Springtime...it's that time of year again...sticky plant pods on the ground, from the plants and trees leafing forth. These get easily stuck in your dog's feet, especially between the pads, and in all kinds of places in their hair. Please, do a paw check when ever they have been outside, and pull (can soften first with olive oil, butter or ? if it's still pretty fresh pitch) or cut those pods off, and other foreign material, out. Your dog will really appreciate it, as will your groomer.
Snow Packed Paws
If your dog has paws that collect snow easily, try trimming the hairs between the pads really short, with a short, snub nose scissors (to prevent injury). Usually, it is the hair that the snow clings to, and packs up on, so by trimming off the hair, there is not much for the snow to grab on to, and build up. You can also trim the hairs between the toes, on the top side of the paw, for the same reason and result.
Grooming Tip - Demat Before Bathing Your Dog
As many dog owners are spiffing up their
dogs in preparation for the holidays, it's a good time to remember that
your dog should be dematted BEFORE wetting them down for their shampoo.
Every time a mat gets wet, it gets tighter, and more difficult to get
For an easier, faster, more effective and less costly way to shampoo your dog, dilute your shampoo in a separate bottle (like a water bottle). Some shampoos are concentrates and others are not. Regardless of how thick or thin the shampoo in the source bottle, diluting it with water will make applying it to the wet coat of your dog much easier, will use less of the shampoo, make it go further, and be a faster application of the product.
I recommend shampooing/rinsing at least twice (more if needed), to get down to the skin. The first shampoo is usually quick and is used to get "the big stuff" off, takes off the top layer of the dirt and bacteria. The additional shampoos get down to the skin.
If you use your shampoo straight out of the bottle, especially if a concentrate, it is difficult to spread around evenly on the dog, requires more work and time to try to dilute it on the dog and get it all over, and usually means you use a lot more because of the above (more than is necessary) so you go through it faster. While there may be times when it is necessary to use it straight (if appropriate) such as on a really dirty dog, you should not have to do it all the time.
The dilution ratio depends on the company recommendations, as well as your need. I prefer shampoos that can be used full strength or diluted, as it tells me they are safer than those that MUST be diluted. So be sure to read directions for usage, first.
Springtime brings with it its share of budding new growth around us. Pine pitch starts flowing again, and the new growth of many plants produces sticky pods, and wind up in our pet's hair and feet, resulting in matting and collection of more dirt, pine needles, etc., especially in the pads of the feet.
Getting to the sticky substance, while it is still soft, helps in its removal. I'm told olive oil and peanut butter work. The olive oil did work pretty well. I haven't tried peanut butter yet.
On dried, hard, crusty pitch, I have used Hand Goop, available at your local grocers. It does dissolve the sticky substances pretty quickly, even the old, dried on, crusty ones. I avoid getting it on the pet's skin, and wash/rinse the area very thoroughly immediately. While I don't like using such chemicals, it was quick, effective, easy to clean up, and I didn't have to cut "holes" in my dogs' coats, making them look pretty chopped up.
See our Shedding Reduction Program for ways to reduce shedding, both internally and externally.
Please, check behind your dog's ears, weekly, to see if any mats are getting started. It is much easier to shave, split or clip them out when they are still small. When they get really massive, they can even effectively "glue" the ear down, so the dog cannot lift or prick its ears up. Sores can develop underneath, too. And of course there is the constant discomfort or even pain from the constant pulling on the skin, that a pet endures, if there are mats.
A healthy, immaculately clean dog does not have "doggy odor", even when wet. If your dog does have "doggy odor" it is most likely because he is not really clean...I mean immaculately clean. That means you shampoo and rinse him as many times as it takes to get the hair squeaky clean, all the way down to the skin, all over the dog, and to get the skin completely clean. It is the dirt and bacteria that usually creates the undesirable smell. Use plenty of good shampoo, that cleans but does not strip the natural oils off. Smell the wet dog. If he still has an odor, shampoo and rinse again.
Dogs that are not at optimal health may have an odor because they are detoxing though the skin (the largest organ of the body). In those cases, I have usually found that even though they were immaculately clean after I groomed them, the odors were usually back in three or four days, reeking out of the skin. You should consult your veterinarian about this.
