kinds of drugs and its side effects

Home Dog Grooming: Five Basics

Why don't dogs like being wet indoors when they love it outside?

Dog grooming is a term that I used to associate with poofy hair cuts and painted toe nails. I’m not judging; Frankie tends towards the shaggy chic, so it’s just not his style. But I dress Frankie up occasionally, which many people find offensive (Halloween must be hell for them).

To each her own.

But as I’ve learned over the years, dog grooming — and especially the kind you do at home — is about far more than superficials. The regular attention you pay to your dog during grooming sessions is key to his health as well as to your relationship with each other. It can also be beneficial to your own health, though — full disclosure — it is unlikely to enhance your appearance. Quite the opposite when brushing or bathing your dog is involved.

That’s not to suggest that using a professional groomer shouldn’t be part of your routine; certain breeds require care that’s beyond the scope of most people’s skill and energy, and some aspects of home dog grooming of any breed may elude you (nail clipping is my personal downfall). But whether between professional sessions or instead of them, these five procedures are key to any routine.

1. Brushing

This is probably the most important thing you can do for your dog for a variety of reasons, the primary being removing tangles and mats that fungi, insects — or in extreme cases, small children — can nest in. The frequency of required brushing depends primarily on the type of coat your dog has. Long-haired dogs can benefit from daily brushing, medium-haired dogs should be brushed weekly, while short-haired dogs can go a month between sessions without tangles becoming a problem.

But that doesn’t mean they should.

Brushing your dog also allows you to become aware of any unusual lumps or bumps early in their development so that your vet can check them out as soon as possible. It has also been shown to have a calming effect, to the extent of lowering blood pressure, on both the brusher and the brushee. And there’s the quality time you’re spending with your pup.

Going slow and using the right tool is important so your dog doesn’t associate the procedure with pain. Pet-oriented retailers offer full lines of dog grooming products geared towards different types of coats and hair lengths.

2. Nail Trimming

Not all dogs need their nails trimmed. Some file their own nails by walking or running on hard surfaces. Pups that don’t pound the pavement, however, and small breeds that don’t weigh enough to successfully self-file need pedicures. Overlong nails can get caught in carpeting or clothing or become ingrown and infected. And just because dog nails aren’t as sharp as cat nails, don’t think being scratched by a dog isn’t painful. Read More »

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And the winner of the FURminator contest is…

It was hairy for a bit at contest headquarters. Although I had several excellent early entries, for a while they stopped coming and I worried that the pool of choices was slim. But a push during the last days garnered a number of premier options. This made my decision a good deal more difficult, which is as it should be. I worry when things seem too easy.

So after a great deal of deliberation, I chose Ida Banon’s “My dog is so hairy that ticks have to use machetes just to get close to her skin.” I was tickled by the image of a vast army of tiny insects hacking their way through a hair jungle.

Thank you all for your entries; to see them, click here. If I can’t get hold of Ida in the next few days I know I have several other great ones to chose from.

And good news: There’s another Win-a-FURminator contest going on at Pet News & Views. Today is the last day, though, so hurry on over there!

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How hairy is your dog? Win a FURminator contest

The unsolicited — and wildly enthusiastic — endorsements that I got for the FURminator de-shedding tool in the comments section of several of my grooming posts caught the attention of the folks at the company that manufacturers it. They offered me one of their new, deluxe models, with a sleek ergonomic handle design and FURejector button, to try.

Frankie would be completely bald if I used a FURminator on him so, instead, I’m going to give it away to someone who really needs it.  Someone with a very hairy dog.

How hairy is very hairy? Well, that’s what I’d like to know. The winner of this tool needs to convince me that his or her dog is the most deserving of the FURminator by sending in a comment that completes the following sentence: My dog is so hairy that…

You can tell the truth, but you don’t have to.  For example, “My dog is so hairy that you could blanket the bottom of the Grand Canyon with what she sheds” is a perfectly acceptable answer.

The contest starts today, March 3, and ends at midnight, March 7, Mountain Time. Winners will be announced March 9.

I’ll be out in Portland, OR, checking out local dog facilities — and ok, the city’s amazing restaurants, microbreweries, bookstores… — but I’ll be posting comments daily so as to avoid duplication.

Good luck, all my furry friends!

The legalities:

To enter, you must be a U.S. resident, age 18 or older (sorry, my Canadian pals).  Only one comment per person per giveaway post. Duplicate comments and anonymous comments will be discarded. Please make sure that the email address in your comment form is valid (email addresses are never public). Winners must claim their prize within three business days after the date of notification of such prize. A winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified three business days will be considered a forfeiture of the prize and an alternate winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. All bots will be disqualified. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize.

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How to find a good dog groomer

Now that I’ve scared you with all the horrible things that can go wrong with professional grooming, it’s only fair that I offer some advice about how to avoid these, er, hairy situations.

To wit:

Get a reference

Yes, this is a no brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to be fooled by an appealing ad or charming sign on a pet boutique. Ask your vet, neighbors, friends and family members to recommend places they’ve had a track record with — not those they’ve just tried once.

Tour the facilities

Drop in unannounced and say you’re looking for a new groomer and want to look around. If you’re not allowed into the area where the grooming is done, leave.

Things to look for while you’re checking the place out include:

  • Cleanliness. Not only of the cages but also of the entire room. You don’t want your dog rolling around in other dogs’ dirty, discarded hair.
  • Safety. As alert commenter Mary Haight of DancingDogBlog noted in my last post, some groomers leave scissors and other sharp instruments on the table near the dogs — an open invitation to injury.
  • Spaciousness. Your dog should have plenty of room to move around in a cage, maybe read a few magazines, while waiting his turn to be groomed.
  • Kindness. Another no-brainer, but sometimes brusqueness is mistaken for professionalism. The staff should act as though they actually like dogs (yours in particular).
  • Up-to-date equipment. Aside, of course, from cage dryers. Check also to see that the hand dryers don’t use heat. The latest models, geared specifically towards pet grooming, work with cool air alone.

Talk to the staff

Don’t only chat with the owner, but also with the groomer who’s likely to be working on your dog. Since a license may not be required, you can’t ask a staff member to produce one, but you can ask her about the type and length of her experience and what inspired her to choose the profession (“I just got out of the slammer and this was the only job I could get without references” is not among the correct answers). You can also ask about her grooming philosophy; she doesn’t have to quote Heidegger or Spinoza, only tell you how she feels about what works best for her canine charges.

In the end, trust your gut –- and your dog. If you’re feeling uneasy and your usually calm, outgoing pup starts shaking and whimpering, head for the door.

Go mobile

Consider having a groomer come to you; this is an especially good option for fearful and elderly dogs (and owners) and it eliminates such potential grooming hazards as waiting, cage drying, and unobserved meanness. Mobile grooming vans are common in many cities, but they generally require a water hookup, which means they can’t service urban high-rises or even many suburban apartment complexes. If you don’t mind a temporary mess, most groomers who are willing to make house calls would also willing to use your bathroom as a workspace, and even to clean up afterwards.

Take responsibility

Groomers have to rely on the information you give them about your dog.  You have a responsibility to be honest with them –-  and with yourself. Of course you have the best dog in the world, but face it: others might (irrationally) find him intimidating.

When a groomer discusses possible scenarios with you –- how your dog responds to his feet being touched, for example — tell the truth. Some dogs are generally polite but go ballistic when confronted by strangers with shiny instruments. A good groomer will tell you whether or not she is equipped to handle the type of behavior you describe –- or ask you if it’s okay to use tranquilizers. These should be a last recourse, and you should only use a type to which you know your pup is not sensitive. Still, if your dog is in danger of being condemned as a public health hazard, sedation might be in everyone’s best interest.

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Dog grooming gone bad

Hairwise, Frankie is pretty low maintenance. I tend to take him to a groomer only for nail clipping and anal sac expressing (I’ll discuss the former soon but have spent way too much time this past month writing an article about the latter, so am on a dog butt break).

Recently, however, I decided to get him gussied up for a trip to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, with less than pleasant results. I can’t swear that his corneal ulcer was caused by careless grooming, but the timing of getting a hair in his eye that he rubbed at and which in turn led to the ulcer seems rather suspicious.

I trust the owner of the dog boutique/groomer I took Frankie to. Mistakes happen, and — an expensive vet visit later — Frankie is fine. Sadly, some dogs don’t survive a visit to the groomer.

