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Dog Grooming: Easy Tips and Procedures
In his book, Marley and Me, John Grogan has the following to say about man's best friend: A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.
In order to optimize such a relationship, it is necessary for the pet to be well groomed. Inarguably, it is much easier to enjoy, bond and be involved with a well-groomed pet. You can do this by yourself, or hire a professional dog grooming service to do this for you.
Typically, a dog’s perception of the world and objects around it largely comes via smell, so it is essential that you allow time for it to sniff the equipment you plan to use for grooming: the nail clippers, scissors, comb, brush, detangler, gloves, shampoo, conditioner, pet perfume, balm, ear cleaner and other pet care products. This allows the dog to develop familiarity with them early enough in order to overcome any unwelcome suspicions or aversions. Likewise, the initial grooming itself should not be carried out in a hurry, but in a steady manner that allows the pet to be accustomed to the steps involved in each procedure.
Apart from keeping the dog well groomed, it is necessary to maintain its immediate environment in a constant state of hygiene. Fleas, mites, ticks and other undesired parasites or germs not only affect the pet's body, but will tend to inhabit its immediate environment too. So these and other items need to be kept in a hygienic state: the dog's bed, bedding, collar, leash, toys, bathtub, house (or kennel) and furniture.
Maintaining a regular brushing schedule is not only hygienic, it helps accustom the dog to being cleaned. Consistency is key in ensuring that there is an established routine that the dog can adhere and adapt to. This is part of pet training and development where Pavlov’s reward system can be leveraged in positive reinforcement, by conditioning the dog to anticipate a reward for its cooperation after each session.
Though dogs do not usually enjoy having their nails clipped or being brushed, you can condition yours by regular practice to get used to it, such that it knows instinctively that you will not be swayed or give in to resistive behaviour. Cesar Millan, states in his book, Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life: Discipline isn't about showing a dog who's boss; it's about taking responsibility for a living creature you have brought into your world. If you have a family member, relative or friend who can hold onto the dog and helping out during the grooming procedures, then it becomes much easier and quicker. Remember, brushing before bathing helps remove any tangles which would otherwise be a hindrance.
If you or any member of your family has an allergy, brushing your dog daily ensures allergens are cleared from the air as well as walls, clothing, furniture, carpets and other household items. For best results, use a wide-tooth steel comb which traps air and disentangles any knots in the fur of the dog. Ensure that you brush away from the skin in the direction of the lie of the hair, in order to dislodge and remove any dirt or dead hair while stimulating the skin at the same time. Removal of dead hair during brushing gets rid of bad odor and enhances the coat by encouraging the growth of fresh hair. Use a brush whose length of bristle matches the dog’s hair length. The same applies to combs. Don’t try to use a fine comb for long, medium or wire hair. You can purchase a special grooming glove or use a flannel cloth from your local pet store to polish your dog’s coat and make it glossy.
Note that if your dog has no fur (e.g. Mexican or Peruvian Hairless dog), it is necessary to ensure that its skin does not remain dry. Consult your local vet for the best lotion or medication to use, whenever you detect the skin starting to crack or exfoliate.
Medium and long haired dogs tend to get their hair matted, snagged, clumped or tangled from contact with gum, paint, tarp, grime or other sticky substances. These can be irritating to the dog. However it may not be a serious problem for short or smooth haired dogs. Try to disentangle with a comb gently, holding each clump in one hand while combing with the other. In case the hair is too tightly or thickly matted, use scissors to cut it off, but take care to pierce the skin. Use of scissors with blunt ends is recommended. Take care not to use too much force tugging the mat or tuft when cutting so as not to hurt the skin. To make the job easier, first soften the area with acetone or nail polish remover prior to combing. Note also that when dog hair becomes too long, it tends to be cumbersome to maintain and can get into the eyes of the dog, making life difficult and unpleasant for your pet. So procure a set of handy clippers to keep your dog's hair length in check.
When you start bathing your pet, try to make it as relaxed and comfortable as possible by speaking in a soft, calm and reassuring tone. The owner’s contact and attention has a positive effect on the pet’s development and it will tend to reciprocate the care and attention back to the owner. One of the added benefits of bathing your dog is the chance to bond and develop a closer relationship, as well as an opportunity to check for any visible health-related problems. Such include wounds, cuts, bite marks, swellings, inflammations, rashes as well as the presence of pests like fleas and ticks. You’ll notice that the dog will typically not want to sit still for these activities, so it is always advisable to perform them all at once. One of the key reasons for costly visits to the vet is late detection, which in certain cases make surgical procedures necessary.
Though it is not a must to wash a dog every so often, it helps the pet feel fresh and comfortable. Moreover, you would not typically prefer your family, relatives, friends or colleagues to have to put up with bad odor or dog dirt each time they are present in the home. It is also much easier to interact with a clean pet with a fresh smell, and more hygienic too, especially for vulnerable members of the society like children.
