areas around their paw pads, mouth, and underbelly. If you are comfortable using grooming tools on your pet, they should be those that are specifically designed with animals in mind. If your pet seems stressed or you are uneasy about using any grooming tool, skip it. If you think your pet’s health or well being are at risk, give your veterinarian a call for help.

DO make bathtime stress free.

Make sure that bath time doesn’t cause unnecessary stress, for you, or your pet!

When a bath becomes necessary due to odors or the mud puddle your dog found outside, make a plan for how to approach bathtime in a way that is stress free for everyone. It may be helpful to bathe your pet with a partner so that one person can keep focused on your pet’s safety and rewarding their good behavior, while the other takes care of shampooing, massaging and rinsing.

For most dogs, a bath tub works just fine! However if you have older pets or pets with health issues, you might consider an alternative, like a tub or spot of grass in the backyard. If you are using a tub, add just a few inches of water to the basin and don’t use a shower sprayer which can be scary or give off too much water pressure. Instead, a washcloth and small bowl or cup to gently rinse the shampoo away should be a more successful approach. Be sure to check that the water temperature is warm or lukewarm – you never want your water to be too hot or cold. Go slowly, and take your time so your pet does not feel overwhelmed.

Consider spreading some of your pet’s favorite treat, like peanut butter, cream cheese or meat flavored baby food on the wall! Your furry friend will enjoy lapping up the goodies while you gently wash them off. Rebecca adds, “If your pet is getting stressed for any reason, it’s time to switch something up. Positive reinforcement for good behavior will help make the process better for you and your pet.”

Once bath time is over gently pat them dry, being careful around their ears and eyes. Vigorously drying them with a towel can be harmful to their skin and coat, so go slowly and take your time.

DON’T overlook simple nail maintenance techniques.

Without visiting a groomer regularly, your dog’s nails are probably starting to get a bit long! While some pets are happy to let their people touch their paws and trim their nails, some may be more hesitant. “When it comes to nail maintenance, walking on the sidewalk or pavement will naturally wear down your dog’s nails, for when you can’t trim them or get to a groomer,” said Brittany.

Another trick for nail maintenance is to use a piece of sandpaper on a cookie sheet. Simply lay the sandpaper on top of the sheet, and reward your pet with a treat when they put their paw on it. Check out our video where Brittany demonstrates how to properly implement this technique at home!

DO use our free Pet Peeves Hotline.

The Lollypop Farm Behavior & Training staff is here to help you! Our Pet Peeves Hotline is available to you for FREE to help you with any pet related concerns. Our team has a number of resources that can make sure you and your pet remain happy at home. Give us a call at 585-295-2999 or visit

DO call your vet if you have any concerns.

Whenever your pet has a health-related issue, your veterinarian is always your best resource, now more than ever. If you notice any issues with your pet’s health or behavior your first call should always be to your local vet’s office, where they can assist you and evaluate if your pet needs immediate medical attention.

Best of luck grooming your pets at home! If you find any tips or tricks that work particularly well for your furry friend, be sure to share them with us on social media at @LollypopFarm or by using #LollypopFarm!

Learn more about Behavior & Training at Lollypop Farm: