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Pro-Actively Caring For Your Dog: Grooming, Nails & Teeth

Although some dogs have special requirements, most have about the same grooming requirements when grouped into the general categories of long, short, or wire-haired. Of course, different breeds may have different grooming requirements, and it is important to find out your dog’s specific needs. Some dogs might need to be taken in regularly to a professional groomer, while others may be easier to brush and bathe at home. Almost all dogs will need to be brushed regularly. If you keep your dog indoors or if you have allergies to your dog, brushing it each day may help to reduce the amount of hair it sheds on your carpeting and furniture and can reduce allergic symptoms. Dogs with long hair can develop uncomfortable mats if they are not regularly combed or brushed. Brushing will probably become most important in the warmer months when your dog is shedding its winter coat. You may find that fur comes out in clumps and you will probably be glad, if you keep your dog indoors, that you do not have to vacuum the clumps out of your carpet.

Another benefit arising from regular grooming of your dog is that you will have the opportunity to check your animal over for any abnormalities or parasites. If you feel any unusual lumps or bumps, you should bring them to the attention of your veterinarian. Similarly, parasites that are detected early on may not be as difficult to treat as those who have established widespread infections. Daily brushings will also necessitate a quiet bonding period with your animal which can be enjoyable for both of you. Of course, some dogs may need to be accustomed to brushing. You can easily introduce your dog to regular grooming if you have a puppy. Simply brush it regularly and it will probably learn very quickly to sit still. Handle its feet and paws, and brush its teeth to accustom it to nail clipping and tooth brushing which it will be subjected to later in life. Older dogs may be more difficult to brush, especially if they are not used to being groomed regularly. Some dogs have an aversion to having their feet touched; others will not let you look inside their mouths. You will need patience and time and lots of gentle and encouraging handling in order to accustom these animals to grooming practices.

Generally, as time goes by, these dogs will be convinced that it is OK to be brushed. The frequency of grooming will depend on the sort of coat your dog has. While some animals may need daily brushing, others can go for longer periods of time without being groomed. If you groom your animal too frequently, you can actually irritate its skin. Some people make weekly or monthly appointments with a professional groomer and then they may have very little maintenance brushing to do at home. When choosing a groomer, you may want to consult your veterinarian or ask people you know for recommendations. Upon arriving at the groomer’s, look to see if the facilities and grooming implements are clean. The groomer’s shop should not smell bad or unpleasant, and you may want to ask what sort of products the groomer uses and what sort of animals he or she has experience dealing with.

The sort of brush you use will depend on your dog’s coat type. Wiry or stiff coats may require special types of brushes; dogs with sensitive skin or puppies may need softer brushes. Generally, wire-pin brushes are able to be used on most types of dogs. These may have soft bases with wire pins sticking out of them. The wire pins can be spaced at different intervals and may be of different lengths for different coat types. Often there are plastic tips on the wire pins to prevent excessive skin irritation. If you are not sure what to use, you can consult your groomer or your vet. Be gentle when brushing your dog, especially if it is not accustomed to such treatment. Just one bad or painful experience may be remembered for a very long time. If your dog is badly matted, you may need to use an electric shaver or clippers to carefully cut out the tangled area. Try to use a quieter model, since the noise may frighten your dog, and have another person help you. If your dog bites, it may be best to use some sort of restraining device before introducing it to electric clippers. Also, if your dog is struggling you must be extra careful not to nick or cut its skin. Again, it may be best to leave such matters to your groomer or veterinarian.

Most dogs may need to be bathed occasionally, although frequent bathing of your dog can dry out its skin and it may not be a good idea to wash your dog too often. If you take your dog to a groomer, you may never need to bathe it. Some people choose to brush their dogs at home and take them to the groomer only when they need a bath. If you are bathing your dog, be sure the water is neither too hot nor too cold. Is the water temperature comfortable to your skin? It should feel warm. You should be able to fully immerse your hand in the water with no discomfort. Many people will bathe smaller dogs in the sink, or larger dogs in a tub or the bathtub. Before bathing your dog, if it will allow it, squeeze a few drops of water-proofing ointment into its eyes and plug its ears with cotton balls. This will keep irritating bath products and water out of your dog’s sensitive inner ears and eyes. You should also brush the animal thoroughly prior to bathing to remove loose hairs, which can reduce the effectiveness of cleaning products in addition to clogging your drains.

