As a dog groomer I constantly come across pet parents that don't know how to care for their dog’s coat. When I first started grooming, I saw this as laziness. I thought people just didn’t want to put in the time and effort to care for their pet’s coat. Then, the more I talked to my clients and other dog owners, I realized that it wasn’t that they didn’t want to care for their pet’s coat; it simply was that they didn’t know how. Here are a few ways on what is proper grooming for your dog’s specific coat.
The first thing to look for is whether your dog has hair or fur. The biggest difference between hair and fur is growth cycle. Hair has a continuous growth cycle. It will constantly grow with very little shedding. Fur grows to a certain length and releases or sheds. Dogs with hair tend to be much higher maintenance than dogs with fur, but dog’s with hair are tolerated by people with allergies better than dogs with fur.
Dogs with hair are often called “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic” and can have many different textures such as curly, wavy, silky, and straight. These breeds include Poodle and Poodle mixes, Bichon Frise, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, and Shih Tzu. Since their coats grow constantly, they need constant grooming and brushing. Dogs with hair should be brushed at least three times a week and should be groomed every four to six weeks. If they are not brushed regularly, your dog’s coat may develop mats or tight knots. Mats will become tighter the longer they are left unattended and can actually be painful for your dog. When a mat becomes tight, it can pull on your dog’s skin causing bruises or sores under the knots. In extreme cases, the mats can even start to rip your dog’s fur away from the skin. You should never try to cut out a mat with scissors because of the way the mat pulls on your dog’s skin you could accidently cut your pet. If your dog develops a number of mats and your groomer suggest taking your dog’s hair short it is most likely not because your groomer is lazy. Excessive brushing can irritate your dog’s skin, sometimes even making it bleed. This pain can cause your dog to associate the groomer and brushing with a bad experience making it more difficult to maintain your dog in the future. This is why it is so important to not only have them groomed regularly, but to also maintain their coat between grooms.
Fur coats are usually must easier to care for but should have regular grooming. The most common fur coats are smooth coats, short coats, combination coats, and double coats. Smooth coats have short, sleek coats that shed but not as much as other fur coat types. Examples of smooth coated dogs include Doberman Pinscher, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chihuahua (short haired), and Bulldog. Regular baths and occasional brushing will keep shedding to a minimum. Your short coated breeds include some of the more popular breeds such as Labrador Retriever, Beagle, Australian Cattle Dog, and Pug. These dogs have a short, tough outer coat and a soft, downy undercoat. Despite their short coats, they tend to be heavy shedders. Many groomers have a de-shedding treatment available that will help reduce your dog’s undercoat and shedding. Having these treatments done and brushing between grooms will keep your dog’s shedding to a minimum and reduce the tumble weed type fluffs of fur you often find in the corners of your house. Combination coat dogs are breeds that have a combination of short and long fur, often with short coat along their back and long feathery fur along legs, belly, tail and chest. These breeds include Golden Retriever, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Due to their longer feathery fur, they require a little more grooming than other fur breeds. I suggest scissoring feathers and belly also called a profile trim or outline trim. They also tend to have long fur tuffs between their toes that can be trimmed for cleanliness because these tuffs tend to gather dirt and debris. These breeds can also benefit from a de-shedding treatment because they are likely to be heavy shedders. They also need to be brushed regularly because their longer fur tends to knot easily. Breeds with double coats have a longer harsh outer guard coat and dense soft undercoat. These breeds include German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and Pomeranian. De-shedding treatments and regular brushing is very important for these breeds. If left unattended, their thick undercoat can become so dense that hot spots form on the skin underneath due to poor air circulation.
If you have a dog with fur, I highly recommend against shaving them. Many people believe shaving their dog with fur will decrease shedding and make them feel cooler. This is not the case. Cutting your dog’s fur shorter only makes them shed shorter pieces and often times, your dog’s fur may grow back thicker making your shedding problem worse. Sometimes the fur will grow back in patches making your dog appear unhealthy. A dog’s outer coat is designed to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter. When you shave off the outer coat, you are actually exposing your dog’s skin to the heat more and to elements they are normally protected from by the outer coat, such as allergens, insects, and sun. Shaving can also change the texture of a dog’s fur causing it to become wiry and rough. Once one of these changes takes place it is nearly impossible to recover the original coat. Your best option is to have regular grooming done and to brush and maintain between grooms. If you are uncertain on the type of brush to use on your dog’s specific coat, ask your groomer. They love to answer questions, especially about brushing your dog.
Written by Rachel Crosby, Groomer, Animal Medical West