Written by Claire Atkinson M.A. (Cantab.) Qualified Canine Behaviourist and Certified TTouch® Practitioner.
Grooming is about much more than looking good and goes beyond just giving them a quick brush every now and again. Here’s why grooming is important and what you should include in your pet’s regular routine.
No matter what breed of dog you have, grooming is beneficial for their physical health and, of course, their appearance.
It’s also a great time to bond more closely with your pet and provides an opportunity to check for any sores, dry spots, parasites and ear, eye and dental problems.
Healthy coats shed less as the natural oils in the dog’s skin will be spread through brushing, keeping the coat shiny. Brushing or massage improves blood circulation and stimulates the nervous system.
Set for success
If you’ve had your pet as a puppy, you may have learnt to accustom them to handling from top to tail, paws to jaws. If not, you’ll want to start early with routine handling, rewarding the dog for allowing the unfamiliar touches as required.
If you haven’t established a grooming routine, a session with a professional groomer is really worthwhile, as they can help you with what equipment to get, products to buy and general routine maintenance.
Every dog’s needs differ, and using the wrong materials could cause discomfort or even pain. A good groomer will be happy to give you advice.
Coats vary from breed to breed – the main differences being smooth-coated dogs, double-coated dogs, wire-haired and long-haired.
- Smooth-coated dogs, like Whippets and Dachshunds, require basic regular attention to keep shedding in check.
- Double-coated breeds such as Labradors, Border Collies and Huskies require regular brushing and maintenance to ensure the dead undercoat is brushed out.
- Wire-haired dogs require regular brushing, professional grooming and may even need to be “hand stripped”.
- Long- and curly-haired dogs, like Yorkies and Poodles, can be high maintenance and require professional grooming on a monthly basis along with daily brushing to avoid matting.
- Short-haired dogs are easier to maintain – they’ll benefit from brushing once a week (or even less), depending on the conditions in which they live.
A wet and muddy Labrador with a tail happily wagging water and mud around the house does, obviously, require immediate attention.
Some confusion exists regarding the shaving of dogs. Professional groomers will usually agree that only wire-haired and long-haired dogs should ever be shaved down. However, any dog that’s badly matted may be shaved as the only option.The undercoat of double-coated dogs plays an important role in temperature regulation. For this reason, it’s suggested that they’re not clipped, but brushed to remove matts and dead hair.
Brush it out
There are many different grooming tools available.
A bristle brush is mainly used to “finish” the coat at the end of the grooming.
Rubber gloves and rubber brushes are perfect for smooth coats and shorter double-coated breeds. All other coats should first be carefully brushed out with a slicker brush to remove knots and small matts. After that, a deshedding rake or comb can be used to remove all the extra dead hair.
To determine the tools you’ll need and how to utilise them, it’s best to consult a professional groomer for specifics.
Bath time can be heaven or hell. If your dog is not used to being bathed, introduce each tool slowly and reward with plenty of treats for any interaction.
It’s best to give your dog a good brush before bathing to get rid of basic dirt and dead hair.
Shampoos and conditioners specifically for dogs are available and are recommended, as human products may irritate the skin. Shampoos may be diluted with water to make them easier to apply and rinse off.
Usually, two washes are required, and rinsing must be thorough to remove any trace of shampoo. If bathing in a bath or tub, you can spread some peanut butter on the rim to keep the dog occupied and easier to bathe.
There are special dryers for dogs. Allow for a good shake off, then rub dry gently with a towel to get as dry as possible before using the dryer.
Extra bits and pieces
Part of grooming also calls for special attention to ears, eyes and teeth. It’s best to use a damp face cloth for the head when bathing the dog, as these areas are highly sensitive.
Take time to check for any irregularities that may require veterinary intervention.
Dental care is gaining more and more attention, as the build-up of plaque and tartar can cause gum damage and susceptibility to infection. There are special toothbrushes and toothpaste to deal with dental care, attention to which will possibly save the need for cleaning under sedation at the vet. Chewy toys and possibly raw bones (check with your vet) also help good dental hygiene. Dental sticks are also popular with some people, although their value is debatable, depending on the brand.
Nails are also an important part of physical care. They should be kept as short as possible to reinforce good posture and reduce the risk of infection. Paws need to be checked carefully for any foreign objects such as seed grass. If the hair is long or thick between the paws, trimming is advised. Nail clipping can be done at home or by a professional such as your vet or groomer.
As mentioned, I do recommend a session with a professional groomer who’ll help you develop a specific routine that’s right for your dog. Do check that the person or parlour you choose has suitably qualified staff to care for your pet. There are also mobile clinics/groomers who come to your home, which does much to reduce anxiety in fearful dogs.
The link below contains a lot more detailed information than is possible in a short article. Good luck and happy, good hair days.