Grooming Your Dog
All breeds of dog require some grooming. Even the most ‘wash and wear’ dog needs to have his teeth cleaned, toenails clipped and coat brushed. If you take your dog to the local dog park, it’s very likely that he or she will need to be bathed, have his or her nails trimmed, and get groomed at least once in a while. We groom our dog when it’s needed, and here is what we’ve learned, which will hopefully make your trip to the dog groomer an easier process.
Start the grooming process early in your dog’s life. Get her used to being touched all over – later you or the vet will have to check her ears and paws for problems, and her teeth for plaque, so begin now. This process also teaches her to trust you completely, an important part of her training. It’s much more difficult to check a dog’s mouth, ears, and paws when he or she isn’t used to this.
Before you wash, make sure your dog is tangle-free. Your choice of brushes and combs depend on the type of coat your dog has, so check what is suggested for her breed. Make brushing a regular habit – it not only gives you a chance to check your dog all over for problems, it’s also a wonderful way to make her feel pampered and loved.
Baths are fun – at least that’s the message she should understand. Get the right dog shampoo; human shampoo is too harsh, no matter how mild. Shampoos vary depending on specific breed requirements, a dogs age, if there are flea problems, the type of coat, so pick well. Opinions vary on the best place to actually wash. We use the bathtub with a hand-held shower attachment. That way we can lather and rinse well with great control.
Once the soap is completely rinsed out we gently squeeze the water from the dogs coat, then blot dry. Rubbing can cause tangles and knots, but each breed has slightly different requirements. Then we blow dry.
Never use a human hair dryer. It’s too hot and will damage your dog’s coat. Use a good pet dryer. They dry by blowing the water off with a very gentle heat. We blow dry the coat to straighten it out for clipping, but even if it’s not a trim day, it’s nicer to have a dry dog around the house.
Elevating a dog can make grooming less backbreaking for you. Grooming tables range from basic to deluxe and can be fitted with grooming stands that help keep the dog in place; a rubber bathmat on a table top (or crate-top for smaller dogs) can work if your dog is well-behaved or you have help.
Clippers. This took some getting used to and if a groomer or friend with grooming experience can show you the ropes, that’s best – these can be dangerous. We proceeded slowly and with great caution while learning, and even if you make a (non-injury) mistake, don’t worry – your dog doesn’t care if she’s having a bad hair day. Just be sure to start with a freshly washed and dried, fully brushed dog. If your breed requires a specific clip, look for a video to show you how, or ask your breeder for instructions.
Scissors. Get really good scissors because they’ll last the longest, and make sure they’re meant for dog grooming. Blunt-end scissors are your safest bet if you’re new to grooming, and for tender areas like the foot pads.
Ears need to be checked often, especially if your dog has droopy ears (like Cocker Spaniels). Once a week, check for parasites and gently clean her ears – have the vet show you the safest way to do this. Regular ear cleaning helps cut down on ear infections too.
If you like grooming your dog but don’t have the space or the equipment to do it properly, look for a self-service dog washing facility. For about $15 you can wash and dry your dog with professional equipment.
If things beyond basic dog maintenance are more than you’re comfortable with, ask other dog owners for groomer referrals, and visit several to find the right one for your dog, particularly important if your breed requires a specific cut or has a coat that needs stripping. A well-socialized dog in the hands of a talented and gentle groomer will be a thing of beauty.