Washing

Everyone knows that doggy smell that starts to hover around your pet after a while, and it’s not pleasant, no matter how much you love them. Although they don’t need bathing as much as we do, the occasional dip in the tub does some much needed good for you and your nose, particularly after a delightful roll in the mud.

How Often?

Dogs only need bathing if they look dirty or are beginning to smell. Once a month is perfectly adequate; they have oils in their coat that keeps them looking shiny and nice between times. If you have a dog with difficult skin your vet may advise you otherwise.

Which Shampoo?

There are a variety of shampoos available – choose one that suits your dogs needs. Shampoos with oatmeal such as Aloveen Oatmeal can soothe itchy skin, whilst others will kill ticks and fleas, such as Dermocare Malaseb. If you have a black or a white dog, you can buy special shampoo to really make their coats shine, like Fido’s Black Gloss or White and Bright.

Make sure not to use human shampoo. It is too harsh for their sensitive skin; and you can end up with an itchy, sore dog or a dry and brittle coat.

Before You Start

Make sure you have everything on hand. Lots of dogs deeply dislike the indignation of being soaked in water, so it will make the process easier if you are pre-prepared. You will need a shampoo, several towels, some cotton wool, several brushes and combs and lots of treats or toys. Remember to reward them for tolerating their cleaning both during and after!

Before wetting your dog, place the cotton wool into their ears. Do not push in it with your finger, just place it in just far enough that it won’t fall out. This stops water getting into their ears, which can cause infections and nasty smelling ears.

Brush First

Begin by brushing your dog’s coat. This removes lots of dead hair and dirt, and will prevent tangles becoming even more matted once they get wet. See our article ‘brushing your dog’ for tips on how to. A good quality combination brush is a good place to start, such as the one from PetOne.

Washing

Next, soak your dog in lukewarm water. It will be cooler than you would like your own shower, equal to a warm room temperature. Too hot and dogs will find it uncomfortable, as well as being bad for their skin.

Use your chosen shampoo to massage into the coat. Make sure to gently wash their bottom and genital areas. To wash their face, use a wash cloth or your hand to rub small amounts of shampoo in. Do it slowly and take extreme care not to get it in their eyes, ears or mouth.

Rinsing

Rinse your dog thoroughly with clean water; don’t use the same water with shampoo already in it. Leaving any behind in the coat can cause itchiness and bad skin, as well as making the coat look tacky and dull. Rinse until the water runs completely clear, and they rinse again just to be sure. Use another clean wash cloth or cup your hand with water to rinse their face.

Towelling

Once they are completely rinsed, let them have a shake off in the bath or shower, and then remove the cotton wool and begin to dry them with a towel. Rub them gently, starting from the bottom of their back and working forward. With so much hair the towel will get wet quicker than drying human skin, so you will need several to thoroughly dry them. Fuzzyard MicroFibre towels are highly absorbent and will soak up more than a human towel.

Don’t use a human hair dryer on your dog; most will be frightened by the noise and feeling, and they run much too hot to use on dogs. If you want to dry your dog quickly, you can purchase specific air-dryers for dogs.

Finishing Off

It is normal for dogs to run around like a lunatic and rub themselves on the carpet and furniture after a bath, or more frustratingly outside in the grass and bushes. Keep them somewhere safe, and where they can’t dirty themselves or wet the furniture. Also, wait until they are bone dry before brushing them again.

Remember that many spot-on tick and flea prevention products such as Frontline and Advantix won’t work if applied up to 48 hours after a bath.

Teeth

A lovely smile and fresh breath is a great attribute to a healthy dog. Dogs’ teeth need brushing just like our own to avoid dental disease, and it prevents doggy breath too.

Gum and periodontal disease can be extremely sore, even though most dogs will tend to hide their pain due to their wild ancestory. Cleaning their teeth is the best way to keep their mouth healthy and pain free, although there are other options.

Brushing

You will need: a double sided toothbrush designed for dogs’ mouths, and some pet-friendly toothpaste, such as the ones by EzyDog. You can get liver, peanut butter and many other flavours to make the whole process a lot easier for you and tastier for your dog, but make sure not to use human toothpaste. It can be toxic to them if swallowed.

How to:

  • It is important to start slowly as your dog learns to have his teeth brushed. Start by simply using a finger to touch the outsides of his teeth, and his lips and gums. You can place something tasty on your finger for him to enjoy as you do so.
  • If your dog is accepting of this, you can move on to gently touching his teeth and mouth with the toothbrush. Remember to move slowly, and only start for a few seconds at a time. Practise this in several short sessions a day, gradually increasing the length of time you expect him to put up with it.
  • Once your dog is happy to stand and have his teeth touched in exchange for a treat, you can begin to use the toothpaste. Just use a little at a time, and start with only small periods of time, as he acclimatises again. It is a strange taste and experience for him to get used to. You can experiment with different flavours to see which one your dog likes best.
  • In the same way, you can progress to gently opening his mouth and cleaning the insides, as well as his back teeth and gums. Remember to increase the difficulty for him very slowly. If cleaning his teeth has become a battle, it is because you have moved too quickly through the steps.
  • Eventually he will learn that cleaning his teeth does not have to be a negative experience, instead a necessary, if perhaps boring, time with a nice reward at the end.

