Don’t Skip Winter Pet Grooming
Winter is officially upon us, along with a rather long and slow January and February (sometimes March too). And I’m not just talking the weather either. During this time, grooming appointments come to an almost stand-still. Unless you are fortunate enough (not me) to live in a year-round mild climate, groomers take a big hit to their business during the winter months.
This is mainly due to most pet owners thinking they are doing their dogs a favor by keeping their coats long to help keep their pet warm during those frigid months. This may seem like a great idea in theory, but most times people are doing their dog more harm than good.
What most people neglect to realize is that keeping a longer coat on your pet requires almost four times as much effort in maintenance than a shorter one. If you are someone that prefers to keep your dog’s coat nice and fluffy, you must be dedicated to brushing your dog out AT LEAST 4 times per week, for at least an hour (if not more) each time your brush. Naturally, most people do not have that kind of time on their hands to maintain a coat that long. If you own a dog like a Shih Tzu, Maltese, any form of “Doodle”, Poodle, or Bichon (just to name a few), these dogs require much more maintenance than say your standard Lab or Boxer. Even in the summer months, brushing these dogs is an absolute must to maintain their coats.
What ends up happening is people see that temperature drop into the teens and single digits and they end up not coming in or cancelling their appointment. I highly recommend not cancelling your appointment due to cold weather unless there is some extenuating circumstance for why you can’t make it. Your groomer is saving a space in their day anticipating you to show up. When you do not show up, that is money out of our pockets, as most groomers work on commission.
Ok, so what should you be doing with your dog during these frigid months? First off, I have to address the whole “my dog will freeze to death if you cut his hair” nonsense. Here’s the deal. Unless you have a legitimate working dog that spends a lot of time outside, your dog WILL NOT freeze to death due to short hair. If you have a job or even a few kids, you most likely spend more time outside than your dog does. Chances are, your dog spends most of its time inside your house where you keep the temperature warm enough that even you don’t need a winter coat. To prove my point even further, I have a pit bull, which as most people know has very short hair. He can’t handle more than ten minutes outside when it is above 70 degrees, but the second that temperature drops, I have a hard time getting him to come inside. Don’t get me wrong, I do not leave my dog out in this weather for a long period of time, but he does genuinely enjoy it cold over hot. I know every dog may have a different tolerance to cold, but I can tell you from my own experience that my dear Monty has never froze to death from it being cold outside and having short hair. Sure dogs will be cold when they go outside, but so are you and you lived to tell about it. If it still has you concerned, put a sweater on them, they are relatively cheap and come in all sorts of styles.
Now I’m not saying run off to the groomer and shave ‘em down, but let’s use a little common sense here. Keeping their hair around an inch will still give you the reassurance you need to know your dog won’t freeze to death for the five minutes it goes outside to pee/poop, but is also much easier to manage for a busy lifestyle. And let’s face it, EVERYONE is a little too busy nowadays. What happens when it begins to snow is that these darling little snowballs clump in your dog’s hair. If you are not diligent about removing the snow and giving them a thorough brush out after bringing them in, this hair will become matted. Matted hair is problematic for several reasons. Number one is that it is damaging their hair by getting tangled together. When the hair becomes wet, this causing the matting to get tighter and tighter. This becomes painful for your pooch. Since it typically snows more than once a year, they continue to get wet, owner neglects to brush, and the matts get tighter to the skin. Not only is this painful, but it can cause skin conditions to occur. Which speaking of skin conditions, when you keep your pet’s hair on the longer side, many skin conditions can go by unnoticed for quite some time. If you do keep their hair longer, it is good practice to part the hair and take a look around at the skin just to make sure everything is in check.
But winter doesn’t last forever and you can always guarantee that one freak day in March where it climbs to 50/60 degrees and the phone rings off the hook, it’s because their owners can’t take the hair anymore. This is usually where disappointment sets in for most pet owners. Since their dogs were getting wet for two months with little to no brushing, their dog is usually matted to the skin on most of its body. It can be quite shocking to go from a couple inches of hair to a complete shave-down. This is where blaming the groomer usually comes into play. This is also why I am writing this article. You may be able to find a groomer that will brush out your dog entirely, but you will most definitely pay heavily for it. I do not adopt this policy because it is the pet owners’ responsibility to maintain their pet in-between grooms. Not only that, but it is extremely painful to the dog to remove 2-3 months of matting in one sitting. Usually, whatever hair is left from all of that brushing out is most likely damaged and will not look so hot in the end.
“So what should I being doing?” you may ask. Here are some options for so that you, dog and groomer are all happy.
1. Brush, brush and more brushing.
If you simply have to have that hair long, invest in a brush and a comb. I use a combination of slicker brush and a comb. Be advised, slicker brushes will not remove matting and do not get down to the root of the hair. You must also be careful not to brush over the same area repeatedly because you can cause brush burn. I like slicker brushes to fluff up those curly coated dogs like Poodles and Bichons, so that have that iconic poof look that they are supposed to have. As far as combs go, I have included a pic of my favorite de-matting comb. Keep in mind there are plenty of combs out there and it may take some experimenting to find one you like. I use this comb on every dog and I love it. It is of utmost importance that you brush from the root down. A lot of times, people brush just that top layer of hair and think everything is fine, not realizing that the hair closer to the skin is completely matted.
2. Still keep up on your pets grooming appointments.
You do not have to get your dog’s hair cut every time you go to the groomer. Dogs still need their nails trimmed, ears cleaned and a bath even though it is 10 degrees outside. Besides, your groomer is going to brush your dog out even if you don’t want to them to have a haircut. It is the policy of most groomers to never send a dog home wet, so you can rest assured that your dog will not freeze from getting bath at the groomer and then have to take them outside for the trek home. And again, if you are concerned about them getting cold from taking them outside for five seconds to get them into the car and to the groomer, put a sweater on them, they will be fine.
3. Find a length that works best for your lifestyle.
This one will take a little experimentation. If you are one of those “shave ‘em down in the summer” people, this would be a great time to experiment with length. Once the hair starts to grow out and you start seeing how much brushing is needed to maintain that length, you will have a better idea on what length to keep them come winter when you prefer a longer coat. Just keep in mind, the longer the coat, the more days you will spend combing that coat to keep it matt-free. Some coats matt easier than others so there is not definitive, if your dog’s hair is “X” amount of inches long that equals “X” amount of times per week you need to comb. If you have one of these “designer breeds” like Doodles of any form, you can most definitely count on more intensive brushing. Since these dogs are a combo of two different coats, their hair matts up much easier than say a Yorkie with stringy hair. Get to know your dog’s coat, or ask your groomer on their thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard for your groomer to tell until they get a good look at the coat and work with it themselves.
Please keep in mind that every dog is different and reacts to the cold in different ways. Huskies may not want to come in the house all day, whereas a little Yorkie may just want to pee and run back in the house. The moral of the story is, don’t skimp on grooming just because it got cold outside. Grooming dogs need hair care all year long, not just when the weather is warm. And of course, always take any health conditions into consideration when it comes to having your doggies outside on these frigid days. Chances are they are quite happy snuggled up on a blanket in the warm house, long hair or short.