Anyone with a water source and a pair of clippers can put out a dog-grooming shingle in many states, no license required. And these seemingly benign professionals — after all, groomers aren’t practicing medicine, right? — can pose grave dangers to your dog.

Among the things that you should look out for:

Cage drying

Similar to clothes dryers without the rotation, cage dryers are enclosures into which your dog is placed and blasted with air in order to dry his hair. Some units (see below) offer separate cages for more than one dog. These devices are good for groomers, who can increase the volume of their business by working on other dogs while yours is drying, but not so good for the dogs, who can’t escape (and who can’t sweat; they can only pant to try to cool themselves off). If the temperature is turned up too high and your dog is left in too long, she can dehydrate and die.

As a result of several canine fatalities, a few states are trying to outlaw cage dryers.

Some reputable groomers contend that they use only the unheated fan option, even going so far as to remove the heat coil. Others say they never set the temperature above 80 degrees and never leave the room. Maybe so, but why tempt fate? At the least, these enclosures are likely to frighten the bejeezus out of your dog.

Unauthorized tranquilizing

If a groomer is sufficiently gentle –- and doesn’t use scary equipment — your dog shouldn’t need to be tranquilized. Some clients allow their dogs to be sedated, which is their prerogative (I guess), albeit one that should be used very sparingly. Some groomers, however, don’t ask –- and don’t tell. That constitutes practicing medicine without a license and without permission from the patient’s guardian. If your dog is allergic to them, tranquilizers can be as dangerous as cage dryers.

Overlong stays

Imagine waiting in a doctor’s office all day with other equally stressed out patients, many of whom are yelling at each other and at the receptionist. Loud, frightening noises are coming from places that you can’t see. You can’t stretch your legs or get up to go to the bathroom. And you can’t read magazines, make phone calls, play video poker (party bets), or otherwise distract yourself.

Why would you want to subject your dog to that?

A good groomer should stagger appointments so that your dog is worked on and available to be picked up as quickly as possible. Two hours, total, is ideal; up to half a day is reasonable. A full day – fuggedaboudit. Taking your dog to a groomer isn’t, as some owners seem to regard it, a way to get free dog sitting.

If you’re just getting your dog’s nails clipped and/or anal sacs expressed, it’s reasonable to ask if you can wait; it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, total. I almost never (aforementioned corneal ulcer-causing appointment excepted) leave Frankie at a groomer; it would make us both unhappy.

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You’re shedding me!

Sorry, but it’s true. There’s nothing you can do to keep your dog from shedding. Nor should you want to.

Shedding is a natural, ongoing process for dogs, just as it is for humans. As anyone who’s ever worn a black sweater or jacket can attest, regular brushing and combing won’t prevent some divestment of hair. But some dogs, like some people (say, males of a certain age), shed more than others. The double-coated breeds are the worst offenders; many send forth so much hair that they practically create an alternative dog, giving rise to the expression “blowing coat” (which has always sounded vaguely druggie to me).

Alaskan Malamutes are serious shedders! Image via OMalMalamutes.com

Which brings to mind — I’m not even going to try to explain the chain of associations — the fact that some people spin dog hair and weave or knit it into clothing. I find this intensely creepy –- not the least because, should I be complimented on them, I wouldn’t want to admit that I was wearing a scarf or sweater made from Frankie.

A coat for some seasons

The only consolation about the mass exodus of hair is that it’s seasonal, and therefore predictable. Increases in daylight and warmth in spring signal certain canine brains to release hormones that spur the dogs’ undercoat to grow and push off their topcoats. A similar though somewhat less dramatic version of this process occurs in fall, when the pups know they need to grow a new winter coat (unlike kids who always require back-to-school wear, at least dogs do it themselves and never demand designer labels).

Shedding, interrupted

A few things can interfere with regular shedding.