Alternatives

If cleaning their teeth is too traumatic or time consuming for your lifestyle, there are other options.

  1. Buying specially designed dental food will play a large role in maintaining teeth health. Hill’s Science Diet Oral Care or Royal Canin Dental kibble are designed to clean their teeth as they eat, through the use of large, cross woven pieces that clean the tooth as it enters, or with specially added enzymes to remove plaque build up. Try to avoid feeding soft foods, as these get stuck in even the smallest holes, and contribute to the build up of bacteria.
  2. Use chews regularly, especially after feeding anything soft. Although more expensive than tooth brushing, it is a much easier way to rid their teeth of plaque. Try Dentastix, Greenies or Zukes Z-Bones. Raw bones will also help in cleaning of their teeth in a manner similar to the chews.
  3. Teeth cleaning products can be added to their drinking water, such as Plaque Off. It contains special enzymes that will break down plaque in the mouth, and is a convenient way to help with dental hygiene.
  4. A professional cleaning by a vet once a year will keep their mouth in top shape, but it can cost upwards of $300 and usually requires an anaesthetic. It is wise to get a dental check done with their annual check up, to keep on top of any problems that may develop.

Nail Trimming

It is all too common for even the sweetest pooch to turn into a wild ball of rage at the slightest hint that you’re going to cut their nails. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil for most dogs, to avoid them splintering or snapping as they get too long, although many active dogs will wear down their nails themselves.

Ask For Advice

It is a good idea to ask a vet or a groomer to help you. Dog’s have a quick just like humans, that runs through the centre of the nails. In pale coloured dogs it can be seen as a pink blood vessel in the middle of the nail. If you trim too far and accidentally nick it, it will hurt the dog and bleed profusely, and can be difficult to stop without an astringent powder. In dogs with black nails it cannot be seen at all, and it can be tricky to know how far to trim without practise.

Choose a Clipper

There are many options for choosing a nail trimmer, so try out a few and find one that suits you and that you find easy to use. JW Grip Soft have a range of options.

  1. Guillotine – these are best for small to medium dogs. They are very easy to use, but do not have the force for larger dogs. There is a small hole to line the nail up in, and then squeezing the handles brings the blade across the hole and through the nail.
  2. Scissors – working just like a pair of scissors but with a rounded blade to more accurately cut the nail. These are the least expensive, but again are most suited to small dogs.
  3. Pliers – ranging in size and strength for different breeds, these are spring loaded, similar to a pair of hedge trimmers. They are still easy to use and have a bit more strength, but can fray very small nails.

Trimming

Take it very slowly and carefully when you begin to trim their nails. By pairing gentle touching of their feet with treat rewards, you can avoid all the drama that commonly accompanies a pedicure. Over time, you can start to trim small amounts off their nails gently, one at a time so that they aren’t overwhelmed, and not forgetting to reward them plentifully for their cooperation.

If your dog is particularly frightened or struggling, it may be a good idea to ask a groomer or vet to help you. An ill-timed wiggle can result in an accidental cut too high up the nail, and the resultant pain may put them off for life. Alternatively, ask a positive based trainer to help you desensitise them to having their feet touched.

Most dogs have five claws, four on their pads and one further up inside the leg, called a dew claw. Generally they only have dew claws on the front legs, designed for gripping objects, but there are exceptions and some will have hind dew claws as well. These are particularly prone to curling around as they grow, so it is important to remember to trim them. Being up the leg they are often forgotten about.

Hair Cuts

Even if you aren’t one for a poodle clip, lots of dogs need their hair cuts just like we do, whether for hygiene or ease of maintenance. The easiest way is to take them to a professional groomer at our Brookvale or Annandale stores. They have lots of experience and the right equipment to avoid all the trauma of doing it yourself.

Common Cuts

  • Hygiene clip – the hair around the eyes, bottom and feet will be trimmed to avoid dirt becoming trapped, but the rest of the coat will be left. Good if you love your dog’s long fur but don’t want to have to bath them all the time.
  • All over clip –your dog will be trimmed all over to the same length, varying from as short as 1mm to up to 5cm. The easiest and cleanest clip.
  • Breed specific – you can look up the breed standard for your dogs to see what it looks like, but groomers will know the breed specific clip for your pet. This can make them look very tidy and professional, but depending on the breed will require some upkeep from you as well.
  • Requests – discuss with your groomer exactly what you would like, and they can do pretty much anything. If you like their long tail and beard but want a shorter clip on the body for cleanliness, then simply ask for it. Experiment until you find something that suits both you and your dog.

Doing it Yourself

If you don’t mind the time and effort it is possible to buy clippers and do it yourself. Not as easy as you might think, it might be wise to invest in a grooming school. Although your dog won’t mind, a silly looking haircut will take a while to grow back!

The Clippers

Invest in some good quality clippers, and take good care of them. Buying cheaper ones or leaving them clogged with hair and oil will lead to dulling the blades and getting them caught in the coat, and it makes everything a lot harder. Have them regularly sharpened and oiled to keep them working well.

