LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

Boat Dog Basics: DIY Dog Grooming

Before anyone scrolls down and sees Oliver’s “after” photo, let’s make one thing clear…this post is 100% dedicated to the tools needed for simple DIY dog grooming, and NOT the technique. Lol. Because, let’s face it, our grooming skills could use a little refinement.

How we keep Oliver so handsome and his ‘poodly’ fur groomed on the regular is a question we get all the time now that we’re sailing around full-time in the Caribbean. Before departing on this little sailing journey, we were scheduling regular spa days for Oliver at K-9 Q-T’s (seriously how great is that name) back in Naples. It took us over a year to find a groomer we loved (i.e. one that did not leave hot spots or nicks all over the dog), so it was a sad sad day when we realized we would need to take on this maintenance task ourselves.

Regular grooming is an evil necessity for most dogs. But for BOAT dogs, finding a reliable groomer on some small remote island is pretty much out of the question. Most cruising pet owners take on this tedious task themselves. I say tedious, because sitting in the boiling tropical sun while dog fur flies around and sticks to your sweaty skin, is not exactly my idea of fun. But the good news is…we save a little moola each month by not paying a groomer to do what we can do ourselves.


Luckily, we have a poodle pants that doesn’t mind grooming at all. Thank god. He doesn’t mind the clippers or the nail trimmers…not even the teeth brushing. Okay, he doesn’t love any of it, but he certainly tolerates everything and sits still for the various grooming procedures. And for that, I am grateful.


In preparation for cruising, we were so lucky to get the lowdown on grooming and a quick lesson from Jereme’s mom before leaving town. She certainly knows a thing or two when it comes to pet grooming and not only showed us step-by-step how to groom Oliver, but also hooked us up with all the necessary grooming tools. How amazing is that? We also kept her on speed dial the one time we had a minor skin-clipping incident, but let’s not talk about that. :(((


Once again, I’m going to steer clear of the “how to” part and stick to the “tools needed” to get the job done. I’d say most folks can figure out the first part with a little trial and error. It might not be pretty, but it’s doable.

Anyhoo, here’s what we keep stashed in Oliver’s grooming kit:

1. Nail Clippers – A must-have for any dog really. I was so nervous about using these for the first time, but after watching a quick YouTube video and knowing we have item #2 in our kit, I quickly overcame my fear. We try and clip Oliver’s nails every week or week and a half.

2. Kwik Stop Styptic Powder  – Another must-have if you are clipping nails. Keep this handy when trimming in case you accidentally cut into the quick (the stuff that runs through the center of the nail – it’s sometimes pink, sometimes black. Oliver’s quick is black {on black nails} making them a little harder to trim.). You simply apply a little bit of the kwik stop with a wet q-tip and it somehow stops the crazy bleeding. Luckily, we have not had to use this. Yet.

3. Dog Clippers – A total no-brainer if you have a dog that requires trimming. These are the clippers we have (thanks SuzziQ) and they come with a #10 blade (that’s the one we use for specialty areas — paws, face, etc.). We have a #5 blade also that we use for Oliver’s entire body.

4. Andis Cool Care Plus – a disinfectant/coolant/lubricant for the trimmer blades. This is definitely not something I would’ve bought myself, but luckily Jereme’s mom gave us a bottle along with the trimmers and we are so glad to have it! It actually really does keep the blade cool with just a quick spray every minute or two. And thus, keeps Oliver from getting uncomfortable or, worse, burned.

5. Steel Grooming Comb – We don’t use this one everyday, but we do use it big time when ‘shaping’ Oliver’s crazy poodle hair during his grooming sessions. Grooming for us is a two-man job. Jereme’s way better at manning the clippers while I help by maneuvering Oliver as needed and I use this comb to comb out hair for Jereme to quickly run the trimmers over. Think face shaping, ear shaping, etc.

6. Steel Grooming Brush – Okay, this one we actually use all the time (not just when we’re trimming Oliver). With that poodle fur of his, Oliver manages to get mats caked up in his fur all the time. Brushing him definitely helps combat the mat issue (as does keeping his coat short) and I especially love these steel brushes to get the job done.

