Q. I have a Brussels Griffon who isn’t fond of being brushed. She tolerates it, but I have to trim the hair around her eyes. She hates this, and it’s very hard to do, especially on a wiggle worm. Any suggestions?
A. This monkey-faced toy dog from Belgium comes in two coat types. Ideally, the longer-haired, coarse-coated variety like yours requires hand-stripping to maintain its trademark wiry texture but some owners opt to have it clipper-trimmed instead. The short-haired Brabancon variety is equally adorable and easier to maintain.
You are correct in trying to brush her coat to remove loose undercoat and prevent mats from forming. In the salon, before we hand strip the hard outer coat with a stripping knife, we “card” it first with a tool called the Furminator which is dragged over the surface to remove downy undercoat. If you do this at home, be careful not to irritate the skin by using too heavy a stroke as you pull. When dead coat is ready to come out, it may also be plucked it with the fingers to achieve that hard-body look.
As to your little wiggle worm’s resistance to brushing and trimming, it will take lots of patience on your part to desensitize her, but it can be done. First, get a grooming table with a post and built-in strap to help keep her in place. You will learn to use your own body to support her, and is even easier if you have a helper to hold her. At first, brush only one-quarter of her body, praising and rewarding her when she cooperates. Schedule these sessions when your pup is pooped from her daily walk or romp in the yard.
To clean stray hairs from the eye area, you will need a small pair of fine-toothed thinning shears. During your first few sessions, rest them on the area closest to the eyes, rubbing them gently and talking reassuringly. When cuddling your pet, massage this area lovingly as well. After a few such sessions, start opening and closing the shears, removing a bit of hair each time. It takes monumental patience as you literally work one hair at a time! Another tool that comes in handy in trimming sensitive spots is the blunt-tipped round-edged scissor.
Because of her short muzzle and prominent eyes, you will need to be extremely cautious in this area. At the groomer’s, whether clipped or hand-stripped, her ears will be shaved close and pads cleaned out with clippers. Once finished, her coat should fit tightly to her body, legs slightly longer and neatly trimmed. With its round face, natural eyebrows, bright eyes, and distinctive beard, the Brussels Griffon’s human-like expression makes it a uniquely endearing companion.