Americans spend a massive $5.4 billion on pet grooming and boarding services every year to keep their pooch’s looking their best and well looked after. But there’s a lot more to grooming than just a trim, which is why it’s not only non-shedding breeds that benefit from a regular trip to the groomers or even a bath, brush and trim at home. The health benefits of grooming your dog are just as important, many of which can be done by yourself or a professional groomer if you prefer.
Doggy bath time
It’s recommended to bathe your dog at least once every three months, but this will vary from breed to breed and depends on how good your dog is at getting themselves dirty. However, you shouldn’t bathe your pooch more than once every two weeks as this can disrupt the balance of the skin and coat’s natural oils that keep them healthy. Not only does a bath help to keep dogs clean and smelling nice, but it helps to remove bacteria that can be harmful to dogs. For example, if they have a small cut that you may not even be aware of the germs can get into it and cause an infection. Groomers will use proper massage techniques that help to stimulate blood flow that can be difficult to do yourself, even if your dog has a good temperament.
Combing and brushing
Some dogs love to sit with their owner and be combed or brushed and other dogs will absolutely hate it and run away as soon as they see you reach for the comb. It’s something that most dogs will need to get used to, particularly long-haired, non-shedding breeds that will be more prone to getting tangles and knots, especially if the fur gets long. For regular coats, brushing can help to distribute oils for a shiny coat and healthy skin, and it removes loose hair so that new fur can grow through easily. It’s also a great opportunity to check your dog’s whole body for fleas, ticks, and any other pests and treat as necessary. Most groomers will offer a free basic health check as part of their service. Part of this is checking the coat and skin for pests, lumps, and cuts that may indicate a health problem, helping you to get them any care they need before it’s too late.
Keeping claws trimmed
Trimming claws is something you can do yourself or a vet or groomer can do for you, though some may charge for this service. Claws will naturally wear down on hard flooring, but for most dogs this isn’t enough, so regular trimming is required. When claws get too long they can start to curl under and become uncomfortable and even painful for a dog to walk on, as well as causing toes to push outwards. This can affect the form of their feet, their posture and how they walk. If you cut them yourself, hold their paw steady and cut below the blood vessel, known as the quick, using specific dog claw clippers. In most dogs you can see the quick as it will be darker. Cut below this to avoid it hurting your dog or causing them to bleed. If you can’t see the quick, just trim a small amount off or get a professional to cut them for you.
Keeping ears clean and clear
Not all dogs need the fur plucked from their ears, but some breeds do. This mainly applies to non-shedding breeds who have ears that naturally sit down, such as Poodles, Bichon Frise and Havanese. This is because the fur will keep growing and will get earwax and debris stuck in it, which can increase the risk of infections and wax buildup, as well as being uncomfortable and irritating for your dog. It’s important to leave a little bit of fur to trap bacteria and stop it from entering the ear canal but remove the majority of it to stop wax building up. You can get an ear powder to help grip the fur, which makes it easier to remove. For breeds that shed fur, it’s best to avoid plucking the fur from ears as it opens up the pores and can increase the chance of an ear infection.
Expressing a dog’s anal glands
Expressing anal glands is another job that can be done at home but it’s not for the faint-hearted and you need to know what you’re doing first or you could do more harm to your dog than good. If you start to notice your dog scooting their bum across the floor it may look cute but they’re trying to relieve discomfort. Washing and biting around this area more than usual is also a sign that the glands are full and it can become so uncomfortable that your dog has trouble sitting properly. Expressing the glands involves massaging and squeezing them to release the contents via small openings that are either side of the anus, providing immediate relief for your dog.
Cleaning your dog’s teeth
80% of dogs will have some signs of periodontal disease by the age of three. Many owners completely forget about caring for their dog’s teeth and gums before it’s too late and the damage is done. You should brush your dog’s teeth at least a few times a week to help remove plaque. If this is neglected your dog may need to have teeth removed as they’ll become painful, gums will start to bleed and there’s a high chance of infection. Many groomers offer teeth cleaning and scaling service. Vets also offer a scaling service, but they may use a general anesthetic as standard, which should be avoided if possible. Grooming your dog is about so much more than making them look good. Always get a vet or profession groomer to do anything you’re not sure on so that you don’t hurt your dog and you know that they’re in the best of health. The amount of grooming your dog requires will depend on their breed and them as an individual.