  • Seasonal confusion: If you keep a dog who’s genetically programmed to shed seasonally indoors most of the time, he may not register natural changes in temperature and light and therefore shed year round. Copiously. Which proves it’s a bad idea to mess with Mother Nature.
  • Bad shampooing practices: Using human shampoo can dry your dog’s skin, as can shampooing too often. Even dog shampoos with perfumes that are not from natural sources may result in hypersensitivity –- all additional causes of shedding.
  • Overstimulation: Excitement and stress can trigger hair-loss hormones, too. If you can’t get your dog to meditate, consider Doga.
  • Health problems: In rare cases, excessive shedding may be a symptom of a health problem, from a food allergy to a thyroid imbalance. If your dog isn’t the shedding sort or if the off-season hair loss seems excessive, check with your vet.

Still, if shedding can’t be prevented through grooming, it can be managed by it; see my recent do-it-yourself grooming post. It’s far better to have hairs concentrated on a brush or on a newspaper than randomly faux-carpeting your floor or creating furry throws for your couch. You can entrap large swathes of your dog’s coat with a rake or de-shedding tool*, even –- or especially – during her molting season.

There’s always the vacuuming fallback. But that’s for another post.

*Exciting news: The response in the comments section of the aforementioned grooming post was so enthusiastic about the FURminator, one of the included products, that the company noticed and offered to send me one for review. I can’t use a FURminator on Frankie, who would be completely denuded, but I plan to give one away in a contest.

Posted in Dog Grooming | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

DIY dog grooming: Some tips on brushing tools

The dog grooming dilemma: Do you want to go to a pro or do it yourself? What you decide depends on a number of things, including the type of dog you have, the way you’d like her to look, your income, and the steadiness of your hands with clippers, hair and nail. Most people let a groomer take care of some things and do others themselves.

I have no problem, for example, brushing and bathing Frankie and giving him impromptu haircuts. Expressing his anal sacs — no, not all dogs need that, but Frankie’s a butt scooter — and trimming his toenails? I’ll pass.

But as I mentioned in my last post, at minimum you should brush your dog’s coat, whether between bouts of professional coifs or on your own.

Rake

And, yes, you’ll need the right tools for the job, but they doesn’t have to be expensive. Most of the required hair rakes, combs, and brushes cost less than $10. Even with clippers, which are pricier, there’s a point of diminishing returns. If you don’t invest about $250 or $300 for a sharp, smooth-cutting version, you’re likely to give your dog a hairdo that borders on animal abuse (or at least fashion victimhood). But statusy high-tech clippers that run as high as $650 won’t produce better results; in less-than-skilled hands, their cuts can still be unkind.

Each type of coat requires a different set of tools — and a different frequency of use. And mixed breeds may have coats that don’t follow any strict rules for care. This is just a rough guide of what to expect, going from highest to lowest maintenance:

Long-coated

These breeds, which include Afghans, Maltese, Yorkies -– essentially, all the ones that look like trotting mops at dog shows – and several types of spaniels, require constant attention because their fine, cottony hair gets matted and tangled easily. Ideally, you should run a fine-tooth metal comb through your dog’s hair every day, even if it’s just a quick sweep through. Using a wire slicker brush on the hair a few times a week is also recommended, as is seeing a groomer every other month.

Double-coated

Slicker brush

These pups, which include Pomeranians, Shelties, Huskies, Collies, and Akitas, may fool you: Their coats can look fluffy and neat but hide a matted mess underneath. That’s why you have to go below the silky surface to the furry undercoat, using tools like a grooming rake or the FURminator,* a blade tool. You should brush weekly, at minimum, and visit a groomer every three months.  Not only is this a good plan for your dog, but it’ll help with the housekeeping.

Note: One of the reasons that both long-haired and double-coated dogs need to be brushed, combed, and/or raked regularly is that you don’t want their coats to get to the point where they need to be shaved off entirely. Coats don’t always grow back properly, so your dog may end up with endless bad hair days. Worse, while waiting for her body-cover to reappear, your pup may suffer from sunburn, windburn, and insect bites –- not to mention the itchiness and irritation of prickly hairs.  Short haircuts are fine for warm weather but don’t overdo the clip-jobs.

Curly /wavy

Pin brush

Pin brush

Caring for this type of coat can range from the simple brush-and-trims I give Frankie, whose hair is not only wispy but naturally short (it stops growing beyond an inch or so), to the constant vigilance required for poodles and other water dogs with thick, curly mops that grow long and wild if not kept in check. On the plus side, these dogs have only one coat, so what you see is what you get. Brushing with a pin or slicker brush, raking, and then combing carefully usually takes care of the preliminaries, to be followed by clipping as straightforward or fancy as you like.

