Grooming your pet the right way

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By Kim Gilliam

Grooming is not just about keeping your dog clean and looking good. It’s also about maintaining their physical health and appearance. All breeds should be groomed, whether at home or at the groomers, and there are significant benefits to doing so.

For example, brushing helps remove dead hair, dirt and dandruff and brings out the natural oils in the dog’s fur. Grooming also allows you to check your dog for any abnormalities, such as skin problems or issues with their nails, teeth, ears or eyes. When found at an early stage, these problems can be treated before they have a chance to become more serious. Plus, the time spent grooming your dog at home is another opportunity to bond with your furry family member.

It is true that many dogs don’t enjoy visiting the groomer. They don’t like being in an unfamiliar location with new smells, having their body handled by strangers or being subjected to scary devices like hair dryers and nail dremels. In addition, dogs who don’t like car rides can be stressed out before they even arrive.

If trips to the groomer are torture for your dog, here are techniques to make the experience more tolerable:

  • Teach your dog to endure grooming while they are still a puppy; waiting to begin grooming sessions until they are older may make your dog more disagreeable, especially when it comes to body handling, ear cleaning and nail clipping.
  • Brush your dog once a week to prevent any mats from forming in your dog’s coat. A buildup of mats can make their experience at the groomer more painful and expensive; plus, if your groomer can’t get them out, they might have to completely shave your dog.
  • Exercise your dog right before the grooming appointment to tire them out, which will make them less likely to be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • To help your dog avoid car-related stess, take them with you as often as possible and make the destinations fun, like a walk in the woods or a playdate at a friend’s house.
  • Use a stress-reducing pheromone spray, collar, or water additive; a homeopathic approach may have a calming effect.

    It’s important to find a terrific groomer that not only does a good job, but who is sensitive to your dog’s needs. Ideally, you should be able to do a dry run with your groomer before you leave your dog with them for the first time so that they become familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of the facility, meet the staff, get patted and petted and enjoy a tasty treat. This helps your dog associate going to the groomer with pleasant, fun things.

    You may also consider having the groomer come to you. Some groomers have fully equipped mobile units that park in front of your home or have gear that they can bring inside. This avoids the stressful car ride and allows your dog to be groomed in a far quieter and less stimulating environment. A home visit means your dog doesn’t have to wait its turn, so the grooming session is completed more quickly. Note, however, that mobile and in-home groomers are, by necessity, more expensive, and last-minute appointments may not be possible.

    Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.

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