Step Up to Good Grooming

 

by Morieka V. Johnson

Let’s face it, a smelly pet can put a serious damper on cuddle time. Proper grooming can help dogs not only look good, but feel better, as well.

“Extreme matting can cause a health risk to pets,” explains DeAndre Upton, a registered veterinary technician in Conyers, Georgia. “Dogs have a natural amount of yeast and bacteria on their skin, and matting causes moisture to be trapped under the coat, leading to hot spots and excessive itching, which increases the risk of staph infections.”

Perhaps that’s why pet owners today spend billions of dollars on grooming products, according to the American Pet Products Association. “People just look at pets differently today; they are members of the family now,” remarks Michael Bryant, owner of Snazzy-Pet Full Service Mobile Grooming, in Atlanta. “People realize that it’s important to do the right thing for them.”

But how often should the family dog get a sudsy rubdown? That depends on the dog, Upton says. “Dogs that stay in the house don’t need baths as frequently as dogs that spend more time outside. Once a month is a good general rule of thumb; your nose will tell you when it’s time to take action.”

Here are the professional tips Bryant follows to make bath time better for everybody:

Comfort is key: Create a comfortable workspace. Place necessary items within reach, including shampoo, a rubber brush for massaging the animal and a towel. “Bathing two big dogs back-to-back can easily leave you with an achy back,” Bryant observes. “I sit pets on a small, sturdy table in the shower so that I can do much less bending.”

He also suggests attaching a hose to the bathtub or shower faucet, making sure to monitor the water temperature. In warm months, bathing the dog outside means less mess and a shorter drying time. “I set the nozzle to mist and let the water fall onto the dog’s body,” he advises. “This helps his body more easily acclimate to the cooler water temperature.”

Take your time: Some dogs just don’t like bath time, no matter how much you coax or cajole or crank up your temper. To handle fussy dogs, apply plenty of patience. It also helps to have a few of the animal’s favorite treats on hand. In working with bath-shy dogs, this professional groomer finds that gentle and slow is the way to go.

Regardless of how messy the process gets, avoid getting excess water in the dog’s ear canal, because it can lead to ear infections. Bryant recommends drying the dog completely before cleaning its ears. Use an ear cleaner with a drying solution to remove wax or debris.

Don’t neglect the paws: Keep nails trimmed regularly. Bryant notes that many pet owners are anxious about clipping a pet’s nails and fear accidentally cutting off too much. He suggests seeking professional advice. Ask your groomer or vet assistant for a five-minute lesson on the finer points of using pet nail clippers to deliver a clean cut. It can save a lot of anxiety.

Longhaired dogs also need the hair trimmed between their paw pads. “Most people have hardwood or tile floors, and it can be difficult for a dog to get around on those hard surfaces if their hair is too long,” he cautions.

Use a good shampoo, followed by a thorough rinse: A dog’s skin has a different pH level than ours, so avoid using human hair care products. Instead, Bryant suggests selecting shampoos that contain oatmeal or tea tree oil, which address a range of skin issues and have soothing properties, and follow with a good rinse.

“Remember, the most important part of any doggie bath is to thoroughly rinse all shampoo from the dog’s body,” he says. Conditioner is not essential unless the pet has long hair or is prone to matting. Dogs with long hair also need a good combing while the fur is still damp; otherwise, they are ready for a thorough rubdown with a thick towel. Finally, a gentle doggie massage helps end bath time on a soothing note.

It pays to hire pros: Getting your dog groomed can be a costly investment, but the price includes more than a fluff and cut. “Each time your pet is professionally groomed, he is actually examined from head to toe,” Bryant reports. “I have discovered teeth problems, joint problems, and hair and skin problems that many of my clients never would have noticed.”

Morieka V. Johnson is a freelance writer who frequently writes about pet issues and shares her Atlanta home with Lulu, a precocious pooch. Her weekly advice column on reducing carbon footprints, one toe at a time, appears on MNN.com. Email Morieka@gmail.com.

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