Short Coated

These trim-haired pups, among them, Boxers, Pugs, Pit Bulls, and dogs with giveaway names like German Short-Haired Pointer, require only a rubber mitt or coarse washcloth for coat care, which is more like a rubdown – more good news for the macho who eschew the frou frou– than a hairdressing session.

Coming soon: More tools, including nail trimmers and vacuum cleaners (sorry, even the best grooming doesn’t eliminate all shedding).

*No, I’m not getting FURminator kickbacks, though I’ve mentioned it in a previous post. And I can’t personally attest to its usefulness. But several  vets I interviewed for a story on shedding recommended it and a number of friends with big, hairy dogs swear by it.

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The top 5 reasons to brush your dog’s coat

In my recent post about the importance of dog grooming, I used a manly motorcycle metaphor to divide the chores into the categories of body work and detailing, citing coat brushing as essential to the smooth functioning of a dog.

Why is brushing so crucial?

1) To stimulate the skin and allow natural oils to circulate

Some people are obsessed with washing their dogs (another topic I’ll get to), but that doesn’t benefit dogs quite as much as it benefits humans, who prefer companions that don’t stink. In contrast, dogs don’t care if they’re malodorous; if they did, they wouldn’t roll  around in disgusting stuff.

And if they cared about cleaning themselves off afterward, they would be cats.

I mention washing because, if done too often, it can deplete dogs of the natural oils they need. In contrast, brushing keeps those essential oils circulating, which is good for both the coat and the skin.

2) To peer at your dog’s pelt

When you brush your dog regularly, you automatically establish a baseline for what’s normal and start noticing things that deviate — bumps, discolorations, and, yes, tumors. And while you’re at it, this is also a good time to check eyes, ears, and teeth (though actual tooth brushing at the same time might be a tad too much for your pup to tolerate).

3) To prevent irritations and infections

If you don’t pay attention, fungi and insects –- and, in very large dogs, squirrels and small children — may take up residence in tangled hair. As a result mats (as matted hair is known) and knots give rise to skin irritations and, eventually, infections.

4) To spend quality time with your dog

It’s true, not all dogs love getting their coats brushed. And if you adopt a dog that isn’t used to it, you’ll have to go slowly and not try to do too much untangling, tugging, or anything else painful at once. Rewards and praise should be administered liberally, too. But once you get into a routine — which also means less pain because it’s just maintenance — your dog will appreciate the fact that she’s got your undivided attention for a nice stretch.

5) To keep your dog looking spiffy

Who doesn’t like a smart, well-turned out dog? The tousled chic look that Frankie sports is the result of home (read: uneven) haircuts, not lack of brushing, visual evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Coming next: The right tools for the job.

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Dog Grooming and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Frankie is baaaad to the bone

Admit it. The word “grooming” sounds kind of frou frou, something that only poodles* and little fussy dogs get subjected to.

And it’s true, grooming does refer to parts of the dog’s body, including hair, nails, and eyes, that are often dealt with in human beauty salons.

But a recent post on DoggyBytes.ca, called Winter Care for Your Dog’s Skin, Coat and Paws, brought to mind just how important grooming is to the health of your dog.  And DoggyBytes is hardly a wussy site, what with owner Jim McBean feeding his dogs — one of them a pit bull, yet! — raw meat and all. (True, this was a guest post, written by a girl, Susanne Postill, whose blog Eco-Pup even shows small dogs in cute clothing. As does this blog, you may have noticed. And, when it comes to his dogs, Jim is a real softie.)

But I digress. The point is, we’re talking about essential procedures, not cosmetics. So in order to clear up any misconceptions about grooming, which does sound rather metrosexual, I suggest you think in automotive terms: body work (maintenance of the overall exterior, or coat) and detailing (focusing on the smaller but essential parts like feet, ears, eyes, and teeth).

There are even macho-sounding tools, like the FURminator, that you may need to do the job.

With that in mind, stay tuned — as in tune up — for my  series of posts about this important aspect of canine health care.

*Poodles have gotten a bad rap, as I mentioned early on in this blog: See Of Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs.

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