Grooming and Skin Care
If you introduced your puppy at an early age to being groomed, your adult dog will be well-behaved during grooming sessions. He will probably even look forward to them. After all, what's nicer than having someone else brush your hair, getting deep down and giving you a scalp massage? It feels just as good to your dog, as long as you're careful not to yank on tangles or scratch delicate skin. Brushing is also great for keeping your dog's skin in good condition. It promotes blood circulation and new hair growth.
A complete canine grooming session involves brushing and combing the coat; checking the skin for signs of itchiness, parasites, or injuries; cleaning the eyes and ears; and taking care of the nails. Depending on your dog's coat type, size, and lifestyle, grooming can take as little as five minutes to as much as twenty or more minutes each day.
You may want to consider investing in a grooming table. This is a good way to keep your dog at eye level, so you don't strain your back when you're working on him. Choose one with a grooming arm and noose to hold him in place. If a grooming table isn't an option, try placing your dog on a picnic table or on top of your washer or dryer.
Simply to keep the level of shedding hair at a manageable level, most dogs should be brushed daily. Among the breeds that shed heavily are German shepherds, Dalmatians, Labrador retrievers, and pugs. They have coarse hairs that weave themselves into fabrics and are difficult to remove. By brushing daily, more hair goes onto the brush and into the trash instead of floating off onto furniture and clothing. If your shorthaired dog doesn't shed heavily a weekly brushing is sufficient.
Brushing Shorthaired Dogs
A good brush for most shorthaired dogs is a rubber curry brush that fits over the hand. Known as a hound mitt or glove, this brush is covered with nubby bristles. A curry brush should fit comfortably in your hand and may have a strap to help you keep afirm grip when brushing. You can find a good selection of curry brushes and hound mitts at well-stocked pet-supply stores. Also get a steel comb with wide and narrow teeth to help remove tangles.
If your dog is shedding heavily, brush him thoroughly, give him a warm bath, then blow dry him, brushing as you go, until he's completely dry. This will help loosen and remove excess hair.
Hold the brush firmly, or put on the hound mitt, and rub it over the coat in the direction the fur lies. Don't just run it over the top of the coat. Brush all the way down to the skin to remove dirt, skin-cell debris, and loose hairs. You may be amazed at the amount of hair you remove. This is a good grooming task for outdoors or in the garage. If that's not possible, brush the dog while he's standing on a sheet so you can simply gather it up and throw it in the washing machine when you're through.
Breeds that shed heavily may also benefit from the use of a shedding blade, shedding comb, or wire slicker brush. These tools have sharp edges or teeth that remove excess coat. Use them once or twice a week, after first brushing with the curry. Move it over the body in the direction the hair lies. Don't bear down too hard, or the sharp edges may injure your dog, and don't use it on the legs or areas where the hair is thin and fine, such as the belly. Avoid using shedding tools too often or you'll remove too much coat, leaving your dog with a flaky or scaly appearance.
Brushing Longhaired Dogs
Longhaired dogs are prone to mats and tangles. Daily brushing helps keep these problems under control. Tools you'll need for a longhaired dog include a pin brush, a shedding comb, a wire slicker brush or shedding blade, and a bristle brush. A pin brush, which has long metal “pins” coming out of the pad, helps lift out loose hair and skin debris without removing a lot of undercoat. When you're finished grooming, you can use the pin brush to fluff the coat by brushing against the direction the hair lies. A shedding or dematting comb helps break a mat into manageable sections so they can be combed through. You can also use the slicker brush to gently remove knots and tangles. The bristle brush brings out shine once the other tools have done their work. When your dog is “blowing,” or shedding coat, a shedding blade comes in handy to remove all that excess hair.
If you purchased your dog from a breeder, ask what grooming tools she recommends and how to use them. As your puppy matures and his coat grows out, the breeder may be willing to give you some grooming lessons so you can keep the coat looking beautiful.
Run the pin brush through the coat in the direction the hair lies. Check for mats behind the ears, on the backs of the legs, in the groin area, and on the tail. If necessary, use the shedding comb to remove any mats. Work at it slowly, starting at the bottom of the mat and working toward the skin, being careful not to pull your dog's hair. Try to avoid cutting the mat, because that will simply make the area more prone to matting. Spending just a few minutes each day to remove tangles before they get bad will save you time in the long run, and it will also save your dog pain. As a bonus, grooming is a great way to bond with your dog, and he'll look fantastic.
Grooming Wirehaired Dogs
Besides the usual brushes and combs, among the tools you'll need to groom a wirehaired dog are trimming and thinning scissors, a stripping knife or two, and a set of clippers. You can keep a wire coat in good condition with weekly brushing. Use a pin brush or a natural bristle brush. First brush in the opposite direction the hair lies, then brush with the direction. Care for leg and facial hair with a wire slicker brush. The slicker brush is also useful for removing undercoat.
If I have a hairless dog, I don't need to worry about grooming at all, right?
You wouldn't think a hairless dog would need any grooming, but these breeds have special needs. Their skin is prone to acne and sunburn. Different hairless breeds have different skin types, so your dog's breeder is the best person to advise you about appropriate skin care.
To maintain its correct hard texture, a wire coat must also be stripped twice a year. No, that doesn't mean taking your dog in for a wax job. Stripping is a technique done to remove dead hair and shape the coat. You can strip the coat by hand or with a special tool called a stripping knife. Your breeder or a dog groomer can show you how to strip the coat and advise you on the types of stripping knives and scissors to purchase. If stripping seems like too much work, you can simply have the coat clipped, but be aware that this will soften the texture and color of the hair. Wirecoated show dogs are never clipped, and if you want your dog to maintain the proper wire look, stripping is the way to go.
Wirehaired breeds also have facial hair — eyebrows and a beard — that must be trimmed and shaped. Before you start, wash the furnishings (as facial hair is known) and work in some cornstarch or grooming chalk. Comb the hair forward and use scissors to trim as desired. For a pet, you'll just want your dog to have a neat appearance, but if you plan to show your dog, you'll need to get detailed advice from your breeder or another person experienced in the breed to achieve the correct look.
Skin Care for Hairless Dogs
Hairless dogs with good skin — smooth and clear with tiny pores — rarely need baths. Hairless dogs with larger pores or oily skin that's prone to acne may need baths with a mild shampoo every one or two weeks to keep their skin in good condition and oil production at a minimum. (By the way contrary to what you may have heard, hairless breeds perspire only through their paw pads, just like other dogs.) If your dog is prone to acne, use a medicated shampoo or acne medication recommended by your veterinarian or breeder. Often, acne clears up after adolescence, just as it does in humans.
After a bath, you may need to moisturize the skin to keep it soft and supple. This is especially important if you live in a dry climate. You can use gentle products made for human use. Coat oil made for dogs can also help keep a hairless dog's furnishings — the hair on the head, feet, and tail — in good condition. Carefully brush the hair with a pin brush.
Hairless breeds also sunburn easily. Keep them indoors during the heat of the day, and make sure they're protected with sunscreen if they do go outside. Choose a sunscreen that's safe if your dog licks it off, or purchase one that's specially made for dogs — yes, there is such a thing! Look for it at pet-supply stores, your veterinarian's clinic, or at online pet-supply sites. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in the words “canine sunscreen.”
Any dog can get sunburned, not just hairless breeds. If your dog will be spending lots of time in the sun, protect his skin with sunscreen. Apply it to nose, ears, belly, and any other areas that aren't well protected by hair.