Your Guide to Grooming

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Grooming is an important part of your dog's health program. "Grooming" is a word used to describe shampooing, drying, hair cutting, nail trimming, ear cleaning and anal gland expression. Mats are removed and dead hair brushed out. Not only does grooming make your dog clean and odor free, but it also stimulates the blood supply to the skin, giving your pet a healthier and shinier coat.

Grooming can also help you bond with your pet, but you need to know what's involved. You may be able to perform some grooming, but want to leave the tougher aspects to a professional. Or you may find that you have the right knack to do it all. Here are some things to think about:

Who Will Do the Grooming? The first question to ask yourself is do you do it yourself or find a professional? The answer to this question lies in the time, money and equipment that you own to groom and the cooperative personality of your pet. Please see the related article on how to find a professional groomer.

How Often? That all depends on your pet. Factors include: his hair coat, hair length, how often he gets dirty, where he lives (if he is indoor or outdoors most of the time), shedding cycle, and any underlying skin problem (please see our related article, "Top Medical Reasons for Grooming Your Dog"). Some dogs need baths only a couple times year while others need weekly grooming. It is beneficial to brush your dog about twice a week. Bathing your dog every month or two isn't unreasonable, but some dogs will need more frequent cleanings. A good rule of thumb is to bathe your pet only when his coat gets dirty or begins to smell "doggy."

When Do You Start? Start regular grooming when you first bring your dog home and make it a part of his routine. Praise your dog when he holds still and soon he will come to enjoy the extra attention. Get him used to having his paws handled while still a puppy. Once you start using the nail trimmers, go slowly: Try trimming just a few nails in one sitting. Maintain a regular schedule and be persistent. Your pet will eventually develop patience and learn to cooperate.

What Tools Do You Need? That depends on your dog's hair type and length. Purchase a good-quality brush and comb and get your dog used to being handled. Types of hair coats include a long double, long silky, short smooth, short double, short wiry, curly or hairless. Some breeds have special grooming needs, so ask your vet or a professional groomer for advice on particular equipment necessary for your pet. Certain grooming supplies (see related articles) work best with the different coat types, such as slicker brushes, curved combs and rakes.

If you decide to handle all aspects of grooming, you need to know how to thoroughly take care of your dog's hygiene. The following gives you a good description of what good grooming is all about.

Brushing and Combing. Many dogs maintain a healthy skin and hair coat with minimal assistance; others – especially some longhaired or curly-haired breeds – require regular brushing. For most dogs, a good brushing once or twice a week will keep the hair coat in good condition and minimize shedding all over your house!

Dealing with Mats. Removing hair mats is fraught with potential complications. Many mats are firmly attached to the skin, so you must be extremely careful not to cut the skin as you cut off the mat. Many small mats can be removed with a thorough brushing. If mats remain, try to make the mat smaller by brushing the hair near the mat. Once you are sure that the mat can only be removed by cutting the hair, then go for the scissors. Clippers are the safest and best way to remove matted hair. Unfortunately, most people do not own clippers and must make do with scissors. Be very careful. For severely matted pets, it is easier and safer to see a groomer for professional help.

Clipping. This is best done using a professional clipper. Follow instructions that come with the clippers. Keep blades sharpened. Clean blades with a professional lubricant. Every breed has "standards" for how they should look. For your dog's "standard", consult a book at the library for pictures or pay attention to how your pet is clipped when he comes back from a professional groomer. Do not use any sharp objects like scissors around you pet's eyes and face.

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