A Few Grooming Tips
Simple things you can do on a regular basis to keep your dog healthy and happy.
At least once a week, brush your dog thoroughly (and by that I mean all the way down to the skin, all over his body) and massage him all over (not only does this feel nice for both of you, it means you can check for any lumps, bumps, parasites, sore spots or skin problems). This is for short-coated breeds, longer-coated breeds need more frequent brushing.
Do not bathe your dog too often – my general rule with my dog is that he only gets a bath if he’s actually dirty and the dirt won’t brush off easily, or if we’re going to a show - having seen judges have to wipe grime off their hands from really filthy dogs, I think it’s only respectful to show a clean dog. Don’t use human shampoo - you can use very diluted dish soap if you like, or choose a shampoo specifically for dogs. Remember if you show and intend to bathe your dog before the show to bathe at least 2-3 days - ideally a week - before the show to allow the oils to come back into the coat and get it back to its proper appearance and texture. A healthy dog eating a good diet should not normally smell bad, unless it’s a naturally oily-coated breed like a Lab, most of the time “doggy smell” that lasts longer than a few minutes after being outside, comes from ear, dental, skin or digestive problems and/or a dog eating a low-quality or unsuitable diet - not every diet is suitable for every dog. If you find you need to bathe your dog more often than every two-three months because of “doggy odour”, it’s likely that you AND your dog would be better off looking for the actual cause of the smell, rather than treating the symptom.
During shedding times, here's my recipe for getting the worst of the hair out all in one go: you have to wait until the shedding is at its worst, if you do this when the shed is just starting it won't be as effective.
You will need:
- bathtub with warm water available and a hose/sprayer attachment (detachable shower heads are great as long as the hose is long enough, especially if they have adjustable streams)
- soft rubber curry comb (like a Grooma, ZoomGroom or similar) or grooming mitt (rubber mitt with nubs on it)
- good-quality dog shampoo, diluted by at least half
- cream rinse , diluted by at least half (if desired, I've found that as long as you don't use too much, it doesn't soften the coat, but does give a nice finish to the hair)
- grooming spray (optional, I use the Crown Royale Magic Touch Grooming Spray Formula 3 (for double-coated breeds)). Grooming spray is quite useful, since the better ones retard dirt and help the coat come back to its proper texture faster
- non-slip rubber mat (to provide grip in the tub – many dogs hate baths in part because they slip all over the place, which makes them nervous)
- slicker brush, pin brush, comb
- a collar and leash to use in the tub (if needed), and a supply of treats (which you will feed to the dog liberally throughout the process – Vallhunds in particular seem to think that nothing can be too bad if there’s treats involved)
Step 1: take the dog outside (if possible) and brush with the curry (or mitt) in the direction of the hair, do this as vigorously as your dog will accept (do NOT make this an unpleasant experience, if you start gently and gradually increase the pressure, most dogs accept it well and many even love it – it feels GOOD). Comb off the loose hair. Then “scrub” in gentle circles (you just want to loosen the undercoat). Comb off loose hair. Repeat this a few times until you’re only getting a little hair out.
Step 2: place rubber mat in tub, place dog on mat (with collar and lead if needed), wet the dog thoroughly with warm (NOT HOT) water. Do not half-fill the tub and stand the dog in it, I know many people advise this but I've never found it to be helpful and it can make some dogs more stressed than they might otherwise be.
Step 3: starting from the neck, put a zig-zag line of shampoo down the dog's back. Massage it in and decide if you need more shampoo (you'll be able to feel where the shampoo is and where it isn't, but you won't normally get as much lather as you get with human shampoos). Put a bit of shampoo in your palm and apply it to each leg. Be sure to shampoo the longer hair on the backs of the hind legs, under the tail (if your dog has one), the stomach, and the chest. If you intend to shampoo the head, leave it until you're ready to rinse. Take your rubber curry comb or grooming mitt and rub in a circular motion (start gently and increase pressure gradually). Think of this as a massage, take your time, scrub everywhere except sensitive areas (not under the tail, not the lower legs or feet, not the face, etc), you can usually scrub well on the back and sides, but be more gentle on the stomach and chest (pay attention to your dog's reactions and don’t make him uncomfortable).
Step 4: do a quick rinse with warm water (just get the worst of the lather off), and either add more shampoo (if your dog is really dirty) or cream rinse (if you're using it). Scrub a bit more, shampoo the head (if you want to: take some lather in your hand and gently apply it to the head, avoid the eyes, ears and nose). Rinse the head first if you shampooed it (point the dog's nose upward and rinse from the nose back, to avoid lather and water going up the nose), then rinse from neck-tail, top-bottom. Be sure to rinse the groin and “armpits” very well, these areas tend to trap soap. Scrub gently with the curry comb (or grooming mitt) as you rinse. Rinse until the water runs clear, then rinse some more (most people don’t rinse anywhere near enough – and this makes dogs itchy and uncomfortable and can attract dirt) – try to rinse for about five minutes at least. Allow your dog to shake (blowing gently on the nose will usually precipitate a shake if your dog doesn't shake the second you let him), towel dry, let him run around for a few minutes (inside, where it's warm and draft-free – this is your entertainment for your hard work!), spray with grooming spray (if desired), give him a quick brush with the slicker, then let him run around to dry (if it's warm outside, take him out, but keep him on clean grass, and NOT freshly-mowed grass unless you want a green dog!).
Step 5: when the dog is dry, repeat step 1: scrub gently with curry comb/grooming mitt, brush with slicker, comb through, repeat. If you repeat Step 5 a few times, you should end up with the worst of the shedding dealt with.