Grooming is a practice that should begin as soon as a puppy/dog is brought into your home. It is very important to get your dog used to being touched around his/her face, mouth, paws, tail, ears and belly. Remember that your dog will be handled by a veterinarian for routine examinations and will routinely have to submit to nail cutting, ear cleaning and other hands-on vet related services. Grooming also reduces allergens and helps to lower the risk of infections and diseases.  

Over time your dog will perceive daily combing and brushing as another form of attention and affection, and even the most resistant canines will come around and begin to enjoy the personal one-on- one session. Here’s a trick I like to use: once a dog is housebroken, I brush them for a few minutes before we go out to play. As a professional trainer, I’m often asked how to groom a dog that freaks out every time they see the brush. I always recommend taking “puppy steps”. Start by simply using your hands instead of a brush. Always work with your dog when you’re calm and relaxed and IN THE MOOD. If you are stressed and irritated, your dog will definitely pick up on it and also become agitated. Try holding a chew toy in one hand to distract your dog while you start by stroking with your other hand. Then start using the back of a brush by covering the bristles with your hand, again while distracting your dog with your other hand. I am very against the use of what is referred to as a “slicker brush.” For those unfamiliar with this term, it is a brush with bent, pointy, pin-like wires that should be used by professionals. It may work great on a poodle with a full coat but can be extremely irritating and even painful to a short-haired dog or young puppy. If you hurt your dog while trying to teach him to appreciate being groomed, well …you get the picture.

Get your dog used to dental cleanings by using your finger first if necessary. There are tooth brushes for dogs that are actually made to cover your index finger much like a plastic finger cot and brushes for small to large breed dogs.  Tarter that builds around the gums and causes gum disease can also lead to major medical issues like heart disease. Talk to your veterinarian about professional cleanings fro your dogs teeth and how to do home care. Only use toothpaste made for dogs. No one likes “doggy breath”.

If you have a hair coated rather than fur coated breed of dog, like a Maltese, Poodle, or Shih Tzu, you are probably all too familiar with the tearing stains that pool around their eyes. Please do not pull at it when it’s hard, dry and crusty. A little warm water on a cotton pad will easily and quickly soften and remove the debris in the corner of their eyes.

 Ears and nails are two things that you should discuss with your vet. Dogs’ nails have what is called a “quick” and if you cut the nail too short it will bleed; and not just a little! It is also painful for your dog. Make sure you have “styptic powder” on hand. It is available at all dog supply stores and will stop any bleeding from nails. Of course, it’s much easier to see the quick on pink nail than on black ones. If you would rather not cut your dogs’ nails yourself, you can have a vet tech or professional groomer do it for a nominal fee and probably without an appointment.  There is a tool known as a Dremel specifically made for filing your dogs nails. It is not expensive and is rather easy to use. I prefer to cut a small amount of nail and then finish with the Dremel. This method reduces the chance of cutting your dog’s nails too short and smooths the nails to reduce scratching your wooden floors. 

Cleaning your dog’s ears is not the same method used to clean human ears. Please have your veterinarian show you the proper way to do it, to insure safety and health. Breeds like Poodles, Spaniels, Maltese, Beagles or any breed with long floppy ear, especially long coated dogs, require more ear cleaning and care.

It should be noted that some years back it wasn’t uncommon for people to bathe their dogs only once a year. Personally, I like to bathe my dogs, which have hair and not fur, at least every other week and use a super gentle, lavender no tear shampoo and conditioner; making sure I comb the conditioner through the hair. I prefer bathing my dogs in a bathtub and using a hand held, Waterpik-like hose,  where I feel that they are safe and it’s easier and less messy. Filling the tub with water is not recommended.  Want a good tip from a professional groomer? Do not bathe a dog with matted hair.The mats will get worse. Here’s another tip; add warm water to make a mixture of half water, half shampoo. It will be easier to put on and to wash off.

However, even if you’re doing all of the above, nothing replaces a good professional grooming. Your dog will look good, feel better, and smell great!

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