Grooming Your Dog – Why, How and When
Dog grooming is an important part of keeping your pet healthy. Though they certainly don’t need daily showers, regular grooming will help your pup feel better and look better, while potentially avoiding skin, ear and nail diseases. All pets are different: a dog’s grooming needs depend on breed, coat type, lifestyle and age. If you decide to groom your dog at home yourself (which we think is a great idea), it’s important to have the right products and tools on hand.
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Hair follicles are continuously growing from beneath the skin, while older hairs drop off as the new ones come through. For a number of reasons – including pregnancy, season, age and coat type – the rate of hair loss is sometimes accelerated. This is known as “malting”, though constant shedding of some hair is also completely normal.
Brushing your dog’s hair is probably the easiest starting point for grooming, as most dogs quite enjoy being brushed. That means it will help strengthen your bond, too. Long haired dogs should ideally be brushed daily. Medium haired dogs should be brushed weekly. This will help prevent matting, knots, and the possible skin infection that comes with it. Short-haired dogs can generally go weeks, even months, without needing to be brushed. Regardless of your dog’s breed, brushing will help keep the coat shiny and healthy.
Unlike brushing, bath-time can be a bit of a hassle. While some water-loving dogs will enjoy it, many do not. And any dog owner will tell you that it gets wet and messy very quickly. For these reasons, it’s important to train your dog to get used to it. Start bathing when they are puppies, and use lots of treats/rewards to make it a positive experience.
Bathing dogs helps keep the skin clean. Similar to hair follicles, skin cells are constantly being produced, migrating to the surface and “sloughing off”. The outer surface of even the healthiest skin is actually a layer of dead skin cells! Generally, dogs only need to be groomed if they get dirty, greasy or smelly. This depends a lot on their lifestyle. For a dog with good, healthy skin, vet dermatologists do not recommend shampooing your dog any more than once a week. For most dogs, a bath once a month is sufficient. Some owners prefer to have their dog spend a day with a qualified groomer a few times a year, and this is great too!
Always use a pet-grade, soft shampoo and dry the coat thoroughly after the bath. Some of our favourites include:
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Ear infections are very common in dogs. This is partly due to ear anatomy, hair in the ear canals, and swimming. Lots of dogs also have mild underlying skin allergies that predispose them to itchy ears. If you suspect this is the case, contact your veterinarian, as medications are generally required to treat the problem. Once the problem is fixed, it’s a good idea to keep the ears healthy at home, and it’s quite easy to do!
- Always dry the ears after a bath
- Hairs in the ear can be trimmed, but they shouldn’t be plucked. Plucking causes inflammation, and can make things worse.
- Use a quality ear-cleaning solution once a week. These are easy to apply into the ears and help break down wax and debri
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Trimming a dog’s nails can be as difficult as bathing. Again, it helps to get your pup used to it from a young age. Otherwise, lots of dogs hate their feet being picked up. If a dog has a traumatic experience with a nail clip (it hurts when they are cut too short!), they can often see the clippers coming from a mile away.
Swing by your vet clinic if you are unsure about how to trim nails. A vet or vet-nurse will always be happy to demonstrate. Keep an eye on your dog’s nails and trim them regularly. Generally, once a month is sufficient, but this depends on how fast the nails are being worn down with exercise. It also helps to have a set of good and appropriately-sized dog nail clippers on hand.
Haircuts depend a lot on breed and coat type. Clipping is a good way of cooling some breeds down in the warmer months, as well as getting rid of matts and knot. Some breeds like Poodles should be clipped every 6 weeks. Other breeds like Huskies should never be clipped. Clipping can be tricky work and is probably best left to a professional groomer.
With a bit of know-how, good dog training, lots of treats and the right equipment, you can manage most of your dog’s grooming at home. It helps to establish a routine to stay on top of things. If you have any concerns about your dog’s hair, skin, ears or nails, arrange a consult with your veterinarian.
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