The holidays are over and it's back to business as usual for most people and their pets. Winter is currently in full force, which means cold winds, heavy snow and salty sidewalks. This type of weather can play havoc with your canine's coiffure, and proper care is highly recommended to ensure your pet is healthy and looking good while outside.
Every pet's coat is unique. A Husky's coat is much different than a Chihuahua's, so do a little doggy due diligence and research your dog's breed before getting your buddy groomed. Most importantly, be sure to use all-natural and/or green products when grooming your pet. Chemicals in pet products have been linked to canine cancer. The following tips will guide pet parents on how to groom their furry four-legged companions, guaranteeing you'll be taking invigorating walks through the park in style.
1. Canine Bath and Splash
The temperatures have dropped, but it's still perfectly fine to continue regularly bathing your dog. The usual vet recommendation is to bathe them once every 2–3 months. Make sure your dog is completely dry before heading outside to avoid sickness, skin conditions, and low body temperature or hypothermia. If splashy washes in the bath or shower are inconvenient, try all-natural dry shampoo, available in many pet stores. If you choose to use the waterless alternative, make sure to brush out the excess powder in your dog’s coat.
Remember, animals don’t like to stay still, especially when wet. It’s incredibly difficult to get a pet to remain calm for the grooming process, which can include everything from a long bubble bath to a manicure. Because sedatives can be very dangerous for dogs, professional groomers rely on natural calming techniques like massage, music and talking to your pet using soothing tones.
2. Doggie Bad Hair Days
Depending on your breed (or breed blend) daily brushing may or may not be required. A Shar Pei’s coat needs a daily brushing, otherwise matted fur turns them into a hot mess. As with humans, brushing distributes oil and promotes circulation for the dog's skin. It also keeps their coats in well-groomed condition, which prevents matting and debris accumulation. Also, while brushing, check for pesky ticks and fleas that might be hiding out in your pet’s 'do.
A short coat (like that of a Chihuahua or Basset Hound) means brushing once a week. First, a rubber brush is recommended to loosen dead skin and dirt. Next, use a bristle brush to remove dead hair. And finally, polish your low-maintenance pooch with a chamois cloth for a glowing shine.
If your dog has short and dense fur that is prone to matting, like that of a Retriever, this is how your weekly routine should roll. First, use a slicker brush to remove tangles, and then catch dead hair with a bristle brush. And don’t forget to comb the all-important tail!
A long luxurious coat, such as a Yorkshire Terrier’s fur, will need daily brushing. Every day you’ll need to remove tangles with a slicker brush, gently teasing out any mats, and then brush the coat with a bristle brush.
3. A Quick Snippet
A dog’s long nails can be painful for both the dog and his or her owner, and have the tendency to collect dirt, salt, toxins and snow. To avoid further issues, trim nails to a length where they do not extend over the pads of the feet. A dog’s nails should not touch the ground while your dog is standing. Cutting your dog’s nails at home is easier if the nails are clear or lightly colored, since the ‘quick’ can be seen better. The quick is the blood vessel in the nail and it is quite painful when mistakenly cut. If your dog has dark nails or if you feel too nervous performing this procedure, ask a groomer or vet to do it for you.
If the quick is snipped while trimming at home, do not panic. Hold a tissue against the nail and apply styptic powder or solution. Styptic is an astringent that contracts the blood vessels or tissues. The bleeding should stop within five minutes, but during this time, try to make sure your dog doesn’t lick the wound, for it can prolong the clotting process and make it bleed longer. And, as always, contact or visit your local vet if you are unsure or extra concerned about your pet’s well-being after home grooming.
4. Happy “Furry” Feet
Winter can be brutal for you and your dog when outdoors — especially for your pup’s paws. A major area of concern is the pad area of dogs' paws, since salt, toxic chemicals and ice on the ground can easily collect between their toes. Keep any fur between the paw pads short by trimming it with a clipper or trimmer. The fur should not come in contact with the ground, so make sure all feathering is neatly snipped away.
Protective balms are available to help protect your dog's paws. First, apply a thin, even layer of balm just before going out for a wintery walk. After an outdoor romp through the snow, wind and park, wipe your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice melt and salt. Don’t forget to clean between the pads. Then, apply another layer of balm to soothe your pet’s paws and protect from getting dry or irritated. Result: happy “furry” feet!
Pet booties are another option to protect your dog’s feet from the snow, mud and salt. Depending on your dog, it may take time for pets to get used to having paw gear on, but if your dog is up to sporting new kicks around, try boots from Ultra Paws. Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots come in sizes from extra small to extra large. They’re known for being high quality, durable pet winter-wear that’s suitable for any active pet, big or small.
Pet stores also sell easy-to-apply balms that you can use to moisturize and protect your dog’s paw pads. The bathroom cabinet staple Vaseline can also work as an alternative moisturizer. The naturally soothing balm by Espree is highly recommended.
5. Fido Flea Fallacy
Often dog parents believe the cold weather means no more fleas for their carefree pets, but it's simply not true! Believe it or not, it’s highly possible pesky fleas are still lingering somewhere you least expect. Make sure to protect your pet with flea preventative or shampoo to eliminate the clingy visitors. Vet’s Best Flea Itch Relief Shampoo has all natural ingredients, such as tea tree oil and lavender, for a safe formula and gentle treatment.
6. Sweater Weather
Here’s one hot winter grooming tip: It’s always smart to keep your dog’s hair longer in the cold months, for natural body-heat insulation. But when the temperatures drop below comfortable, we recommend a doggie sweater (or jacket). There are three kinds of dogs who directly benefit from protective winter pet clothing: small dogs, dogs who are elderly or chronically ill, and dogs with a thin body type, like Whippets and Greyhounds — especially those with short fur.
The pet clothing's material is pretty barkin’ important when choosing a sweater or jacket for your dog. While wool is very warm and one of the best insulating materials, you’ll be cleaning that sweater often, and the material might even cause your dog to start itching. An blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic is the better way to go. And if you can, don't forget to go green.
Measure your dog’s chest and waist before buying a piece of clothing, for the perfect fit. You want your pet to be comfy; the clothing should be snug but not too tight. You don’t want the sweater or jacket to drag on the ground, fall off or get caught on anything.
Next: Cold Weather Hazards for Cats and Dogs
7. Know When to Claim "De-Feet"
OK, you tried over and over to groom your pet and it’s just not happening. There’s nothing wrong with claiming doggie “de-feet” and hiring a professional groomer to take over. Groomers help keep our pets happy! No canine likes to have matted, messy fur — even if they might love rolling in the snow. A clean, well-cared-for dog will live a longer, healthier life, so do your part and schedule regular sessions with your dog’s favorite groomer to keep them looking their best through the winter. Finding a groomer through a personal or vet referral is the most secure recommendation. It’s just as important for your dog to have a great relationship with their stylist as it is for you, so make sure your go-to groomer is someone both you and your animal trust.