DIY Dog Grooming

A clean dog is a healthy dog. When one raises the issue of dog grooming, people tend to get an image of show dogs being given more care than a celebrity at a spa. While the term can certainly mean this, it also means just taking basic care of your dog by keeping them trimmed and clean. 
 
Is Grooming Really Necessary?
 
Is grooming necessary for your dog? Many dog owners believe it is not for some odd reason. There is an ongoing belief by some people that certain breeds just magically do not get dirty. This simply is not the case.DIY dog grooming
 
Every dog needs to be groomed. Even just brushing the dog is helpful. It spreads the natural oils present in the coat throughout the hair to keep it healthy. You will also find and remove burrs, foxtails, and discover whether your pup is infested with any ticks, parasites or other critters. 
 
The real question is how often should you groom a pup? Certain dogs with long coats of hair like Shih Tzu need it frequently while short hair breeds such as Boxers can go far longer.
 
Do It Yourself
 
Can you groom a dog on your own or do you need to take it to a professional groomer? You can always handle the grooming on your own although there will be a learning curve if you are trying to create a show dog.
 
For the basic family dog, the dog should be brushed once a week. There are two reasons for this. First, it keeps the dog's coat free of tangles and allows air to flow through it. Two, it gives you an opportunity to closely look at the pup's skin to see if there are any areas of concerns such as hot spots or rashes. 
 
Although breeds will differ, most dogs should be bathed at least once every two months. Doing so gets at the dirt deep down in the coat. This dirt can gum up the coat, which needs to be free so that air can circulate through it. 
 
One area where most people fail when it comes to grooming is the teeth. Imagine if you never brushed your teeth? They would be black and nasty. Now go look at your pup's mouth. Lots of black and nasty stuff, eh? You need to take care of this and brush the teeth of your pup once a week. This tartar actually contains tons of bacteria that can get down into the stomach, kidneys and other organs to cause a host of health problems. Using teeth cleaning chewable items helps, but is no substitute for getting in there and cleaning out those teeth. 
 
Finally, you need to clip the nails of your pup once a month. Nails? Why do you have to worry about the nails? If nails get too long, your dog will change its walking gait. This can lead to hip and joint problems as the "out of alignment" dog can put stress on areas of the anatomy not designed to take it. Trim nails once every two weeks to keep them in good shape. 
 
Your Gear
 
When grooming a dog, always use products intended for dogs. This is particular true of shampoo. A dog's coat of hair has significantly different characteristics than those found in human hair. If you use shampoo intended for a human on a dog, the shampoo will often strip the coat of essential oils. This leads to massive tangles, rashes and itchy skin your dog may chew on as it tries to relieve the itch. 
 
If you desire to use flea or tick shampoo products to treat your pup, make sure to read the directions closely. Most need to be left in the fur for 10 minutes or more before they are effective. Just applying the shampoo and then washing it out as we do as humans will most likely not be effective.
 
Trimming Hair
 
Should you trim your dog's coat? It can be trimmed a bit to get rid of anything unsightly, but any type of major shave that removes most of their hair should be avoided. The problem is one of anatomy. 
 
Many dog owners shave their pups in the summer because they believe doing so helps cool off the dog. This is actually incorrect. A dog does not evacuate heat by sweating through its skin like you and I do. A dog gets rid of heat by panting and through the ears and paw areas. Shaving the dog does not help cool it down. If anything, the full coat acts as an insulator to keep the dog cool. 
 
If you remove the hair, your pup will actually be more uncomfortable. Remember, the skin under their hair has never been exposed to sun and has no protection against sunlight. Sunburn is an immediate concern, but heat stroke can also be a serious risk.
 
Different dog breeds also have different types of coats. Some dogs have a single layered coat while others actually have a double coat. As a general rule, you should never trim the underlying coat of a dog with a double coat. 
 
Rolls of Skin
 
Certain breeds need a bit more care than one might expect simply because of the nature of their skin. If your dog has rolls of skin, then you need to brush and clean those rolls every week to avoid infections, parasites and skin problems. Such breeds include Pugs and Bulldogs
 
Acclimating
 
Most dogs need to come around to the idea of being groomed regularly. The way around this is to condition them to enjoy it by grooming them as soon as you get them as a puppy. Brush them daily and then wash and trim them on a specific schedule. They will get use to the routine and then be fine when you groom them as an adult. 
 
Ew! Ticks
 
Chances are, your dog is going to be bitten by a tick sooner or later. Ticks are a form of mite and look like small spiders. They bite your dog and suck blood out of the pup. The tick will actually inflate and become many times larger than their normal size. Once it has its fill, the tick will drop off naturally. 
 
