Cold weather increases the fur quotient in most dog homes. While extra coat helps keep your dog warm and protected, fur also acts like a dust mop that traps and carries debris and smells into your home.
A grimy dog’s paws track dirt into your house, stain carpets and smudge your pillows. Doggy odor from dirty fur or pungent breath makes snuggling with them unpleasant. The smell gets into everything, from their bedding to your carpet. Besides being unsanitary and obnoxious, poor grooming impacts your dog’s health.
Healthy fur protects dogs from bad weather, but dogs can’t comb and brush themselves to stay well groomed. Eyes, ears, teeth and toenails also need attention. These 5 tips offer you a can-do plan for your well-groomed dog.
Set up a schedule
Dogs thrive on routine. Find a time that’s convenient for you and put it on the calendar. It’s much easier and takes less time to maintain good grooming than to perform “damage control” for mats, grungy hair or torn nails. Hang an old towel near the door for paw-wiping and drying wet fur each time they come inside, and schedule brush sessions in front of the TV after dinner, for example.
Give the sniff test
Wet fur has a distinctive odor but a bad smell from your dog’s ears or mouth could point to ear infection or tooth problems. If they smell with dry fur, your dog may have an issue with anal glands. Ear, teeth and anal glands (under his tail) generally need veterinary attention.
Petting for Health
Fur can hide a host of problems. Generally your veterinarian only sees your dog at their scheduled checkups or if they have an obvious problem, but you live with them all year long. Petting feels great to your dog and doubles as a home health checkup. Every time you pet them, let your fingers find fur mats, lumps and bumps, or make note if they flinch so you can tell your vet about a sore joint, for example. Don’t forget to check for overgrown claws on those fuzzy feet and keep nails trimmed so they don’t split.
Comb & Brush
Choose a comb or brush that best suits your dog’s coat type. Smooth fur may do well with a bristle brush or just a chamois cloth can work to polish short hair. A comb that reaches through thick fur works well for luxurious double coats. Remember that you don’t have to comb and brush the entire dog all at once, and you can divide up the job over a week if your dog won’t sit still for the whole process. Pay special attention to mat-prone areas behind the ears, in the “arm pits” and under the tail.
Dunk Your Dog
Small dogs can be bathed in the sink, but larger pets require the tub. Wear old clothes because you will also get wet. A shampoo designed for your dog's or puppy’s sensitive skin is best—human shampoos can cause allergic reactions when they dry the skin. After you’ve soaped and rinsed your dog, rinse them again. And then twice more to be sure all the soap is gone. A conditioner helps reduce the drying properties of baths. Finally, be sure you keep your dog warm until they're completely dry. Dogs may get grubby in the winter and need a bath, but they also are prone to chills and must be protected from drafts.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.