When considering what to use for your dog’s grooming needs, I would recommend looking at your dog’s breed, coat type, daily activities and lifestyle, and lastly your dog’s own personality.
In general, the more you brush your dog the less you have to bathe them because you are stimulating the skin cells and helping to spread healthy oils over the dog’s coat making it more dirt resistant and of course shiny. I try to use shampoos that use coconut oil and are not detergent based and I found a fabulous Tea Tree and coconut oil shampoo that is made by NuVET (http://www.nuvet.com/94215). Buddy Wash/ Conditioner is another brand Lavender and Mint is my favorite scent of theirs. Other shampoos that I have found and like are: High Cascade 4 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner which has cedar, citronella, patchouli, eucalyptus oils for bug deterrents and Emu oil for softness; Vet’s Best Allergy Itch Relief shampoo which has citrus extract, citronella oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil and neem seed oil (which is a bug deterrent); and for skin that has bumps all over it and sores from itching bumps I highly recommend BPO 3 shampoo. I also try not to over bathe my dogs, bathing only once every 8 weeks or so – unless we visit the beach. Quick tip to conserve shampoo and make bath time MUCH easier > pour small amount into a second bottle and then pre-dilute the shampoo with warm water before distributing it all over the dog’s body.
Breed & Coat Type:
Boxers, Weimeriner, Vizsla, Pug etc all have a very short coat type that most folks consider not to be brushed. Not quite true……they just need a different type of brush. I recommend a rubber curry comb (Kong makes a great one called Zoom Groom) similar in style to what you would use for a horse (only the horse one is metal) to help remove dead hair and stimulate healthy skin and coat development.
Long or thicker fur like what you would see on a German Shepard, Collie, Golden Retriever, etc do best with pin bristle brushes, metal slicker brushes, shedding blades and long combs. Some need the Furminator or a shedding blade but I need to caution you when using them: do not use it along their backbone as there is not very much, if any, undercoat in that area – just guard hairs. Guard hairs keep the coat more water resilient and the undercoat is the downy fur that insulates the dog from the elements, both hot and cold. The undercoat is what the Furminator pulls out and is located mostly along their back legs, butt, and chest or “ruff” around the neck. Try to use the Furminator lightly and sparingly because it can cause a type of razor burn if used aggressively or in a prolonged brushing session.
Dogs that have HAIR are definitely in a class of their own for grooming needs. Poodles, Bischons, Schnauzers, Doodles etc will need haircuts about every 6 – 8 weeks because they do NOT shed and their coats keep growing. The grooming brushes and combs that will be used are not used to pull out dead hair, rather to untangle and spread out or smooth out the coat instead. I still recommend the pin bristle and wire slickers and combs for these dogs but I also recommend that you pick up some sort of Mat Breaker tool – I used the small comb type on my Labradoodle. The mat breakers just slice through the mats that these dogs tend to get (especially around their ears, feet or tail) so that you do not have to cut the whole clump of mat off the dog that would leave an unsightly bald or empty spot. Quick tip on brushing dogs with hair…..try not to brush or comb from top to bottom. Think of that little girl with long wet hair, as you comb from the top of the head to the end of the hair, you gather and bunch knots along the way creating a big mess at the bottom. The same thing will happen with dogs or you’ll simply be smoothing the top hair and not really getting through to the hair underneath. Start low on the leg or foot and lift the hair up with one hand and gently comb the hair in small sections adding hair from the upper hand as you go. Work your way to the top and then you can use longer strokes to go from head to tail or top to bottom.
Daily Activities & Lifestyle:
If you are at the beach every day or several times a week, the salt water can be very healing for your dog. However you have to remember that hair mats easily when wet and floppy eared dogs are prone to yeast infections in their ears if frequently wet. I found a great product for ear cleaning and yeast prevention called “K9 Liquid Health Ear Solution”. It is about $15 for a large bottle and I recommend shaking it up, transferring a small amount into a small travel shampoo type bottle and work from the small bottle – storing the large bottle in a cool place. When you use the ear cleaner, shake the small bottle a little and then set it in a cup of hot water for a few minutes to warm it a bit (I also set in in the drain of my tub during the bath to warm it while I shampoo my dogs). Squirt a bunch onto a makeup cotton pad and then you can usually wipe out the dog’s ear without incident. If the liquid is cold the dogs tend to react adversely to it right away. If the dog has been swimming or has just had a bath, then you can prepare the bottle the same way and actually squirt the liquid directly into the ear canal and gently squish the base of the ear a bit and then let the dog flap out the excess moisture and dry out the rest of the ear with the cotton pad. The fluid is purple with gentian violet in it and will stain clothing so be careful where you use it. I usually flush the ears (for floppy eared dogs) about once a month or after each swim / bath and then just wipe out the ears as necessary throughout the rest of the month. Make sure you know what your dog’s ears look like normally so that you can recognize what is NOT normal.
