Have you ever noticed how wild animals will groom each other? And, if you have, have you wondered why they do it?
In groups of animals, like packs of wolves, it is likely that the grooming process helps to strengthen the social bonds between pack members.
In addition, in the wild, a well-maintained coat can be a valuable asset in harsh conditions. Keeping the coat in good condition is therefore time well spent as it may make the difference between surviving ant not.
So, what does this mean for our canine companions?
Your dog doesn’t have his own pack. He has you!
Whilst I’ve yet to come across anybody that gets groomed by their dog (notwithstanding the odd tongue in the face) you should absolutely spend time performing grooming.
Most dogs love being groomed and receiving human attention. Many even prefer attention to food.
When we take our Labrador, Harvey, to St Peter’s Garden Centre he likes the fact that most of the staff know his name and will give him a treat. But he LOVES the fact that if he rolls onto his back many of them will give him a belly-rub! (*)
Spend time grooming your dog and strengthen that dog-handler bond.
* If your dog isn’t well socialised, or if you are just starting out on your dog ownership experience and haven’t done any socialisation, speak to Sandra about the process first as it may be too much stimulus otherwise.
Cleanliness and Health check
Dog grooming gives us the opportunity to help keep our dogs’ coats in good condition.
The grooming act will help remove old and damaged hair in a way that enables you to put it straight in the bin (thus helping to minimise that fur tumbleweed scenario that many of you will be familiar with!.
This helps to prevent matting that, if not dealt with, will get worse over time and can lead to skin irritation. It particularly bad cases it can lead to nasty sore patches which may become infected.
The grooming process also provides the ideal opportunity for giving our dogs a good overall inspection to spot any potential problem areas; fleas, ticks, seeds embedded between toes or in ears, damaged pads, lumps and bumps that weren’t there previously etc.
You can also look beyond just an inspection of the dog’s coat and decide to incorporate a quick check of his eyes and teeth too.
I’ve put this last because:
Vanity is a human trait. Your dog doesn’t care how he looks!
That said, if you enjoy working on your dog’s appearance (and can incorporate the points above), and your dog enjoys it too, then who am I to judge? Carry on grooming!
How to groom – tips and equipment guide
OK, so you’re sold on the benefits of grooming and want to know what you should and shouldn’t do. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t force your dog to do something that he isn’t comfortable doing. If he is uncomfortable with the grooming process then you need to work on making it a pleasant experience.
- Linked to the above point, you need to be comfortable, calm and relaxed so that your dog will pick up on this. If you have had a bad day at work, run out of your tastiest single malt, or your favourite Eastenders’ character has just been killed off then leave the grooming until another time.
- If you have a puppy then start the grooming process early with lots of praise and reward (treats or toys) so that it is enjoyable from the start.
- Some dogs need more frequent grooming than others. An Afghan Hound is going to need more regular grooming than a Beagle, that’s just the way it is.
- Be very careful when it comes to cutting nails. If you cut into the quick then not only will it be painful for your dog but it also bleeds – a lot! If you are in any doubt ask your vet or experienced groomer to do it for you.
- If you’d like to ‘watch and learn’ before brushing, cutting, washing your dog then book a session with a professional groomer and watch what they do. Show an interest and ask questions.
- Get the right tool(s) for the job. Your basic tool will be a good brush but, depending on your dog and your enthusiasm, you may also want shampoo, scissors and/or clippers, nail clippers, toothpaste and brush, and maybe even a dryer!
- The ‘best’ brush will depend on your dog’s coat type. Check with your dog’s breeder or previous owner to see what they use. For Harvey we use a hand-sized rubber brush similar to the Kong Zoom Groom.
- Don’t use human products for dogs. Shampoo and toothpaste that is fine for us may contain substances that are toxic to dogs.
Author: Richie Sills
Richie is the author of Richie’s Room, a blog primarily dedicated to his love of and interest in dogs. Richie is a client or Worcester Dogs and you’ll see him and his dog Harvey on our Facebook page doing scent-work with Sandra.