Grooming | Bathing
Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like, never washed a dog. –Franklin P. Jones
Regular grooming sessions do more than keep your puppy or dog clean and healthy. They strengthen your bond with him and allow you to check for any abnormalities. Grooming will vary according to breed, but you should regularly check the condition of his eyes, ears, teeth, skin, paws, and nails.
Brushing and Combing
Most puppies and dogs enjoy being brushed and combed, especially if you hold the skin tight with one hand and brush with the other, so it doesn’t pull. Shorthaired breeds should be brushed two to three times a week, while longer-haired breeds require daily brushing. Using the right tools for your dog’s coat will making grooming easy. Shorthaired dogs need a soft or medium bristle brush, rubber curry or grooming glove, and a fine-tooth comb. Medium length hair, woolly coats, or curly hair should be groomed with a wire pin brush and wide-tooth comb. For longhaired dogs, use a soft-natural bristle brush and a wide-tooth comb.
All dogs need proper nail and foot care. Nails that are not kept short will grow too long and become irritating and painful to the dog. It can also cause the feet to splay (spread) and nails can curl around and grow into a dog’s pads. Most dogs, especially those kept inside, will need their nails clipped regularly. Dogs that walk a lot on a hard surface, such as a concrete run, usually keep their nails worn down to an acceptable length. For small dogs and puppies, use scissor-type clippers. For medium or large dogs, use either the guillotine-type nail clippers or large scissor-type nail clippers.
To clip the nails, hold your dog’s foot and gently push down with your thumb at the base of each nail. This will cause the nail to extend slightly, making it easier for you to see the nail. Trim each nail at a 45-degree angle away from the dog so that the newly cut nail is flush with the floor when they walk. There is a blood vessel, called the quick, in each nail. Do not cut the nail so short that it cuts into the quick. It will bleed and could be painful to the dog. If this happens, apply a styptic pencil or direct pressure with gauze to stop the bleeding. The pinkish color of the quick is easy to see in dogs with light-colored nails, but almost impossible to see on dogs that have dark nails. Shine a bright penlight through the nail to locate the quick from the underside of each nail before you begin clipping. Cut each nail back just a little at a time until you get close, but not up to, the quick. For dogs with dewclaws (the fifth claw on the inside of the leg), trim just like any other nails.
It is important to care for your puppy or dog’s teeth with routine examinations of his mouth and brushing his teeth. Plaque forms continuously on the teeth, and if not removed, it will mineralize and turn into tartar. As the tartar builds, the plaque will continue to accumulate and infect the gums and the roots of the teeth. Untreated, this infection causes the gums to recede and teeth to loosen and eventually fall out. It can also cause or worsen other conditions such as diseases of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Provide your puppy or dog with something to chew on that will act like a scraper and help prevent tartar buildup. There are dental toys made specifically to aid in the removal of plaque. Feeding a nutritionally balanced dry kibble and dog treats will also help exercise the teeth and gums. However, these measures won’t sufficiently clean the teeth enough to prevent dental disease. Your pet’s teeth should be examined and cleaned by your veterinarian on a regular basis. Between professional cleanings, you should clean your pet’s teeth at home. If you start when he’s young, it will be easier to get him used to it. Your pet’s teeth should be brushed as often as possible, ideally every day. There are various toothbrushes, sponges and pads available at most pet supply stores. The choice of what to use depends on the health of your pet’s gums, the size of his mouth, and your ability to clean the teeth. There are also toothpastes made specifically designed for pets that have ingredients that continue to work in the mouth even after brushing. Consult with your veterinarian on which product would be the best for you and your pet, and for instructions on how to use the product correctly and safely.
Eye and Ear Care
During your grooming sessions, check the condition of your puppy or dog’s body, especially the eyes and ears. The eyes should be clear and bright, and free of any red spots, heavy discharge, or other abnormal conditions. A slight buildup of mucus in the corners of the eyes is not abnormal. This discharge can easily be cleaned away with a cotton ball moistened with warm water.
