Mrs. Maybank looked at me in dismay “Oh PLEASE don’t tell me they’ll have to SHAVE Maggie! She’ll look AWFUL, my husband will be so upset!!!” I lifted her beautiful small Spaniel onto the counter, ran my hands over her coat and shook my head ruefully. The last thing I wanted, was to have my girls shave this lovely dog but I knew trying to brush her out would be extremely painful process and I wasn’t about to do that to what I could already tell was a super sweet little Cavalier.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Maybank, but look here,” just under the top coat I could feel solid pelts of fur, densely packed and completely matted to the skin. Maggie’s coat was brittle and dry and filled with static making each long hair cling to the ones next to it tenaciously.
“What have you been bathing her with? Do you happen to use coat conditioner? Are you brushing her mats out before her bath?” I already knew the probable answers to my questions, but I was trying to help this very nice lady see the error of her grooming ways.
“Noooo, I always use conditioner on my hair, but I never thought about Maggie’s coat. Actually, I just use whatever I use for the dishes or grab my shampoo but never any conditioner, is that not OK? I guess I just bathe her without brushing her first too” she added with chagrin in her voice.
I looked at Mrs. Maybanks carefully styled tresses and asked her what would happen to her own hair if she used the dish soap or skipped conditioner or careful detangling. She looked contrite, “My goodness, my hair would be a disaster, I get the point, poor Maggie, I guess we’ll have to start over, show me what I can do to keep her from being such a mess next time!”
As the long-time owner of a popular dog grooming salon, that was one of the most common questions that our clients would ask. How to take care of their dog’s coat in-between groomings? Especially how to prevent having a completely matted canine that requires a total clip-down, embarrassing for them and for their poor dog too!
Unfortunately, most dog owners don’t realize that using the right products, the proper grooming tools, will help them care for those beautiful coats properly BEFORE they require a grooming intervention.
Today, we’ll discuss three of most important steps to avoid a grooming intervention. Starting with the proper products and tools will help keep those long coats in good condition and thus easier to keep tangle-free. Your groomer will thank you and Maggie will too!
Dogs with long “furnishings’ (the long feathery hair that hangs down from your pet’s ears, under body and legs) tangle easily and are almost impossible to comb out once large mats have been allowed to form. Those hapless Spaniels and Yorkies, long coated dogs of any breed require a bit of extra attention at home if you want to keep them looking grooming parlor fresh.
#1. NEVER wet your dog’s coat before brushing out mats out completely, BEFORE the bath! After mats dry they become almost IMPOSSIBLE to brush out. Period. Once matted hair is saturated with water, and it then begins to dry, the strands of fur contract and shink together tighter and tighter quickly becoming an impenetrable felted mass.
BEFORE THE BATH is the time to brush out those snarls. Check behind your dog’s ears, under her legs, those places are usually the most troublesome and you’ll usually find hidden mats there. I like to use a wire slicker brush, beginning at the outer edge of the mat, brush slowly 1/4″ at a time, working your way to the skin gently. (A slicker brush is a basic must have for your home grooming kit, try it the back of your hand to learn the amount of pressure to use. Keep the brush flat, don’t scrape tender skin with the wire edges, a bit of practice and lots of treats will help loads!) If you don’t have a proper slicker, my favorite is available here:
#2. Use products formulated for the PH of your dog’s sensitive skin and coat.
Why not just grab the Paul Mitchell from the shower and use your own hair products instead?
I’m glad you asked, here’s an article that answers that very question, but in short? Shampoos and conditioners formulated for people have entirely the wrong PH for our dog’s sensitive skin and will do much more harm than good.
DID YOU KNOW THAT THE PH OF EVEN THE MILDEST BABY SHAMPOO IS 150 TIMES TOO ACIDIC FOR YOUR DOG’S SKIN? EEK!
Begin by using a quality dog coat conditioner every time you bathe your dog. That will help you not only to comb out those mats before they have a chance to form but will add moisture thus reducing the static and dryness that cause your dog’s fur to mat in the first place. (Of course, I love Agatha’s Luxury Lather Shampoo & Healthy Coat Conditioner, there are lots of products out there, but you might as well use something amazing!).
As a dog groomer, I realize that many pet owners get frustrated with trying to manage the unruly coats of their dogs, but I also realize that if you allow your dog’s coat to get in bad condition, it will cause you and your dog more serious problems further down the road,
PROBLEMS THAT SOONER OR LATER WILL HAVE YOU AT YOUR VETERINARIAN’S OFFICE (OR YOUR GROOMERS) NEEDING A DOGGIE INTERVENTION.
The simple truth is that dry brittle coat tangles and mats rapidly and can be almost impossible to comb out once large mats have been allowed to form.
THE WAY TO PREVENT HAVING TO SHAVE ALL THAT LOVELY COAT AWAY AND MAKE YOUR POOR DOG LOOK LIKE A PLUCKED CHICKEN?
#3 Use a coat conditioner AFTER EVERY BATH.
No exceptions, if you bathe your dog, finish every bathtime with the simple 3-minute step of moisturizing and conditioning her coat.
That will help you not only to comb out those mats before they have a chance to form but will reduce the static and dryness that cause dog fur to mat in the first place.
THINK OF WHAT YOUR OWN HAIR WOULD BE LIKE WITHOUT CONDITIONER… BRILLO PADS ANYONE?
Keeping your dog’s coat healthy has a host of other benefits. Not only will it make her less of an allergy problem for those who are sensitive to dog dander, but maintaining her coat will help prevent allergies for her as well. Dogs are increasingly prone to allergies issues that can cause a whole host of ear skin and coat problems. Everything from hot spots (weeping sores that require cortisone injections) to dermatitis and eczema which can leave your dog scratching relentlessly at her inflamed skin.
Prevention is truly the most important part of keeping your dog not only looking her best but keeping her coat in good condition and saving yourself unneeded extra trips to the vet’s office and drastic and uncomfortable sessions with your groomer.
It might seem like too much bother, but I promise you that making the small effort to keep your dog’s coat healthy and tangle-free will save you much time and expense in the long run, and keep your dog looking like she’s ready for Westminster!