Grooming at Home

“Look good, feel good.” It’s true not just for humans but canines too. Grooming is much more than having a clean and pretty dog. Apart from taking care of hygiene and shedding, grooming also works on their psychological well being and comforts them. Although the extent, frequency and nuances of grooming changes with the needs of each breed, it is absolutely essential for all dogs. 

Before we get into the nuances of the entire process, here’s a bit of our “free advice”. Start grooming your pup early and let him get used to your touch. This will help avoid nipping and biting when they become fussy teenagers. Also, don’t forget to use treats while you’re at it. It will make the process slightly less annoying if not pleasurable for the dog. Here are some of the parts that need extra care and some quick tips to keep them healthy.

Care for the ears

Ears are one of the most sensitive parts of a dog’s body and are easily prone to infections. Water clogging and wax buildup are what need to be watched out for and avoided. While cleaning them, make sure to not use any water whatsoever. Use a cotton swab to wipe the pinnacle with gentle upward strokes without going in too deep. If the hair around the ears is hindering the efficient cleaning, get them trimmed by a professional groomer on a regular basis.

Stay vigilant about excessive wax, constant wetness, pus, redness, inflammation, rough inner surface, parasites or foul odour. In case these are observed, contact the vet immediately and have your dog checked. 

Care for the eyes

Who doesn’t love looking at those bright twinkling eyes? They’re the signs of a good, healthy and happy dog. To keep the sparkling pair healthy, wipe  them daily with a soft cotton cloth removing all mucus, dust and dirt. If the fur is obscuring the vision, get it trimmed by a professional regularly. Also, if your dog is one to love putting his head out of the window while travelling, eye care and cleaning becomes all the more essential. 

Some dogs have a reddish brown discoloration near their eyes. These are tear stains caused by  clogging of ducts and lead to excessive tearing. You might want to get the condition checked for what is causing the blockage. 

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Care for the teeth

Although cavities in dogs are rare, about 80% of them begin to develop dental issues related to plaque and tartar buildup by the age of four. That is why brushing the teeth weekly or biweekly is very important. Along with water and a toothbrush, use a dog toothpaste as the human grade ones aren’t suitable for the canine and may do more harm than good. 

It’s the back and front teeth that have the most tartar and plaque is found under the gum line. Yellowing of gums and excessive bad breath are early signs of tartar buildup and need to be looked out for. In terms of diet for good teeth, use hard treats as the soft ones mix with saliva and increase tartar. If you notice stains on teeth even after brushing, there’s a chance that dental scaling may need to be done.

Dental Care

Care for the nails

Active dogs easily wear the nails out but for less active or older dogs or dogs who spend most time on smooth surfaces, regular trimming is required to prevent in-growth. Grown nails also cause discomfort in walking and increase the tendency to slip. The D’claw (the one that does not make contact with the ground when the dog is standing and often appears like the thumb when you compare it to your own limb) doesn’t get worn out and may cause injuries if not trimmed. If you hear a clicking noise when the dog walks, you know it’s time for a trim. 

It’s ideal to get it done by a professional  as it can lead to unpredictable bleeding from the blood vessel inside the nail. You can see this vessel as the dark, opaque and slightly pink part of the nails in light coloured dogs. It is not superficial in dark coloured dogs but can be seen as a tiny black dot in the centre in freshly trimmed nails. 

Nail image of a dog

Care for the coat

The coat is the first thing that gets noticed about a dog and is a clear reflection of his health. Thus, caring for it is more than just bathing your four-legged regularly. It also involves brushing and combing the fur frequently. Coats come in a variety of lengths and textures each of which have different grooming requirements in terms of times,brush and frequency. The central idea is to remove the dead hair and so keep the skin coat clean and soft with a good shampoo. 

Brush Types

Long coats

These are typically where the hair is 3 inches or longer and are found in German Shepherds, Irish Settlers, Pomerians, Spitz, Lhasa Apso, Afghan Hounds, Cocker Spaniels and St. Bernards. They call for daily brushing for about 15 to 20 minutes. They are of three types namely the parted, double coat and single coat.

A parted coat is where the fur falls on either side of the body leaving a line along the spine. You can see this in Afghan Hounds and Shi Tzu. A double coat has a shiny under coat and a harsh upper coat. Rake the under coat also removing the matts and tangles. Use slicker brushes with wire pins to comb in the direction of the hair after parting it. Single coats have no under coat and are heavy and thick coats that can be combed with stiff pin brushes. 

Medium coats

The hair in these coats is about 2 to 3 inches in length and don’t matte easily. They require about 5-10 minutes of combing every day. Labradors have this type of fur. A pin and bristles brush is preferred to comb in the direction of the growth. The pin side loosen the dead hair dry dead cells on the skin whereas the bristles remove it. Post brushing, wipe the fur with a wet towel and remove the dust and loose hair. 

Short coats

These coats typically have a hair length of half to 2 inches and require minimalistic care. They are found in Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, Boxers and most Indies. Combing them once in two or three days also suffices when it’s not shedding season. The style of combing remains the same as that for medium coats.

All of this might seem like too much. Don’t worry. Take it one step at a time. If you have any queries or inputs, leave them in the comments section. The end result – not just a clean, healthy and happy dog but also a great bond with him. Happy Grooming to you!

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Shalaka Mundada is the owner of PetSitters, a premium pet boarding facility in Pune, India.

Founded in 2008, PetSitters largely works in the field of Dog Kenneling, Pre-Pet Consultations, Pet events & Dog Behavior Modification Programs. Shalaka is a certified Trainer, Behaviourist & Dog Aggression specialist from John Rogerson’s Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour, UK. She has also completed her Kennel Management Course from Shirin Merchant Canine Can Care, Mumbai.