Have you ever watched your dog roll on the ground, lick his coat or chew at a mat on his fur? These are his ways of keeping clean. Sometimes, though, he’ll need just a little extra pet grooming help from his “best friend” in order to look his best!
Pet grooming refers to both the hygienic care and cleaning of a dog, as well as a process by which a dog’s physical appearance is enhanced for showing or other types of competition. A dog groomer is a person who earns their living providing pet grooming for dogs.
Pet grooming is a vital part in the well-being and healthiness of a dog – and can also improve their lifespan! All dogs require pet grooming – how much depends on the breed, age, or health of the pet. Regular pet grooming helps to ensure the dog is healthy and comfortable. It is important to note that while many dogs shed, others (such as the Poodle), do not shed as profusely, and only require pet grooming by a professional every 6-8 weeks, maximum.
The main reasons for pet grooming include:
- A decreased chance of various health problems, such as thrush, scratches, and other skin problems.
- General cleanliness of the dog.
- Monitoring of the dog’s health by checking for cuts, heat, swelling, lameness, or changes in temperament, all of which could be indicative of illness.
- Forging of a closer bond between dog and owner.
- Reducing infestation load of external parasites (fleas, etc.) on the skin.
Regular pet grooming with a brush or comb will help keep your pet’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, spreading natural oils throughout his coat, preventing tangles and keeping his skin clean and irritant-free. And grooming time is a great time to check for fleas and flea dirt – those little black specks that indicate your pet is playing host to a family of fleas and all of their cousins.
Most dogs enjoy being brushed, and pet grooming sessions will strengthen the bond between you and your dog while maintaining a healthy coat. A dog’s minimum brushing needs depend on their hair type. Choose the right tools and follow these guidelines.
If your dog has a smooth, short coat (like 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 he’s ready to shine!
But 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 his tail.
If your dog has a long, luxurious coat (like a Yorkshire terrier), he’ll need daily attention:
- Every day you’ll need to remove tangles with a slicker brush.
- Gently tease mats out with a slicker brush.
- Then brush his coat with a bristle brush.
And if you have a long-haired dog, with a coat like a collie’s or an Afghan hound’s, you’ll need to do just a little more:
- Every day remove tangles with a slicker brush.
- Gently tease mats out with a slicker brush.
- Brush his coat with a bristle brush.
- And finally, comb through the fur and trim the hair around the hocks and feet.
Long-haired dogs usually require daily brushing to prevent matting and tangling of hair. Medium-haired dogs may be prone to matting and tangles and should be brushed at least weekly. Short-haired dogs can typically go up to a month in-between brushing.
Regardless of hair type, you can brush your dog daily – especially if he enjoys it! More frequent brushing during shedding season can also help prevent hair build-up and excess shedding.
Hair Cutting or Removal
The coats of many breeds require trimming, cutting, or other attention. Styles vary by breed and discipline. While some hair removal has its origins in practical purposes, much is based on the taste of the owner, whether or not the dog will be shown, and what type of work the dog does.
Rubber pet grooming gloves and dog brushes are intended to drag loose hair from short-coated dogs and are some of the most popular grooming tools among pet owners. They are easy to use, because using them basically means massaging the coat in long, firm strokes and having the advantage of being suitable for both wet and dry coats.
Some breeds, such as the Lhasa Apso, do not shed fur but have hair that grows constantly. Because of this, the fur around the legs and belly can get very long and become matted, and the hair around the eyes can impair the dog’s vision. In such cases, hair trimming can be performed to keep the eyes clear of fur and keep the main body free of knots in the hair. But some owners prefer breeds, such as the Lhasa, to have long, flowing coats that reach down to the floor, and will undertake a greater brushing regime than is normally required for a dog that has its fur kept shorter.
Your dog’s ears can be a haven for bacteria and yeast if not kept clean. Some dogs can go their whole lives without ear problems, and the only routine ear cleaning needed is during the monthly bath. On the other hand, other dogs have chronic ear disease and may require multiple cleanings every day.
Ear problems can often be traced back to genetics. Dogs with floppy ears or long hair tend to be predisposed to ear problems because the ear canal simply does not have as much air exposure or circulation. Many ear problems may also be a sign of allergies. If your dog has excess debris or a foul odor in his ears, your veterinarian will likely prescribe special ear cleaners and medications. But, if your dog’s ears are relatively healthy, you can help keep them that way with proper ear care.
Nail trimming is essential for maintaining good health. Most dogs need monthly nail trims, but your dog may need more or less trimming, depending on their rate of growth. If a dog’s nails are allowed to grow, they will curl over into a spiral shape, and walking will become increasingly painful for the dog as they grow, because of the pressure being placed on the dogs toes (like walking in shoes that are too small). In extreme cases, uncut nails may curl so far that they pierce the paw pad, leading to infection and pain. If a dog’s nails are not trimmed on a monthly basis, the quick will grow along with the nail, making it nearly impossible to cut properly.
Nail trims are often detested by dogs and owners alike. Most dogs dislike even having their paws handled and they remember how much it hurts when nails are cut too short. And dog owners are often uncomfortable with the process for fear of hurting their dogs.
Nail trimming is usually accomplished with a nail clipper. There are two main types of nail clippers, the guillotine clipper and the standard scissors nail clipper.
The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least every 3 months, but most dogs should be bathed monthly. Your pet may also require more frequent baths during the summer months if he spends lots of time outside. Always use a mild, soap-free shampoo that is intended for dogs, or a specific shampoo if recommended by your veterinarian, 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 his 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 the 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.
Some animals seem to think that bath time is a perfect time to act a little goofy. Puppies especially will wiggle and bounce all over while you try to brush them, and will tend to nip at bath time. If this sounds like your pup, put a toy that floats in the tub with him so he can focus on the toy rather than on mouthing you.
Make pet grooming as enjoyable as possible – for the both of you!
Pet grooming is one of your dog’s basic needs and is an important part of dog ownership. Just like people, dogs need physical maintenance to look and feel their best. Fortunately, dogs do not need to bathe as often as people, but you do need to learn how much grooming your dog actually needs and keep it on a regular schedule. If your dog has a skin, ear or nail condition, follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding pet grooming. Remember, it’s also very important to use the appropriate grooming tools.
Pet grooming sessions should always be fun, so be sure to schedule them when your dog is relaxed, especially if he’s the excitable type. Until your pet is used to being cleaned, keep the pet grooming sessions short – only 5 to 10 minutes long. Gradually lengthen the time until it becomes routine for your dog. You can help him 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 the most important tips of all – pile on the praise and offer your pooch a treat when the pet grooming session is finished!