Improving a Dry Coat

Our expert explains how to groom a dog whose coat is dry from swimming and harsh water.

Q: I have three Bolognese dogs, ages 2 1/2, 1 1/2, and 8 weeks. We live in San Jose, CA, and our water here tends to be quite harsh and leaves their coat very dry. I have recently started to use “AVEDA Shampure” on the two older ones and I’ve noticed a huge difference. But by the end of the week, their coats seem to be dry again and not as beautifully flocked, as they should be. Do you have any suggestions of products I can use that would restore their coat to their natural luster?

A: First off, I would recommend switching to a shampoo made for pets.  Shampoos made for humans have a different pH level and often contain harsher detergents than quality pet products do. A good pet shampoo will help alleviate disorders associated with skin turnover such as odor, itching, dryness and irritation by washing away the dead layers and giving new layers a chance to breathe.

The skin’s pH is measured from one upwards, with one being highly acidic and at the other end of the spectrum, 14 being highly alkaline.  A pH of 7 is neutral.  Our own skin is fairly acidic, allowing it to ward off the advances of harmful bacteria and fungi. The optimal pH of human skin is 5.5 but a dog’s normal skin pH is between 7 and 7.4.  Good pet shampoos are formulated with this in mind. When it comes to bathing your pet, a slightly acidic shampoo works well in managing bacteria for both skin and coat.  One of my favorite shampoos for coats like these is Micro-Tek by Eqyss, a mildly medicated cleanser that soothes the skin upon contact with a trademarked formula developed from NASA research on the decontamination of astronauts. It also leaves the coat with lots of bouncy fullness.  I also like PurePet’s Pure Pearl Shampoo, which conditions the coat with coconut oil, is hypoallergenic and may be diluted 20 to 1, making it go a lot further for multiple pet owners like you.

Proper conditioning after the bath is equally important as using the right shampoo for your adorable threesome.  These little treasures are members of the Bichon family with origins in the Mediterranean but the ancestors of your fluffy companions gained popularity among the nobility of Bologna, Italy, and were once known as Italian Bichons.  A favorite of royalty, they were fancied by Catherine de Medici, Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great and Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria.

Having bouffant tresses and rather sensitive skin is a common trait of all Bichon type dogs. Other members of this soft-coated group include the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Coton de Tulear and Havanese. Although they do not shed, their lustrous coats tend to get matted from moisture and knot up pretty quickly.   

If these dogs swim in lakes, pools or the ocean, they should be bathed, blow-dried and conditioned immediately afterward, according to Christina Pawlosky, internationally recognized grooming champion, professional handler, contest judge and National Training Manager for Jarden/Oster’s Pet Product Division. “This allows their skin a better chance to come back to normal by removing the chemical effects of pool, lake or salt water,” she advises. In her salon, The Pet Connection of Warren, OH, she reports good luck with a new product by Hydrosurge called Milk Bath Conditioner. “For dogs that are in and out of the pool, it addresses the coat better than any other conditioner.”  It also prevents that dull dry look you mention in your query. Conditioning smooths and coats the cuticle in their hair so that freshly groomed look you love will last longer.

Chris recommends using lukewarm water when bathing your dog. Hot water is too harsh, especially on white-coated babies like the Bichon bunch, and water that is too cool or cold feels uncomfortable to them.  If you plan to keep your Bolognese babies in full fluffy coat, you will need to bathe and condition them on a weekly basis to keep those lush coats beautifully flocked.  Many Bolognese owners opt for a shorter trim – not shaved so short they could get a sunburn but one to two inches long all over so they still look fluffy but require less upkeep on your part.

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