Quite simply, a dog with "doggy odor" is probably a dirty dog.
Matting Underneath Brushed Coat
If you cannot run a comb from the skin out to the end of the hair on your pet, you are dealing with mats. Even one snag is a mat. Once mats get started, they seem to grow exponentially.
The only really humane way to deal with substantial to severe matting is to shave the pet. Often times it is impossible to leave more than 1/4" to 1/2" (or shorter), because the matting is so close to the skin it becomes impossible to get the clipper blade underneath the mat. Beside health issues, an animal's temperament can be affected, due to the constant, nonstop pulling on the skin. I have had instances where matting was so severe the animal had stopped moving, and even stopped eating.
Your pet should be thoroughly dematted BEFORE being washed, because every time the hair gets wet, it curls more and makes the mat even tighter. So in the cases of lots of matting, washing your dog, before taking them to the groomer, actually makes the job more difficult and takes longer. The longer you want the coat left, the more time it takes to shave the dog.
Many groomers simply shave the dog/cat down to the skin, because it is quicker and easier for the groomer. My preference is to try to leave at least 1/4" of hair, so the animal has some protection from the elements, and is not quite so embarrassed, and it is not quite so much of a shock to the owner when they come to pick up the dog/cat. In my experience, the animals are frequently quite sensitive to how they look, and if their owner has less than a delightful response when they pick them up, the pet can feel quite bad about it. It's tough enough to have to go back out in the world looking kind of "naked" (especially if truly shaved down to the skin), let along being laughed at or made fun of. In almost 20 years of grooming, I have only once had to take an animal completely down to the skin. The removed matted coat was so tight, it was like removing a felted coat.
Severe matting can be difficult and dangerous
to remove, and the possibility of nicking the skin with the clipper blade
is substantiality increased. Add to that the fact that the pet is often
in discomfort or even pain, means that they may be less than cooperative
during the process, and you increase the nicking possibility even more.
Nail Trimming - "Quick" looks
The photos below clearly show the pink quick, in the center of the white nail, and the translucent black quick, in a black nail.
When trimming nails, trimming up to, but not into the quick (nerve and blood supply) helps to discourage nail growth. Trimming, or even grinding, needs to be done weekly, to encourage the quick to recede. Looking for the "quick" is like looking at growth rings on a tree stump. The above photos show what properly trimmed nails look like, on both white and black nails, viewing from the underside. When in doubt, be conservative, and back off a bit when you make a cut, so you don't cut into the quick.
Reduce "snowballing" between dog's toes. (January 1, 2008 Newsletter)
As a professional groomer, I have found several ways of dealing with snowballs that build up between dog's toes. Depending on the need (practicality versus show coats/clips) you can either eliminate the hair, use booties, or put substances on the hair, that may release the snow.
The simplest way to reduce "snowballs" that build up between toes is to eliminate the hair that it sticks to. Here in Juneau (Alaska) snow conditions are such that certain dogs have hair that is particularly prone to building up snowballs between their toes. Eventually you have to stop and remove the snowballs, or the dog stops and chews his paws until he can get rid of them, because they are uncomfortable.
On dogs that have fuzzy feet or longer hair (not shaved poodle feet), I clip close (using a short, snub nosed scissors) or even shave between the toes, so there is no hair there for the snow to stick on and build up. (See photos below.) It is almost like shaving "poodle paws", but only between the toes, leaving the hair on the top of the toes, so they don't look like poodle paws. This, however, may not be an option if you need to leave the hair between the toes, for show/conformation purposes.
Booties are always an option, but you may need to spend some time training your dog to accept and feel comfortable using them. It is recommended that you get or make them using a fabric suitable for the conditions. As mushers know, some fabrics work better for snow conditions, others provide more protection for icing conditions. And you may need to keep extras handy in case your dog looses one (or more).
If that is the case, substances like petroleum jelly, Pam (cooking spray) and musher's wax might work. They do have their down side, however, in terms of the dog ingesting them (from licking their paws) or rubbing off on carpets.
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Martha Fischbach, Owner
4191 Taku Blvd., Juneau, AK
P.O. Box 34496, Juneau, Alaska 99803