Ah, summer, a season for hikes, picnics and water fun. Longer days and warmer weather make us and our dogs go out to soak up the sun (wisely) and exercise.
Maintaining our dogs’ grooming routines is also important. It’s not just about looking good, although that is certainly a motivator; it is also closely monitoring the condition of our dogs’ skin, ears and nails, solving small problems before they turn into big ones.
While some breeds require the services of a professional groomer, all dogs benefit from a good brushing, and you don’t have to be a pro to do it. A dog’s best friend is a tool suited to their coat type, one that removes loose hair so that air can circulate against their skin. Regular and thorough brushing also prevents rugs, which are not only painful but also retain heat and moisture and can lead to skin infections.
However, experts tell us to resist the urge to shave our dogs, especially double-coated ones, who can be quite comfortable as long as these coats are well-groomed. Regardless of length and composition, a dog’s coat offers built-in climate control as well as a first line of defense against sunburns, twigs, and stickers, among others.
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It is also the time of year to be particularly vigilant against ticks and fleas. The former can be a carrier of disease and the latter can quickly set up a household on your dog and in your home if left unmanaged. Another reason to be conscientious in handling the brush, rake or comb of your choice. While your dog may or may not agree, adding an extra bath or two is also a good summer strategy. Brush before and after, choose a shampoo that suits their skin and coat type (or make your own), lather once and rinse well.
Check your dog’s ears regularly, especially if swimming is on their reading list. Dogs with folded ears are prone to ear infections, which is favored by wet ears. Some groomers pluck hair from a dog’s ear canal, but vets advise against this as the pores in the bristles then secrete additional serum, providing another excellent medium for infection. After your dog has taken a bath, gently wipe the inner atrium with a cotton ball; if your vet tells you everything is fine, you can also use drops that contain a drying agent. According to the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, a drop of white vinegar will also help prevent “swimmer’s ear.”
And in the “of course” category, keep brushing your dog’s pearly whites and watch out for his paws. Check between his toes for ticks, foxtail, brambles or other debris, and clip his fingernails.
None of this is rocket science, just old fashioned good conscience. And the payoff is well worth it: a dog that feels great and smells good, and a lot less furry bunnies that roll around on the floor and hide under the couch!
For more on this, check out the interview with extraordinary groomer Robyn Michaels at thebark.com/groomed.