Dog grooming: How to take care of your dog’s coat

Posted by Coco Dolci. November 25th 2013.

Grooming your dog is very important to maintain a clean and untangled coat.  This is essential for your dog’s comfort and to prevent a dirty and matted coat from causing and possibly masking, some skin problems, which could affect your pet’s welfare. A neglected coat can have an unpleasant smell, which means you will also benefit from keeping your dog clean and well groomed.

Daily grooming of your dog from an early age is a useful element of their training.  It allows the dog to become used to being handled all over the body meaning that it will be less likely to object as it becomes older. It is also a very good way to bond with your dog, as the extra attention and soothing repetitive action of being brushed can be very comforting.

Grooming is not just about looking after your pet’s coat, you should also pay attention to the eyes, ears and tail which, when groomed properly can help avoid problems, such as fungal infections.

grooming your dog with a hairdryer

Different grooming techniques for long-haired and short-haired dogs

It is important to understand that different breeds of dogs require different levels and types of grooming; it is important to find out what is right for your dog.

Short or wire haired breeds will need less intensive grooming as their coats are easier to look after. This is because they tend to become less tangled, however they will still moult and need regular brushing.

Longer haired breeds or those with double or thick coats or curly hair may need daily grooming as they will tangle more easily. Dogs that have longer coats need more attention as sticks, grass, seeds and mud tend to get caught up in their fur. Hair around the eyes will need to be cut regularly to maintain good vision. If your dog is not the type who likes to have his or her coat brushed, you should persevere – they will soon get used to it.

Even hairless dogs need some special attention by applying sunscreen before being taken out.

Many breeds of dogs, such as the West Highland white terrier, require regular haircuts at a pet groomers to keep their coat in a particular shape.


Grooming your dog - West Highland Terrier

Make room to groom

It can be a messy job, particularly if you pet is malting, so designate an area of your home to do the grooming in. A doggy salon, if you like.

Utility rooms or garages are a good idea – places that are easy to clean and don’t have too many soft surfaces.

Different strokes

Pick the right brush for your dog. For short coats, choose a rubber brush and a bristle brush. For longer coats, use a slicker brush and start very gently to remove knots before moving on to using a bristle brush.

When should you use a professional dog groomer?

  • To maintain the aesthetic look of certain breeds a professional cut may be required.
  • Some wire haired breeds, e.g. border terriers, may feel cooler and look smoother coated if they are professionally stripped out i.e. have the warm undercoat removed.
  • Professional clipping may aid some of the thicker coated dogs in the summer months.
  • Longer haired dogs will be more easily kept clean if a professional groomer trims them in the muddier months.
  • If time is an issue, then the occasional visit may be beneficial for a busy owner (or for the owner who has a lack of equipment or has physical impairment).

Grooming your dog - Retriever having a bathWhen to bath a dog

Dogs may have a certain “doggy smell” that is not really noticeable on a daily basis but sometimes a bath is necessary. There are no hard and fast rules for how often you should bath your dog, if their coat is clean and shiny and they do not smell then there is no need to bath them. Every one to three weeks should suffice. Make sure you use a dog shampoo as they have very different skin to humans. Inappropriate bathing can actually do a dogs skin more harm than good due to the natural oils being washed away.

Some dogs do have a tendency to roll around in things we may consider very unpleasant, such as fox or horse faeces which will force a rapid bath.  If they are simply muddy, then a full bath is not required every time, as a wipe down with a damp towel may be all that’s necessary.

Dogs with a persistently smelly coat or unhealthy looking skin may benefit from a vet check-up to ensure there is not an underlying cause.

It is best to use a mild pet shampoo, unless your dog has a particular condition and has been prescribed a medicated shampoo. Always use warm water, never very hot or cold.  Be prepared to get wet, as dogs will often have a good shake several times during the bathing process!

When bathing your pet be careful to keep shampoo out of the eyes. Also make sure the dog is thoroughly rinsed afterwards and dried with a towel; if necessary, use a hairdryer. It is best to keep your dog indoors, somewhere draught-free and warm, until thoroughly dry so as to prevent any chills, especially with the very old and very young.

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