For many dog owners the word grooming means pompom haircuts, beribboned bangs, and doggy perfumes. Fine for little Fifi maybe but not for Andy, he’s all dog. However, Andy needs it too. Grooming is not just a matter of good looks though that certainly is a side benefit. A better word for it would be cleanliness.
It takes a few minutes a day to comb and brush a puppy’s coat and that will pay enormous dividends for his health and well-being. He’ll be less prone to parasites and skin ailments. He will look better, feel better and hold his head a little higher. There’s a bonus in it for you, too. Your house will be cleaner.
As with all good habits, the time to start is while your pet is young. Don’t expect too much of him in the beginning. He may try to play tug-of-war with the grooming comb or roll over to have his belly scratched or simply try to bolt for the blue. Keep at it; all dogs and puppies like to be given attention. In time, he’ll enjoy his grooming sessions.
How to Groom a Puppy
The equipment for grooming is simple. The basic tool is a wire slicker brush used to remove loose hairs and work out snarls.
For a long-haired dog you will also need a comb with widely spaced blunt teeth and a brush with long stiff bristles. For a short-haired dog a short-bristled brush or hound glove (a mitt made for grooming). For wire-haired breeds you should have a stripping knife. You will also need barber scissors and dog nail clippers. All of these are available at pet supply stores.
Place puppy on a table or bench to groom him. This will not only make it easier for you to work, it will make it clear to him that this is business not some new form of play.
At Friskies Research Kennels, table training is started with each individual member of a litter as early as four or five weeks of age and we have found that these brief sessions establish an important social bond between puppy and his handler.
You must, of course, be very gentle and reassuring. Talk to puppy, pet him and praise him as you work rapidly. First, go over his coat with a wire slicker brush to remove loose hairs and snarls. Follow this with a combing and then give him a good brushing to make his coat shine.
The brush alone will usually do the job for short-haired dogs but do not neglect their grooming; some of the short-coated breeds are among the heaviest shedders of all.
When your wire-haired or long-haired dog is shedding heavily you should run a stripping knife through his coat frequently to remove excess hair.
In fact, all wire-haired breeds should be completely stripped at least twice a year. This will help keep him cool during hot weather but don’t clip your dog too short in the summertime, that only makes him itchy, uncomfortable, and easy prey to sunburn.
You should trim puppy’s nails occasionally. If a dog’s nails grow too long they can cause his foot to splay or spread making it difficult for him to walk. It’s a good idea to have your veterinarian demonstrate nail clipping the first time and not to attempt the job yourself until the puppy is thoroughly accustomed to his grooming sessions.
Some dogs hate to have their nails clipped. Be very gentle and reassuring, and work for brief periods at a time. Use clippers made for animals and cut only the tip (transparent part) of the nail. Be careful not to cut into the quick because this can cause pain and bleeding.
The quick is apparent in clear nails but not in black ones. To be safe, clip only a little at a time. Don’t forget the dewclaws if they have not been removed. These vestigial toes have nails which, if not trimmed, may curve back into the flesh.
If you groom your pet daily or even several times a week, he should rarely need a bath. In fact, dogs under six months of age should not be bathed at all. Puppies are highly susceptible to respiratory infections and there is simply too much danger of chills.
If your pup gets very dirty give him a warm water sponge bath followed by a rubdown with a Turkish towel. There are also dry shampoos on the market that do a satisfactory job. Fuller’s earth or plain cornmeal rubbed into his coat are also good cleaning agents. Brush them out thoroughly, and then rub him down with a cloth dampened with warm water.
Even the older pup should be bathed infrequently. Dogs do not perspire through their skin so the dirt on their coats is external and superficial. Nevertheless, every now and then an adolescent pup gets into trouble that only soap and water can cure.
When that happens, roll up your sleeves and make it as painless as possible. Puppy’s first bath must not frighten him or he may be tub shy for the rest of his life.
The most important precautions are to protect his eyes and ears. Put a little Vaseline or a few drops of eye ointment (mineral oil will do too) in the corner of each eye to form a protective film. Be very careful to keep soap and water away from his ears which are extremely sensitive and prone to infection. Never wash them with water. If they need cleaning, gently swab them with cotton dipped in mineral oil.
Bathe puppy in a well-heated, draft-free room. Use warm water (give it the elbow test; remember that dogs are very sensitive to heat) with a mild soap or shampoo that will work up a good lather. Rinse very thoroughly, because soap can be irritating to the skin. Get him as close to dry as possible by rubbing him with coarse towels, and then keep him inside for an hour or two. This will keep him out of drafts, and also out of the nearest mud puddle or dirt pile his sure-fire target if he escapes your clutches.
While you’re grooming puppy keep an eye out for skin parasites. Regular combing and brushing will go a long way on the anti-itch battle but it is also important to keep his living quarters clean. Give his bed or kennel a good scrubbing and airing occasionally, and spray them with an insecticide. This attacks the critter’s breeding ground. These are the most common skin pests:
Fleas: Fleas hop around on a dog’s body to do their biting so it takes only a few to make him miserable and to start a flea colony. Don’t wait until the puppy is miserable from itching to wage war. Groom him regularly and at the first sign of an invasion use an insecticide spray or powder as recommended by your veterinarian.
Be sure the insecticide is labeled safe for dogs and don’t forget to spray his sleeping quarters too. Flea collars are not recommended for puppies. The collars contain pesticides that are fatal to fleas but might cause skin irritations and even worse for the young dog.
Ticks: Tenacious little bloodsuckers that bury their heads under a dog’s skin. They used to be strictly country pests but now they are widely prevalent in cities too, especially in the summer.
Female ticks are the vampires, When embedded they look like warts or flat blackish-brown seeds which become swollen when filled with blood. While grooming puppy run your hands carefully over his body. If you find a tick, first saturate it with alcohol then grasp it close to the dog’s skin with tweezers and pull it out very carefully.
Make sure no part of the embedded head remains to cause an infection and spray puppy’s living quarters.
Mites: Too small to see but the signs of infestation are the same as for other pests frantic scratching or biting and chewing on the coat.
Mites are the most dangerous of all the skin pests because they introduce the unpleasant and serious skin disease called mange. Danger signs to watch for are small skin lesions, scabs, itching, inflammation, thickening of the skin, or extreme shedding of hair.
One variety, otodectic mange, affects the dog’s ears. Symptoms include discharge, carrying the head at a strange angle, and scratching or shaking the head.
Mange: Difficult to treat and impossible for the amateur to diagnose. The key to the cure is early treatment. Don’t delay if your dog has a puzzling skin irritation. Get him to the veterinarian.
This quick comb and brush treatment is part of common garden variety grooming designed to keep puppy’s coat clean and healthy. But there are some breeds that take more time and skill and in some cases professional help in their beauty treatments.
Any self-respecting Pomeranian, Pekinese, Lhasa Apso or Shih Tzu will expect to have his handsome fur brushed and brushed and brushed. The Yorkshire Terrier spends half his time having his long, silky coat primped to perfection.
Some of the wire-haired terriers have a much more spit-and-polish appearance if they get an occasional professional trim. And there’s always the Poodle! He can be clipped in as many styles as a topiary garden.
But the dog beauty parlor is not for a puppy – not quite yet. Meanwhile, get him used to the comb and brush. If he does turn to the professional later on, he’ll always need home grooming because even the dandiest dogs get dirty.
About the Author:
Imad LB is a huge animal lover and a passionate writer. He loves to write about dog behavior, health issues, dog tips, and advice. When he’s not working on his site Howpup.com, he’s out walking his two dogs.