Every dog requires some degree of grooming. For shorthaired breeds, dog grooming is relatively simple: regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and brushing (of the teeth and the fur or hair), accompanied by an occasional bath. Doublecoated breeds like German shepherds require more frequent brushing, as do drop-coated and curly-coated breeds, like Maltese and poodles, respectively. Many breeds require regular trimming to keep them looking and feeling their best. Understanding the grooming requirements of your dog is an important part of responsible dog ownership.
What You Can Do at Home
Most dog owners are able to brush and bathe their own dogs at home, and brush their teeth and clean their ears. Some owners can even clip their dog’s nails, although it does require a bit of practice, and a cooperative dog is helpful, too. Some dogs will try to get you to stop brushing or nail trimming by crying or snapping, but it is important that they learn that such measures will not work to get you to stop. You can try smushing a little peanut butter, liverwurst, or canned dog food on the front of the fridge to keep your dog busy while you perform at least a small part of your grooming process; even trimming one nail is something.
Securing your dog to something sturdy can also be helpful. Don’t give her enough room to turn her head around to reach you, and brush gently, ignoring any protests. As soon as she relaxes and accepts what you’re doing, praise, treat, and turn her loose. She’ll learn quickly that calm acceptance, not hysterical protest, earns freedom. Do not try to soothe her out of her temper tantrum; the only attention she should get is for accepting handling.
You can teach your dog to tolerate, if not enjoy, grooming procedures at home using shaping in much the same way that you use it to teach your dog any number of behaviors. It helps a lot to start teaching your dog to accept grooming right from the start as part of the initial acclimation process when you bring her home.
If your dog is really serious about protecting her “private parts” — and for most dogs the most private area tends to be the feet — call a professional trainer to help. Of course, you could always just take her to a professional groomer instead, and avoid the whole issue. Pet owners are often amazed that their little darling that is such a terror about grooming at home doesn’t even give the groomer a sideways glance when she per-forms the same procedures.
If you have a bichon frise, poodle, spaniel, terrier, or a drop-coated breed like a Maltese, chances are you will have to have your dog professionally groomed on a regular basis. For most trimmed dogs, they should be groomed anywhere from every four to twelve weeks, depending on the breed and style. In general, the longer the owner wants to keep the hair, the more frequently the dog will need to be groomed — as often as once a week for drop-coated breeds in full coat.
If your groomer tells you that your dog needs to be shaved because of matting, believe her. The groomer generally wants to make you happy, but if you’re not taking proper care of your dog or bringing her in for regular professional grooming, why make the groomer literally torture your dog with dematting for your vanity? Shave the matted hair — it is just hair, after all — and start over, with a firm resolve not to be negligent of your dog’s grooming in the future.
Unfortunately, most pet dog owners expect that they can keep their dogs looking like show dogs without frequent professional grooming or doing daily work at home, and the sad truth is, it just isn’t possible in most cases.
For dogs that require regular trims, there is no substitute for the job an experienced professional does. Even shorthaired dogs can benefit from professional grooming, with the array of spa treatments and deshedding treatments that are now available.
Double-coated breeds that blow their undercoats twice a year definitely benefit from the attention of a professional groomer who has the knowledge, products, and tools to remove the shedding hair more thoroughly. Ask friends, neighbors, and other pet professionals for a recommendation for a good groomer in your area.