Pup columnist Lucy shares her tips for keeping your furry friends clean.

By Lucy J. Phillips

I know my human loves me, but she recently mentioned I’m not smelling my best. I disagree, of course, since I can still smell yesterday’s mud between my paws. I can tell a bath is coming soon, and I even heard her calling a groomer to ask about clipping my nails. I think baths are cold and scary, and the thought of pointy objects makes me hide under the bed with my tail between my legs. Could you share any grooming tips to reduce stress for me?

Yasmin the Yorkie

Photo courtesy of Hannah J. Phillips

Dear Yasmin,

While I always feel empathy toward the various quandaries of our readers, I have never related to a letter more than yours. This plea touched me to my puppy core, especially since I currently smell like a mix between old gym socks, corn chips and freshly mowed grass. I worked hard for this combination, but I hear the bath running even as I dictate this response. Just because my human decides to clean up after her workout (such a waste), why should I follow suit?

And don’t get me started on nails. Since my nails often wear themselves down with a lot of outdoor playtime, I manage to go long periods without needing a clip. Then, just when my talons start making that wonderful tapping noise on the kitchen tiles, my human clips them down again! Nevertheless, I know she appreciates the ability to snuggle with me without getting stinky or scratched. In the spirit of you getting more snuggles too, here are some things I have learned that may help you survive the grooming ordeal.


A lot of humans opt to bathe their dogs outside, which can be helpful to reduce indoor splashes, but it’s hard to resist a roll around in the grass immediately afterward. My human chooses to bathe me in the tub, using a bucket to rinse me off. We’ve found placing a towel or mat down prevents slips. And while I hide in the closet when I know what’s coming, a good treat or ball is usually enough to tempt me out. Once the soap suds up, I will confess, I feel like I’m getting a spa treatment—and I like it—even if I pretend to hate it the whole time so I can get more treats.


According to Pet Assure, a network of veterinarians in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, regular nail clipping is essential to prevent painful paw injuries and even infection. Without proper care, some dogs even struggle to place their full weight on their paws, which can result in sore legs and overall discomfort.

While researching the types of clippers available for home grooming, my human reached out to the helpful team at Tomlinson’s Feed, which has been a favorite local pet store since 1946. The shop offers healthy pet products and team members who are trained in animal nutrition and health. They were very helpful in pointing us to the right clippers.

We learned there are three different options:

1. There are traditional scissor clippers, which look like garden shears but with a curved edge. The benefit here is a little extra force, which is ideal for larger breeds, but there’s less guidance on how far to cut the nail, so be prepared to troubleshoot.

2. The affectionately named guillotine clippers are not as scary as they sound. These provide a guiding hole to insert the nail and gently squeeze. They are great if you don’t mind dividing the nail-trimming process into several smaller increments.

3. A third option is a grinding tool, essentially a doggie nail file that’s ideal for thicker nails or if you are still scared of clippers. The process can take a little longer and you may need additional training to adjust to the vibrating sensation.

In general, I’ve learned my human can coax me into almost any grooming routine with the right tone of voice and some extra treats. With clipping, a good place to start is gradually getting comfortable with someone holding your paw. Once that is established, your human can introduce the clipper of choice. I find when I’m allowed to smell it first (followed by a timely treat), I am much more amenable to the next step in the process. And, of course, encouraging words and pets are key throughout the process. I really am a good girl, which is especially nice to hear during these trying times. Good luck and happy grooming!

Puppy love,


If you have a dog-related question for Lucy, reach out and follow her on Instagram @asklucydog.



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