Grooming techniques for a beautiful skin & coat

In the last two articles of this series, you read about how your dog’s internal health affects his skin and coat and the basics of bathing and grooming. If you have been following the pointers given in the last two articles, you will have definitely seen an improvement in your dog’s skin and coat. Dr. Freya Javeri further guides you how to groom your furry angel. Alot of people are ignorant when it comes to the proper grooming equipment and technique. No matter what you do, if you are using the wrong grooming equipment, your dog can never be properly groomed. I do agree that good grooming equipment may be expensive, but it is usually a one time cost and when you consider the fact that it saves your dog the discomfort of skin trouble, it is definitely well worth it.

First let’s look at the various products available for grooming, then we will focus on grooming various coat types.

Tools of the trade?:

Combs?:?Various types of combs are available in pet shops. Between plastic and steel combs, I always prefer steel combs. Steel combs have varying spaces between the teeth. There are wide-toothed combs, narrow-toothed combs, double-sided combs (one side is wide-toothed and the other is narrow-toothed) and flea combs (which have very narrow teeth and are good for removing fleas, dead ticks, dirt and debris in the coat). Any good steel comb should be used in the first step of grooming long-coated breeds to remove any mats. Special matting combs are also available and may be required if you own a dog with a very long and thick coat. If you are uncomfortable using a dematting comb at home, you can take you dog regularly to a grooming parlour in your city.

Brushes?:?Two types of brushes are used in dog grooming: nylon-bristled brushes and soft-pin brushes. Brushes available are either single-sided brushes or double-sided brushes. Double-sided brushes have one soft bristle side and one hard bristle side, or one soft-pin metallic bristle side and one hard bristle side (often called ‘dandruff brushes’). Soft bristle brushes, called ‘puppy brushes’, are used on very young pups. Soft pin brushes can be used to brush the coat against the hair growth to remove any dead, flaky skin. Hard bristle brushes are used to brush down smooth-coated dogs.

Chamoise leather gloves?: These gloves are excellent and a must have for people with smooth coated breeds like Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boxers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, etc. Chamoise leather gloves are special gloves that can be worn on either hand and used to ‘rub down’ the dog as the final step in the grooming process. This gives the dog a beautiful shine!

Rubber bath gloves?:?These are rubber gloves which can be worn on either hand, and have short rubber spikes on their surface. Many owners like to use these to brush out their dogs’ coats before rinsing out the shampoo from the dog’s coat.

Slicker brush?:?This is my favourite grooming equipment. There is absolutely nothing like a slicker brush to remove the dead hair from dense-coated breeds everyday. The teeth of the slicker are excellent for stimulating the skin’s blood circulation. The slicker brush is the best grooming tool for almost all coat types.

Scissors?:?A good small pair of scissors is an essential part of your grooming kit. It will be useful to cut the long hair between the pads of the feet and around the toes. This needs to be done on a fairly regular basis in long-coated and thick-coated breeds.

Nail cutter?:?If you think you can cut your dog’s nails yourself, you may invest in a good dog nail cutter. Before you attempt to start cutting your dog’s nails, first learn from your veterinarian how to cut nails safely. There are two types of nail cutters and the preference of one over the other is purely a personal choice. Ask your veterinarian to help you choose the right nail cutter. If you have any doubts about being able to cut your dog’s nails at home, take him to your veterinarian or grooming parlour whenever his nails need to be cut.

Ear cleaning?:?All you need to clean your dog’s ears is a good ear cleaner and cotton buds. Ear care is a must for all breeds.

Grooming techniques?:

To make it easier to refer to, this part of the article has been divided according to coat type, so you can simply refer to the sub-section pertaining to your dog’s coat type. The breeds mentioned do not cover all breeds. Determine which coat category your dog, whether pure-bred or cross-bred, falls into and use the appropriate grooming equipment and technique. Some breeds, like wire-haired dogs, Schnauzers, Poodles, have very specific grooming requirements.

Long flowing coats?:

Breeds?:?Silky Terrier, Pekingese, Yorkshire Terrier, Afghan Hound, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Maltese, long-haired Dachshunds.

Equipment?:?Double-sided steel comb, hard-bristled brush, slicker brush, soft-pin brush, matting comb, scissors, spray bottle.

