First of all, let’s think about brushing. Brushing prevents matting but even if your pet has a short coat, brushing is still important as it will remove dirt, any debris, dandruff, dead hair etc., and encourage a healthy coat. Brushing also helps bring out the natural oils by spreading them through the coat.
Another benefit of brushing is that it allows you to check your pet for anything which isn’t quite as it should be. This could include skin problems such as ticks, fleas and dry patches, or issues with their nails, teeth, ears, and eyes such as infection or inflammation. When found at an early stage, these problems can be treated right away, before they have a chance to become more serious. If you spot anything, get in touch with your vet for treatment or reassurance.
But it is possible to brush too much in the case of horses!
In winter, their coat will keep them warm particularly if they live out. Take advice from someone who knows your horse’s breed well and how they prefer to live. You can still check your horse over and brush off dried mud (and keep tails and manes tidy) but really thorough ‘deep’ grooming (and bathing) may not be wise in winter. Take advice.
Cats benefit from brushing as they start to lose their winter coat; this will also help with cutting down on the dreaded fur balls! Keep it gentle and short with cats, particularly if they are not keen and when they walk away, take the hint!
A few minutes here and there will soon add up.
Certainly, a long–haired dog or cat will need more regular brushing but for all cats and dogs ‘little and often’ is probably better than one long stressful session battling matted hair. Perhaps get yourself into the habit of a weekly brushing session in the garden after a walk or a play session.
We all feel better when we look our best, and our pets seem to be the same! Many, such as cats, will groom themselves a lot during the day but when they are moulting in summer we can help. All long-haired pets need our extra help. If you have a cat, dog or horse, grooming will be a part of your regular care and other animals such as rabbits may also benefit. Whatever type of pet you share your life with, grooming is something we need to consider.
Then there is the subject of water! Rabbits and cats don’t need a bath, but dogs benefit from a shampoo and horses may only need it when they need to look their best or they need an area washed if they perhaps have a ‘stable stain’ (i.e. they have laid in something they shouldn’t!).
Some dogs seem to smell sweaty, and others just stink; if yours gets a bit pongy, you can be sure that eventually it will make them a bit miserable plus they may well get more cuddles if they don’t whiff badly. (Though we would add that a little bit of a doggy smell is normal!) How often your dog has a bath is a matter of what suits that dog but it is possible to bathe them too much. Take advice.
If you are bathing your dog yourself at home, make sure the water is warm but not too hot. A cold hose pipe in the garden is just mean! Where you wash your dog is a personal choice – some people are fine using their own baths but others aren’t; the shower is ideal and probably easier to clean afterwards. The writer of this article has trained her little (sweaty) dog to walk into the show cubicle and go under the spray!
Get yourself prepared and ready – use rubber gloves if that helps, and have the proper pet shampoo ready. Have a towel ready for them to stand on, and a towel ready for drying. Keep the water away from your dog’s ears and keep the process quite quick. The writer’s dog always goes into the garden afterwards for a piddle and then gets a treat. For some reason, a bath makes her dog run around with excitement!
Some dogs hate having a bath. Make it short, and keep saying nice things and offer a treat to say ‘well done’. They might be happier with a shower or even a few buckets of warm water in the garden. Find a way forward which your dog is happy with.
Finally, there is the subject of clipping your dog’s coat. Unless you are trained, this is probably best left to the professionals, not least as they will usually do nails and check ears etc at the same time. You don’t need to make your dog look like he or she is about to enter Crufts, but you do need a manageable cut which suits your dog’s lifestyle and is easy for you to manage. And in hot weather, a shorter coat will be just the thing which is needed! Ask friends for a recommendation, and don’t be afraid to ask someone out walking their dog who does their pet if it is the same breed. Go with your instinct with dog groomers; if you feel their work is good, that’s great, but you have to feel they will treat your dog as you would.
A happy, healthy pet will always be one which is well groomed. Aside from the act of making the pet look and feel good (and the chance to spot any problems) grooming is a bonding act. Brush your way into your pets’ hearts.