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Clean Your Dog Pt. 1

Updated on April 16, 2012

Long haired, short haired, flat coat or wire; you need to keep your dog groomed. It's important. You shower, brush your teeth and wipe your bum, right? Right??? Your fur buddy should be able to do the same, however he can't just grab the hose and wash up himself... lack of opposable thumbs and all. So you have to do it. In this blog I will explain the benefits of grooming, the process of selecting a groomer, preparing for a visit, and what goes on during the visit.

Benefits of Good Grooming Habits

Obviously the smell factor. If you wore the same clothes everyday without washing them, they would be so stinky you would have no friends. A dog does not have the luxury of sending his fur off to the laundromat, and given the chance he probably wouldn't.

"After I pay an arm and a leg to wash my dog, he just rolls in dirt again."

That's because he's not used to the smell of clean and needs to do something that makes him feel more like himself. Establish good grooming early on to avoid this. The other answer to this question is that the bath made him itchy (from being improperly rinsed, an allergic reaction, or from the exposure of more skin after a de-shedding)

Moving on... Good grooming exposes injuries, ailments, and pests. The best way to find fleas is to rinse your dog. You'll be able to part the hair down to the skin to see if there are any free-loaders on your pet. Also, after washing your dog you still notice a smell coming from their ears it could be a yeast infection or mites. Groomers often find problems with your dog and inform you early on so you can take him to the vet before the condition gets worse.

"My dog got fleas after I took him to be groomed."

Ew. Don't take your dog to a disgusting place. A grooming salon should be neat and clean, and a groomer should honor your requests to view the grooming, bathing, and kennel areas. If they have nothing to hide they will let you in. If they only take in dogs that have an updated rabies vaccination and all dogs that are not in a kennel are being attended by a grown up, they can't use "safety risk" as an excuse not to let you see. There is a slight chance that you still might bring home some extra guests after a visit to a reputable place. If this happens you should politely call and ask them to give you a complementary flea bath as soon as possible.

Proper grooming makes your dog more comfortable. Dogs don't like to tap dance. That's what I call when a dog is walking around on long nails. It's incredibly uncomfortable and can make a dog unhappy when you go near his paws. Matting is a problem because it feels as if someone is pulling their hair relentlessly. If left untreated it could cause blood to pool under the surface or hot spots (places where dogs obsessively lick). Particularly bad matting can warrant a trip to the vet to get a surgical shave. Regular cleaning of the ears, eyes, and mouth can prevent infections. Lastly, a dog might need his anal glands released. Secretions in the anal sacs build up and over time can cause discomfort or blockages. You mostly see this in smaller dogs because they have difficulty draining them naturally. Anal glands should be expressed externally before a bath if you'd like to avoid watching your dog "scoot" or drag his ass on your rug. It certainly is funny to watch, but if you knew that he was putting super smelly anal gland juice on your floor you wouldn't be laughing.

Hygiene. Yes, just because you don't want to think about it doesn't mean it's not there. If your dog walks through poop, has poop stuck to their bums, or rolls in poop, and lives in your house, you will have poop in your house. Poop, crap, feces, shit, kaka. In your house, on your couch, in your bed. When I worked in a salon I was explaining this to a bull dog owner who consistently brought me her dog that always had shit caked to her tail. Bull dogs have a docked tail that sticks down pretty rigidly. If they don't learn to lift their tail when they poop, you will always need to wipe their bums. I asked the lady if she did, and she blinked and said no. I explained to her that her couch was full of fecal matter and she kept blinking. As if she could blink me away, like "poof" because she was in denial and wished to remain there forever. Dear People; dingleberries don't just only live in the immediate space they occupy on your dog. They leave bacteria on every surface your dog places or bumps his behind on. There. Now you all know.

Looks. You want your dog to look good right? Right.

Heading to the Groomers

Before you go check to make sure the place you go is reputable. Go to dog parks and ask around. Don't just ask your vet, ask people who have good looking dogs where they go. Once you've selected one watch for the signs of a great place:

1. Cleanliness. Yes they are in the business of cleaning dirty dogs but that doesn't mean it should look like your dog is going to come out dirtier than he did before he went in. Expect that it will smell like wet dog and there will be fur on the floor, but you shouldn't see grime or old dried pee on the floor.

2. They should ask you for your rabies information. To protect your safety while you're there and the safety of your dog they should check the documentation of the expiration date of the rabies vaccination from every dog they check in. To obtain this documentation (which you probably already have in your paperwork) ask your vet to fax it to you or the salon.

