Puppy Grooming Takes Preparation, Patience and Practice

No matter the breed, size or coat type, your new pup requires basic grooming to maintain its good looks and health.

Some dogs require hours of primping and preening whereas others need only a quick fix. But no matter the breed, size or coat type, your new pup requires basic grooming &mdash brushing, bathing, nail trimming and ear care — to maintain its good looks and health.

Brushing: Your No. 1 chore as a puppy parent. Brushing removes hair, eliminates tangles, distributes skin oil and offers a productive way to spend time with yoour puppy. Frequency depends on the dog’s coat. Ask the breeder or a groomer how often your puppy should be brushed if a brush or comb is best.

Methodical brushing assures you don’t miss areas. Use quick, deep brush strokes on one small section at a time. Begin with the head and ears, then the chest and front legs. Next, brush the back, sides and tummy, then hindquarters. Finish with the tail. Don’t brush too hard or rake the brush over puppy’s skin. This is extremely irritating and painful. Brush down to the skin without contacting the skin itself.

Bathing:Periodic bathing keeps pups clean and sweet-smelling, and combats fleas. Generally, a bath every two to three months is acceptable, depending on the coat.

First brush the coat, trim the nails, clean the ears, then bathe. Bathing an unbrushed coat tightens the tangles. It’s also important to have bath gear next to the tub beforehand; don’t place your puppy in the tub then rush around looking for supplies. You’ll need:

  • puppy shampoo
  • towels
  • cottonballs
  • plastic bucket and sponge

Secure your puppy in the tub (groomers use a “grooming noose” but a non-leather collar and leash will suffice). Place cotton balls in the ears to keep them dry. If your veterinarian recommends it, put a drop of mineral oil or eye ointment into puppy’s eyes to prevent irritation. Saturate the puppy (a spray attachment is best) with warm water, beginning with the head, working back the same way you brush. Apply shampoo, diluted in the plastic bucket, with the sponge. Scrub the puppy thoroughly, then rinse. Shampoo again and rinse carefully to ensure no residual soap irritates the skin. Squeeze out excess water, then towel dry.

Because puppies can chill easily, it’s best to dry them right away with a blow-dryer set on low.

Nail Trimming: Pups’ nails must be trimmed regularly so they don’t touch the floor. If you hear a click-click when the dog walks, they’re too long. Failing to keep the nails short enough can cause sore feet. Indoor dogs usually need their nails trimmed more frequently than outdoor dogs that run about and wear them down.

You’ll need a pair of toenail clippers, a file and styptic powder — all available at pet supply stores. To trim the nails:

  • Hold a paw firmly in one hand.
  • Place your thumb on top of the foot with fingers underneath to spread the toes.
  • Snip the nails one at a time with short, decisive strokes.

Clip where the nail starts to curl; the quick (where the nail meets the skin) usually hasn’t grown past that point. If it has, the nail will bleed when cut. Don’t panic. Apply a pinch of styptic powder and hold for 30 seconds or until the bleeding stops.

File each nail to remove sharp edges. Puppy toenails are sometimes soft and small, which makes using regular canine toenail trimmers difficult. Adult-size trimmers can tear the nail. Try human fingernail clippers, especially on small breeds.

Ear Care: A quick wipe with a cottonball dampened by a veterinarian-recommended cleanser keeps most pups’ ears clean, pink and odor-free.

Approach grooming as though it’s a training session. Always praise the puppy for cooperating. Use obedience commands: “Sit” while brushing, “Stand” while bathing. But be realistic. Learning to sit or stand quietly while being groomed takes time.

Professional Groomers: Trimming and scissoring are skills that aren’t acquired overnight. To find a skilled, reputable groomer, ask the breeder, veterinarian or a dog-owning friend. Then meet the groomer and check out the salon. Is it clean? Does the groomer handle the dogs carefully? If you’re pleased with what you see, make an appointment. Figure to spend $25 to $50 every four to eight weeks, depending on the breed.


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