If you find a tick, you need to remove it as soon as possible. The problem is disease. Ticks can transfer diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to your pup. Both can make the pup miserable and eventually kill it. 
 
You may have heard the best way to remove a tuck is to burn it. This is one of those commonly held beliefs that are simply wrong. Will a flame kill the tick? Yes. But what about your pup? How do you think they are going to feel with a flame blazing away a millimeter from their skin? Not sure? Grab a lighter and give it a try. Doesn't feel good, eh? 
 
Here's how to handle the tick. Grab a pair of tweezers and clamp the tick at the head where it connects to the skin. Pull the tick off and drop it in a sandwich bag. Apply rubbing alcohol to the pup's skin where the bite occurred followed by an anti-bacterial lotion. As for the tick, poor a bit of rubbing alcohol into the bag and submerge the tick in it. The alcohol will kill it. 
 
Here's a video showing you how to do the removal.
 
 
Ew! Anal Glands
 
Now the fun part. Ever wondered why dogs sniff each others butts? The rear end contains anal glands that have a distinct scent. Every time your pup passes a stool, the anal glands should fire to leave a "signal" as to who created the particular piece of dog poop art. This signal comes in the form of a brown liquid. The odor can only be described as something that will make your eyes water and not in a good romantic comedy kind of way. We are talking seriously nasty stuff. 
 
Modern domesticated dogs have problems with their anal glands. To be blunt, they don't express nearly as much "signal" as they should when stools are passed. This causes the glands to swell with pressure. If your dog rubs its butt on the floor or tries to nip around the anus, it has this problem.
 
As the groomer, your job is to "express" these glands to give your pup relief. First rule is you never stand directly behind the dog. The last thing you want is any of this juice hitting you. There is no saving a shirt or shorts if this stuff gets on them. For this reason, you should also only try this in a shower or bathtub. 
 
Okay. Here we go.
 
Grab some gloves. Stand off to the side of the rear. Lift the tail and imagine the anus is clock. The anal glands should be at the 4 and 8 o'clock positions. Reach up and massage…oh, let's just watch a vet do it.
 
 
 
Older Dogs
 
Older dogs need to be groomed with much more care than young pups. The first thing to consider is whether the dog has any health ailments you need to take into account. For example, a dog suffering from hip arthritis needs to be given something with grip to stand on while being washed. If they are put on a slippery surface such as a bathtub, they may slip and suffer severe damage to a joint. 
 
Another area you have to be careful with is drying a dog. Older dogs should be dried with a towel only if at all possible. Hair dryers may be quick, but older dogs can sometimes have trouble with too much heat. Yes, even when just coming from a hair dryer. 
 
Emergency Grooming – El Skunko
 
Sometimes you need to groom a pup and NOW!  Yes, I am talking about when your best buddy gets sprayed by Pepe Le Pew – the skunk. The stink could make Satan himself weep. So, how do you get the smell off? 
 
The first thing to understand is the smell comes from bacteria. Given this, you need something to destroy or neutralize the bacteria. Common remedies people will helpfully suggest include:
 
  • Vinegar,
  • Tomato juice,
  • Ketchup,
  • Lemon juice,
  • Mouthwash, and 
  • Some other folksy suggestion.
 
Vinegar and mouthwash will help to the extent they kill some of the bacteria. They will not get rid of the smell completely, however. To do that, your best bet is to mix:
 
  • ¼ cup of baking soda,
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent, and 
  • 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. 
The dog should be bathed in the mixture. Make sure to get all the way down to the skin. Avoid the eyes as the mixture may produce a burning sensation. Once done, discard of the mixture as it can't be stored and then wash off the dog with warm water. Now wash the pup with a scented shampoo and the pup should be good to go. 
 
Going Pro
 
Should you ever use a professional groomer? Sure. Doing so is a heck of a lot easier than doing it yourself, but you have to pay of course. Still, groomers have the specific tools needed to do the grooming correctly and you don't have to worry about a wet dog doing laps around the house on your expensive carpet. 
 
The next question, of course, is how do you find a good pet groomer? There really is no perfect method. The best we can suggest is you ask around to see who other dog owners use. You can then check review sites such as Yelp to see if the groomer has positive or negative reviews from customers. 
 
Final Thoughts
 
Does it make sense to groom a dog regularly? Absolutely. Every dog needs to be groomed, but it doesn't need to be a hassle. Just make it part of your routine. The pup will start to associate the act as time to be with you and usually will come around to the idea of being taken care of. 
 
After all, don't we all like to be pampered? 
 

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