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You wouldn’t bring your baby home from the hospital and then never give her a bath, brush her teeth, or maintain her hair and nails, would you? Of course not! And yet too many dog owners bring their dog home and never perform essential grooming tasks. Granted, dogs aren’t human, but they still have hygiene needs that need to be met in order to reduce the risk of serious health problems down the road.
You can always take your dog to a groomer every few weeks, but doing it yourself is a lot cheaper, and it’s a nice bonding experience for both you and your dog. Grooming your dog regularly has a number of far-reaching benefits:
- It keeps your dog clean and smelling nice, and it helps keep his coat healthy and shiny.
- It gives you an opportunity to get to know the normal condition of his eyes, ears, mouth, skin, coat, and paws so that you can detect changes more quickly and address any problems before they become serious.
- It helps reduce shedding, which helps prevent you from having to vacuum daily.
- It gives you and your pet quality time together to build love and trust. Regularly grooming your dog can also help lower your and your dog’s overall stress level.
These essential grooming tasks will go a long way toward keeping your dog healthy and his coat shiny as well as giving you the opportunity to thoroughly inspect him for changes that should be brought to the attention of his veterinarian.
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Brush Her Fur
Brushing your dog’s coat every day or every couple of days removes loose fur before it ends up all over the furniture, and it brings dandruff and dirt to the surface. It also helps distribute the natural oils in her skin throughout her coat to make it sleek and shiny, and it gives you the opportunity to check her skin for dry patches, fleas, ticks, inflammation, and infection.
There are all sorts of tools available for maintaining your dog’s fur, whether it’s short and fine or long and thick. Combs, pinhead brushes, shedding blades, and slick finishing brushes can help you keep your dog’s coat at its finest. Make sure the brush or comb you use reaches the skin to help remove dandruff and dirt and to stimulate the production of oils. Finish up with a finishing brush or washcloth to remove the extra hair and debris from the surface of the coat.
Clean and Check His Ears
Dirt and other buildup in your dog’s ears can cause discomfort and increase the risk of an ear infection. Clean your dog’s ears two or three times a week using a baby wipe or a cotton ball dipped in ear cleaning solution, which you can get at a pet store or from your veterinarian. Gently wipe the inside of your dog’s ear, but don’t go too deep, or you could do some serious and painful damage.
Healthy ears should be pale, odor-free, and cool to the touch. If you notice any discharge or any type of smell, a visit to the vet is in order.
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Brush Her Teeth
Dogs are susceptible to the same dental problems as humans. Cavities, tartar buildup, and gum disease can cause other health problems as well as put your dog at a higher risk of nerve pain when she eats. You should brush your dog’s teeth two or three times a week using a finger cap scrubber, a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste, or a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger and dipped in water. You only need to clean the outer surface of her teeth, because her tongue takes care of cleaning the interior surface.
Keep an eye out for discolored or swollen gums, mouth sores, and other changes in her teeth, gums, and tongue that should be brought to the attention of her vet.
Trim His Nails
If your dog’s nails get too long, they may end up doing some damage to your hardwood floors, furniture, or other belongings. But more importantly, overgrown nails can cause your dog’s “toes” to splay when he walks, which is not only painful but may also result in broken toes. Clip your dog’s nails every couple of weeks, or when you notice them clicking on the floor.
Guillotine-style trimmers are best, and you want to be extremely careful not to clip too far up, or you’ll hit the little vein that sits inside the nail, causing pain and bleeding. Clip the nail just below where it begins to curve. If you do end up going too far and clipping the vein, have a jar of styptic powder on hand to stem the bleeding, and give Fido a few treats to apologize.
Give Her a Bath
Only bathe your dog every two to four months, unless she rolls in something foul or gets caught in the crossfire of a skunk riot. Frequent bathing dries out her skin and washes away the natural oils that keep her coat shiny and healthy.
Use a shampoo that’s specially formulated for dogs. Lay a towel on the bottom of the tub or kiddie pool to keep him from slipping, and use warm water to soak his fur. Lather up, massage gently, and rinse thoroughly. Keep shampoo and water out of his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. When you’re done, get out of the way quickly, because he’s about to shake off the excess water.
Tips for Grooming Your Dog
It’s always best to start the grooming process as soon as you bring your dog home as a puppy. But if yours is an older rescue dog, you’ll have to teach him a few new tricks if he’s new to the whole personal hygiene thing. Either way, here are some tips to get you started.
- Start out slowly. Get your dog situated comfortably and calmly, and let him sniff around your tools.
- Don’t make any sudden movements, and have plenty of treats on hand to reward him as soon as he lets you put the brush on his fur, stick your finger in his ear, or wipe his teeth. After a few sessions, when he’s familiar with the process and okay with you doing your thing, begin replacing the treats with affection.
- Spread the grooming tasks out over the course of the week to help prevent your dog from getting stressed, restless, or bored.
- Always stay calm, and try to make grooming fun and relaxing for you and your dog.