How often do you brush your pet? Once a week? Once a month? Never? How often do you trim your dog’s or cat’s nails or brush their teeth? Do you ever take your pet to the grooming parlor? Basically, how important do you think grooming is for your dog or cat?
Grooming is not just about your pet looking good; it’s also about ensuring good health and hygiene. Grooming is not just for long-haired cats and dogs. Short-haired pets also need regular grooming, although not as often as their long-haired friends.
Why is grooming so important?
There are several reasons it’s important to groom your dog or cat regularly.
- It’s a great way to strengthen your bond with your pet. Most creatures like a little pampering, and if it’s introduced properly, most dogs and cats will completely relax while you brush them (although brushing teeth and clipping nails may not be quite as pleasurable).
- Brushing your dog’s or cat’s coat promote healthy coat growth and good blood circulation. It also removes excess grease from the coat.
- Going over your pet’s body will allow you to pick up on any surface problems like ticks, fleas, cysts, and hot spots. It will also allow you to pick up on pain issues and skin sensitivity.
- You’ll be able to find matted or knotted patches of fur, which you can deal with before they get too big and start affecting your pet’s health. According to the ASPCA, matted hair can cause skin irritations, it’s a breeding ground for bacteria, it’s an environment in which ticks and fleas can thrive undetected, it can accumulate feces (to the point where it becomes difficult for pets to defecate), and it can even restrict circulation, which in a worst case scenario can make it amputation necessary. Fur can also become matted between their paws. The matted fur can become hard with dirt and the lumps can cause extreme discomfort.
Grooming at home vs. professional groomers
It’s entirely up to you whether you take your pet to a professional grooming parlor or groom your pets at home. Most people are confident enough to brush their dogs regularly, but when it comes to clipping nails, trimming hair, cleaning ears, and brushing teeth, they prefer to let professionals take over. Other people have the confidence to tackle every aspect of grooming and have home grooming kits to boot.
Here are some considerations if you’re thinking of going the home grooming route.
- Cats can be more challenging to groom than dogs, so unless you’ve been grooming your cat since she was a kitten and you know she’s comfy with the process, you might want to consider going to a parlor. Long-haired cats, like Persians, also have more intensive grooming needs than short-hairs, which professional groomers are more qualified to meet.
- Older rescue dogs or dogs with abusive backgrounds may not like the confinement and handling that goes with grooming. This is something you can (and should) work on, but if you’re anxious about safety, a professional groomer is your best bet. Professional groomers have experience with challenging dogs, and have the equipment and resources necessary to help relax, and if necessary, restrain dogs.
- Some dog breeds have coats that don’t lend themselves to easy home grooming; for example, schnauzers, poodles, bearded collies, and Airedales have patterns or skirts that need special attention.
Choosing a professional groomer
It’s very important that you do your research before choosing a professional groomer, if you’ve decided that you’d prefer to go that route. Pet grooming is an unregulated industry, which means that anyone with a bath and pair of scissors can set up shop. In 2015, a spate of pet deaths at groomers prompted pet parents and industry insiders to call for increased regulation and now legislation is pending in some states, including New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.
One of the best ways to find reputable groomers is to ask friends and to get referrals from your veterinarian and even local shelters. You can also contact the National Dog Groomers Association of America to find potential groomers. Go online and see if you can find reviews for the parlor you’re considering.
Comb through the choices
Make a shortlist of potential candidates and then visit each facility. The Humane Society recommends you consider the following aspects of the grooming parlor:
- Is it well-lit? Accidents can easily happen if there are shadows or dark spots.
- Does it look and smell clean? Don’t judge too harshly if there is still some fur on the floor from the last dog or cat groomed. However, go somewhere else if there is enough fur for a carpet and there is mold in the bath tubs.
- What are the staff like? Are the people knowledgeable, caring, patient? Do they handle pets gently, even if the dog or cat concerned is putting up a bit of a struggle?
- Where are pets kept while waiting their turn and while waiting to be picked up? Are dogs and cats kept separate, are the cages a good size, and are the cages comfortable and well kept?
- What safety measures are in place? For example, are pets monitored to ensure they don’t overheat while being dried? Is there a plan B if pets really don’t like being blow-dried? How are animals restrained, if restraints are necessary?
- What happens if there is a medical emergency, or any emergency for that matter? Is there an exit plan, first aid kit, etc.?
