Dogs. We’ve shared a mutual history with them for thousands of years, and to this day, we develop deep, meaningful connections them. They share our homes, our beds, and enrich our lives with their company. If you love adventuring in the outside world, there’s no one better to have by your side than a canine companion or two! From back country trekking to mountain climbing, from camping under the stars to running the Iditarod, we can gain new perspective of our own experiences through our dog’s enthusiastic eyes.
Our furry compatriots, though eager to follow in our footsteps, still rely on us for care and attention, however. Watching out for your pup’s well-being is an essential first step in your shared journey, and a dog that feels fantastic from the inside out is better able to be focused, motivated and curious about the world around him.
Let’s take a walk on the wild and furry side for a moment – literally speaking, let’s talk about caring for your dog’s coat. Though it might seem like a trivial part of dog ownership, for active outdoor dogs, grooming is far more than just a way to remove sticks, leaves, mud, or tangles. Although a clean, well-groomed pup satisfies our human sense of aesthetics, it also provides some truly essential benefits to your dog, too! A regular grooming:
- Removes dead hair
- Gets rid of tangles that might cause discomfort or limit your dog’s free movement
- Improves blood circulation
- Distributes oils from the skin through the coat, which keeps the coat and skin healthy
- Provides a phenomenal way for you to bond daily with your dog
- Familiarizes your dog with being handled by someone else (when a groomer does it)
- Feels great and can relax your dog! (Hey, who doesn’t like a massage?)
Where to begin?
First, it’s really best if your dog actually likes being handled and brushed, so if you have a puppy, start gentle grooming as early as possible. For older dogs or rescues, go slowly, and introduce grooming tools gradually as they feel more comfortable with you and with being handled. Keep sessions short, and have some small, yummy treats on hand to make the experience a positive one!
Gather Your Tools
Depending on your furry friend’s coat type, you’re going to need some basic grooming equipment. A brush and two types of combs (a wide tooth and a fine tooth one) are handy. Short haired dogs may just need a soft rubber massaging tool to loosen dead hair. If you’re planning to do some trimming or shaping of your dog’s coat, you’ll also need scissors, shears or a stripping comb.
If you’re new to dog ownership or think you might need some advice before you start, a trusted dog groomer, your dog’s breeder, or other pet owners who are experienced with the same type of dog can be the perfect people to ask for advice, by the way!
If you’re planning on bath time for your dog, it’s always best to comb out any mats or dead hair before dunking them in. Start by using your fingers to loosen any hair matting. If hair mats are too close to the skin, avoid using scissors to cut them out – you might unintentionally cut your pup’s skin. Ouch!
Let’s take a look at the best ways to care for different types of coats, from wild and woolly to short and sleek.
- For dogs with smooth coats, like Dachshunds or Weimeraners, use a rubber brush or glove to loosen dirt and hair, and then use a bristle brush to remove it.
- Longer and thicker coats need a lot more attention, obviously. Begin using a pinhead brush or comb to untangle matted hair, taking particular care around the backside, tail and legs. Brush and comb the coat forward, then backwards. Then comb the undercoat. Trim any stray hairs.
- Dogs with silky or curly hair that don’t tend to shed need combing daily, else they’d end up a tangled mess on legs! Use a fine tooth comb to divide hair into sections and gently tease out tangles (similar to the way your hairdresser would treat your hair). Clipping can be best for easier care if your pup is an enthusiastic outdoor participant, particularly around the face and bottom where muck and dirt tend to gather.
- Double coats – many breeds of dogs, like Huskies, Malamutes, Shepherds and Corgis, are double coated – that is, they have a softer, thicker layer of fur close to their skin, and a harsher, more waterproof outer layer. If your dog is one of these breeds, then they’re lucky enough to have their own built-in weather protection! Also, although many people believe that shaving their double coated pup’s coat might make for a cooler dog, it’s not actually necessary – a well-groomed dog can usually regulate their temperature much more effectively – that coat also helps to protect them from sunburn!
Unless your pooch has passed the point of no return in the matting department, the best care for these dogs is a thorough raking with a comb that helps remove the undercoat. This raking, followed by a bath and blow dry, helps to remove any dead undercoat and allows air to circulate properly through your pup’s coat, cooling them down or keeping them warm as needed. Since this is usually a job that takes several hours, you might want to consider hiring some professional assistance (a.k.a. a dog groomer), especially if your own WooFPAK is a large one!
Get Set to Get Wet!
If you and your canine companion have been outdoors adventuring in the mud, or your dog has snatched the chance to roll in something stinky, you’re next step is probably the bath tub. Remember to use warm (not hot) water, a non-skid mat to prevent slipping, and, of course, a shampoo that’s made just for dogs. Avoid getting suds in your pup’s ears, eyes and mouth, and remember to rinse well – leftover shampoo can be itchy and really irritating to your dog’s skin!
Toe Trim Time
Don’t forget your dog’s feet! As the part of your dog that touches the ground the most, your dog’s feet will make a huge difference in their ability to move around. Trim their nails regularly – once every 2-3 weeks is best for most dogs – since overly long nails can actually cause pain and change in the way your dog walks. Depending how active your dog is and what surfaces he/she come in contact with, the nails may maintain themselves. BUT always the Dewclaw needs to be properly maintained as that will almost never come into contact with the ground so it won’t get naturally grind down. In addition hair between your dog’s toes can become matted and collect dirt, leaves or snow, so make sure to trim that tootsie hair at the same time you’re giving your pup their ‘paw’dicure.
Professional Groomers also can offer other hygienic procedures you can check with them or ask your veterinarian about other potentially needed services.
Routine care like grooming can seem to be a bit of a pain on the tail end sometimes, but with practice and a consistent routine, it can become just another fantastic opportunity to engage and bond with your pup. Now that you’ve taken the time to get your dog looking and feeling sensational, it’s time to get in some fun and adventuring together – ready, set, go!