Keeping your pet looking and feeling clean requires knowing what can hinder your progress. Here are common pet grooming mistakes and how to avoid them.

8 Common Pet Grooming Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

About 50% of households in the US own a pet. That means that most of them need to groom their animal, which can be a bit of a daunting task. 

It takes some research to figure out, or you can have it done by a professional. A lot of people simply don’t bother, but it’s important for the well-being of your animal to make sure they’re groomed!

Otherwise, it can cause health issues and even injuries when things go untended.

However, a lot of well-meaning pet owners make some serious mistakes while grooming. These pet grooming mistakes happen a lot, but you should be aware of them so you can avoid them. 

1. Clipping Nails Too Short

Many people declaw their cat to prevent them from scratching on the furniture and so they never have to trim their nails. It seems like a good solution, right?


Declawing a cat can lead to many problems down the line, as the surgery is actually like an amputation. You should actually be trimming your cat’s nails regularly instead, and the same goes for your dog.

Just as they should never be declawed, a cat or dog’s nails should never be too short. Many people accidentally hurt their pet by clipping the nail too short and hitting a nerve, causing pain and bleeding.

If this happens to you, don’t panic! Your pet will likely be okay and it just might be sore for a while. However, you should try not to clip beyond the curve of the nail, as this is when it’s likely to hit a nerve.

Many nail clippers for animals have a guard on them to prevent this from happening. You can also buy a Dremel and grind the nails down rather than cut them, as then you can round off the edges so they aren’t sharp — and most Dremels also come with a guard.

If you aren’t comfortable doing this on your own — especially with cats that aren’t particularly relaxed — your vet will often be happy to do it during check-ups and other appointments.

How often you trim the nails depends on the animal.  

2. Shaving a Dog or Cat

People sometimes think it’s kind to shave their dogs, cats, or other types of pets in summer. After all, it’s logically sound — it’s hot outside, so surely shaving an animal will keep them cooler. Right?

Not so. Cats regulate their own body temperature very well, so shaving them in summer has no benefit.

As for dogs, many breeds have a double coat, which might make it sound hotter for them — but it’s not. As well as keeping them warm when it’s cold, that coat also serves to keep them cool when it’s too hot and keeps them insulated against all temperatures.

Many professional groomers will even shave your dog or cat if you ask, but this should actually be avoided. Instead, get them regular sanitary trims if they have a long coat and otherwise, leave that fur alone as the seasons change. 

3. Bathing Too Frequently and Not Correctly

Bathing animals too frequently can cause skin problems. A dog might actually only need a bath once every few months, and your cat grooming strategy should rarely involve bathing unless they’re really dirty. They’re self-cleaning animals!

If you’re bathing your dog every week, it’s time to cut that back. You can buy wipes to clean them gently if they get dirty more often than that.

Like human hair, you should also ensure your dog is conditioned after they’re shampood. Otherwise, their fur condition can deteriorate and they can end up with mats.

4. Not Introducing Them to Products Early

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not introducing dog grooming products early, or cat products either.

If you introduce your cat, for example, to nail clippers as a kitten, they’re likely to be more tolerant of them as an adult. Same with brushes and other grooming products.

For dogs, it can take a little more — especially for things like a Dremel, which makes a loud, scary noise!

Introduce products as a puppy very gently at first. Let them sniff around the products and give them treats as a reward for being calm. Then, you can inch towards actually using the product on them.

Smearing peanut butter on the floor or wall of the shower can also be a great aid in encouraging them to see grooming as a positive thing.

Cats might be less food motivated and tempted by treats, but it’s worth a try to get a pet grooming schedule going that isn’t painful!

5. Sticking Cotton Swabs in Ears

Although you should clean your pet’s ears gently with a cotton pad and some water, you should never, ever be sticking cotton swabs in there.

People often make this mistake on their own ears and end up injuring themselves or pushing wax further in rather than getting it out, but make sure you don’t do it to your pet!

In a way, it’s worse, because your pet can’t tell you if they think something might be wrong with their ear.

If you’re ever in any doubt about whether their ears need to be cleaned or you’ve disrupted something in there, the best thing you can do is ask a vet. 

6. Brushing Out Mats Wet

If your dog or cat has a mat in their coat, you should never, ever brush it out wet as this will make things worse.

Instead, brush it out dry before they have a bath or you get their fur wet at all. You can use a detangling comb made for the pet as gently as possible and try to get the mat out.

You can also purchase a detangling spray that will help the mat gently come out and cause less pain for your pet with all the tugging.

Sometimes, a mat might need to be cut out and if this is the case, you should have a professional do it. 

7. Not Researching a Professional Groomer

Some people simply can’t handle grooming their pet at all. They might not be confident in their skills, or their pet might be particularly difficult and need calm and experienced hands to help them out.

That’s completely fine! The pet grooming business is booming, and there’s always someone around to help out your pet.

If you do take this route, however, you should make sure to research the groomer. Anyone can call themselves a professional groomer, and many people have ended up with horror stories after taking their pet to one, such as nails cut too short and fur shaved that shouldn’t have been.

Anyone can make mistakes, of course, but your groomer should know what they’re doing enough for you to be confident in the result.

Veterinary clinics and doggy daycares often provide grooming services, so if you know animal professionals that you already trust, it might be time to ask them about their services!

8. Not Grooming At All

You might be asking, “why groom your pet?” What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t cut those nails, or brush out that coat, or wash their ears?

The truth is, a lot of people don’t, and it’s the biggest mistake a pet owner can make — to just not bother grooming them at all. Mats can appear in the fur that can end up being painful and needing to be shaved, ear infections can happen, and claws can become so long that they end up digging into the paw pad or being caught on things.

Life is busy and overwhelming, but it’s essential you find the time to groom your pet or take them to a professional to have it done. 

The cost may seem like an inconvenience, but it’s far less than the cost of fixing an injury or health issue that can come from an ungroomed cat or dog. 

These Pet Grooming Mistakes Should Be Avoided

When doing it for the first time, it can be daunting, and pet grooming mistakes are plentiful which might make you reluctant to even give it a try. 

You won’t hurt your animal if you do your research and are careful about what you do and, in fact, you will benefit in the long run! Your furbaby will love you for caring and helping them out, even if they seem a bit averse to the grooming products in the beginning.

For more pet and other lifestyle tips, check out the rest of the blog.

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