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Grooming Tips

The following are some general tips on keeping your dog in good condition.

#1 Train your dog to accept handling everywhere on his body. This is especially important if you have a breed that needs extensive coat care. However, such advice applies to ALL dogs, regardless of grooming requirements. Even if you never plan on so much as brushing your dog, you must be able to handle him. What if he is choking or has something stuck in his jaws, but you can't help him because he won't allow you to hold his face? Or if he has a painful thorn in his paw, but you can't take it out because he won't let you touch his feet? What about vet visits? The doctor must be able to feel the dog's body to check for abnormal growths and general condition. If your dog is thrashing about or trying to bite, the doctor may miss a cancerous lump or an infection that should have received immediate treatment. Simply teaching your dog to be well behaved can literally be a life saver. And of course, your vet and groomer will thank you for having such a cooperative pet.

#2 All dogs can benefit from at least a weekly brushing. This stimulates the skin, keeps the hair healthy, reduces shedding, and discourages parasites. On smooth coated breeds, use a bristle brush or a rubber curry comb. On thicker coated breeds, a slicker brush usually works best for keeping out mats, and an undercoat rake is wonderful for reducing shedding. On long haired breeds, a slicker brush or a pin brush (esp. for those with a delicate coat), along with a good comb work nicely. Typically, the more hair your dog has, the more often you will have to brush it. When you do, be sure you are going down to the skin. If you are only brushing over the surface, missing the undercoat entirely, you could do this every day and still see mats form.
A bristle brush can be used on any breed for a quick cleanup. We use one on our dogs every day, each time they come in from a walk. This keeps any debris they may have picked up out of the house. It also removes potentially dangerous objects such as burrs that could bury into the skin. For less than one minute of your time, this is an excellent habit to get in to.

#3 All dogs should be bathed 2 - 3 times a year, at the very least. Most dogs need a bath about every 6 weeks to maintain an acceptable condition. Just think how grungy you'd feel if you went a week without so much as a sponge bath. Now imagine how much filth all that fur on your dog picks up in a whole month!
Always be sure to thoroughly brush and comb your dog before he gets wet. Any existing mats will tighten more when drying, making them nearly impossible to remove. The only exception to this rule would be very smooth coated dogs whose hair cannot knot.

#4 Keep your dog healthy. Health and grooming go hand in hand. If your dog is in poor health, no amount of grooming is likely to improve his coat or make him look good. Likewise, if your dog is unkempt, with matted fur (which doesn't let the skin breathe and holds moisture and burrs which leads to infections) or an unwashed coat covered in toxins (pesticides from lawns, air pollution, etc.) he cannot be completely healthy.
Healthy fur is easier to groom! A coat in top condition is less prone to matting and usually sheds less. Plus it looks so radiant!
Proper nutrition does a lot for coat condition. See my articles on diet.

#5 Remember to give proper attention to the toenails. Overgrown claws can be dangerous, to human and canine. A person can be easily scratched by even gentle pawing from the dog. More importantly, overly long nails can be painful to walk on, and may cause growing pups malformed structural development. If manicures are neglected, the toenail can curl around and grow back into the paw, resulting in much pain and possible infection. This most often happens with the dewclaws (i.e. the "thumb"), as they aren't worn down naturally and are often unnoticed by owners.
Nail clipping is a fairly easy job when working with a properly trained and cooperative dog. However, one must be cautious not to cut the quick, which is the nail's vein, therefore it's often best to have a professional show you the correct technique. Nails generally should be trimmed about every month.

#6 People aren't the only creatures to get waxy ears. Many dogs need their ears cleaned every few weeks or more. Drop eared breeds are particularly susceptible to filthy ears and infections. They often need cleaning daily. A cotton ball moistened with rubbing alcohol does the job nicely.
Hairy breeds, such as poodles and terriers, must have their ear canals checked for overgrowth of hair. Plucking out this hair allows airflow into the ears and lessens the chance of infections. This job is best left to the experienced.
Poor nutrition is often at the root of ear infections. Many dogs switched to healthier diets, especially a raw and/or grainless diet, will find their ears clearing up. Again, see my nutrition articles for more information.

TL, 2001