My family got a new puppy last spring––a Shepherd mix named Poppy––and this will be her first holiday season with us. Every year we have a huge holiday party at our home, and I want to make sure Poppy looks her best for guests. I know that with all the holiday chaos I probably won’t have time to give her a thorough pampering or make it to the groomer. What are some things I can do at home to help her look (and smell!) her best before the party?
Congratulations on your wonderful addition! A good bath and brushing goes a long way toward helping your four-legged friend look and smell her best. Many people prefer to send their dogs to the groomer to avoid the mess, but with some preparation, patience, and lots of towels (mostly for you and the floor!) you can make it work in your bathtub.
The first rule for bathing your dog at home is not to use human shampoos. Instead, pick a shampoo that is specifically pH balanced for dogs. Plant-based shampoos, such as those containing oatmeal or aloe, are much better than detergent and petroleum-based soaps.
When washing Poppy’s face, do your best to keep the soap and water out of her ears, nose, and eyes. Work the shampoo in for at least three to five minutes so it can really do its job. Rinse very thoroughly, as any soap left in the coat attracts dirt and can lead to an itch-scratch cycle that includes matting and sometimes hot spots.
You can towel Poppy off after the bath, and then just let her air dry the rest of the way, keeping her warm and inside until she is dry. Be sure to give her a good brushing, and more importantly, a thorough comb-through after she is dry. Combing is actually more important than brushing because it catches any tangles on top and allows the undercoat to shed as it should. People living with a coated breed dog of any kind should definitely own a good-quality metal comb.
It is natural and healthy for a dog’s coat to shed, and routine combing and brushing is key to any dog’s well being. As Poppy is a Shepherd mix, it’s likely she has what we call a “double coat,” which means a heavier shedding fuzzy undercoat. Brush her outside if you can, since she will shed a bit more after the bath.
Another vital part of any home grooming routine is clipping your dog’s nails with a proper dog nail clipper. This should be done every few weeks. If this is not tended to, the “quick” inside the nails could grow out, causing pain in the bones of your dog’s feet. If you are concerned about hitting the blood vein inside the nail, you can certainly bring your dog to a professional groomer or veterinarian to have their nails done.
Most likely Poppy would also benefit from a quick ear cleaning. It just takes a few minutes with a cotton ball and over-the-counter ear solution for pets.
And remember, even if she is looking beautiful and showing off her tricks for company, offer Poppy a quiet place to retreat to when she has had enough human interaction. Have a fun party and happy holidays!
ABOUT the Groomer: Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins—one of the first groomers to attain the coveted title of International Certified Master Groomer—is the owner and Master Groomer at Love Fur Dogs in Glencoe and runs a vocational Train To Groom program at the Bishop Grooming Academy.