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Grooming your puppy (or dog)

Grooming your puppy (or dog)

Grooming should become a regular part of your relationship with your pup. While their coat may not be one that requires a lot of attention, they all need care, some more than others.

Taking the time to invest in grooming will strengthen your bond, assist their coat health and enable you to check for any irregularities in their skin, coat, paws, teeth or ears. Making grooming positive and rewarding will mean it’s something you can do together that’s fun. How often you groom will depend on your dog’s coat, but we recommend spending time at least once a week grooming them as part of a weekly health check up. Dogs that need professional grooming (shave or clip) usually need to be done every 6-8 weeks, however with regular care at home this can be extended.


Getting your puppy used to being groomed

Spending time desensitising your puppy (or dog) to grooming is importantSpending time desensitizing your puppy (or dog) to grooming is important. Start while they’re young, and keep the experience short and positive. Even if they don’t have a coat that requires regular maintenance, getting them used to being handled is beneficial. Remember, anytime you begin to train your puppy or dog, grooming included, make sure they’re calm. Try not to start any grooming session when they’re excited or hyperactive, as this is going to make them difficult to work with.

While your puppy is young, spend time picking up, holding and handling their paws. This will mean that when they have their nails clipped, they are more comfortable having their paws and nails touched. When you hold their paws, push down gently on each toe, then reward verbally and also with a treat. Don’t forget to turn their paw over gently and inspect the pad of their feet and look between each toe. If they don’t like it to begin with, do it in shorter bursts until they become familiar with this type of interaction. Not only will this help with nail clipping, but if your pet ever needs their paws looked at by a veterinarian, they will be less likely to have any issues with their paws being touched.

Ears are another important area that needs to be regularly checked. Dogs with ears that fold over (including breeds such as Labradors and poodles) and dogs with extra hairs in their ears, may be prone to ear infections as the environment inside is warm and moist, with little air flow. Groomers also checks and may clean your dog’s ears, so ensuring your puppy or dog tolerates their ears being looked over is important. Start with touching and lifting your pets ears, gentle rubbing and massaging them, reward them each time, until you can begin to spend more time with their ear in your hand as you look into it. Never poke in their ear. Ear wipes may be used to give the visible parts of their ear a gentle clean, but avoid the inside as this can cause harm. Lots of quick sessions, with praise and treats will ensure your puppy is happy for their ears to be looked at. As with paws, while your puppy may not need their ears regularly maintained, having desensitization around this area is always a bonus when they’re checked over by the veterinarian.

Start off just introducing the toothpaste and then work up to using the toothbrushYour puppy or dog’s teeth will be regularly checked by veterinarians and by groomers who offer teeth cleaning as an additional service (or, you may like to brush their teeth yourself). This means that getting them used to having their lips lifted, gums inspected and teeth touched is important to allow this situation to be as stress free as possible. Start by slowly lifting up your puppy or dog’s top lip, then stop and immediately give them a treat and verbal praise. Repeat the process, and then stop. If at any time they begin to look unsettled, stop. Go slow and be patient. Once you can lift their top lip comfortably, begin by touching a tooth. Lightly touch one tooth (a canine is easiest as it’s generally the biggest), stop and reward. Repeat the process until they’re used to it. Spend more time touching other teeth in their mouth. Don’t forget about their bottom teeth, move their bottom lip gently down to check their gums and touch their bottom teeth. While this may seem odd, teeth issues are very common in dogs so spending the time checking their teeth from the start and throughout their life will aid in identifying issues earlier.

Once you can check their teeth, touch their gums and have a general look in their mouth, you can move to brushing their teeth. This method of slowly desensitizing to having their mouth handled is the same process for introducing brushing their teeth. Using a pet toothbrush and pet safe toothpaste (as dogs can’t spit, like we do with our toothpaste), you’d start off just introducing the toothpaste on your finger and then work up to introducing and then using the toothbrush itself. For more information on dental care, you can read our article here. We would also recommend getting in touch with your veterinarian for any further guidance on brushing your dog’s teeth.

If your puppy or dog is going to need regular grooming, talk to your local Animates Groomer and consider taking them in for an appointment. The grooming salon needs to be a positive and fun experience. This will not only make life easier and more fun when they get groomed, but the grooming team will appreciate a calm and relaxed dog.

Things to remember:

  • Always be patient with your puppy or dog when getting them used to being groomed
  • Treats and verbal praise will make this experience positive 
  • If they need to be regularly groomed, start taking them to the groomers from when they’re fully vaccinated – the noises, smells and sights can be overwhelming, but start them from a young age so they get used to it

Types of coats

Knowing what type of coat your dog has will help you to identify what care is requiredA dog’s coat, like their size, varies greatly. Coat types commonly include; smooth coat, short coat, double coat, heavy double coat, combination coat, long-haired, curly and wavy coat and wire-haired. Knowing what type of coat your dog has will help you to identify what care is required to keep them looking and feeling great.