It is recommended not to feed your pet six hours before the actual bath. You can use a tub or just a regular garden hose. If you opt for the tub, avoid plunging your pet into the water suddenly, as this may set off panic and aversive behaviour. While bathing, use warm water and first wet your dog completely using a hose or faucet before applying shampoo all over, beginning from the chest to the head, down to the tail and afterwards to the legs. Do not use your own shampoo, but instead one that is specially formulated for dog fur and skin. Ensure the shampoo does enter the eyes or ears. You can use wet cotton to clean the face or wipe off mucus and discharge from the eyes.
The process of rinsing the dog should be extremely thorough to ensure no irritations occur later from leftover soap, or other health complications due to licking. In the event that your pet licks the shampoo or any other chemical used for bathing, consult your local vet as soon as possible.
Use a towel to dry the water from the dog’s fur and if the fur is thick or long, use a hair-dryer. Neither the towel nor the dryer may be comfortable to the dog, but any temporal displeasure is preferred to the smelly dampness which results from improper drying. You can also enhance the grooming by using a dog conditioner.
Most veterinarians recommend that your dog's teeth should be brushed at least twice a week according to ensure the gums and teeth remain clean and healthy. It is necessary to obtain a toothbrush with soft bristles and toothpaste from the local pet shop.
The teeth at the far back should be brushed in small, rotating motions, while the pointed canine teeth should be brushed with up- and-down strokes. In order to make this exercise easier, the toothpaste manufacturers include special ingredients that make the paste flavorsome for the dog. If for some reason you are unable to clean the dog’s teeth, you could feed it with dog biscuits specially made for cleaning teeth which are available eat the local pet store. However, it is highly recommended to brush the teeth instead to avoid plaque and tartar.
Most folks assume that ticks are insects, but they are not. Ticks are 8-legged so they belong to a different class of arthropods called Arachnids (same as spiders). Ticks are blood parasites which seek to turn a dog into a host by attaching themselves onto the skin in order to suck blood. Though they are more often found in bushy areas, check your dog’s skin regularly even if you do not live in close proximity to such areas. When looking for ticks, begin by examining the dog's underbelly, deep in the fur or directly underneath its collar. Whenever you come across one, extract it carefully by the head using tweezers.
Fleas are likewise found underneath the fur and you can detect their presence by their droppings on the coat of the dog. These droppings appear like pepper specks. Fleas come in various sizes - from very tiny ones to adult sizes which can go upto 1/8th of an inch in length. Fleas cannot be extracted the same way as ticks since they tend to spring from the skin before they are caught. Once you detect their droppings and confirm their presence, a thorough process of elimination is necessary, an example being the use of a flea dip as part of the bathing process.
Dealing with Odors
Some dogs tend to have a more unpleasant odor than others. This may not as a result of dirt or infection, which can be cleaned by the grooming methods we have examined so far, but from contact with other animals. It may have been sprayed by a skunk, for instance. The most popular ‘antidote’ for this is to apply tomato juice and allow it to remain on the dog’s skin and fur for about 20 minutes before you rinse it off. However, this method has also been criticized as only being able to mask the bad smell (by virtue of the acid in the tomato), but not to entirely de-skunk the dog. If you want more effective results, use solutions like apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, detergent or vanilla extract. More details on these and related methods that have been proven to work effectively, are explained in the article: Get Rid of Skunk Odor | Methods to Deskunk Your Dog. Whichever method you adopt, remember to mix the ingredients in correct quantities so as to avoid unpleasant accidents. Also be careful not to let the solutions find their way into the eyes of your pet.
You may have a dog which belongs to the breeds whose coats typically produce a lot of oil. When the oil begins to decay, it can be a source of bad smell . The problem can be resolved by applying the grooming methods we have so far examined. If the issue is caused by a bacterial skin disease, then you need to also add an effective anti-bacterial shampoo when bathing or cleaning the dog. In case these basic grooming methods do not help to remedy the situation, it is necessary to make an appointment with the local veterinarian.
Another cause of bad smell is infected anal glands. These sacs contain a fluid that is discharged whenever the dog has a bowel movement. If you examine your dog and find that the anal area is swollen and there is a really unpleasant smell there, you need to take your pet to the local vet (no pun intended!) as soon as possible, to have the infected glands treated. If the dog has had this problem in the past, chances are it will reoccur, so it is important to be vigilant. In certain cases, it is necessary for the glands to be removed through surgery.
Cleaning the Ears
Ear mites are a common problem for dogs. These are tiny insects that inhabit the dog’s ears and feed on the secretions that are produced there. Ear mites have a short life span, but the more they nourish themselves in this habitat, the more their bodies develop to form a dark, nasty substance. The name given to dog ear infections is Otits Externa, which is defined as infection on the outer ear (as contrasted with Otis Interna, which refers to infection of the inner ear). Due to the fact that 90% of infections in dogs are Otits Externa, ear infection is the most commonly treated condition among dogs. If the ears are not cleaned properly especially in the case of dogs with drooping ears, infections can result in permanent hearing loss.