Before shampooing, wet your dog’s coat thoroughly with water. Although some people use human-formulated baby shampoo on their dogs, this is generally not recommended as it can cause damage to your dog’s skin and fur. There are a variety of inexpensive commercial dog shampoos that are specially made to be gentle to your dog’s skin and non-toxic if it licks its fur afterward. You should rinse your dog thoroughly after bathing it, however, to be sure that no residue remains. Even shampoos that are reputed to be non-toxic should not be ingested. Coat conditioners or creme rinses are also available, which may aid you in detangling the fur of long-haired dogs and which may help you in maintaining your dog’s coat no matter what length its fur is. Again, some dogs may have very sensitive skin or skin allergies. Before dousing your animal in a product, you may wish to apply only a small amount to be sure that there are no immediate adverse reactions to it. If your dog does develop a problem with the use of a product, you should discontinue using it and consult your veterinarian.

Be sure to read and follow package instructions unless otherwise indicated by your veterinarian. After bathing your dog, be sure it stays warm. This may be one reason why you may not wish to bathe your dog out of doors. Cold, wet dogs can become stressed and therefore more susceptible to infections. Also, a wet dog out of doors is usually a muddy dog. Dogs with long hair may need to be combed gently and well after a bath to prevent matting and tangles. Short-haired dogs are often effectively rubbed down briskly with a towel. Some people will choose to blow dry their dogs, especially if they have show animals but many dogs do not like the noise a blow dryer makes and may become nervous. Be sure that the air is not too hot for your dog. Of course, most dogs have their own highly effective method of drying themselves – shaking. They may also try to rub themselves over your carpet or furniture. For this reason, it is best to keep your dog in a room where it cannot do damage by getting anything else wet.

In addition to skin and coat maintenance, there are other areas of your animal that must be tended to. These include its nails and teeth. If your dog runs about on concrete or hard surfaces regularly, you may find that its nails never need clipping. However, indoor dogs that are accustomed to soft carpeting may need their nails clipped regularly to prevent them from becoming too long and causing problems. Clipping your dog’s nails may be a very easy task, but if your dog struggles it may become me difficult. This is another service that your groomer or your veterinarian may provide for you upon request.

At home, it is probably best to have two people present when clipping your animal’s nails; one to hold the dog, and the other to clip. Usually, dog toenail clippers can be purchased at your local pet supply. You may also want to have a styptic powder on hand in case you accidentally cut into the quick, which is the vein that runs through your dog’s toenail. The quick is easily identified in dogs whose nails are clear. It will be visible as a darker area in the transparent nail. In dogs with dark or black colored nails, you probably will not be able to see it. It may be best to clip a little at a time to ensure that you do not slice off too much of your dog’s nail. The goal in trimming the nails is to remove the sharp end of the nail and no more. If you do accidentally clip too far and your dog’s nail begins to bleed, cake the area with styptic powder using a cotton swab. Be gentle, as the area may be sensitive or painful. If you clip too much off of your dog’s nails, they may be so sensitive that it can have trouble walking for a little while; therefore, it is important to clip off as little as is necessary.

If you have cut too much off of a nail, do not worry too much. Within a few days of the clipping the dog’s nails will once again be as good as ever. Some people prefer to use a file to dull their animal’s nails. This may take longer than clipping, but it may be less easy to break the nail or damage the quick because the process is slower than trimming. In order to facilitate clipping your dog’s nails, you may want to get it used to having its feet handled by touching the dog’s feet when you are cuddling with it. This way, it may learn that nothing bad will happen when someone picks up its toes.

Your dog’s teeth are another important part of its health. Although many people believe that dogs have bad breath, this may simply be a result of bacterial build-up on the teeth and gums. This can be prevented by offering your dog toys and foods that aid in scraping tartar off of its teeth. Your veterinarian will probably recommend a regular regimen of dental exams or cleanings. These will most likely become more frequent and more important as your dog ages and its teeth begin to decay. Dogs with dental problems may stop eating and suffer from starvation and nutritional disorders.

You can help maintain good dental health by brushing your dog’s teeth at home. Dog toothpaste and toothbrushes are available, and brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis will help accustom it to having its mouth touched, making the process easier. It is not advisable to use human-formulated toothpaste for such a purpose, as it can upset your dog’s stomach. Your veterinarian may recommend regular dental cleanings and exams at a clinic. The entire maintenance process should be easy provided your dog is well socialized and well behaved. Teach your animal obedience basics like heel or sit, as these will help you in attempting to brush, clip, or clean your dog.

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