Dark pink? Swollen? Black sludgy stuff in them? You probably won’t notice a real ear infection (yeast) until it is too late – the dog will be scratching, flapping or rubbing his ears, it may smell badly, or the dog may yelp when touched there. I have had some clients report that their dog snapped at them (seemingly unprovoked) due to the pain caused by ear infections so check their ears regularly.
Ticks and fleas are an issue for some folks and not others, so application of those preventative measures is a personal choice. I only use flea/ tick medication seasonally, but I check my dogs for ticks all the time. I have never seen fleas on my dogs where I currently live, but when I grew up I remember dealing with fleas all the time. I always encourage you to know what is normal for your dog’s body. Bumps? Lumps? Dark pigments? Rust stains at their toes (could be yeast due to allergies and licking). Poke and feel your dog all over on a regular basis and you will be much better at recognizing when the dog needs to see your vet for something new that appears. I always say…there is just petting your dog and then there is feeling your dog with intention: and see your vet at least once a year for their annual checkups even if the dog is not due for their shots. I also recommend just dropping into your vet’s office with your dog for a quick weigh in and treat so that it is a pleasant experience and not always something scary.
Personality is important because if you have a calm pup who tolerates everything you do to them you have no worries, but if you are like most of us who has a squirmy puppy that bites at the brushes every time they are groomed, there is some work to be done first
I try to desensitize my pups to being brushed by using a very soft bristle brush and alternate between the backside of the brush and the front bristle side of the brush with each pass on the dog’s body. I do not try to groom/brush the entire dog in one sitting. I vary the time and place of the brushing and add lots of treats to keep their mouths busy and associate a good feeling with being brushed. One of my clients told me they would smear peanut butter on the fridge and then let their dog lick it off while they brushed them – get creative and take it slowly and you will have that dog that gets excited to be brushed as an adult.
Trimming nails is an intimidating task and you do not have to do it, however someone will have to trim your dog’s nails. If you can start getting your dog used to be handled for that task, your groomer or vet will really appreciate it!! Start by exposing the dog to the nail trimmer or Dremel tool (not turned on at first) with lots of goodies and fun games. Then start tapping and flicking the dog’s nails with the tool (or touching the Dremel – again turned off – to the nails). If you do decide to trim the nail, ONLY trim the part of the nail that is slightly hooked or curved avoiding the “quick” or blood supply. Dogs with white or clear nails are easier to see the quick on but black nails can be tough. The quick area of the nail appears to some people like a hoof of a horse – the meaty section on the inner part of the hoof within the center of the shoe. If you try to trim your dog’s nails on your own, then PLEASE have “quick stop” styptic powder and a wet cotton pad ready to go in case you accidentally cut the quick. Dip the wet pad in the yellow powder quick stop and hold/pinch it onto the bleeding nail. The benzocaine in the product will help numb it and it also has clotting factors in it to stop the bleeding. Try to only trim one nail at a sitting so the dog doesn’t start getting nervous with each additional clip of the nail. I recommend the nail trimmer that is like garden shears with the nail guard on the back side of the moving blades – NOT the guillotine style trimmers. The guillotine style tends to be difficult to hold and bends the nail as it trims. The garden shear style is easier to manipulate, allowing you to hold the dog’s paws at different angles to get an easy trim.
My best advice is to use the right tool for the job and go slowly with each step of the process. Try not to groom the whole dog all at once when you start. Desensitize the dog to the process in small steps with lots of fun and treats and they will at the very least not fear the process – hopefully even learn to enjoy it all!