Every dog needs a grooming routine, as a vital part of keeping healthy.

A dog’s grooming needs will differ according to the breed, age and health issues, but regular attention will help to detect and prevent problems like runny eyes, ear and skin problems, flea infestation, and overgrown/in growing nails. For dogs that receive a regular professional groom maintenance is important between visits, it is amazing how quickly a dog’s coat can become a matted mess.

If you own a puppy, you may wonder when you should start grooming him/her. I would advise starting as soon as possible, to get your puppy used to the regime. A little gentle brushing every day with an appropriate brush or comb will get the pup used to being handled and give you a chance to check the mouth, ears, anal area and nails. It is useful to stand your dog on a table while grooming, a dog will usually stand more quietly that way, and it makes things easier for the groomer, but keep hold of the dog for safety’s sake. It may be useful to invest in a Dog / cat Grooming Table , which is built for the purpose, and should have a textured surface to offer more grip, and a control arm with loops. Safety comes first-if using a neck loop it is advisable to pass a second loop around the dog’s belly, and in any case, never leave a dog unattended on the table. Teach your dog to stand for grooming, using clicker or treat training, and you will have fewer problems later on. You will also be amazed at how a few minutes per day spent handling and grooming your pet will make such a difference in how he interacts with the family!

Choosing the right grooming tools is important -what may be great for one dog, could be totally unsuitable for another

. • For short coated breeds like the Labrador retriever the best tools massage the skin and bring out dead hair and dandruff, the ZoomGroom and the Furminator are good examples of this.

. • For medium double-coated breeds like the German Shepherd and Collie, you need a brush that will penetrate the coat more deeply. A slicker brush is ideal, accompanied by a comb.When the dog has been thoroughly brushed with the slicker, run the comb through the whole coat, checking for tangles, that way you can be sure the dog is groomed all the way to the skin. A Furminator or shedding rake can be useful for these breeds too-it is great for heavily shedding dogs, getting every last dead hair out till the coat shines with health.

• For single coated, non shedding breeds like the Bichon Frise,and any breed of dog that is clipped, a slicker and comb is my recommendation, with perhaps a pin brush for sensitive areas.

• For wire coated and hand stripped dogs i.e. Airedale, Fox Terrier, use a slightly blunted stripping knife, a Furminator or ZoomGroom, and a slicker brush.

Dog shampoo should also be chosen carefully as the right products can really aid your pet’s health and well being. If your dog’s coat is prone to tangling, use a good quality conditioner as well, which will not only make brushing easier, but also will speed up drying time for you, and keep your dogs coat and skin in good condition. Choose products that fulfil the needs of your dog’s coat and skin type.

Pet dogs can be washed regularly – you can use your judgement on how often, shampooing with the proper products should not harm your dog’s coat or skin. Skin problems are far more likely to be associated with diet and environmental factors than by regular bathing. It is wise to remove any tangles or knots before bathing, as water can cause them to tighten.

If, for whatever reason, the grooming regime has been temporarily abandoned, and your pet has knots that cannot be brushed out, then seek professional help from a groomer, as tugging at the hair will only cause pain, fear and resentment in your dog. In such situations, the kind course of action is usually to lift out the mats with clippers, and start fresh.

Nail clipping is another important procedure for your dog to get used to. Many dogs dislike having their nails clipped, particularly those of the front paws. Be very careful not to cut the quick of the nail, and remember to treat each nail as an individual when choosing where to cut. It is easier to tell where to cut when the dog has white nails, rather than black, if in doubt ask your vet or groomer to trim the nails. Some dogs never need their nails cut, some have nails that grow like wildfire, and some nails grow round and back into the foot if left unchecked. Many dogs will be professionally groomed every six weeks or so, in which case the groomer will have checked the nails and clipped if necessary as part of the service.

Ear care is another area of importance, excessive wax, redness, scratching, excessive matting of hair in the external ear, rubbing, head shaking, smelly ears and disorientation can all be signs of ear problems. Check your pet’s ears regularly for these signs-don’t be afraid to sniff the ears- healthy ears should not smell foul. Floppy eared dogs are particularly prone to infections, as the air doesn’t tend to circulate the ear canal. It is sometimes necessary to clear the hair from the ear canal, at least partially, to allow more air flow. Again this is a regular part of a professional grooming service. If you suspect ear problems do consult your vet, as those sorts of problems can become a long running battle without proper care.

Many breeds of dog suffer from weepy eyes, which can stain the coat in an unsightly way. Keeping the area clean and free of excess hair will help reduce the cause of the staining, which are the tears. Have the eyes checked whilst at the vets, to make sure there are no underlying causes. Stained eye hair can usually be removed by the professional groomer, to good effect, as can similar staining of feet caused by saliva as the dog washes his or her feet.

To conclude, regular grooming little and often, and with the right products , will help keep your dog beautiful ,comfortable, healthy and happy, which is what we all want for our beloved companions!

Submitted by Sue Gardner of Mutley Makeovers, Tamworth UK . For more information and grooming pictures visit http://www.mutleymakeovers.com

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