Wash First

Always brush, wash and dry your dog first. A dirty and oily dog will blunt the blades extremely quickly, and clippers cannot work in damp fur.

Keep Them Cool

The blades can often get very hot without you realising, and begin to feel uncomfortable or hurt your poor pooch. A lubricant/cooler can help to lengthen the time they can be used. Make sure to regularly check the blades aren’t too hot.

Safety

It is easy to trap the skin of the dog between the teeth of the blades, so never trim towards the eyes or around the edge of the ears with electric clippers. You can use blunt ended scissors with your fingers covering the skin, instead.

Ears and Eyes

A dog’s ears and eyes are extremely expressive and sensitive. It is especially important to take good care of them, to avoid infections and other problems.

Eyes

With regular checking eyes can be an early indicator of any health problems. They should be clear, bright and clean – the windows to your dog’s soul.

  • For long haired breeds, it is best to trim it away from the eyes. If your dog is peering out from beneath a fringe of hair it can be frustrating for them, and if they start to try and scratch and push it away they can cause damage and irritation. It’s also an unhealthy trap for dirt and bacteria. Use round ended scissors for safety such as PetOne Eye Scissors.
  • Crusty build up in the corner of the eyes is a normal part of being dog. Simply washing it away with a damp cloth can keep them clean and healthy. However, if it seems excessive or happens too often it can be a sign of an infection, so a visit to the vet may be in order.
  • With many small breeds tear staining can occur. This is the red colour that you can often see around dog’s eyes, and although not damaging in itself having the area constantly damp can result in irritation. Gently rinse daily with a cloth, and use a fine toothed comb to brush out any build up such as PetOne fine pincomb. If you don’t like the look, a tearstain remover such as Pretty Eye can also help.

Ears

The inside of a dog’s ear is a complex and fragile structure, and can often end up as a trap for bacteria. Wax is produced for cleaning reasons – it works its way up and out, taking along any nasties with it. For some dogs though such as those with allergies, floppy or hairy ears, some extra maintenance can be needed to keep them clean and healthy.

  • Clean away any excess wax or debris with a moistened cotton ball and an ear cleaner, such as epi-otic. If it’s particularly dirty, has an unpleasant smell or seems to need deeper cleaning, consult a vet for assistance. Never try to clean deeper inside the dog’s ears than just the entrance, or insert anything inside. They have a different structure to humans and it could cause irreversible damage.
  • As strange as it sounds, some breeds will grow hair inside the ear canal. This will block up air flow, trap dirt, and can make them even more susceptible to infections. Consult a vet or groomer for some help, but you will need some haemostat forceps and a gripping product such as Professional Groomer ear powder.
  • Frequent swimming or baths will lead to infections in the ears if water gets inside. Try to dry them as thoroughly as you can after these activities, and place a cotton ball in the entrance to the ear during bathes – don’t forget to take them out again afterwards!

Brushing

How often you brush your dog will depend on the length and type of their coat. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a short haired dog such as a boxer, all they need is a quick rub down with a rubber brush such as Kong ZoomGroom to remove dead skin, hair and dirt, and you’re good to go.

However, if your loveable ball of fur has a tail and tongue but little else to be seen, don’t despair. Brushing your dog doesn’t have to be a trial. Just make sure that you start when you have lots of time to take it slowly and patiently, and have lots of treats on hand.

Starting At The Face

It’s a good idea to start at the front and work backwards to ensure you don’t miss any section. Their faces and ears are very sensitive, and will need a very soft brush or cloth such as Tender Care Soft Slicker Brush. No one wants to be poked in the eye with a hairbrush.

If they have longer facial hair such as a fringe or beard, use a wide toothed comb such as Pet One Course PinComb and place your fingers over the base of the hair to prevent any tugging. Using a leave in conditioner can help ease the process enormously. A good tip is to soak a wash cloth in a detangler like Ivory Coat, and then use it with your fingers to massage the knots out.

Moving On

Move down to the ruffs of fur around your dog’s neck, shoulders and chest. Perfect for burying your face in, hair is often longer here than the rest of the coat. Brush gently with the grain to remove any knots. Then brush against the way the fur lies to remove dead hair and dirt one there aren’t any tangles. Finally, brush down into place again. Use a bristle brush such as Pet One Combination Brush.

Legs, Tummy and More

Feathers on the legs will often get tangled and full of burs and seeds from where they’ve been exploring. Use a comb or matt splitter such as JW Matt Removal, and plenty of detangler. Hairy tails will also often need detangling. Use a comb, and then finish with a brush to smoothen and shine.

The tummy and between the legs need more sensitive treatment. Use a soft brush and don’t tug on any tangles. A grooming mitt such as the one from Show Master can make things easier.

Finishing Up

You can finish the process by using a dog perfume or leave in shine and conditioning treatment, to make them smell wonderful – try the range from Fuzzyard. If you’re really stuck it might be a good idea to use a groomer initially, and then continue with upkeep yourself later. If your dog needs clipping off before he can be fully dematted, it’s not the end of the world. Hair always grows back, and he’ll feel a lot more comfortable.