Grooming Your Dog: It's Not Just For Looks

The main purpose of grooming is to remove dead hair and debris from your dog's coat. It is also a chance to look for ticks and fleas and to check the general condition of the coat and skin. This should be clean and supple, with no signs of excess scaling or greasiness; any unusual lumps, bumps, or bald patches should be examined by your veterinarian right away. Above all, grooming is an important social activity, a time to build up your relationship with your dog.

Dog's coats come in a variety of textures and thicknesses. Long, silky coats require the most work. Always comb the coat of a longhaired dog after walking in long grass or brush, especially if you live in a tick-infested area.

Get your puppy used to the grooming routine as early as possible. Even longhairs have only a short, fluffy coat at this stage, so the whole job can be completed in a few minutes. If you wait until the full adult coat has developed, the dog will be suddenly subjected to a long, unfamiliar experience, which it may not enjoy. Regular grooming will accustom your puppy to being handled and having its eyes, ears, and mouth looked at. This will make trips to the vet easier.

Basic Grooming

  1. Comb out any tangles from the coat. Use a fine-toothed comb for long, feathery hair on the ears, around the neck, and under the tail. Look out for, and remove, ticks and burrs.
  2. Comb out dead hair from the dense undercoat, especially if the dog is molting (shedding its hair). Nearly all breeds molt twice yearly.
  3. Using an appropriate brush for the thickness of your dog's coat (coarse, dense hair requires a firm bristle brush, silky hair a softer one), brush the entire coat, working back from the head.
  4. Follow the direction of the hair growth down the back, across the flanks, and down the legs to the feet. Do not neglect the underparts.
  5. Watch out for flea dirt (small dark specks on the skin), particularly when grooming around the base of the tail.
  6. Clean the area around the bottom and check that the anal sacs are not inflamed.
  7. Use scissors to tidy the hair around the ears, eyes, muzzle, and bottom.
  8. With a dampened cotton ball, wipe away any mucus in the corner of the eye.
    1. Make teeth cleaning, even for though it may not be easy, a part of your grooming routine. Your vet will advise you. Do not bathe your dog more than is necessary. Use a mild baby shampoo or special shampoo for dogs. Avoid a medicated type, especially if your dog loves rolling in mud and filth and needs frequent baths.

      Poodles need clipping every few weeks by a professional groomer. Longhaired and wirehaired breeds need occasional thinning (stripping) to remove the dead hair, using a finger and thumb or a serrated knife. Many owners prefer to leave this to a professional groomer.

      Your Dog's Ears and Feet

      Pluck excess hair out gently from the ear canals to prevent wax building up, increasing the likelihood of ear infections. This is a particular problem in poodles. Some dogs produce excess amounts of wax, and their ear canals should be cleaned regularly with a special solution available from your vet.

      Ease out thorns, grass seeds, and other debris from between the toes and pads of the feet. If left, these can work their way into the skin and cause considerable pain.

      How do I introduce my Labrador puppy, Benson, to grooming?
      Choose a time when Benson has just been fed and exercised and is calm. Place a nonslip bathmat on a low table and stand Benson on it so he cannot slip. If possible, get someone to help you by steadying his head with one hand and placing the other under his body. Use a soft brush at first and take care not to hurt the puppy, or he will learn to resent and fear grooming sessions. Keep the sessions very short at first and gradually build up to longer sessions from there. Always praise him at the end and reward him with a tidbit.

      My Old English Sheepdog, Monday, hates being groomed. He just won't stand still long enough to complete the job, and his coat has become very matted as a result. What should I do?
      These dogs have tremendously thick, long coats and looking after them is a fulltime job. It might help to have Monday's coat clipped back regularly by a professional groomer to a more manageable length of about IViin (3cm). It will take you less time to groom Monday, and he should tolerate it better.

      Is it necessary to groom my Boxer puppy, Arabella? Her coat is so short it doesn't seem worth the bother.
      Even Boxers molt in the spring. Brushing Arabella regularly will reduce the amount of hair she sheds on the furniture. Boxers suffer from quite a lot of skin problems, so use the grooming sessions to check for any unusual lumps or sore patches.

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