And so, it has started. As sure as daffodils bloom and bees get stuck on the wrong side of the window – the Spring moult. It begins with a bit more fur in the corners of the kitchen, then quickly develops into ‘tumbleweed’ balls of discarded fluff rolling across the floor, under chairs and in your breakfast, if you are not careful. I managed to clingfilm some when I covered a cake the other day!
Neither of our dogs have been particularly shaggy, though there are some who might dispute that in relation to Ludvic the GDS pictured above, but our current beast Monty really isn’t, so I really sympathise with those who have to dealt with a seriously thick coated dog.
Grooming your dog has multiple benefits so it should be done regularly and from an early age.
We’ve all seen the dog food and paint adverts in which dogs with beautiful flowing locks bound through flower meadows or similar and thought, thank goodness I don’t have to groom that lot! But, in fact, brushing your dog has multiple benefits and should form part of your routine dog care activities, even if they have very short fur.
Different breeds and individual dogs shed to varying degrees and generalisations are dangerous. However, in broad terms, dogs grow two coats a year which are shed in Spring and Autumn. The Spring moult is more significant because it is the heavier winter coat that is being lost. It seems to go on forever, doesn’t it!
So why is it a good idea to groom your dog? Here are the five principle reasons we think it is an important and worthwhile way to spend time.
Keep your dog’s coat in good condition
Pretty obviously, brushing will help keep your dogs’ coat in good condition by stimulating blood flow to the skin and removing the dirty, oily hair that has been cast, but not shed from the coat. It will also make them feel more comfortable, a bit like giving tangled hair a good brush. Be sure to get the right brush for your dogs’ fur type and carefully tease out matted parts and debris as you would for a child’s hair. No rough tugging!
You should see an improved shine and the coat should feel smoother and cleaner to the touch after brushing. If you have not been in the habit of grooming your dog regularly, this could take a few days or even a couple of weeks to become obvious.
Going to a grooming parlour is an option, and for certain breeds or coat types, it is pretty much a necessity unless you are confident with trimming yourself. However, it should be considered as equivalent to you going to the hair dresser or barber – a regular, but infrequent tidy up. It does not bring the additional, less tangible, but just as important benefits described below.
2. Reduce doggie odours around the house
Brushing your dog will reduce the amount of fur that needs to be vacuumed up – honest. Though it can seem that as much as you remove, the same amount comes away in your hand immediately afterwards. Any doggie odour will be reduced through the removal of grubby, greasy fur, and their bed will also smell better and need less frequent washing. You will also see a reduction in the incidence of dirty marks on walls they regularly brush against, your clothes and even when you run your hand over their coat.
3. Grooming is ‘me’ or rather ‘we’ time with your dog
Ok, so in addition to the benefits to the coat condition and look of your dog, why is brushing important? Well, it is very specifically time you give to your dog, so it reinforces the bond you have. You talk to them only and they are not sharing you with the whole family while they are being groomed. In our busy lives, family dogs often miss out on the one to one time that we all crave, including dogs, as life goes on around them. Remember, you may have lots of interests and activities taking up your time, but your dog only has you and looks to you for everything.
Ideally, everyone in the family should be involved with the dog brushing routine for the same reason – it gives the dog ‘me time’ with every family member. Make sure you show older children very specifically what to do and younger children should not do this without adult supervision in case they become over enthusiastic and a nip results.
4. Brushing helps your dog relax when being handled
A dog that is regularly handled in a calm fashion as should occur during brushing will generally be more relaxed with strangers touching them, so vet visits or kennel stays will be less stressful all round. When brushing your dog, you can teach the command ‘stand’ which will make your job easier. A solid stand command is also useful when a vet is trying to examine the dog.
You should start to brush your dog as soon as you get him/her, whether as a puppy or when older. Young puppies don’t really need brushing, but if it is done from the outset, it becomes a normalised activity that they are happy to accept without a fuss. Let them sniff the brush and tell them they are going to be brushed – they soon become familiar with the phrase. A treat during and certainly afterwards helps them associate being brushed with nice things so increases cooperation, especially if they are nervous at first. Only brush a pup for 10 to 15 seconds initially so they don’t get bored. A puppy may tend to try to play with the brush, just remove it and walk away as, if it becomes a game, they will never learn to stand still. Don’t tell them off as it needs to be a positive experience. Our boy gets quite excited when he sees the brushes coming out and always looks for a treat afterwards. You won't be allowed to forget it!
5. Regular health checks
Grooming lets you check for and remove ticks and other parasites or grass seeds which can work their way down into a dog’s skin or under a claw with significant results. In older dogs in particular, the growth of any lumps and bumps will be noticed sooner when they are brushed, and can be monitored frequently to check their rate of growth before deciding on a visit to the vet. Any other anomalies are also more readily picked up, like tenderness in a joint or reluctance to stand on three legs, which might indicate an injury or onset of arthritis.
Grooming your dog need not be a major task when done frequently
If grooming is done frequently, which means every second or third day, it need not be a massively time consuming activity. Five – 10 minutes only with a treat and some play time at the end to bring reward for cooperation and fun into the activity. And it needn’t be a year round activity, you can just stick to the key times of the year in Spring and Autumn, though you risk losing the non-fur removal benefits discussed.
So, why not start today, and enrich your relationship with your dog while also benefitting their physical and psychological health.
Tell us about your dog grooming experiences and any benefits you think we've missed in the comments.
Want to know more about how you can improve the bond with your dog? Take part in Bond With Your Dog Day on 14 May. See more details here