Are you keen to try your hand at grooming your own dog? Read on for an in-depth look at home grooming written by guest contributor and Shi-tzu expert Adam Conrad.
One of the considerations when choosing a canine companion should be the ongoing health and hygiene of the dog. While there are plenty of professional grooming services available to help keep dogs clean and happy, it is entirely doable to take care of a dog’s needs entirely at home, with just a little preparation.
Regardless of whether a professional grooming team is being used or not, brushing regularly is a necessity for all dog breeds. The frequency of brushing and the type of equipment used will differ by dog – determined largely by the type of coat the dog has – but brushing should be done once a week at minimum. It is important to ensure that brushing happens regularly, to prevent the fur from tangling and matting, and to help stimulate the dog’s scalp.
Brushes – The three common types
While there are a wide variety of brushes available, the needed basics are simply a comb and a brush. A medium toothed comb is a good general comb and will cover a fair number of breeds. For a dog with a thin coat, a fine toothed comb might be more appropriate, while a dog with a thicker coat will generally called for a wider toothed comb.
As for brushes, there are three common types, each suited for a different type of coat. For a general all-purpose brush, a slicker brush is a good starting point – usually a brush with short bent wire bristles arranged on a rectangular bed. For a dog with short hair, a curry brush may be more helpful, generally a brush with short rubber “bristles” that help keep the skin clean and reduce shedding. For a breed with a long single coat, a pin brush will be best, resembling a human paddle brush.
How often a dog needs to be bathed
The frequency for how often a dog needs to be bathed depends on both a dog’s coat and the dog’s relative activity levels. A dog that spends its days indoors or walking around well-kept parks will generally need to be washed less frequently than a dog that goes hiking and camping outdoors with its owner. As a general rule of thumb, baths should occur around once a month.
For the bath itself, a dog can either be washed outside using a bucket and hose or can be washed inside using a tub (or sink, if the dog is small enough). For most dogs, a general pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner made for dogs will suffice. After a thorough brush, the dog can be shampooed and conditioned as with human hair, taking care with both the soap and water around the dog’s face, paying special attention to keeping water out of the ears and eyes. The dog should be rinsed completely until the water runs clean, then towel dried. It can be helpful to keep old towels on hand for bath days, but any towels will work. There are dog hair dryers available that can be quite helpful, but human hair dryers will also work when set to a “no heat” option. While the dog may be left a little damp to air dry, it should be after a vigorous towel drying, and the dog should be kept inside while drying, to keep dust and dirt from clinging to the wet fur.
Unlike with dental hygiene, a dog’s nail trimming regimen will be more like the bathing schedule, dependent on a dog’s activity level and the amount of time spent outside. The more time a dog spends outside, walking on surfaces such as cement or asphalt, the more likely the length of their nails will be kept at least partially in check by the regular walking on an abrasive surface. As a dog gets older, their nails will also grow at a slower rate and require less frequent clipping. Until the frequency needed with a specific dog has been established, nail length should be checked weekly.
As for the tools needed for this step, it is best to invest in a pair of dog nail clippers rather than using human nail clippers. There are two main types of dog nail clippers, scissor clippers and guillotine clippers. Scissor clippers, as the name suggests, are a type of nail clipper that work like scissors. They are generally better made and cut more cleanly with both surfaces providing sharp cutting.
With either type of clipper, a dog must be acclimatized to having its nails clipped. Many dogs are severely stressed by having paws restrained and nails clipped, so it is important to start a gentle process of desensitising the pet to this handling and rewarding them for allowing it. Once a dog is comfortable with their paws being handled, the nails can be clipped. The dog’s paw should be lifted, and firmly but gently, pressure should be placed on the pad of a toe and on the skin above the nail, so that the nail is extended. The nail can then be clipped straight across. Extra care should be taken not to clip past the curve of the nail, so the quick is not cut.