Dog Grooming Guide: Tail Waggin’ Tips, from Head to Paw

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BRUSHING YOUR DOG: One of the most important habits you can get into is to set aside 10 minutes a day to brush your dog. In my work as a dog groomer I’ve had poor little ragamuffin’s come into my shop so dirty and so matted I could hardly tell which end was which. It is very uncomfortable for an animal when his coat is in such poor condition. Imagine how you would feel if your own hair hadn’t been brushed or washed in six months or longer. Pretty icky, right?

It is also very painful to put a dog through a session of tugging and pulling on its hair. I have seen sweet-natured dogs turn into snapping, biting ones while trying to remove stubborn mats. When the hair is matted clear down to the skin the best thing for the animal’s comfort is to have your professional groomer clip the dog’s coat short all over. Then start over again with the hair and a program of regular grooming. So aside from proper dog and cat boarding and training, grooming is also important. Of course, the safety and health of your pets should always be the number one priority more than anything else.

What kind of brush should you use? Personally, I prefer the Universal Slicker brush. It is a heavy-duty wire brush excellent for removing burrs and mats and keeping the coat free of tangles. Pin brushes work well on long-coated breeds whose fur is in good condition. Pin brushes are gentle and won’t split the hair. For smooth-coated breeds such as beagles and Dobermans, a natural boar bristle brush works best. The soft bristles massage the skin gently and remove dead hair during shedding season.

A tip for removing stubborn mats: Use a pair of dull-nosed scissors and cut the mat long ways. When the mat is split in two, it’s easier to brush out.

HOW TO TRIM NAILS: Your dog’s toenails should be clipped with pet nail clippers at least every six weeks. Dogs nails are black or white in color. White toenails are easier to clip than black, of course, because you can see the “quick.” The quick is the pink colored, spongy part of the nail and will bleed if cut into. If you should accidentally cut the nail too short a styptic pencil applied to the area will stop bleeding immediately. Pet stores also carry a medicated powder to stop bleeding.

When trimming black nails take a tiny bit off at at time — being careful not to clip too much. As long as your dog’s nails don’t touch the floor when he’s standing, then the nails are short enough. Be sure and file them smooth with a nail file or emery board. Jagged nails can snag and ruin a pair of slacks or nylons.

Please Note: Dew claws, the “thumb nail” located on the inside of the foot (ankle high), should be checked often. If neglected, this nail will sometimes grow so long it will curl around and grow back into the dog’s foot. This can be very painful and you should consult your veterinarian.

HOW TO CLEAN EARS: It’s important to keep your dog’s ears cleaned to prevent ear infections. In most long-coated breeds the hair will grow in thick and should be thoroughly cleaned out each time the dog is bathed. The hair inside the ear is usually greasy from ear wax so I recommend an antibiotic ear powder (available at your pet store or groomers). The ear powder allows you to get a firm grip on the hair to pull out easily and without pain to your pet.

Dust a small amount of medicated powder in each ear and firmly pull hair out. After all hair is removed then swab thoroughly with a cotton ball dipped in pet ear cleaner. Some breeds such as Bulldogs or Great Danes (most smooth-coated breeds) have little or no hair growing inside ears, but remember to keep ears swabbed with cleaner to prevent wax build-up.

When bathing your dog it’s always a good practice to plug ears with cotton balls. Getting an excessive amount of water inside your dog’s ear canal can be harmful. If your dog should develop tender, sore ears examine the inside of the ear carefully. A large accumulation of ear wax and a strong unpleasant odor indicate a possible ear infection. Consult your veterinarian promptly.

BATHING YOUR DOG: When bathing your dog always use a mild shampoo that is non-irritating to the eyes. Work up a rich lather and scrub dog thoroughly from nose to tail. A soft rubber brush works great for scrubbing your dog squeaky clean. When Fido is ready to come out of his bath, squeeze out excess water and wrap him in a thick towel. Stand the dog on the floor or table and towel dry vigorously. Most dogs love being toweled off ~ they shake water everywhere, rub their heads excitedly in the towel, and snort through their noses!

FOR A SPECIAL TAIL WAGGIN’ TREAT: let the towel get toasty warm in the dryer before wrapping your four-footed friend in it.

REVIEW…STEPS TO A WELL GROOMED DOG:

  1. Brush dog daily. It only takes 10 minutes or less to keep your dog’s coat free of tangles
  2. Trim nails and file
  3. Clean ears
  4. Bathe dog with a gentle shampoo

The end result: A beautiful, sweet-smelling, happy dog!