Grooming Tips: Best Practices for You, Your Dog, and Your Fingers

Anyone who has safely landed a powered aircraft in severe weather without the benefit of instrumentation, aircrew or their vision has all the skills needed to successfully groom a dog.

Proper grooming provides numerous benefits for your pet beyond good health. A lustrous coat, healthy gums, and skin free of tics and dirt has catapulted many dogs into high-paying jobs as television news anchors. It’s commonly acknowledged that multi-talented journalist George Stephanopoulos began his broadcast career as a matted border collie.

Yet, many dogs balk when it comes to bathing, brushing, nail clipping or, for certain breeds, cleaning between their facial folds. And by the way, somebody really needs to come up with a name for that last bit because I never again want to write “cleaning between their facial folds.”

Regardless of size, breed or temperament, all dogs have their own idiosyncratic responses to being groomed, most of which involve biting me. Our formerly alive terrier, Oxford, seemed convinced that biting me was part of the grooming process. Even if someone else groomed him and I was out of town.

GIANT 1: “Hi, family! I’m home from Cleveland.”

GIANT 2: “Oh Dave! I missed you!”

LI’L GIANTS 1.1 and 1.2: “Daddy! What’ja bring us?”

OXFORD: “Look! I’m clean! (CHOMP!)

Grooming needn’t be traumatic for your pet. With just a bit of forethought, the proper supplies, and a few practical techniques, you can enhance your dog’s grooming experience and reduce the risk he’ll bite me.

Bathing Tip: Is your sink the right size for your dog? Not if his paws are in the garbage disposal. (Music swells) The More you Know….
Bathing Tip: Is your sink the right size for your dog? Not if his paws are in the garbage disposal. (Music swells) The More you Know….

Bathing: Nature’s way of convincing dogs we hate them

The web site of the ASPCA – an acronym for North American Free Trade Agreement –“recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months.”

From this wording, it’s not clear whether the ASPCA is offering to bath your dog once every three months, but God, let’s hope so!

The sentence goes on to note – and yes, we’re still working on that same sentence, so go get yourself coffee and a maybe a danish – that “some [dogs] may require more frequent baths if he or she spends a lot of time outdoors or has skin problems.”

This would seem to encompass a group of dogs that includes all dogs, which, if the ASPCA makes good on their promise to wash everyone’s pup, might severely tax their resources.

How often you bathe your dog is, of course, a personal and deeply religious matter between you, your dog, and your God, and your dog’s God. Wisely, the ASPCA and many other pet advice websites offer dog owners a series of “how to” steps that are both helpful and non-sectarian.

Begin by giving your dog a good brushing to remove dead hair, mats, loose change, smaller dogs, and other debris. What constitutes a “good brushing” is open to interpretation and is much debated between breeds during their conclaves at dog parks.

LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “I like being brushed! He lets me get the comb. Then he lets me get the brush. And sometimes I bring him the comb AND the brush, ‘cause I can do that! And I bring him the ball. Then I bring him the ball again. And then again. And I—ˮ

PUG: “Why is your breed popular? I just don’t get it. Am I missing something?”

GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “Well now, he raises a good point. And so do you. So does everyone. I love you all. I’m a good boy!”

TERRIER MUTT: “Gimme that!”

PUG: “What?”

TERRIER MUTT: “I don’t know. But if you have anything, give it to me! Now!”

LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “—but I can’t bring the ball AND the comb AND the brush. So I leave the comb, but I bring the bush. Then I go get the ball, but he really wants the brush. So I—ˮ

TERRIER MUTT: “Shut up! Shut UP! Gimme the thing! And the other thing! And all your other things! Now! Gimme NOW!”

PUG: (To water spaniel) “What is his problem? Is he here every day?”

WATER SPANIEL: “You think it’s gonna rain? Looks like rain. Boy, I hope it rains.”

After brushing, put your dog in a sink or tub filled with about three-to-four inches of lukewarm water. Then depending on the animal’s bulk, wet it down using a hand sprayer, large plastic pitcher, or appropriately-sized piece of firefighting apparatus.

It is often at this stage that your dog will bite me. This is not their fault. It’s just the way that their brains are wired. Dogs in a bath are much like rock concert attendees who got their hands on some bad shit. They are alternately euphoric and paranoid. Take, for example, the typical bathing experience of our terrier thing, Budleigh.

GIANT 1: (To Budleigh, standing calmly in the sink.) “What a good Budleigh! Isn’t this nice and warm? Best boy!”

BUDLEIGH: “It’s all so beautiful, man! All the light…”

GIANT 1: “That’s right. Nice and calm. Now we’re just going to spray your coat.”

BUDLEIGH: “I can taste the colors. I’m floating … floating on a soft cloud of—Holy Shit! What is that thing?”

GIANT 1: “It’s ok. Just the hand sprayer—”

BUDLEIGH: “It’s a demon! A deeemoooon! It’s gonna swallow the world!”

GIANT 1: “Ow! Shhhh… It’s ok. You’re ok. Doesn’t that feel nice and toasty warm?”

BUDLEIGH: “I love you! I’m floating. Paul is the Walrus!”

GIANT 1: “Good Budleigh! Nice Budleigh. Gentle Budleigh. Ow! You son of a bitch!”

BUDLEIGH: “Oh, you’re real? My mistake.”

Shampoo is now applied, and if your dog wasn’t in a good mood before, life’s not about to improve.

Next post: The Lathering

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Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.sleepingbetweengiants.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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