3. A proper check in. They should look at your dog's eyes, ears, mouth, coat, tail, paws, and undercarriage. After this is done they should suggest services. I would be wary of someone suggesting services before getting a good look at my dog.

a. always necessary: conditioning, tooth brushing, ear cleaning, nail clipping; all along with a brush out, bath, and if needed a trim.

b. sometimes necessary: anal expression, sanitary clip, fragrance (it does encourage extra cuddling), pad treatment, dematting, and medicated shampoo.

c. rarely necessary: deshedding (usually just twice a year), flea bath, tear stain removal (barely does better than a good bath), and deskunk.

d. unnecessary: nail polish, massages or other things found in a human spas, extra brushing.

I believe charging someone extra for extra brushing is like charging someone for extra cheese on their pizza. How can you really tell if they actually gave you what you paid for? And shouldn't it just be standard anyway? Dogs are priced based on the level of difficulty and the amount of product needed. A short-haired chihuahua is not gonna cost the same as a lab. The brush out should come standard with the bath, and that means a complete brush out. The only time charging is appropriate is during a deshedding (twice a year maybe 3 times) and dematting.

4. They should be pleasant and professional. If they seem like miserable bitches to you they will certainly be miserable bitches to your pet. Also, they should take themselves seriously. People who are irresponsible, oblivious, or inexperienced will allow injuries to occur and make your pet dread going back. The groomer should be warm and well educated in his or her field.

5. Finally, when you pick up your dog the groomer should make sure you are happy with the results.

Prepare For the Groomers

1. Have your paperwork in order. Bring your rabies information with you, even if you have already been through that process, it's good to keep a copy in your glove box because between human error and computer malfunctions there's always a chance your information got lost.

2. Take a good look at your pet. Is he having a good day? To prevent catastrophe rethink your appointment if your dog is having an "off" day. When checking in a pet I always asked: "Any recent surgeries, injuries, rashes, or lacerations? Is your pet in good health today?" It's important to be honest. I have heard people say everything was fine and then I get the dog on the table and see a recent neutering. That counts as a surgery. If your dog sustained a leg injury, I don't want to make him stand on it while I brush him out and clip his nails. I took in a chow puppy once; I asked the standard questions, mom didn't indicate anything out of the ordinary. After brushing out, bathing, blowing out, and finishing this dog she pooped all over herself in the kennel. I called mom to tell her that I would need more time and then redid the process. Midway through it happened again and this time she was acting very stressed out. I cleaned her up as best I could and called mom to pick her up. I apologized (thinking the visit had triggered the upset tummy) and that's when mom told me she has had explosive diarrhea for 2 days. I told her that meant her pet was not in good health today and shouldn't have been here. If this happens to your dog, wait until he is over his bought with whatever it is before you give him a professional cleaning. Otherwise it's like buying a car wash in a rainstorm.

3. Do not sedate your dog if you are not going to a vet for the groom. Groomers don't have the equipment, nor should they, to handle a sedated dog. If you don't want your dog to go into hiding like a murder witness when it's time for a groom the best remedy is to take him more often. Get him used to the idea that this is going to happen and there is no way out of it. Get him prepared for the dreaded nail cut by touching his paws at home. Also, touch his ears, mouth, and tail, along with routine brush outs. If you have a long or curly haired dog brush outs are essential and can make trips to the groomers that much easier because they won't have to spend an excessive amount of time on the table being brushed out.

When you arrive at the groomer's be as physically calm as possible. If you are anticipating disaster, I promise, disaster will follow. If you are showing signs of stress (hunched shoulders, dilated pupils, staggered inward breathing) your dog will put up a fight. Because he can't speak language he may as well think you are dropping him off at the glue factory. Many people say to me, when I ask them if they think their behavior is making their dog nervous, that they are just fine. Meanwhile they look like a deer caught in headlights. I tell them to relax their forehead, relax their muscles, breathe deeply, and speak confidently. If your dog sees no signs that there is danger then they will not react like they do. Deep breaths! It's the groomer, not the executioner.

4. Know what you want and be specific. Time to use your grown up words. Throwing your dog at the groomer and running away will not be in your best interest. What do you like about your dog's appearance? If you ask for a general trim and you get your dog back and his shaggy ears that you loved to touch are gone, that's your fault. For this reason it's good practice to be familiar with your pet's standard breed trim(s). A dad dropped off a pomeranian one day and when asked what he wanted he said he didn't care, whatever was normal. The groomer tried to get him to be more specific because there is more than one standard cut for a pom, but he really couldn't be bothered. After listening to the groomer describe the different cuts, he said "probably a puppy cut." So when mom picked up the dog, of course, she was immediately in tears. She just wanted a trim to tidy up the fluff, and was handed a dog that was completely shaved down to a 1/2 inch.

