How to Groom a Small Dog

30 - 60 Minutes
1 Month


Small dogs come in such a wide variety of breeds, hair types, and personalities, that the only thing they might have in common is their small stature!  From Poodles to Maltese, from Jack Russell Terriers to Shih Tzus, they can have wiry hair, soft hair, short hair or long hair. Some shed, some are low shed, some have straight hair, some curly, undercoats, guard hairs, feisty personalities, or mellow, the variations are endless. So the grooming needs of your small dog may vary considerably.  

They all have in common, however, that because of their small stature, it can be difficult to bend down to groom them. An elevated surface, such as a sink for bathing, or a table for grooming may be more practical than working in the tub or on the floor. Small dogs also tend to be companion dogs, and it is fairly common for pet owners of small dogs to arrange to have them clipped. Though the style of clipping varies by breed, clipping makes your small dog look his best, and helps keep your dog clean and daily grooming simpler. 

Not all small dog owners want to run to a professional groomer to maintain their dog's look. If you opt to groom your small dog at home, there are some things you can do to make the task more practical.

Dog's Perspective

Small dogs are often fairly used to being picked up and handled, which usually makes them easier to groom. However, some small dogs can be anxious or timid, and if that is the case, taking steps to make grooming as comfortable for them as possible will alleviate any difficulty this may present. Using equipment that allows you to secure your dog and reach him easily for grooming, such as an appropriately sized table, having an assistant hold your small dog while grooming, or putting your small dog on your lap where he feels comfortable, are all strategies to make your pooch feel comfortable with the grooming process.

The Right Tools Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Nail Clipper
Use good clippers
If you will be clipping your small dog, use professional grade pet clippers, as opposed to inexpensive clippers. They will save you frustration and do a much better job in a shorter time. For small dogs having an extra set of clippers or trimmers with a small head for hard to reach areas may be beneficial.
Elevate your dog when grooming so you do not have to constantly bend down to reach him. An appropriate sized grooming table for small dogs will make grooming easier and discourage your small dog from walking off the edge. Rotating tables are available for small dogs that allow you to get at all sides of your dog without you moving. Folding tables are also more appropriate for small dogs than larger, as they can support the light weight of a smaller dog, and can be folded away for storage.
Trim nails
Have sharp nail trimmers or a Dremel type tool to trim your dog's nails regularly, small dogs tend to be in the house more than their larger counterparts, and their nails need trimming more often if they do not wear down from outdoor exercise on hard surfaces.
Find correct brush and comb
Small dogs have a variety of hair coats, make sure you research what is required for your dog and invest in the appropriate tools for their coat requirements. For example pin brushes versus slicker brushes, fine tooth combes or wider toothed combs.
Make secure
Non-slip surfaces for grooming, an assistant to hold your dog, or appropriate neck and hindquarter grooming restraints will make your small dog feel more secure and help position him for easier grooming.
Recommend grooming method?

The Right Techniques Method

0 Votes
Groom on lap
If you do not have an elevated surface, you can put your small dog on an assistant's lap to be help while you groom, or put your dog on your own lap for grooming.
Bathe in sink
Bathing in a sink rather than a tub may feel more secure for your small dog, and allows you to wash your dog without bending over.
Choose right style
Because small dogs have a variety of hair coats, there are a variety of ways to trim their coats. Make sure you you understand your options for trimming your small dog's coat, for example, puppy cuts versus breed specific options. Decide what will work best for your dog's activity and your ability before grooming. Getting professional advice from a groomer is recommended.
Bathe first
Bathe your dog before clipping and brush out well. Debris and tangles make clipping difficult and will dull trimming blades.
Remove ear hair
Small dogs usually need hair removed from their ears. Hair in the ear can be trimmed with a clipper or pulled with hemostats.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Make sure tools used for trimming and clipping are sharp and of good quality.
  • Always hold blades of clippers or scissors parallel to your dog's skin. To avoid injuries, never point towards your dog.
  • Be careful trimming dark nails not to nick the quick of the nail, which is painful.
  • Make sure your dog is secure with good footing and restraints and cannot fall off an elevated surface you are working on.  
  • When bathing, make sure your small dog cannot escape and jump out of a tub or off a counter, which can result in serious injury.


Small dogs are big-time cute when groomed properly. Investing some time into understanding your small dog's grooming requirement,s and then obtaining the correct tools to create and maintain your dog's coat, will make him look big-time great!  When grooming a small dog, accessibility can be your biggest issue, so making sure you have a strategy to reach your small dog that is comfortable for both of you will make grooming a whole lot easier!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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