- Are the groomers properly qualified and certified, and are they members of any grooming associations; for example, International Pet Groomers, National Dog Groomers Association, and Professional Pet Groomers and Stylist Alliance. (The International Professional Groomers has the only Groomer Safety Certification)
- Do they ask all the right questions; for example, who is your vet, does your pet have any medical or behavioral problems, etc.?
- Trust your gut. If something feels wrong to you, go somewhere else.
Tips for pet grooming at home
It’s important to have the right equipment. A basic pet grooming kit should include:
Different coats (silky, curly, double, wire, smooth) require different brushes (bristle, wire-pin, slicker). Bristle brushes are multi-purpose. Remember longer coats need brushes with long, widely-spaced bristles. Coarse hair needs stiff bristles. Wire-pin brushes are good for medium-to-long coats, as well as curly coats. Slicker brushes are good for untangling knots and matted fur. You should also have a comb or two; one wide-toothed and one fine-toothed, and possibly an undercoat rake for pets with double coats.
- Detangling spray
- Pet shampoo
- Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste
- Grooming rug or non-slip rubber mat
- Small scissors
- Ear drops, eye wipes
Eye wipes are important if you have a brachycephalic (short-faced) breed, like a Persian cat or Boston terrier, as their eyes are prone to infections. You’ll also need wipes for wrinkles, especially for pugs, bull dogs, and shar-peis. Checking ears is very important in dogs with long, droopy ears, like bassets and spaniels, as they are prone to infections.
Keep the following grooming tips in mind
Introduce your pet to grooming as early as possible
The best way to ensure that your pet enjoys grooming is to introduce them to it when they’re still babies. So when you first bring your puppy or kitten home, you should make grooming part of their daily routine. Introductory sessions should be short and be accompanied by plenty of treats to ensure positive associations with each part of the process, especially clipping nails, cleaning ears and brushing teeth.
Keep grooming sessions short
Shorter sessions are better, especially if you’re still introducing your pet to grooming, or if you’re pet is not entirely comfortable with all aspects of grooming. For example, trim just 2 or 3 nails at a time and then brush your pet to help her relax.
Pick your times. Don’t groom your pet if they’re stressed, anxious or over-excited and don’t groom if you’ve had a bad day and are tired or irritable.
Groom all year round
Don’t forget to maintain your grooming routine in winter, especially if you have a long-haired dog or cat. Long, wet hair mats easily, and prevents proper insulation and thermoregulation. Always towel down your dog when she comes in from the rain or snow. Brush your pet more regularly to prevent matted fur and distribute natural oils.
Don’t bath dogs and cats too often as it strips their skin of the natural oils that are essential to good health. As a rule, you should only bath your pets if they are the kind of dirty that can’t be cleaned with a brush, damp cloth and towel.
Preparation is essential when bathing your dog or cat. So make sure that you have everything you need in the bath area (outside or inside in the bath tub or shower). Use a non-slip when bathing your pet inside in your tub. Put towels or mats on the floor (because it will get wet) and close the door. You don’t want your soppy pooch running straight outside to roll in the flowerbeds or to rub themselves dry on your clean bedding or new couch.
Get the water ready first, as the sound of taps running can frighten or concern pets. The water shouldn’t be too deep and should be tepid. Use a jug to fully wet your pet (avoiding the ears and eyes) before you start with the shampoo. Only use shampoo designed for pets and choose quality products over cheap stuff you can get at supermarkets. Massage the shampoo into the coat. Don’t forget about getting under the tummy, under the armpits and around the tail. Rinse carefully but thoroughly and quickly get your pet out of the bath and into a towel. Towel dry as much as possible and let sunshine do the rest. If it’s winter and there is no sunshine you can use a hair dryer, but only if you’ve gone through the process of desensitising your pet to it.
Grooming dogs and cats at home doesn’t have to be a palaver. Simply set aside a few minutes a week so you can relax and destress with your pets while you brush their hair. Prepare yourself for trimming your cats or dogs nails about once a month or once every two months. You can easily check their eyes whenever you look at them and it doesn’t take much to flip their ears for a quick peek and sniff during a brushing session.
If, however, you are at all uneasy about grooming, it’s quite all right to take your pet to a professional groom. Just make sure you’re completely happy with the groomer you choose and if your pet is ever unhappy after a grooming session, find out why and possibly switch salons.