Fortunately, there are several cleansers available to deal with this menace. The dirt can be loosened by lifting the ears and using some ear cleanser to massage the affected area. The procedure is as follows: hold your dog still and then with a cotton swab immersed in the solution, clean the inner ear gently. Though it may not be easy for the dog to be completely still while you do this, the solution works fast and the process is soon complete. Performing this ensures your dog stays clear of earaches and infections.
The more often the dog’s ears are cleaned, the more it will be conditioned, thus making any future treatments easier to handle. Another alternative is to use white vinegar to clean the ears in the same way you use the ear cleanser, i.e. gently wipe the inside of the ear with cotton or cloth you have dampened with the white vinegar. If the condition is mild, then this should relieve it, but if it persists, you need to fix an appointment with the vet. For more simple homemade simple recipes which can be used for cleaning dog ears, check out this article on the Dogsaholic.com site. A dose of antibiotics may be required in addition to the cleaning and in extreme cases, surgery in order to drain the ear canal. Again, it is important to note that dogs that swim are more prone to developing ear infections, as dogs are not by nature waterborne creatures.
Though any dog type can develop an infectious ear, this problem is especially common among dogs with droopy ears. It is also common among breeds with particularly small ears. One sign of a possible infection is if the dog still stinks even after it has been properly groomed. Another sign is if the dog suddenly starts to excessively shake its head or scratch the ear apparently in order to obtain some relief. Or there may be noticeable traces of redness, swelling or irritation there. It is good to take action because if the scratching goes on too frequently, there is a danger of breaking blood vessels, which in turn can lead to additional complications. Apart from a wax build-up, ear infection can also be caused by long hair which eventually clogs the passage of air, resulting in dirt and debri accumulation. To curb this, you can either clip the hair around the ears or have your vet do it for you.
Frequency of Grooming
How often should you groom your dog? Well this largely depends on the breed and type of coat. Some dogs clearly require more maintenance than others, so it is necessary to be clear on this before purchasing the dog. Your local vet could also advise you on the grooming routine best suited for it. The earlier you start training your dog to get accustomed to grooming procedures, the easier it will be, but even an untrained dog can still catch up with the process, given practice and patience. As a general guide, the following table shows how to determine the frequency of grooming for your dog.
Type of Coat
Short, dense coat
Weekly brushing, bathing at least once or twice annually
Bathing every 3 months, coat clipping every 6-8 weeks
Weekly brushing and bathing as necessary
Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Dachshunds
Grooming once every 2 months
Daily brushing, regular bathing once every other month
Daily brushing, thorough grooming 4 times annually
Afghans, Cocker Spaniels, Pekinese
Other Remedial Tips
In case your dog is biting or scratching itself due to a bite or sting, you could use the following to remedy the situation:
Red Rose Lavender oil: This has a pleasant smell and is quite effective for sunburns, scrapes, burns and cuts. It is also works against insect bites and bee stings. You can also use the oil to clean the dog's ears when mixed with another organic oil like almond or olive. In a diluted state, the oils also repel pests like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas and chiggers.
Peppermint oil: Just as is the case in humans, this oil is effective for flatulence, indigestion, and diarrhoea relief, and also serves as an anti-inflammatory. It reduces fever and is effective against pests such as caterpillars, moths, lice, beetles, ants, spiders, aphids, flies and fleas.
Meat Tenderizer: The way to prepare this solution is to dilute the tenderizer in a bowl with water. Let it coagulate into a paste which you can then apply on the bite or sting. This has an almost immediate effect on the dog and can be used as often as required without any side effects.
Ammonia: Put a cotton ball into an ammonia solution and apply it directly on the sting or bite, taking care not to have contact with the eyes or the nose area. However, be certain first that your pet does not have sensitive skin to avoid a reaction.
Aloe Vera Gel: You can obtain this from the local pharmacy or drugstore. When applied to the bite or sting, the relief is almost immediate.
Ice: Place a cloth wrapped around ice cubes on the affected area to reduce inflammation.
Remember it is necessary to check for dirt, grime and pebbles in the paws as well and that nails need to be trimmed every few weeks. The latter needs to be done with special care so as to avoid puncturing any blood vessels and creating new wounds that might later become infectious. Bear in mind that the paws and nails are more in contact with dirt than any other part of the body. If you are not comfortable with doing this, you can always engage the services of a professional groomer for a fee. Also, apart from anti-rabies treatment and regular check ups, ensure that grooming your dog is combined with a good diet and exercise. The recommended diet is 50% protein and 50% carbohydrates.