It is that time again for some in-depth grooming for our dogs and cats. Some take their pets to the groomer once a year, some take them monthly and many never take them, but one way or the other, deep spring cleaning is in order.
I filled a grocery bag with dead hair from my one long-coated dog and there is more where that came from. This dead hair that helped keep the dog warm during the winter must go. Otherwise, it works as a barrier so that the skin cannot breathe during the hot summer months. It also gets all over your carpeting and clothing. Brushing keeps the skin and coat healthy. Always do a thorough brushing before a bath. Getting all the mats and dead hair out beforehand results in a shorter, less irritating bath time and a cleaner dog.
Some dogs love being groomed while others hate it. Starting with regular brushing when the dog is a pup is best. Kittens too. A grooming table makes the job easier on you and your back. A picnic table in the yard works well and the flying hair provides nesting material for birds and squirrels. If the surface is at all slippery, put a towel under him. Make sure the table is sturdy as the dog will worry if he does not feel secure. By having the dog on some sort of table, he will be more humble. Small dogs might fit comfortably on the bathroom counter.
If your dog is not accustomed to being brushed, some training may be necessary. Insist that he stand quietly while you are brushing him. Put him in position and reward him with praise and occasional treats when he follows the rules. Whenever he sits or tries to jump off the table, put him back in position and tell him to stay. If necessary, attach a leash to his collar and keep a hold of it or tie him to the table. Never allow the dog to leave a grooming session until you give him permission. Even when you are about done, if he jumps off the table, put him back up there and work for another minute or so. Then tell him OK and allow him to leave. Grooming may not be his favorite activity but he must learn to stand quietly. He has to trust that we will not hurt him. And we must not hurt him. Eventually he should realize that this deep grooming feels really good. Follow a grooming session with a short session of play.
A good brush is important. I use a slicker brush on all three of my dogs and they each have very different coat types. You need a brush with stiff bristles, stiff enough to get through the coat although you must go a bit easier on the short coated dog. A slicker brush is usually plastic, rectangular in shape with several rows of metal teeth and a handle. These come in all sizes and teeth length for dogs of all sizes and coat types and for cats. You can find a good variety at a pet or feed store and they are quite inexpensive. Soft bristled brushes are worthless for this deep spring cleaning. Begin by taking a small section and brushing against the way the coat grows. Then brush with the coat. In this way, you can get rid of a lot of dead hair. You will need a comb to remove all the hair from the slicker brush.
While grooming, be checking for lumps, ticks or other abnormalities. Any growth should be checked by the veterinarian. These problems are easier corrected in their early stages.Check the ears for any foreign objects. If your dog is one that has hair growing down the ear canal, this needs to be removed. There is a special powder designed to make grabbing hold of this hair easier. Run your finger around between the pads of the feet. So often, a sticker gets imbedded and might not be seen, but you can feel it. If you see your dog chewing at his foot or favoring it, make sure you check it out.
Don't forget the toe nails. Here again, the right tool is important. Buy a good quality nail clipper as you will use it often. Clip just the tips of the nails, but do it frequently. People worry about cutting into the quick and causing bleeding. By just snipping off the tips, you never have to worry about that.
And then there are the teeth. Brushing the teeth can be a bother but it is important. Once a habit for this gets established, it is much more doable. They are finding that many ailments of dogs are caused by bacteria which begins in the mouth and moves into the various organs. Tooth care is vital. Any small-headed tooth brush is OK to use, but never, ever use people's toothpaste as it can make a dog very sick.
When all this spring grooming is completed, your dog will look and feel wonderful. Regular grooming will keep him looking his best.
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.