If you’ve got a dog, we probably don’t have to tell you that they can be a lot of work (although they’re completely worth it!). Along with a proper diet, plenty of exercise, lots of love and regular visits to your veterinarian, grooming is an important factor in responsible pet guardianship and will help to keep your pet in tip-top condition.
Grooming is more than washing your dog’s fur and giving it a trim. It’s a head-to-toe spruce up and it’s the perfect opportunity to make sure that everything looks clean and healthy and for you to learn what is normal for your pet. And although some pet guardians opt to leave grooming up to the professionals, it’s a task that is not as daunting as you may think and it offers a valuable bonding opportunity between you and your pet.
Here’s a helpful guide that will walk you through the steps of a thorough groom and tell you what you should be on the look for during the process.
Brushing your dog not only removes excess fur and dirt, but it also helps to prevent tangles and conditions their coat by spreading their natural oils. Your pet’s coat length and type will determine how often you should brush and what type of tools are appropriate. Work your way from your dog’s head to his tail and make sure to brush all layers – not just the top one. Brushing is a convenient time to check your dog’s fur and skin for signs of fleas, ticks and other external parasites, lumps, bumps or scratches that may need veterinary attention.
After Fido’s had a good brushing, it’s time to suds him up! Choose a shampoo that’s appropriate for your pet’s age, skin and coat type (don’t forget to check for animal – and earth-friendliness). Secure your pet in a non-slip tub or basin, then get to work. Most dogs are not huge fans of bath time, so work quickly, but gently and use plenty of praise throughout the process (treats help, too, as does an additional set of hands!). Be sure to keep water and shampoo out of your dog’s eyes, ears and mouth. Luckily, your pet may not need a bath as often as you may think, as washing too frequently can actually dry out their skin. Once a month is sufficient for most breeds.
Ears should be checked regularly to make sure they’re clean and healthy and grooming time is a perfect opportunity to do so. With a gentle touch, inspect the inside of your dog’s ears. A healthy ear will appear light pink, with no signs of debris or irritation. If your dog’s ears look dirty, you can clean them with a cotton ball dampened with hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil or a specialized ear-cleaning solution. Don’t ever stick cotton swabs or any other objects into your dog’s ear! If you notice discharge, swelling, redness, odors, hair loss or dark brown or black wax, this could indicate a problem and you should seek advice from a trusted veterinarian.
Trimming a dog’s nails is often the most unnerving step in the grooming process – and for good reason. If you trim a dog’s nail too short, they can bleed, but if you don’t trim them often enough, he’s at risk for problems like a nail break, infection, or an altered gait. The trick to becoming a nail trimming pro is to teach your dog to associate nail trims with things he loves, like toys, treats and lots of positive praise. This guide will walk you through each step of the process and offers some helpful tips and tricks. And while you’ve got your dog’s paws in your hand, don’t forget to give them a quick once-over to inspect the pads and spaces in-between the toes. Don’t expect too much from yourself or your pet right away. It may take a few tries for you to get the technique down and for your pet to feel comfortable with you handling his or her feet.
Almost as daunting (and for your dog, as dreaded) as nail trimming is teeth brushing, but it’s extremely important to your dog’s overall health. Some experts say it can add up to two years to your pet’s life. To keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, regular brushing (aim for at least three times a week) is recommended. We know … easier said than done, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be! With the right plan and a little (okay – maybe a lot) of patience, your dog can learn to tolerate this important habit. Like nail trimming, teaching a pet to tolerate having his teeth brushed is a gradual process. Start with getting your dog accustomed to having his mouth touched, then work your way up to actually brushing with a brush and paste. Remember to only use dental products that are approved for use in dogs, though, as human products can be very harmful to them.
There you have it – all you need to know about grooming your dog. It doesn’t sound too hard, right?
Pet guardians, are you a DIY groomer or do you let the professionals handle that task?
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