Grooming for Health and Happiness
As much variety as there is in dogs, there is variety in grooming. Terriers are usually stripped (not clipped) and Poodles can be scissored or clippered. Then you have the smooth coats that require only occasional baths (on special occasions, like the day that your dog meets Mr. Skunk) and smoothing with a hound glove. Assuming that you have a clear idea about the coat your dog has, the following can be helpful as well as the last section on the general needs (that are often overlooked) in the grooming of dogs.
All coated breeds, dogs with more than a smooth coat, benefit from regular brushing. Some require it once a day others once a week. Factors such as coat texture (silky and fine tend to mat more easily than coarser hair), and length (longer needs more attention), condition (dry coat will mat easily so trim it off) and curl (curly hair mats easiest with wavy not as bad and straight least likely). Some coated breeds do require trimming. This is typically those breeds who's hair continues to grow, such as Poodles and ShihTzu and Lhasas. Those whose hair grows to a length and only that length, like Collies and Newfoundlands, do well with regular brushing and baths usually. If you are unsure, a groomer can easily offer suggestions on a grooming approach, trim and schedule that will keep you and your dog happy. All long-coated breeds benefit from the careful trimming of the hair on the bottom of the feet.
Now, as to the stuff that many dogs hate (partly cause the people doing it hate it) that often gets overlooked and is potentially hazardous to their health. This would be ears, nails and anal glands.
Check the ears of your dog regularly. Especially if you have a flop eared breed as they are prone to ear infections because of the moisture that can be trapped in their ear canal. Ear mites, which are very contagious, can spread from one dog to another, creating an environment in the ear canal that is an oasis to yeast and bacterial infections. Not that mites have to be present for such things to occur, but they do create a favorable environment for the infections and an additional component of treatment. Keeping the ears clean (your vet or groomer can show you how) is important to the health of your dog. If you use the training approaches outlined elsewhere in this site, you will make life easier for everyone. After all, if it is difficult cleaning the ears of your dog, can you imagine what it will be like to treat them when the ear hurts?
Trimming nails is a real indication of the relationship you have with your dog. Consider, the dog that melodramatically gives in, the dog that struggles because they don't like to be forced into anything, the dog that gets fearful and makes it into a desperate affair as owner is convinced the dog might snap and dog is convinced that owner will take off a toe. In the midst of all this, many dogs will cooperate or even be more than simply cooperative. The secret is behind a couple factors. First, making it fun (which means you have to be willing to take time to make it interesting, perhaps only doing one nail a day paired with a game as you build up to doing all the nails) and, second, making it safe (make sure you know what you are doing so you don't cause pain). If it is so simple, why doesn't everyone do it so? Well, people tend to be in a hurry, and most people assume it is going to be horrible and the dog ultimately agrees! People also tend to do it far less frequently than it needs to be done, creating more of an ordeal for all involved (and more likely to quick the dog) when it is done.
Anal glands need to be expressed regularly. How regularly varies with individual dogs. This is something that should not be casually attempted because it is very easy to cause serious injury if done improperly. Generally, dogs that are very lean and athletic (think Greyhound or Whippet) will often be more likely to need to have their glands expressed than heavier built dogs (like a Labrador). This is a generalization but certainly many dogs have lived entire lifetimes expressing their own anal glands when they eliminated. The pressure of the muscles did the work and provides that lovely floral fragrance. Actually, the emptying of anal glands causes many people to gag. If you are of squeamish disposition, it is likely something best for you to leave to your groomer and/or veterinary staff.
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