Check your puppy or dog’s ears at least once a month, or more frequently for longhaired dogs since they are more prone to ear problems. Trim away any excess hair that might prevent air from getting into his ears. Check the ear canal. If it is sensitive to touch, has a foul odor, or is red or inflamed, see your veterinarian. Ears should be cleaned once a month, or more often if your dog has a history of ear problems. There are special cleaning solutions for this purpose, or you can use a cotton swab soaked in mineral oil or alcohol. Clean only the part of the ear canal that you can see; otherwise, you may damage the eardrum. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a cleaning solution and have him/her show you how to clean your dog’s ears properly.
In the past, it was suggested that frequent bathing of your pet would damage the coat. However, modern pet shampoos are designed for dogs of all ages and coat types, and enable the owner to bathe their pet as often as desired or needed. Hair coats differ in density, length and texture among breeds of dogs, and even among individuals of the same breed. Experts suggest that you choose products that clean the hair and skin without stripping them of their natural oils. If you are not sure about how often to bathe your dog, consult with your veterinarian. Here are the steps to bathing your dog:
Thoroughly brush or comb your puppy or dog to remove dead hair, dirt, mats and burrs.
Gather all your supplies and keep them within arm’s reach. If you are bathing your pet indoors in a bathtub, place a rubber non-slip mat on the bottom of the tub to keep him from slipping and moving around on the slick surface. Pets can get nervous if they loose their footing and may try to jump out of the tub.
Protect your pet’s ears by placing one or two cotton balls in each ear as a barrier should any water accidentally get in the ear canal. If the pet has floppy ears, press the ear leather (flap) against the ear to help keep the water from soaking the cotton. If the pet’s ears stand up, cup your hand over the opening of the ear while wetting and rinsing. Protect your pet’s eyes by placing a small drop of sterile eye ointment or mineral oil in the corner of each eye to provide a protective film. This will keep soaps and chemicals from irritating the eyes.
- If you need to lift your dog into a tub, make sure you lift him in properly to avoid injury to you or your dog. Place one arm under the chest in front of the dog’s front legs, and place and other arm behind the rear legs just under the tail. Keep your upper body upright and lift with your legs, not with your back.
- Wet the hair coat thoroughly all the way to the skin. The temperature should be lukewarm; not too hot or too cold. Shampoo works best with lukewarm water and your pet will be more comfortable if the water is somewhat warm. Hold the spray nozzle as close to the skin as possible, about one inch from the coat. This will allow you to get the deepest penetration of water into the coat without frightening the dog. Start with the hindquarters and work to the front of the pet. The head should be the last thing you wet, and the flow of water should be gentle and not directly sprayed into the pet’s face. Slightly lift the face so that the water runs down the back of the head instead of into the eyes or nose. Use your hand to help move the water around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Once wet, apply the shampoo and lather as you would your own hair. Start with the hindquarters and work to the front of the pet, leaving the head for last. Make sure you work the shampoo through the hair to the skin; don’t just wash the top of the coat. A rubber brush can be used on breeds with shorter hair to help work the shampoo down into the coat. For a pet with especially long hair, massage the coat in the direction of hair growth so the hair doesn’t tangle. A tearless shampoo may be used on the face. Be sure to read the directions on the bottle of shampoo for the best results.
- Wash areas that need special attention: between the pads, under the stomach, under the tail, under the neck, in facial wrinkles, and the ear leather. A rubber brush can help remove feces or other matter that may be clinging to the hair.
- Rinsing is the most important step, as any leftover shampoo will dull the coat and cause skin irritation. Check the temperature of the water. Begin rinsing with the head and hand rinse the soap from the face. Continue to rinse the rest of the pet using your free hand to knead the soap out of the coat.
- Apply a moisturizer, if needed. Moisturizers are designed to seal in the moisture from the pet’s own skin. These can be used on a regular basis for pets that are prone to dry skin or dandruff. In most cases, the solution is massaged into the skin after bathing and left on the coat.
- Once you are done bathing and rinsing, squeeze the excess water out of the coat with your hands. Then dry the pet with a towel to remove excess moisture. Do not vigorously rub the coat of a longhaired dog (to prevent tangles). Shorthaired dogs can have their coats dried in a circular motion. Remove the cotton from the ears and use the towel to absorb any moisture in the ear. If a hair dryer is used, make
sure it is set on a cool (not warm or hot) temperature setting as dog hair is flammable. When working on the head, never direct the flow of air into the pet’s face.