What Happens When You Leave

You might wonder why a groom takes sooooo long. Well, there is a lot involved and chances are your dog isn't the only dog there. Groomers book appointments like they are playing chess. You want a dog on the table while you have a dog drying in the kennel, you don't want to be checking in one when you've got one in the tub, and at some point you'll want to eat lunch (yeah right). For these reasons, know that the groomer is doing all that he or she can to get your dog back to you as soon as possible.

1. Either the dog will go right to the table, or will wait in the kennel. Kennels at a reputable salon will be comfortable and come equipped with water, so don't worry, it's not an internment camp.

2. On the table your dog will get a brush out for somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Nails can be done now, but they can also be done in the tub or after the bath. The same goes for ear cleaning and tooth brushing. For dogs getting a significant cut, the groomer might lop off a good amount of it now from the body and legs. This usually makes them look like Dr. Seuss characters.

3. Bath time followed by an eye flush to make sure there are no irritants in there.

4. While still in the tub, the groomer might use a force dryer to get the bulk of the water off, or a fluff dryer for curly haired dogs. Fluff drying takes forever. After that the dog will be placed in the kennel with a gentle hose dryer to complete drying. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Dry time depends on your dog's coat and whether or not he's huddled in the corner and not letting the air circulate.

5. Once the dog is completely dry the groomer can begin trimming the face and feet and whatever else needs trimming. If the dog isn't getting a hair cut then he will be finished right after he leaves the kennel.

6. Finishing the dog, or turning out a dog is the process of standing back and surveying the dog to see if anything else can be done. At this time the groomer will brush the dog again to get rid of any loose hairs. They might also spray a shining spray and some doggie cologne.

7. This is when they want you to show up, so they'll probably call you right before they finish, because no one likes to put a fabulous looking dog back in the kennel. Showing up on time is better for your dog because at that point they've probably had enough of poking and prodding for one day, better for you because you get to see your dog before his messes himself all up again, and better for the groomer so he or she can earn a living. A salon is not doggie daycare, the longer your dog stays in the salon, the longer they are taking up space for more clients. The larger floor kennels are hot real estate so if you have a big dog 'em in and get 'em out quick. He and the groomer will appreciate that.

8. When you show up, now is the time to speak up if there is something else you want done. Please don't wait until you get home, or the next day. It's better to address your concerns right there so that the groomer who did your dog can fix it. If you wait, then you might not get that same person and it becomes another groomer's problem and that's not very fair. Plus your groomer wants you to go back to him or her so they will be eager to correct the groom to your liking. They should be understanding if you'd like a little more taken off the face or whatever.

9. Pay for the groom, say thank you, and leave a reasonable tip.

"What!? I have to leave a tip?"

YES!!! You wouldn't dream of not tipping your own hair stylist, right? And she doesn't go through nearly what a groomer goes through. I mean there is no chance of you biting your hair stylist or pooping on her floor. Also, your hair is not covering your whole entire body. You would give your hair stylist a gracious tip for just working on the hair you have on your head. Meanwhile, the groomer does the job of three aestheticians. They wash and cut hair, shave private parts, and do nails. They handle your dog's naughty bits, remove parasites, breathe your dog's smelly dog breath, and squeeze anal glands; they deserve 20%!!! Anal. Glands.

Additional Thoughts

Shave Downs- Nothing breaks the heart of a groomer more than having to habitually shave down a golden retriever. Goldens were meant to have a long beautiful coat, if you got a golden retriever and don't want him to have a long coat you should have gotten a yellow lab. Every now and then it may be necessary because he got himself into a tangly, sticky, or tick-y mess, but if you are brushing him out regularly and keep up with regular trims, chances are you might never need to shave him down and thus ruin his coat. If you have a shi-zhu or a yorkie you want to shave... fine. Please don't shave down your golden.

Also, don't think you need to shave your dog down in the summer because he is hot. His coat is not making him hot, dehydration is making him hot. His coat, in fact, acts like a natural sun shade and traps cooler air underneath. Removing that would expose his sensitive skin to harmful sun rays. To further cool down your dog in hot weather hose down his feet and undercarriage with cool water and provide a constant source of fresh water.

Choosing to go with a chain salon or a small business- It comes down to accountability. I normally give my business to mom and pop places as much as possible, but in this case I would have to give it a lot of thought. I would read policies, and ask for some one to show me grantees. This is your dog, and Godforbid anything terrible happens, I would want to see how a private place would handle that. A chain on the other hand is held to certain standards. A manager comes by in intervals to check on the temperature of the kennels, groomers have to pass extensive training and safety tests, and there is 100% accountability on the part of the store. That being said, chain store groomers have the reputation of being somewhat of a factory while you're more likely to find a rock star groomer at a private place. Take your dog to whomever your gut tells you to trust. Remember wherever you go, your tip will still be appreciated.

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