Technique?:?First brush the dog out using a slicker brush. This will remove tangles and dead hair. These breeds require the coat to be groomed in ‘layers’. Lift the upper layers of the dog’s coat and work first on the lowest layer. Spray the coat with water till it is fairly damp. Comb first using the wide-toothed side then the narrow-toothed side. Then move on the layer above. Continue the same way over the entire body of the dog. Then, using the soft-pin brush, brush each layer with an upward motion (i.e. lifting the coat from below). Never allow any of the inner layers of the coat to remain damp. If needed, you can use a matting comb to remove any major tangles. Next, brush the upper layer of coat with a hard-bristled brush. Use scissors to carefully trim the hair around the feet and between the pads.

Long, harsh coats?:

Breeds?:?Rough Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Spitz breeds, Samoyed, Chow Chow, Schipperke and Old English Sheepdog.

Equipment?:?Double-sided steel comb, hard-bristled brush, soft-pin brush, slicker brush, spray bottle, scissors.

Technique?:?First brush through with a soft-pin brush, then with a slicker brush. Once the coat is free of tangles and dead hair, begin grooming layer-wise. First lift the upper layers of the dog’s coat and work on the layer closest to the skin. Spray the coat with water till damp, comb first with the wide-toothed side of the steel comb, then with the narrow-toothed side. Follow the same technique for each layer working from the lowermost layer to the uppermost. Then, using the soft-pin (dandruff) brush, brush against the direction of hair growth. This will remove the dead skin flakes and will make the coat stand. Brush in this manner all over the dog’s body, concentrating on the ‘mane’, the dog’s chest and neck area. When the dog’s coat is ‘standing’, use a hard-bristled brush to flatten the coat on the back and sides of the body in Old English Sheepdogs, Rough Collies and Shelties. For Pomeranians, Spitz breeds, Samoyeds, Chow Chows and Schiperkes, use the hard-bristled brush to brush against the direction of hair growth. Use scissors to carefully trim the hair around the feet and between the pads.

Coats with ‘feathering’?:

Breeds?:?Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel (English and American), Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, English Setter, Irish Red and White Setter.

Equipment?:?Double-sided steel comb, slicker brush, hard-bristled brush, scissors.

Technique?:?Using the slicker brush, brush the dog’s coat thoroughly to remove all dead hair. Then comb using first the wide-toothed side, then the narrow-toothed side of the steel comb. You may need to use a matting comb for some dogs. Follow this up with a quick brushing using the hard-bristled brush. Use scissors to carefully trim the hair around the feet and between the pads.

Thick, dense coats?:

Breeds?:?German Shepherd, Labrador, Saint Bernard, Smooth Collie, Welsh Corgi, Pug, Beagle, Basset Hound, Finnish Spitz, Australian Cattle Dog, Kelpie, Belgian Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskey, Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees.

Equipment?:?Slicker brush, hard-bristled brush, scissors.

Technique?:?This coat type requires daily brushing with a slicker brush. In this coat type, more dead hair is trapped between the skin and the upper layer of coat causing constant irritation and intense itching. Keep brushing with the slicker brush until you find that there is no more dead hair coming out in the brush. Then brush with a hard-bristled brush. Use scissors to carefully trim the hair around the feet and between the pads.

Smooth coats?:

Breeds?:?Doberman, Rottweiler, Boxer, Great Dane, Miniature Pinscher, English Mastiff, Bullmastiff, Smooth-haired Dachshund, Whippet and Dalmatian.

Equipment?:?Hard-bristled brush, Chamoise leather glove, towel.

Technique?:?Brush out all the dead hair from all over the body with a hard-bristled brush. Follow this up with a ‘rub-down’ with a clean towel. For the final gloss, rub down in the direction of hair growth with the Chamoise leather glove.

A good routine of the correct diet, proper deworming, bathing and grooming, when done correctly, will ensure that your dog always has a beautiful, healthy skin and lustrous coat.

(Dr. Freya Javeri, B.V.Sc. & A.H. (Bombay Veterinary College), MVS (University of Melbourne, Australia) is a member of the prestigious Dog Writers’ Association of America. She was the former editor of Canine Review, the official publication of the Indian National Kennel Club. She is a qualified judge, with a diploma in dog judging from the Animal Care College, UK. She has been judging all-breed championship dog shows since ’98. She is currently practicing as a veterinary surgeon and animal behaviour consultant, specialising in small animals (dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets) with two clinics of her own in Ahmedabad. She can be contacted at 9824433227, e-mail: dr.freyajaveri @yahoo.com)

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