Smooth coat
A smooth coat is short, close to the body and typically does not attract dirt. Dogs with smooth coats are not well suited to cold, and may require a sweater or jacket in cooler weather. Proper care with this coat is important as your dog’s skin is soft and sensitive. This coat type sheds a lot, so vigilance with regular grooming will help reduce hair around the house. Boxers, Greyhounds, Dobermans, Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers and Whippets all have smooth coats.

Short coat
A short coat is short but harsh, as it sits close to the body. As the coat type is dense, they can tolerate variables in weather. Short coats produce a lot of body oil, which gives these dogs a ‘dog smell,’ and this coat will shed year-round, with a notable increase in warmer months. Dog breeds with a short coat include: Labradors, Pugs, Rottweilers, Beagles, Jack Russels, Fox Terriers, Bullmastiffs and Shar-Peis.

Double coat
Double-coats are a combination of straight, short to medium length hair. These coats are harsh to touch, while the undercoat is thick, soft and dense to protect the dog in harsher climates (typically these dogs are suited to colder environments). In warmer seasons, both the outer and undercoat shed. Dog breeds with double-coats include German Shepherds, Siberian Huskys, Corgis, Akitas, Smooth-Coated Collies and Alaskan Malamutes.

Heavy double coat
A heavy double coat consists of a combination of long, thick and silky coat types, with a small amount of short smooth coat. The longer hairs knot easily, while the dog’s skin can become inflamed or infected due to lack of air circulation. These dogs shed in warmer months, and the loose hair will stick to everything. Chow Chows, Pomeranians, Saint Bernards, Pekingese and Samoyeds all have heavy double coats.

Combination coat
A combination coat is just that, a combination. This coat has long, silky coats as well as short and smooth coats on parts of their body. Characterised by short, tight hairs on the face and front of their legs with longer feathering on the back of their legs, belly, tail and ears. The longer coat will knot easily if not regularly brushed, and while this coat sheds primarily in warm months, this coat type suits most climates. Dogs with a combination coat type are Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Australian Shepherds, Papillions and Springer Spaniels.

A note on double coats
Dogs with double coats, heavy-double coats or combination coats, do not need to be shaved as they thermoregulate, this means the undercoat is finer and fluffier, which insulates them during winter, but also sheds in summer to keep them cool. If you do choose to shave your puppy or dog with these coat types you may notice their coat colour change, their coat may grow back patchy or they can get sun irritation. Discuss with your groomer about whether or not your dog needs to be shaved and if you do want to groom your combination, heavy double or double coat dog, then there are steps you can take to ensure their coat isn’t affected.

Long haired
Long haired coats, when left to grow naturally, are long hairs that cover the entire body. Typically, this coat is cut to specific requirements for the breed and requires regular grooming to ensure their coat does not knot or matt. While this coat type does not shed very often, if not taken care of, the skin on these dogs can become easily inflamed and infected due to poor air circulation. Long haired dogs include Shih Tzus, Bearded Collies, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers and Chinese Crested.

Curly and wavy coat
These are soft, curly coat (that sights tight against the skin) or a soft, wavy coat, that is a little more fluid. These breeds require regular brushing and grooming to prevent knots, but if matting does occur, a short-clip to reduce the pull on your dog’s skin is recommended. This coat type does not shed and is suited to all climates. Dogs with curly & wavy coats are Poodles, Bichon Frise, Irish Water Spaniels, Portuguese Water Dogs and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.

Wire haired
Wire hair is a combination of soft, dense undercoat that covers the body while wiry guard hairs sit on top over the face, body, legs, ears and tail. The guard hairs need regular brushing to prevent knotting and only the undercoat will shed in warmer seasons. Breeds with wire coats are: Griffons, Airedale Terrier, Australian Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Wire-haired Dachshund, Wire-haired Jack Russel, Wire-haired Fox Terrier and Cairn Terrier.

Crossbreeds
Dogs that are an “oodle” (cavoodle, spoodle, schnoodle etc.) may have a changing coat. And being an “oodle” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hypoallergenic. We’d recommend talking to your groomer to find out the exact needs of your dog’s coat.

Things to remember:

  • Determining what coat type your dog has will help you identify how best to care for it
  • Does your puppy or dog need to go to a groomer regularly?
  • What tools do you need at home to help in between grooms?

Grooming – Brushing and care

Brushing your dog is important for both you and them. The time you spend with your dog while you brush them is great for strengthening your bond while providing them with a positive experience. To ensure your pet enjoys being brushed, use treats as they learn what grooming means. Some dogs love to be brushed, and will enjoy the gentle massaging a nice brush can give, however other dogs may find it an uncomfortable experience – that’s why it’s up to you to make it as stress free as possible.

