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How to groom a dog

Posted by: Tim Berrisford  Date: 25/04/2014   Category: Owners Guides

Grooming your dog is very important as it helps them stay clean and healthy. If you don’t groom your pet, they’re likely to develop some sort of infection. It’s not always the easiest of tasks, but if you do it regularly your dog will get used to it and might even look forward to it. Just remember that if you stay calm, the dog will feel at ease and the odd belly rub or tasty treat for sitting still sure won’t go amiss either.

Brushing 

First of all, your dog needs to be brushed thoroughly, as you’ll need to get all that excess hair out. There’s no point washing the dog before you do this; any mats in the fur will just expand and become impossible to tackle. Matting must be dealt with, otherwise bacteria can grow between the hair and the skin, which could lead to a yeast infection. Severe matting can even result in the skin being pulled away from the muscle. Try to brush out any mats you come across but if you can’t get them out with a brush, shave or cut them out instead.

It’s recommended that you start brushing from the neck downwards, ending at the tail. You can use any type of brush you want on short-haired dogs, but you might want to use a pin brush on dogs with longer hair. If your dog needs their fur trimmed regularly, you can do this yourself by investing in a good dog clipper.

Once you’re all done, praise your dog and give them a treat for sitting still and behaving well.

Eyes

Some dogs need their eyes cleaning more often that others. Long-haired pets might even need the hair around their eyes trimmed every so often, but don’t do this yourself – get a vet or professional to do it instead. Have a good look at their eyes and make sure they aren’t red or irritated. If they are, seek advice from your vet immediately.

Just like humans, dogs can get sleep dust around their eyes. This should be cleaned away very gently, either with your finger or something soft like a cotton ball. If you have a dog with white fur, you might notice that the underneath of the eyes are stained. This is perfectly normal, but can be cleaned up using a tear stain removal product.

Ears

It’s also important to check up on your dog’s ears every so often. A normal ear might contain some wax and shouldn’t smell. If there is a strange smell coming from the ear, or it looks red or black in colour and swollen, your dog might have an ear infection. Again, you should take your dog to the vet straight away if this is the case.

Before cleaning your dog’s ears, you should heat up the cleaning solution like you would a baby’s bottle. This is because it needs to be at body temperature, as a cold solution will hurt the dog. Once it’s warmed up, put a little on a cotton ball and gently wipe away any dirt or wax inside the ear. Be careful not to go in too deep, or you’ll hurt your pet – just stick to the visible area. Don’t rub the ear too much either, otherwise you’ll create sores.

Bear in mind that dogs generally do like having their ears cleaned – so it might be tricky to get them to sit still. Praise them each time they do and give them a small treat at the end.

Teeth

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 per cent of dogs have periodontal disease, which is caused by a build-up of food and plaque. To prevent this, you should try to clean your dog’s teeth at least twice a week. You can use an ordinary toothbrush to carefully clean your pet’s teeth, but be sure to only use toothpaste that’s suitable for dogs, otherwise you might poison them. Plus, dog toothpaste usually tastes of meat, making them much more likely to enjoy the process.

If, however, they really do resist the toothbrush, you can always try using finger brushes instead. These are like rubber caps that go over the ends of your fingers. You then rub the dog’s teeth gently to remove any plaque. Dogs generally prefer these to toothbrushes. It’s also worth bearing in mind that certain treats can help keep plaque at bay, such as dental sticks and frozen bones, which you can usually get from your local butchers.

Nails

Many owners don’t like cutting their dog’s nails as they are scared they will hurt them. However, if you let them grow too long it will cause your pet a lot of pain, so it’s important to keep on top of them. You might find your dog naturally wears their nails down by running or walking on hard surfaces or digging. Others might need them trimming every week. Either way, each time you clip their nails, be sure to only clip a very small amount off. If you go too far down, you’ll hit the blood vessel which will hurt the dog and put them off having their nails trimmed again. Don’t let this put you off though; if you do make a mistake just put pressure on the wound to stop it from bleeding. As long as you only take a small amount off, this shouldn’t happen.

Bathing

Now it’s time to bath your dog. If it’s the first time you’ve done this, be aware that your dog might not like the sound of running water. Don’t worry though, it’s easy to get them used to it. Just reassure them throughout the process and take small steps at a time. Don’t force your dog to do anything it doesn’t want to do, you’ll only stress them out. You can choose to either wash them in the bath or outside, whichever is easiest for you.

First of all, use the shower head to wet the dog’s fur all over, then start to shampoo your dog – beginning at the neck and working downwards. You’ll only need to use your hands to do this, unless your dog has very thick hair, then you might want to use a brush to ensure the shampoo gets everywhere. Only use shampoo designed for dogs, as human products may cause them harm. Once you’ve shampooed your dog’s body, carefully start doing its head. Try not to to let any soap suds get into their eyes, nose, ears or mouth.

Once that’s done, rinse all the shampoo out, making doubly sure that no soap is left behind. Leaving shampoo in can cause red, itchy spots to appear on the dog’s skin. Next, you’ll probably want to dry them with a towel to stop them from shaking water all over the house. You can leave them to dry naturally if you want though; just make sure you dry their feet, otherwise they could develop fungus. Some people dry their dogs completely by using a hairdryer. If you are going to do this, remember to keep it on cool, as the hot setting might dry out the dog’s fur and skin.

Grooming your dog needn’t be a chore. Your dog will feel a lot better for it and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your dog is happy and healthy. Try not be over-zealous with bathing though; you should only really wash your dog once a month. Brushing and other check-ups should occur more often, but this is down to your dog’s individual needs.