The A.B.C.'s of Grooming Your Puppy
Welcome to puppy grooming. Puppies can be a handful, not only with house training, basic obedience, and socialization, but also in the area of grooming. You may find this battle not worth the exertion. However, it is a must and is well worth the effort.
As you learn to be your pet's groomer and handle the dog with confidence your pet will form a stronger bond with you. You will find that by building trust your dog will listen more to you, making all other areas of training easier.
I. HANDLING YOUR PUPPY
A. From the first moments you pick up your puppy be sure you are supporting the body. This ensures that your puppy feels safe. Feeling safe builds trust. Teach children the proper way to hold a puppy and never let them grab legs or the tail. Be sure to stroke your pets face and feet gently, praising them when they allow this to happen. Frequent touching with praise is the best way to ensure that you will be able to brush these areas later. Teaching your puppy that being held and touched is a positive experience is the first step to grooming.
B. Familiarize your puppy with your grooming equipment; let them see and smell the tools in your hands, but gently discourage biting. If you will be using clippers or a hand dryer with your puppy, leave them turned on and let your puppy get used to the sounds. By praising curiosity you are teaching your puppy that these items are not to be afraid of.
C. Learn how to use your grooming tools before you use them on your puppy. Your confidence with the equipment will encourage your puppy to feel safe and relaxed. Dogs are intuitive! They will pick up on your insecurity and become more fidgety, possibly causing you to become frustrated and the puppy to lose faith in you.
To start with you want to keep these sessions brief - 2-5 minutes is enough - and end each introduction with positive reinforcement. Twice a day for 2-3 days is enough for most dogs to get used to everything and become uninterested in the sounds, smells and sight of your tools. You want enough time to establish that these items are nothing to be afraid of.
II. BRUSHING YOUR PUPPY
A. When you're ready to start brushing your puppy, pick a time when you are both relaxed, perhaps watching T.V at night. Hold them as you did before, gently parting the coat with one hand while brushing in the direction of the coat with the other. You should keep a running dialogue with your puppy using encouraging yet soothing words. Don't expect too much from your puppy the first time, you have introduced something new. Again, 2-5 min is enough for the first few times. You should groom twice a day for 2-3 days or until they lose interest in what you are doing.
B. Choose something easy for the first time, such as their back. Go slowly and gently discourage any behavior you don't want, such as biting at your hands or at the brush. Be aware, some puppies get very fidgety - gently put them back into the position you want and give lots of praise for being there. By keeping it brief your puppy will learn that it doesn't take very long and that they are good when they are still.
C. The harder areas to brush will be the face and the front legs. If your puppy is very unhappy about these areas, use a light touch. That way if they try to pull out of your grasp you will not accidentally yank them. Make sure that you brush everywhere, even between the toes and under the arms.
Patience, persistence, perseverance and positive reinforcement will go a long way in training your puppy
III. COMBING YOUR PUPPY
A. After brushing each section use your combination comb to check that you have removed all the tangles in the coat. Use the wide side first, then the thin side.
B. If you do find a tangle, you can use the comb to gently pull out the tangles. Then re-brush that area before moving on.
C. Always work in sections and give your puppy breaks between sessions. Follow the same routine each time you groom.
A common practice is to do the back first, then the head and neck, followed by the legs, belly and tail. Make sure you double check between the toes, behind the ears, under arms and hind quarters, and under the tail as these are the most common places to find knots and tangles.
IV BATHING THE PUPPY
A. Now that you are sure there are no tangles or knots, you are free to introduce your puppy to the joys of a warm bath. Never use cold water - this will teach your puppy that baths are unpleasant. Be sure to have all your supplies with you before you start the bath.
The items that you need are: Puppy Shampoo (never use human shampoo as even mild baby shampoo is not the right Ph balance for your puppy's delicate skin and may cause problems) Conditioner, Towels, Cotton, Face Cloth and a Brush.
B. Start by running the water with the puppy in the room. Fill a small amount in the bottom of your tub or a sink. Fill a pitcher with the water and set it aside. Gently place your puppy in the bath, encouraging and praising all the while. When they are calm, gently pour the pitcher down the back and along the sides. Scoop water from the tub as needed until they are thoroughly wet. Save the head and face for last. Tilt the puppy's face up gently and slowly pour the water over the head towards the back (like washing a babies hair). Make sure that you are not getting any into the eyes, ears or nose. Next pour water slowly over cheeks avoiding the nose, open mouth and ears. Be sure that you are talking with your pet in a comforting and encouraging voice
C. Now that your puppy is wet take your shampoo, about a dime size into your hand, and starting with the shoulders and back, smooth it into the coat. For long haired dogs or fine coated dogs do not rub the shampoo into the coat as this will cause "wet matts." Just as you did with brushing, take a section at a time and slowly massage the shampoo into the coat. Use a little shampoo over the head and on the ears, put a little shampoo on a wet face cloth and massage under the eyes and around the mouth. Follow this with another quick brushing to ensure that there are no tangles and that the soap reaches the skin. To rinse the soap out, repeat step A with clean water. If you are using a conditioner or cream rinse, repeat the steps that you followed for shampooing and follow up with a thorough rinse. Just remember that there should be no residue left on your pet's skin. To be sure that there is no soap left, watch the water that comes off your pet, it should run clear.
V. DRYING THE PUPPY
A. When you are finished rinsing your pet gently squeeze out the excess water and wrap the puppy in a towel. You want to squeeze out the water rather than rub the coat because rubbing can cause more matts. If you have a short hair breed rubbing can be done gently. If the towel becomes wet, repeat the drying with a fresh towel. Two is usually enough.
B. Next comes the hand dryer. Set it on a low warm setting, gently dry the coat, and remember to praise your puppy. Stop occasionally to brush, ensuring that you are not tangling the coat. Avoid blowing directly into the face as this may upset your puppy and cause difficulty in breathing making this a very unpleasant experience.
C. When the puppy is dry, quickly run a comb through the coat to fluff individual hairs and to ensure you did a thorough job. This is most important through the winter months when you want to make sure that your pup does not catch a draft.
VI. TRIMMING YOUR PUPPY'S NAILS
A. This can be a very tricky endeavor - especially with puppies. If you do not trim accurately you may cut the "quick" (the vein that runs through the base of the nail) causing pain and making it bleed. White nails are much simpler to trim than dark or black nails, but don't be discouraged. With a little practice darker nails can be just as easy even if you can't see the quick
B. Small dogs can be placed in your lap for nail trims, and if your dog is submissive they can be put on their backs to make nail trimming quick and easy. Larger dogs can be trained to lie on their side so that you have access to their feet.
C. Separate the toes with your fingers by gently placing one finger into the webbing of the foot. Support the toes with your other fingers. Look for where the tip of the nail hooks over the thickest part and trim just the tip. This is called tipping, and if it is done on a regular basis the nail will not get too long. If your puppy fights you for nail trimming, consider doing only one foot per day, with lots of praise for a job well done. Your puppy will soon get the hang of it.
Just remember the four "P's" for puppies - Patience, Persistence, Praise and Play. Make it enjoyable, be patient with them, and give them lots of encouragement. Above all, don't give up! We can not stress enough how important it is to teach your puppy good grooming behavior. Good behaviour will be needed for their entire life.