To ensure your pet enjoys being brushed, use treats as positive reinforcementIf your pet has a coat, such as a curly, wavy or combination coat that is prone to knotting, be gentle as you brush their coat out. Take your time to socialize them to the brush, show it to them, let them sniff it and reward them. Positive experiences at this stage will make your pup’s grooming habits a lifetime of fun. Once they’ve used to seeing the brush, sit down with them (either on your lap, or next to you) and begin brushing. After one stroke, reward them with a treat and verbal praise, and repeat. If your dog becomes distressed at all or is noticeably upset by the brushing then stop, praise your dog, and if necessary end the grooming session.

If they have knots, hold their coat between two fingers and your thumb at the base (near their roots) before trying to remove the knot. As with human hair, if a knot is brushed without support at the bottom, this will pull at the roots and the skin and can be very uncomfortable, or it can easily become irritated. If you think the tangle has become more of a matt, do not try to brush it. Removing the matt with scissors, or book in for a groom.

Choosing the right brush for your dogs coat is also important. Not all brushes are suitable for all coat types. A bristle brush can be surprisingly versatile across various dog breeds, depending on the bristle length and the spacing of the bristles. A slicker brush is great for wire-haired coats, double coats and curly coats, while a pin-toothed comb may be better for long coat types. Some brushes are best used in combination with others for different purposes, i.e. using a pin-toothed comb side by side with a bristle brush for long haired coats. Ask the team at your local Animates or Animates Vetcare for advice on which brush, or comb, is most suitable.

Things to remember:

  • Not all brushes/combs are suitable for all coat types. Find the one that best suits their coat
  • Be patient with brushing knots out, rushing through and brushing knots quickly hurts
  • If a knot turns into a matt, brushing will be too painful. This will need to be gently cut out, or seen to by a groomer

Grooming – Bathing, nails, teeth and ears

Always use a pet-appropriate shampoo and conditionerBath-time
When you bathe your pup, this is normally done to remove dirt, ‘dog smells,’ or to make them look and feel nice. If bathing your dog, do so no more than once every few weeks, so the natural oils in their coat have a chance to keep their skin healthy. Use a pet-appropriate shampoo, or if they have sensitive skin use a specific shampoo, or, if needed, speak to your veterinarian about alternatives. If you don’t want to wash your dog at home, check to see if your local Animates store has a DIY Dogwash.

Nails
Keeping their nails trimmed is important so they don’t get ingrown nails and don’t scratch you or the floors. Some dog’s nails take care of themselves, typically walking on concrete helps to grind them down so they don’t need clipping as regularly. Other dog’s nails, however, may need more frequent care. Their nails have a ‘quick’, this is a blood vessel that feeds into the nail, which means that the longer the nail, the longer the quick. Avoid the quick while trimming nails their nails to avoid hurting your dog. To avoid the quick when cutting nails, we recommend only taking off small parts of the nail at each grooming session, to let the quick recede. This may mean you only cut the very tip of the nail off and you repeat a week later. If they have white nails, you should be able to see the quick but if your dog has black nails, you need to be more vigilant. Cutting the quick hurts, and will bleed. We recommend asking your veterinarian or groomer to show you the correct method.

Ears
As mentioned previously, your dog’s ears are delicate and need to be handled with care. When grooming them, use an ear or pet wipe to gently wipe the skin on the inside of your pups ear, removing any dirt with it. Never push into your puppy’s ear canal as this can hurt them, and can cause serious long term damage. Gently wiping, with a nice massage should be sufficient. If you ever notice a bad smell coming from their ear, this could be a sign of an ear infection so we would recommend booking an appointment with your local Animates Vetcare clinic.

Teeth
Taking care of your pups teeth and ears is as important as looking after their coat. Brushing your puppy’s teeth can be beneficial if done right. We highly recommend brushing your dog’s teeth if they will let you do so. It can be a great tool in helping reduce plaque and so helping reduce dental disease down the line. Brushing your puppy or dog’s teeth should be a positive experience, so there’s no need to rush, and remember to be patient. Keep the sessions short and brief, with lots of verbal praises and treats. In no time you will be able to have a calm, happy puppy while you brush their teeth!
The cleaning that a veterinarian will carry out to your dog’s teeth is different to the preventative maintenance that you would do at home with brushing. Sometimes they will need to carry out a scale and polish if they discover plaque build up in order to get your pet’s teeth back on track.

Things to remember:

  • You don’t need to bathe your dog that often, doing so can actually be detrimental to their coat health
  • Clipping nails can be a bit daunting, we recommend asking advice on how to do this
  • Ears are delicate and need to be treated with care. Remember to never push or clean their ear canal 
  • Taking care of your their teeth now could save them pain later, and save you money

Final thoughts

Grooming is important both for your dogs overall health and for your bond with them. Spending the time training them to enjoy grooming will not only make your and your groomers, lives easier, but it will also mean your dog has a positive experience every time. Ensuring you have a weekly grooming session will give you quality time together, while being able to look them over for any health concerns. Invest in the time early to make grooming positive and everyone will benefit.