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Bath Time Magic (or at least some tips)
Mary Stacey of Jemar Pet Supplies
30 Years of Insight

to help you and your dog.

Many if not all pet owners at least attempt to groom their own pet prior to giving up and turning to a professional groomer. While some animals, particularly those with long or bushy coats, demand more in the area of grooming, even those that are smooth coated need grooming attention that is frequently overlooked by the owner. While many cats may seem to never require a bath, regular grooming which might be just a good brushing, ear cleaning and nail trim can be very valuable in maintaining health. A good bath will not only include time in the tub but also a good brushing (or in the case of very smooth coats, rubbing) down to help release dirt and loose hair as well as an ear cleaning, nail trim and at least checking the anal glands (on dogs). With this in mind, Mary Stacey of Jemar Pet Supplies offers some pointers to help us all out.

The type of brush is specific to the coat and your grooming ability. Ultimately the measure is how well the brush reaches to the skin and that it is comfortable to the pet. Many people opt for the slicker brush which is typically rectangular in shape with very sharp needle like tines that come out from the brush and then bend. This brush is actually quite ineffectual unless used with some knowledge. If it does reach down to the skin of the animal but with anything but the lightest touch, it will be very uncomfortable as it scratches the pet and pulls the hair. The best option for most pet owners would likely be a pin brush will balls on the tips. This brush, with its tines usually mounted in a rubber base offers some give and the pins blunt the edges as you brush. It is also very good for reaching into the hair. A comb can be effective and handy for many pets but it's typically most helpful in tidying up tangles on longer coated breeds.

To clean the ears, have cotton balls, cotton tips and a cleaning solution available. Pour a small amount (a few drops is often enough) into the ear and massage gently for a few moments. Removing the excess with the cotton balls and tips will bring any debris out with it. If there is alot of debris coming out with even the last bit of the cleansing solution, you will need to repeat. If the pet acts like it is painful, if the inner ear is inflamed, raw or oozing, you will need to have your veterinarian review the condition.

Trimming the toenails is often the bane of the dog and owner but it needn't be. If your companion has white nails, you can see where the quick begins as it will be pink. By not clipping the quick, your pet will not learn an unpleasant association with nail trims. If your companion has dark nails, as your vet to show you how to properly trim the nails. It's not more difficult just requires a somewhat different approach. Toenail clippers come in a variety of different styles, depending on your preferences and size of dog, some choices may be better than others so ask your vet, groomer or other pet professional for assistance if you aren't sure what to get or how to use it.

Selecting your shampoo can be a source of stress as the variety available is mind boggling. Flea Shampoos tend to be very effective in addressing the problem of those small parasites. If your dog has any allergies, verify that the ingredients in the shampoo (whether a flea shampoo or not) will not cause irritation. Even "Natural" varieties can contain allergens. An interesting fact is that virtually all shampoos will at least stun the fleas, allowing them to be more easily removed and rinsed away. By being sure to soap up all of the dog (between toes, behind the ears, between the legs, etc.) and allow the shampoo to sit on the dog for at least a few minutes (10 is the most you would likely want to do) prior to rinsing. Shampoos are also found to enhance color, improve coat quality and more. Many groomers find the shampoo to be less critical than a correct washing technique and thorough rinsing.

Now prior to putting your darling in the tub, get prepared. Have a towel, shampoo and any other bathtime equipment ready. You might also want to be sure you have a clean, dry place to put your pet after the bath as they all inevitably shake and this is likely a behavior you'd want to minimize in the bathroom, living room or other places they might head for when loose. Inevitably, they will also roll and rub so preventing them from having access to undesirable areas for that activity saves alot of aggravation. This would also be a good time to put a mild opthalmic ointment in your pet's eyes to minimize any irritation that could be caused by shampoo getting in them.

We've had best success with diluting virtually all shampoos prior to putting them on the pet. Diluting the solution prior to putting the pet in the tub also minimizes distraction.

Now you are ready, get the sprayer adjusted to a temperature comfortable for your pet and rinse them down thoroughly. Use your other hand to help sluice water through their coat and to be sure everything is well doused. You can cup your hands to hold water that you wipe onto their face.

The diluted shampoo can be easily applied from the shampoo bottle that you used for the dilution. Just squeeze some into the coat and work it in moving over the entire body. By leaving the head for last you will minimize some of the shaking. Be sure to work it into the feet, belly areas and rear under the tail. These areas are prone to most odors and matting and deserve extra attention although they are the areas most likely to be overlooked by many.

When you are ready to wash your pet's face. Take some of the shampoo into your hands and rub until you develop a bit of lather, then use your fingers to massage it into their face. This is especially critical if you have a brachiocephalic breed (Boxer, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, etc.) while you will need to be careful with the shampoo and rinsing, it is very important that this be done. If the shampoo does not lather up, you will likely need to repeat this process as most shampoos will have minimal lather only if they are dealing with alot of dirt. Additionally, products exist to clean around your dog's eyes in the event you are concerned about getting too close.

Rinsing is, in many ways, more critical than the shampooing. Leaving soap in the coat will cause irritation to the skin and dullness to the coat. It can also cause some dogs to have what appear to be allergic reactions. In extreme cases, pets can ingest enough soap while cleaning themselves to have other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Rinse thoroughly, sluicing with your hand to help make sure all soap is removed. In most cases, rinsing will take 5-10 minutes minimum depending on coat and size of dog. Rinsing the face can be done much as shampooing was by cupping water in your hand and running it over your dogs face while using your fingers to help make sure soap is removed.

Conditioning is an option but often unneccessary. Unless the dog is frequently bathed and dried by dryers, or has some other skin irritation, conditioning is purely optional. Any instructions provided by your vet in the event of a medicated dip or conditioner must be followed. Otherwise, like shampoo it is best to dilute a thick, creamy conditioner prior to massaging it into the coat. Some leave in conditioners are one the market but most require another good rinsing to complete the job.

Drying your pet may be as simple as a rub down with a towel or chamois to utilizing several dryers to help finish the task. Some dryers, such as those called Metro Dryers, working without heat, offer blown air as a way to blow water out of the coat. Other dryers as seen in many grooming parlors are called cage dryers. They offer heat and the dog can sit comfortably in a crate while warm air rushes around them and eventually dries them. Finally, hand drying is often done with standard blow dryers and involves the groomer holding the dryer in one hand and brushing the dog out with the other moving over the entire dog. Hand drying is the most labor intensive but is the only technique that provides the look we think of when we see a Poodle or even an Irish Setter in the show ring.

Obviously, many pets still require grooming from this point whether it be a hand stripped Terrier or carefully scissored Irish Water Spaniel or the presentation of a Lhasa Apso or Maltese. These specific techniques are far beyond the scope of this article but more information can be found in many books and resources.

Have more questions? Come visit DigitalDog's Forum to post questions or look for answers!

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