Simple, safe tips for grooming your canine
I took my dog Coca, our rescue German shepherd, to the groomer to get her nails cut and on the spur of the moment idea, a bath. The groomer took her to a huge wash tub to "brush her first." Since German shepherds shed all year round, Cocoa was never at a loss for losing her hair. The groomer turned on a blower and aimed it at my dog. A snowstorm of dog hair filled the room. Dog hair was in the tub, on the floor, on the groomer and in the air. All of this from a dog who was brushed twice a week. After the blower was turned off and the storm ended, the groomer said to Cocoa, "There. Does that feel better?" Cocoa smiled and looked as if she did.
Grooming our dogs is part of our responsibility of having a companion animal. Regular grooming helps build the bond between our dogs and ourselves. It also helps us monitor the condition of their skin, fur, eyes, teeth, ears and nails. Both the Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offer recommendations on grooming our dogs which include bathing, combing, brushing, trimming nails, cleaning nails and controlling external parasites.
Using a shampoo formulated for pets is best when bathing your dog. Human shampoos aren't toxic to pets but may contain substances or fragrances that can irritate your dog's skin. Choose a shampoo specifically formulated for your species of animal, as some ingredients may be harmful when applied to different types of pets. Consult your veterinarian for a shampoo for your dog's specific needs.
Before bathing, give your dog a good brushing to remove all dead hair and mats. Put your dog in a tub or sink that's filled with 3-4 inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose to wet your dog, being careful not to spray water in his eyes or ears. Shampoos and soaps can be major irritants to your dog's eyes, so protect his eyes during bath time. Ask your veterinarian for a sterile eye lubricant to use during bathing to protect his eyes from the shampoo.
Avoid shampooing your dog's head. Rather, use a wet washcloth to remove any dirt or debris. To protect your dog's ears and avoid getting water in them, place a large cotton ball in each ear until the bath is over. Using a spray hose or a shower head with a long hose enables you to control the flow of water during rinsing. If you don't have a spray hose, try a large plastic pitcher or unbreakable cup. Working from head to tail, gently massage in the shampoo dog's head. Then rinse and repeat if needed. Finish up by drying him thoroughly by rubbing him with a towel.
Regular grooming also includes nail trimming and brushing your dog's teeth. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to nail trimming so it s a good idea to get your dog used to the idea before you attempt it. Rub your hand up and down his leg and then gently press each individual toe accompanied by lots of treats and praise. Within a week or two of this gentle foot massage, your dog may be feel more comfortable with a nail trim. Remember, if you trim nails to be careful of the vein and nerves in the nail.
Teeth brushing is another part of regular grooming. First, get your dog used to the idea of having his teeth brushed by gently massaging his gums with your fingers. After a few sessions, put a little bit of pet-formulated toothpaste on your finger to get him used to the taste. Next, introduce a toothbrush specifically designed for dogs. It will be smaller and the bristles will be softer than a human toothbrush. Apply toothpaste and brush.
Brushing and regular simple grooming procedures are day-to-day activities you can handle. However, you may want to take your dog to a professional groomer depending on the type of dog you have and your comfort level. You may not have the time, tools, experience nor physical ability to adequately groom your dog. Some dogs have their fur groomed into particular styles that require a professional. Or your dog may require regular or seasonal clipping, medicated or flea baths or matted fur which a professional groomer can provide.
Grooming our dogs does take time and effort. But I find brushing my dog calming for both him and me. Grooming helps to keep our dogs healthy and happy. That's what it's all about.
• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is a nonprofit 501(c) 3, shelter. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit www.thebuddyfoundation.org.