Ever watched your dog roll on the ground, lick her coat or chew at a mat on her fur? These are her ways of keeping clean. Sometimes, though, she’ll need a little extra help from her friend to look her best.
Make Grooming as Enjoyable as Possible—For the Both of You!
Grooming sessions should always be fun, so be sure to schedule them when your dog’s relaxed, especially if she’s the excitable type. Until your pet is used to being groomed, keep the sessions short—just 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually lengthen the time until it becomes routine for your dog. You can help her get comfortable with being touched and handled by making a habit of petting every single part of your dog, including such potentially sensitive areas as the ears, tail, belly, back and feet.
And here’s one of our most important tips of all—pile on the praise and offer your pooch a treat when the session is finished!
Regular grooming with a brush or comb will help keep your pet’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, spreading natural oils throughout her coat, preventing tangles and keeping her skin clean and irritant-free. And grooming time’s a great time to check for fleas and flea dirt–those little black specks that indicate your pet is playing host to a flea family.
If your dog has a smooth, short coat (like that of a chihuahua, boxer or basset hound), you only need to brush once a week:
- First, use a rubber brush to loosen dead skin and dirt.
- Next, use a bristle brush to remove dead hair.
- Now, polish your low-maintenance pooch with a chamois cloth and she’s ready to shine!
If your dog has short, dense fur that’s prone to matting, like that of a retriever, here’s your weekly routine:
- Use a slicker brush to remove tangles.
- Next, catch dead hair with a bristle brush.
- Don’t forget to comb her tail.
If your dog has a long, luxurious coat, such as that of a Yorkshire terrier, she’ll need daily attention:
- Every day you’ll need to remove tangles with a slicker brush.
- Gently tease mats out with a slicker brush.
- Next, brush her coat with a bristle brush.
- If you have a long-haired dog with a coat like a collie’s or an Afghan hound’s, follow the steps above, and also be sure to comb through the fur and trim the hair around the hocks and feet.
The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog every 3 months or so; your pet may require more frequent baths in the summertime if she spends lots of time with your outdoors. Always use a mild shampoo that’s safe to use on dogs, and follow these easy steps:
- First, give your pet a good brushing to remove all dead hair and mats.
- Place a rubber bath mat in the bathtub to provide secure footing, and fill the tub with about 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm water.
- Use a spray hose to thoroughly wet your pet, taking care not to spray directly in her ears, eyes or nose. If you don’t have a spray hose, a large plastic pitcher or unbreakable cup will do.
- Gently massage in shampoo, working from head to tail.
- Thoroughly rinse with a spray hose or pitcher; again, avoid the ears, eyes and nose.
- Check the ears for any foul odors or excessive debris; if you choose to use a cleansing solution on a cotton ball, take care not to insert it into the ear canal.
- Dry your pet with a large towel or blow dryer, but carefully monitor the level of heat.
Please note: Some animals seem to think that bathtime is a perfect time to act goofy. Young puppies especially will wiggle and bounce all over the place while you try to brush them, and tend to nip at bathtime. If this sounds like your pet, put a toy that floats in the tub with her so she can focus on the toy rather than on mouthing you.
Most people really don’t handle their dog’s feet until they are about to clip the nails and then…watch out! Some animals can get very upset at this totally foreign feeling. That’s why it’s a good idea to get your dog used to having her feet touched before you attempt a nail trim. Rub your hand up and down her leg and then gently press each individual toe—and be sure to give her lots of praise and some food treats as you do this. Every animal is different, but chances are that within a week or two of daily foot massage, your dog will be better able to tolerate a trim. Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by spreading each of your dog’s feet to inspect for dirt and debris.
- Use sharp, guillotine-type nail clippers to cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curve.
- Take care to avoid the quick, a vein that runs into the nail. This pink area can be seen through the nail. If your dog has black nails, however, the quick will not be as easily discernible, so be extra careful.
- If you do accidentally cut into the quick, it may bleed, in which case you can apply some styptic powder to stop the bleeding.Once the nails have been cut, use an emery board to smooth any rough edges.
Special Breeds, Special Needs
Dogs with loose facial skin or wrinkles—such as shar peis and pugs—will need special attention. To prevent dirt and bacteria from causing irritation and infection, clean the folds with damp cotton. Always thoroughly dry the areas between the folds.
If your dog has long or droopy ears, you should check them weekly. Remove wax and dirt from your pet’s ears with a cotton ball moistened with water or a little mineral oil. You may need to remove any excess hair leading into the ear canal; ask your pet’s vet or groomer to show you how before trying it at home. There are special hair removers that allow you to carefully pull one strand at a time.