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Pet Grooming 101: Maintaining a Healthy Coat for Your Dog

July 17, 2019

Did you know that a groomer can tell right away whether your pet is eating a high-quality diet? If your dog has itchy skin, dandruff, brittle hair and an unpleasant fishy odor that no amount of shampooing can scrub away, a good groomer will tell you the truth: that fixing these ailments starts from the inside. When your four-legged friend is getting the nutrients they need from healthy ingredients, that shows up in the form of healthy skin and a healthy coat.

Even so, a dog’s coat still needs some TLC to stay in great shape, whether it comes from you or regular visits to the groomer, or a combination of both. This guide will cover the basics of dog grooming to help your pet dog achieve clean, healthy skin and an irresistibly soft coat that shines.

Why is dog grooming essential for your pet’s health?

Without a doubt, bathing and grooming makes canine cohabitation a lot more pleasant. At the same time, proper grooming, from ears to tail-tip, helps pets be at their healthiest. But since your pet can’t do the important grooming tasks on their own, it’s up to pet parents to see these get done.

  • In between the baths, dogs with longer hair need regular brushings to avoid painful mats and tangles. Even in short-haired dogs, brushing draws oils from the skin’s surface to the hair follicle, serving as a natural coat conditioner.
  • The time spent tending your dog’s coat is also your opportunity to examine your pet to make sure they’re healthy. Wet hair offers a better look at the skin surface so you can ensure it’s free of bumps, irritation and ticks.
  • You’ll also want to pick up and check their pawschecking pads for cracks and damage, and the nail tips to see if it’s time for a trim. By the way, pet parents tend to delay this chore, so cut those nails before the curved tip starts hitting the ground.
  • Before you apply the ear cleaning solution, see that the ear canal is free of chiggers and red inflamed spots that might need attention.
  • Grooming is also an opportunity to express the anal glands. When these build up fluid, it can lend your dog an unpleasant fishy smell. If the very idea triggers disgust, that in itself makes paying a groomer in between vet visits well worth the money!

When considering a specific breed, it’s important to factor in their ongoing grooming needs. With a Portuguese Water Dog, for example, you’ll have to keep up with the brushings and trimmings to keep their hair in good condition. Can your budget easily absorb frequent trips to a professional groomer? Or are you up for the task of learning to take that on yourself?

If low-maintenance breeds are more your speed, that’s perfectly understandable. Look for a pup with a short coat — preferably one that wasn’t bred to hunt or retrieve, so that dead, stinky things are less of an attraction.

How often do dogs need bathing?

Most dogs, if they’re not spending long hours exploring the great outdoors (and getting into smelly situations), can go 6-8 weeks between grooming sessions. The dog’s normal activity level, their skin condition, their coat type and breed will all be factors in how frequently your dog’s coat needs shampooing. In the end, your nose will be the final guide!

For example, double-coated dogs may need to be bathed more often than dogs with finer, hairy coats, to clean the embedded dirt and oil that brushing can’t dislodge. Double-coated dogs wear a thicker, denser layer of fluff, with more follicles per square inch. Beneath the top layer (or guard coat) is a denser, thicker undercoat, which is shed seasonally.

Hairy dogs have long, fine, softer follicles. While bathing can help rinse away dander and other allergens that get trapped, too-frequent baths may be drying and irritating to the pet’s skin, making them feel itchy and uncomfortable in the long run.

But there will be times when you want your dog looking their best, whether it’s for a big holiday or special family portrait. If that entails getting your best friend spiffed up at the groomer, be sure and book the appointment several weeks early. Because much like a hair-dresser, the best groomers may not be able to fit you in on short notice!

Should I shave my dog’s coat in the summer?

Some pet owners believe a summer haircut can speed up the process of shedding the winter undercoat, while offering the dog a way to beat the heat. But an annual shearing of the fluff can actually do more harm than good.

A severe haircut can remove the dog’s natural insulation system, making them feel hotter and their skin more prone to sunburn. Worse, in double-coated breeds, which include Newfoundlands, golden retrievers, huskies, malamutes, border collies, and shelties, a summer shave can actually ruin the coat. That’s because the slow-growing top layer may grow back unevenly, leaving that fluffy undercoat exposed to the elements, and more prone to matting.

Before you give in to your urge to shave your pet, do your research about the breed, and always consult with a professional groomer or veterinarian.

How to bathe a nervous dog

Break out the rain gear, because many dogs find bath time terrifying at first. Keep calm, follow these tips and eventually bath time will be a less splashy experience for everyone involved.

  • Don’t chase. If your dog darts off at the word “bath,” don’t go galloping after them. It’s a game dogs love to play, and if they see you join in, you’ll be reinforcing unwanted behavior.
  • Be consistent. Baths should be given by the same people, in the same place, following the same steps.
  • Be considerate. During bathing, keep your dog as comfortable as possible. Make sure the water is the right temperature. When rinsing, gently tilt the head so the nose points upward, keeping water from pouring into the eyes and ears.
  • Offer treats. As with any training, reinforce good behavior with bites of their favorite treats. When they stand with all four paws at the bottom of the tub, for example, be ready with a reward and lots of praise.
  • End with positive reinforcement. Always finish the session with a treat and some well-deserved quality time together. Eventually, when your best friend hears the word “bath” they’ll get the picture: It’s nothing to worry about!

How to wash your dog like a groomer

If you’d prefer leaving the trimming and haircuts to the groomer, you can certainly complete most other dog maintenance tasks — nail trimming, ear washing, brushing and bathing — at home in between visits. Here’s how to achieve that lustrous, fresh-from-the-groomer coat that makes your dog a people magnet.

  • Removing tangles is much more painful on wet hair. Before bath time, always give the coat a good brushing, using a de-matter as needed.
  • Wet your dog with warm water, and lather their coat with gentle shampoo. If your dog is especially stinky or dirty, allow the suds to sit for 5-10 minutes. (While you wait, this may be a good time to clip their nails.)
  • Use a damp washcloth to gently clean around the eyes, muzzle and other sensitive areas.
  • Thoroughly rinse the suds with a hand sprayer or cups full of warm water. Be aware that soap residue can cause irritation and itchiness. So if your dog has lots of fluff, spend extra time on this step.
  • Using a gentle conditioner designed for dog hair is an optional next step. Conditioning seals the hair cuticle, making it feel softer and more pliable when dry.
  • Does apple cider vinegar give your dog healthy skin? Some pet parents swear by its ability to destroy yeasts and soothe itchy spots. Try making a diluted mixture of one cup apple cider vinegar per every two cups water. Use a portion to soak your pet’s paws during the bath. You can also apply it to their coat using a misting bottle spray. Just make sure to avoid broken skin, or it will sting!
  • Comb out their hair with a wide-toothed comb, and gently towel them off before allowing the coat to air dry.
  • Heads-up: Getting wet gives dogs the urge to shake! Always keep an extra towel handy so you can cover your head before impact!

A healthy coat starts with a healthy diet

In addition to regular grooming, your best friend needs a healthy diet made with high-quality ingredients to maintain healthy skin and a healthy coat. Discover how Good 4 Life supplements found only in NutriSource can make your pet feel better in their skin and look their best.