National Dog Day. Let’s have a bath!

According to Dogster it’s National Dog Day. Awesome! I love my furkids like crazy so why not give them a day of their own? In honor of NDD I’m going to tell you a little something about grooming. 

Did you know I used to be a groomer? Yep. I started out as a bather at one of the big-name corporations, then they sent me to their grooming school. I learned how to do breed-specific grooms and how to make mutts look good. Here’s an example: if your fluffy dog is bowlegged, you can cut the fur shorter on the outside of the legs and leave it longer on the inside. That should create the illusion of straighter legs for your buddy. Tadaa!

There were two books that I used quite a bit. One was the book they gave me during the school: Notes From the Grooming Table. It’s really handy in that it shows you the breed standard cuts and explains how to do them. The other one I bought on my own- The Mutt Styling Guide.  I really like this book because honestly, most of us have mutts. It shows you how to groom your dog’s type instead of specifying breed cuts. There are different examples for wire-haired terriers, poodle mixes, and spaniel mixes. I mean there are tons of other examples of course, but those are the big ones I’ve had to deal with- the doodles and the poos.

Want some hints on keeping your dog from shedding all over your house? Here you go.

If you have a double-coated dog (shepherd, chow, or husky), you’d do well to get yourself either a rubber curry brush (like a Zoom Groom) or a deshedding comb (like a Furminator or shedding blade). You might even want to get both.

First wash your dog. I like to wet the dog down first. Try not to get the dog’s head wet til the end; if you get water in his ears/on his face he will shake more.  You may want to put cotton in his ears, but if you’re careful you don’t have to. Then I put on a conditioner. Yes, conditioner before the shampoo! Use the Zoom Groom or your fingers to massage it into the dog’s skin and coat. This helps loosen the old hair. Don’t put conditioner past the dog’s neck, the head doesn’t need conditioning.

Next is shampoo time! Use a tearless puppy shampoo on your dog’s head, and an oatmeal or hypoallergenic shampoo for the rest of the body. Your dog may not have sensitive skin but why chance it? This way you’re more likely to avoid itchies later. Tip: put as much shampoo as you would use on your own head into a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. You don’t need nearly as much shampoo as you think, and most dog shampoos are meant to be diluted anyway.Spray the dog down with the shampoo and suds him up. Massage time! Most dogs enjoy this part even if they don’t like rinsing.

When you have the dog well soaped, start rinsing. Start at the head and try to avoid getting soap or water in his eyes. You don’t like it so why would your dog? You will get wet, because your dog is going to want to shake when his head is wet. You’ll live, I promise. Then start working down the dog’s neck and back.  I find that I get the best results with the shower setting on my hose, and then hold the hose close to the dog. Most dogs seem to get creeped out by having the water rain on them and tolerate it better when the hose is actually touching their body. Make very sure you get all the soap out! When you think you’re done, rub your hands quickly over various parts of your dog. If you see bubbles, rinse again. This is also why I do conditioner before the shampoo. Conditioner is really hard to rinse out. If you shampoo after you condition you still get the hair-loosening effect, but the shampoo helps break it down and rinse it out more easily.  Places to check: the armpits and stomach. You may think you got it all, but I usually don’t manage to, so double check!

When you’re finally sure the dog is rinsed off, it’s time to get dry. I use at least two to three towels on Chuck, who is about 80 pounds and has a medium-length coat. I also am lucky in that I have a high-velocity dryer. If you have one of these, great! Don’t use it on your dog’s head or privates, and actually put the blower on your dog. Don’t hold it a few inches away, your dog won’t like it. Plus you get more power if it’s actually touching the skin. Don’t use a regular human hair dryer on your dog! Dog dryers are made so that they don’t blow heat. Your dog’s skin is fragile and more sensitive than your own, and it’s harder to tell when you’re burning someone else as opposed to your own head. If you don’t have a high-velocity dryer it will take longer, and might use more towels, but your dog will eventually be dry.

When the dog is finally completely dry, it’s brushing time.  If your dog is the least bit damp you won’t be able to get as much fur out, so be patient. If you’re taking your dog to a groomer for a deshedding, tell them you want your dog completely dry before they start brushing, too. If you’re doing it yourself, get your rubber curry brush and your deshedding tool ready. I also like to have a plastic bag so dog hair doesn’t blow all over my neighbor’s yard. It may be easier for you if you leash or tether your dog first. Start with the curry brush and go to town! The curry brush will help loosen the top coat and if it has fingers like a Zoom Groom, it helps loosen the undercoat too. You can brush with or against the grain with the curry brush. I like to do circles. Hair tends to grow/shed from the neck to the tail, so you want to follow that. You’ll find a lot of loose hair towards the hindquarters. When you feel like you’ve done a good job loosening/removing hair, brush over the dog a few times with the lay of the hair (neck to tail) and get ready for the deshedding.

If you have the type of shedding blade that is a loop of metal with a serrated side, just start brushing your dog with the lay of the hair. This type of brush is good for longer-coated dogs like long-haired shepherds and Malamutes. It’s good for pulling long topcoat out. If you have a medium-coated dog with a dense undercoat, a Furminator may be your next bet. Make sure you only go with the lay of the hair with these types! One issue I have with the Furminator is that a lot of dogs don’t like it. It is actually a blade and if you aren’t careful you can hurt the dog, or even give it bald spots. Ken used a small Furminator on my cat once and when he was done, Catcat looked kind of motheaten. So be careful! Go slowly and gently over bony parts like the spine and chest. Pay special attention to the neck and the area around the tail. If your dog has “pants”, like a Sheltie or an Aussie, you can carefully brush over the backs of their legs. Remember though, that’s a sensitive spot! Be aware of your dog’s tolerance level. You may find you get giant handsful of hair with the Furminator. Good! That’s that much hair that isn’t ending up on your living room floor!

When you (or your dog) are done with the shedding blade, go over the dog again with the curry brush, with the lay of the hair.

Your dog should be shiny and relatively shed-free for a day or so.  It may seem like your dog is shedding even more after a couple of days. Actually it probably is! Bathing, massaging and brushing the skin and haircoat stimulate growth. That means that new hair is pushing the old hair out, which means shedding. Use the curry brush every few days or so and it should taper off for about a month, depending on your dog’s breed, what you feed him, and what the seasons are like.

Some dogs like huskies and shepherds “blow” their coat seasonally. That means they have a winter and a summer coat, and they shed a lot during those times. It’s just something you have to live with if you have that type of dog. Regular brushing and deshedding should help keep hair at a tolerable level in your house.

Hopefully you’re able to keep your dog looking great without paying a groomer $50 a month. If you end up going to a groomer anyway, please remember how hard it was to do the job yourself! That’s why they charge the way they do.

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Good luck on keeping your house hair-free!

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