Spring and warmer temperatures bring shedding. It is important at this time of year to do a deep, thorough brushing on both dogs and cats. Dead hair is hiding under all that coat and it needs to be removed. A good brushing prevents matting.
Short hair dogs and cats have less accumulation of excess and dead hair, but they have their share and need to be brushed.
Some people bathe their dog frequently because he is in the house and maybe even on the furniture. (Imagine such a thing!) Some dogs only get bathed when they have a skunk or other odorous encounter.
The non-shedding dogs like poodles and bichons need more frequent bathing because their coats are similar to human hair. Shedding dogs normally do better without frequent bathing as it tends to dry out the skin and coat. When bathing, use only a high quality pet shampoo.
A dull coat and dry and flaky skin are normally the result of a poor diet or illness. A good quality dog or cat food with an adequate and high quality fat source should result in a healthy coat. Chicken fat is considered one of the better fat sources for skin and coat. Be sure to read the ingredient label. A good food has also proved to reduce shedding.
Meanwhile, back to brushing.
Some dogs hate being brushed while others love it. Once they learn that it does not hurt and actually feels rather wonderful, they should enjoy the attention. If your pet is not used to being groomed, start by spending only a few minutes at a time. Have the dog stand quietly. Do not let him move around or sit down. Never stop while he is fighting you. If he finally stands quietly for even a few seconds, praise him, give him a rub and a treat and let him go.
Grooming tables are wonderful and they allow you to work at a comfortable height. Having the dog on a table makes him a bit more humble and accepting.
While most folks do not have grooming tables, substitutions are readily available. Little dogs are easy. We can set them on the bathroom counter and confine the mess to a small area. If the surface is at all slippery, stand them on a mat. A picnic table or bench on the deck is ideal for grooming and the birds and squirrels will carry the hair off for their nests. Whatever we use for a table must be solid, no wobbling, or the dog will not feel secure enough to relax.
Without a table, you will have to get down on your knees for efficient grooming. Aging knees can make the experience rather painful. This is not playtime. Insist that the dog stand quietly and give lots of praise when he does so. Promise him a special treat if he is good.
Cats can be challenging and it is best to introduce grooming at an early age. Good luck on getting a cat to stand on a grooming table. The lap is probably more feasible but again, insist that he be still and do not release him until he has obeyed, at least for a minute or two.
A slicker brush works well on the coats of most dogs and cats. They come in various sizes to suit the size of the animal. The many rows of short wire bristles are great for removing dead undercoat and loose top hair. If your pet has not had much grooming, at first it may bring to the surface a lot of flaky skin that looks like dandruff. A good brushing stimulates the skin and greatly reduces the amount of pet hair you find on your furniture and clothing.
Constantly whisper sweet nothings to your pet while grooming. And do not forget the promised treat when finished. With continued brushing and a healthy diet, you will see a wonderful transformation into a healthy, shiny coat.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.