Puppies are a lot of work! Young dogs can be, too. But you’ve gotten through the more challenging younger years, and now you have a beautiful, well-behaved adult dog. He is your pride and joy and you love having him around. He is a pleasure to groom, and his stylist loves him.
But that’s not the end of proper coat care. You still have to brush and comb your dog to keep things clean, tidy and presentable. Just like our own hair, daily brushing will keep your four-legged friend looking and feeling his best.
If your dog requires trimming, you have probably found a professional that you and your dog like. Professional grooming salons are the norm around the country, but there are also mobile groomers and, in some areas, groomers who do house calls. Each scenario presents its own conveniences and pricing structures, so be sure to ask questions before making an appointment. Full grooming usually involves bathing, drying, ear cleaning, nail trimming and, sometimes, anal gland expression. Long-coated pets are given haircuts, while short- and medium-coated breeds are brushed and de-shedded.
Let’s Talk Shedding
De-shedded? What’s that, you may ask? Some people buy dogs who, they are told, “do not shed.” While this is mostly true of some breeds, like Poodles, any dog who needs his hair cut is a low-shedder or non-shedder. But they need trimming! Either the hair grows and has to be cut, or it grows, reaches a genetically determined length then falls out. This is the process of shedding, or coat renewal. Some breeds shed their hair when it is much longer, like a Maltese or Bearded Collie, while others shed it out when it is shorter, like a Labrador Retriever. Some dogs have a mix of short and long coat, like a Border Collie, Golden Retriever or Australian Shepherd.
And, just because a dog has very short hair does not mean they will not shed. This is a huge misconception. I have been a Doberman owner for more than 40 years, and I can tell you that they shed. A lot! We affectionately refer to the hair as our “black pine needles,” as they can stick in your feet just like the real thing. Dalmatians shed all the time, and no breed sheds more than a Pug.
A de-shedding, or shed-less program, is a series of appointments that you can set up with a groomer who can perform a de-shedding procedure on the dog and apply specific shampoos and conditioners to enrich the skin and coat and control the natural shedding process. To be effective, this procedure must be performed every four weeks. Your groomer will charge extra for this, but if a relatively hair-free home is your concern, ask your groomer about it. Note: It is a “shed-less” program, as nobody can ever guarantee a “shed-free” program.
Excessive shedding can also be related to dietary issues. Poor diet will be reflected in the coat and condition of the adult dog. While a certain amount of flaking on the skin can be normal, as the skin constantly regenerates itself, abnormally dry flaking, oily flakes, lesions, sores, crustiness or anything else that doesn’t look “normal” should be addressed. A good way for you to see down to the skin on your dog is to turn a hair dryer against the grain on the dog’s coat. This will show what is happening all the way down to the skin. If you have a long- or medium-coated dog and you can’t see the skin, your dog may be severely matted and you may need the help of a professional groomer.
Coat Care Through The Seasons
Regular grooming should be a year-round routine, and it’s not just for the long-haired dogs. Springtime brings a change of coat for many of our double-coated friends, like Siberian Huskies or Pomeranians. Our medium-coated dogs, like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, also drop some winter coat in lieu of a lighter, summer wardrobe. Short-haired dogs, like Beagles or Dalmatians, may shed a bit more, and dogs like Labrador Retrievers just never seem to stop shedding. And our long-haired dogs, like Poodles, Shih Tzus and Doodles, are all coming out of winter badly in need of haircuts. It’s always a good idea to keep up your brushing routine year-round to avoid tangles, mats and control shedding hair, but sometimes you have to call the groomer for a little help in keeping it under control.
Summer comes quickly to many parts of the country, and you may feel that a short haircut would be beneficial to your dog, making him feel cooler; but this may not always be a good idea. First, let’s take a look at the dog’s “cooling system.” We humans sweat through our skin. This sweat evaporates, thus cooling us down. Dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin. They have glands at the base of each hair follicle that secrete lubricating oils to the skin and coat. The only places dogs can sweat from are the pads of their feet and their tongues. If you see your dog panting on a hot summer day, he is doing the same as you — he is cooling himself down. Put his feet on a solid-colored surface and you may see moist paw prints. This is totally normal.
Long-haired dogs, like Huskies and Chow Chows, have coats that act as insulation. If you take this insulation away, the pet may have a more difficult time in hot weather. You don’t have the winter insulation taken out of your house in the summer, do you? I have to be very mindful of my Doberman on a hot summer’s day, as he has no insulation. Shaving a dog’s hair short may make care easier for the owner, but if the dog is not normally clipped short on a regular basis you may just want to give your pet a good bath and brush. This fluffs up the coat and actually increases its insulating properties. This also holds true of clippable dogs, like Poodles, but as I mentioned, nothing takes the place of a good brushing.
The fall season brings crisper air and a denser coat growing in preparation for winter. I like to think of “winterizing” my dog’s coat right around now. As I mentioned previously, nothing takes the place of a good daily brushing and combing on the medium- to long-haired dogs. It separates the hair and increases the insulation factor for the pet, similar to a nicely fluffed-up down quilt. Please do not allow your dog’s coat to become matted and tamped down, as that is uncomfortable for them.
Your active adult dog will really enjoy his routine grooming. The process also helps you, as the owner, to keep on top of your dog’s condition as he approaches late adulthood. It enables you to examine him for any skin or health issues that normally come with aging, giving you an opportunity to address things before they get out of control. Keep your friend looking and feeling his best, because he deserves it.