Do the words “Spring Cleaning” make you roll your eyes and think of The Stepford Wives, bleach, and enormous rubber gloves? If the answer to this is yes, you’re not alone. Although it is common and often necessary to look at giving our homes an extra deep clean at this time of year, other aspects of our lives could potentially benefit from a good spring clean too. This 3-part series looks at a few facets of our lives where a little extra TLC could be worthwhile.
Part 1: Grooming Dogs
During the wetter and colder months, dogs tend to get more dirty, more frequently. If your pocketbook is still feeling a little light after the holiday season, making extra visits to the groomer may not be a practical option. To keep your dog healthy and smelling fresh, a more intensive session of at-home grooming may be the answer.
Don’t Give Brushing the Brush Off
Although a relatively simple task, the benefits of brushing shouldn’t be ignored. Brushing is excellent for your dog’s coat as it removes any dead hair and avoids mats. It also helps to distribute the natural oils within the coat, which keeps the coat healthy and looking good too. Most dogs are quite happy to be brushed, but the frequency and duration will depend on the dog’s breed – some will require extensive brushing as part of the daily routine while others will not need brushing as frequently or for as long. Check what is required for your breed, but also bear in mind that brushing is a fantastic way to bond with your dog, so you may want to brush him more frequently than the bare minimum requirement.
Unlike people, dogs do not need a daily bath. Experts recommend once a month (unless there is a medical condition), as more frequent bathing strips the coat of the natural oils necessary to keep it shiny and healthy. Never use shampoo or conditioners designed for humans. There are plenty of dog shampoos on the market that have been specifically formulated to avoid irritating your pet’s skin, to remove dirt but not the important oils from their coats, and to be easily rinsed from the fur.
After removing your dog’s collar, clean your dog’s ears with an ear cleanser before placing her in the bath, and then gently place cotton balls in her ears to keep them dry during the bathing process. Use warm water, checking the temperature on your own skin first and then thoroughly saturate the coat. Shampoo the dirtier areas first, working up to the head last, using your hands to massage the skin through the coat. Use a washcloth to remove dirt from the face. Rinse your dog’s head first and then work down the body, keeping water and shampoo away from the eyes and face where possible. When you rinse the shampoo from the coat, ensure that you rinse all of it out thoroughly to prevent itchy skin. Following up with a leave-in conditioner can be helpful so the coat is more manageable and so it doesn’t get dirty again too quickly. Comb out your dog’s fur while it is wet to prevent tangles – you may find that a detangling spray will help with that also.
Drying your dog after a bath can be a challenge, as some dogs (mine included) may enjoy the bathing process, but hate the feeling of being wet after a bath. One way is to take the natural drying approach, allowing the dog to shake the water from his coat and then letting the coat air dry. Impressively dogs can shake about 70% of the water from their fur in this way. If you don’t want that amount of water sprayed around your bathroom, towelling your dog dry is probably the way to go. For those that cannot even tolerate the towel-dry wet feeling, following up with a hair dryer is helpful. Not all dogs enjoy having a hair dryer blown at them, so if it is a new experience for your dog, introduce her gradually being sure to keep heat and air moving over the entire dog and not concentrated in one area as that could be uncomfortable or even burn skin. If your dog resists the hair dryer or is visibly fearful, just stick to the towel method.
Keeping Those Pearly Whites Clean
Ideally, brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of your daily routine. Use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs – do not use human toothpaste as the fluoride is toxic to dogs. In the real world however, no matter how much we love our pets and want the best for their health, incorporating daily brushing of their teeth into our hectic schedules often doesn’t happen. There are other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath fresher. One way is to give your dog raw bones, which are excellent for a dog’s teeth, but never give chicken bones or other fragile bones that can splinter easily. Dental treats can be used as an alternative to regular treats. Be careful of weight gain in your pet if using these, as some are quite high in calories.
If your dog’s breath smells bad, there is plaque still building up around the gums, your dog has lumps or bumps in the mouth or bleeding gums, or you have other concerns with your dog’s oral health, you should turn to a veterinarian for assistance.
For some dogs, walking daily on a sidewalk is sufficient to keep nails at a decent length until a visit to the groomers is possible. For others, this just isn’t sufficient, but many dog owners are fearful of trimming their dog’s nails in case they do it incorrectly. If your dog has regularly had his nails clipped from a young age, he is probably quite comfortable with the procedure. Talk to your vet about the best way to trim the nails so that they remain at a manageable length in between groomer visits. Don’t forget the dewclaw, if your dog’s breed has them.
A buzz cut or bangs?
This is another area of dog care that many owners prefer to leave to the professionals, especially if your dog’s breed requires hand stripping. Again, depending on your dog’s breed, you may be able to tackle some trimming at home, so talk to your vet about how frequently your dog needs its fur trimmed and by how much. If you are feeling brave and decide to have a go, make sure clippers and scissors are sharp, choose a location without distractions and remember that many dogs will get restless quickly, so make it brief.
Lots of self-service dog wash stores have opened up across the United States over the last few years. These are more expensive than washing your dog in your own home, but are considerably cheaper than taking your dog to a groomer. Self-service dog washes give you the convenience and ease of using professional-grade grooming equipment to groom your pooch effectively – you can often grab a latte there too!
Wherever you choose to do it, grooming your pet is not only good for the dog’s health and hygiene but provides a great bonding process between owner and dog. Regular grooming enables the owner to be aware (more quickly) of any health changes that their pet is experiencing. So, Mom was right about spring cleaning, to not only keep your dog fresher and healthier, but hopefully by your side for that bit longer.
Why don’t you share any tips you have for making grooming a fun experience for you and your pooch?