By Eve Adamson
It doesn't involve fire, explosions, ammunition, or high-speed vehicles, so the cast of "MythBusters" probably wouldn't be interested in busting myths about dog grooming (although we'd love to see that episode). But there are things many people believe about grooming their dogs that just aren't true. Fortunately, we've got the lowdown for you right here.
Myth #1: Dog breath is normal.
Nope. Your dog's breath shouldn't stink. If it does, your dog may have dental decay, intestinal issues, or some other health problem. Talk to your vet and have your dog checked out.
Now that you know what's really true and what's a myth, you can feel confident that you are helping your dog look and feel his best. Let's see what other myths we can bust-does anybody have a fast car and a flamethrower?
Eve Adamson is the author of more than 40 books, including Animal Planet Complete Guide to Dog Grooming. She lives in Iowa City with her family.
Originally appeared in AKC Family Dog magazine.
Myth #2: More lather means a better clean.
Lather looks like it's doing something, but it's really just a big show. That thick, foamy, soapiness isn't what does the actual cleaning. It's a by-product of shampoo reacting with particles of dirt and oil. In fact, the best shampoos don't actually contain soap, which would leave a film on your dog's coat. Instead, they contain surfactants that help fully wet the coat so dirt and oil can be lifted and rinsed away. If a shampoo removed all the oil, however, the coat would be too dry, so a gentle, soap-free, detergent-free, moisturizing shampoo will do the best job of lifting away dirt while retaining some essential coat oil, even if it doesn't make much lather.
Myth #3: You should clip down thick coats in the summer.
This myth is easy to swallow because a big, heavy, thick dog coat just looks so hot. But think again. Unlike that fleece or down jacket you wear in the winter, a dog's coat is more like a temperature regulator than a heat insulator. It not only keeps your dog warmer in winter, but also keeps him cooler in summer. You wouldn't want to go naked in the desert. You'd want a layer of clothing to protect your skin. That's just what your dog's coat does. Of course, if you aren't willing to keep up with good grooming, go ahead and shave your dog down. A clipped coat is better than an unkempt, matted long coat, in any weather.
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Myth #4: You should let long hair grow out, ungroomed, in the winter.
In the same way a dog's coat keeps him cooler in summer, it also keeps him warmer in winter, but a haircut isn't the only part of grooming. Some pet owners actually believe that it's OK to let mats form all winter long, thinking it insulates the dog better. Not true! Air needs to get to your dog's skin, or bacteria and moisture could get trapped, leading to uncomfortable and even infected hot spots and other skin irritation. A long furry coat is warming and comforting in the winter, as long as it stays clean and tangle-free.
Myth #5: Your dog is born with a certain coat and you can't change its texture, thickness, or glossiness.
Although coat quality is genetic to a large extent, lifestyle can drastically affect the nature of your dog's coat. In fact, a dry, sparse, or dull coat might be one of the first signs of a health problem in your dog. No matter what kind of coat your dog has-short, long, curly, or wiry-your dog's coat health shows on the surface and can be influenced by environment, diet, and medical issues. To maximize your dog's coat quality, try fish-oil supplements (check with your vet first), and keep him on a high-quality, balanced diet.
Myth #6: Longhaired dogs shed more than shorthaired dogs, and some dogs don't shed at all.
All dogs shed. Period. However, different coats shed in different ways. Undercoat hairs might get stuck in the long guard hairs of a dog's overcoat, so you don't see shed hair around the house, but the coat is still shedding. Some longhaired dogs drop hair like humans and you might not even notice it, but it's still shedding. Some "blow coat" a few times a year, releasing big tufts of fuzz into the air. Short-haired dogs can be the worst shedders of all, blanketing your clothes and furniture with a fine covering of tiny hairs that stick in the fabric and can be difficult to get out. And if you're thinking "hypoallergenic"? The real source of allergens is skin dander, and since all dogs have skin, no dog is guaranteed hypoallergenic, although some allergic people may react more or less to dander from particular dogs or breeds.
Myth #7: Cutting the nail quick can kill your dog.
Don't panic! If you cut the quick-the vein that extends down your dog's nail-while trimming your dog's nails and it starts to bleed, there's no need to rush to the emergency vet clinic. The bleeding will stop long before your dog has lost enough blood to cause harm (and you can use a styptic pencil to help stop the blood flow). Of course, clipping the quick does hurt, which is reason enough to learn correct nail-cutting technique.
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Myth #8: If your dog doesn't like nail clipping or bathing, you should do it less often.
Au contraire! Dogs thrive on routines, and if your dog hates nail clipping or bathing, that probably means you aren't doing it enough. When grooming chores become a frequent part of a regular routine, your dog will learn to accept them, and will be much less likely to object.
Myth #9: Brushing your dog's teeth doesn't really help.
Interested in saving thousands on dental bills? Then break out the brush. You really can head off tartar formation and the resulting expensive vet bills-and even the possible systemic infections it can cause-by regular, daily brushing. (See page 12 for more on dental care.)
Next: Lessening Leash Aggression
Myth #10: Bathing causes dry skin.
You've probably heard it, and you may have even experienced what you thought was a dry-skin reaction on your dog after a bath. The truth is, cleanliness is next to dogginess and bathing should feel good to your dog's skin, not bad. The real reason why some dogs have post-bath irritation is that either the shampoo is irritating them (human shampoo and shampoo containing detergents can be too harsh for dogs), or they weren't rinsed completely, leaving residue in the coat. There is nothing harmfully drying about a gentle, hypoallergenic, moisturizing dog shampoo, fully rinsed, even if you bathe your dog every day.