7. Ear Cleaner – The first year after we adopted Oliver, I’m pretty sure he won the award for most ear infections. We’re not sure what the deal was, but he kept getting them. We’ve gotten pretty good about regular ear cleanings, especially now that he is swimming way more frequently than he did back home. We have two specialty ear cleaners (one’s a Rx from our vet and this over-the-counter one) that we keep handy for use with cotton balls.

8. Dog Shampoo – We bathe Oliver, on average, about once a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how dirty or sandy he gets. Although we have a decent stash of doggie shampoos we use on the regular, this Burt’s Bees one is my fav.

Not pictured – doggie toothpaste + tooth brush. I can’t believe I forgot these in the photo above. We brush Oliver’s teeth as often as we think about doing so (but probably not often enough because he has really nice teeth and we just forget about it). We use a regular old toothbrush and some vanilla flavored toothpaste I picked up from our vet, but it’s available everywhere. Oliver doesn’t especially love me jabbing a toothbrush in his mouth and scrubbing his teeth, but I think he kinda digs the taste of the paste and therefore tolerates the whole procedure. ;))

So, are you ready to see what we can accomplish with all of ^^these^^ tools???


Ta-da!!!!!!!!!! Still cute, right? It’s not exactly the shaggy long-haired teddy bear cut I’m used to (he looks a little more bobble-head esc), but we love him nonetheless.

This is only our third DIY grooming since leaving town on the sailboat. I sure hope we continue to improve our skills.

Side note, Oliver’s stash of grooming tools, along with his massive medicine cabinet, take up a pretty hefty chunk of our head (bathroom) storage space. Who knew a 20lb. poodle could require so many supplies?

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Carolyn - The Boat GalleyJuly 28, 2014 - 11:32 am

Great info — and Oliver looks great.

I added this to the list of cruising dog info on The Boat Galley. Finding good clippers is key — I’m too cheap to pay for a pair that will go through Paz’s hair, and so use scissors instead. She’s tiny, so it’s not a bad job, but if she were much bigger, I’d have to break down and buy the good ones (she’s got a lot of Bichon in her and really really thick hair).

Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream PuffJuly 28, 2014 - 8:45 pm

Love the after pic.

We once had a dog that needed grooming. We groomed him ourselves because it cost more to have his hair cut than mine. But, he wouldn’t let us touch his paws. As long as we stayed away from the paws he would stay – somewhat – still. When we were done, he always looked like a Clydesdale.

Mark and Cindy
s/v Cream Puff

Jennifer - s/v Luna SeaJuly 29, 2014 - 1:14 am

Kudos to you for brushing his teeth. Ours won’t tolerate it, but I’m thinking about giving it another go. You’ve motivated me (and I’m not sure I can handle their breath on the boat..) 😉

Keep up the great work – both on Oliver and the blog!


Deborah-SV SrightawayJuly 29, 2014 - 2:06 am

Oliver looks so handsome!! And happy!!

Kai loves, loves, loves his grooming time, but he just needs brushing, so it’s pretty easy.


Mary WatsonJuly 30, 2014 - 6:08 am

Great blog post for us canine afficiandos. Don’t stress too much about the pearly whites b/c most problems occur at the gum line..dogs generally don’t get cavities, they get gum disease. The pearly whites are generally from consistent “work” on the harder chew toys. If the dogs really dislike the brush–even with peanut butter flavored or chicken flavored toothpaste..the commercial dental finger wipes do a great job if you run them along the gum line.
s/v Moondance

LAHOWINDAugust 1, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Thanks Mary! Never heard of the finger wipes. They sound interesting! -Kim

[…] note… ^^these^^ photos were taken pre-haircut. In case you were wondering. […]

[…] I mention that Oliver got another fresh cut, color, and blow-dry the other day? Okay scratch the last two, just a cut and shampoo actually, and he is loving his […]

[…] any potential stowaways that may have hopped on for a free ride. We have also given him multiple groomings since the Ehrlichiosis diagnosis to help us visually spot any stowaways and also to make it much […]

Mary FackerAugust 10, 2015 - 1:31 pm

Very nice job! I’ve been grooming my dog myself for a couple years now, and by far getting the face shape right is the hardest. After about a year though I finally stopped getting questions like “What kind of breed is that anyway? He looks weird”.