A healthy coat isn't just about esthetics. The skin, being the biggest organ, is usually a good indication of what's happening internally. The best way to notice any changes in your dog's coat and therefore overall health, is building habits that help you see the changes.
1. Daily brushing - Their are so many advantages to brushing your dog daily. From reducing knots to bonding with your dog. Adding brushing into your daily routine builds consistency (which dogs love) and also builds their confidence. Connecting an established daily habit with a new one can help reinforce consistency. It could be adding 15min before food time to give the dog's coat a brush through. Evening when you watch your usual TV show or straight after you come back from a walk are some ideas.
2. Combing from the skin out - If you have ever regularly brushed your dog, only to be told by the groomer their is matting and you need to go short, it's most likely because you missed this step. Brushing is great for surface coat, but ideally you want to be able to separate the coat at any point and see skin or be able to get a comb (the closer the teeth of the comb the better) from the skin and down to the end of the hair without any snagging.
3. Regular professional maintenance - How often should you get a professional groom done ? The answer will depend on how consistent your brushing at home is and how long you want to keep the coat. Any where between 2-6 weeks is the ideal time frame.
4. Healthy fresh food - Digestive issues, allergies and poor nutrient content will always show through the skin and coat. This may not always be immediately as nutrients can deplete over time or the immune system can reduce over time. A fresh diet is always ideal but where it's not possible adding fresh food to a dry diet can also have lots of benefits.
5. Quality products - Just like what goes in our bodies matter, what goes on also matters. With a wide range of products that can assist, they should always suit your dog's skin and coat type. If you want to know what products best suit your dog, ask your groomer for a recommendation.
6. Building a positive grooming relationship - I left this till last because this would be the most important, but the most over looked point. How your dog perceives the grooming process can make or break achieving a healthy coat. Stress and anxiety can do a lot to our bodies just like they can to our dog's. Building consistency, confidence and a positive relationship is what changes a dog's mind frame from high stress to feeling comfortable. Dogs have their likes and dislikes just like us. Some dogs love the attention of being groomed while others prefer to be anywhere else. A dog is allowed to dislike the grooming process but they should never have anxiety or fear over it. If they do their is miscommunication somewhere along the line. The only way this can be addressed is through regular, frequent and consistent positive interactions. The more successful sessions a dog has the more they start to feel confident with the process. If your dog finds the grooming process difficult, discuss this with your groomer and possibly a local dog trainer on an action plan.
I I use conditioner on every dog I see . This seems to be a very important step that owners at home and even some professional groomers and vets seem to forget, but to me it is the most vital part of the bathing process. Specially for dogs who have skin issues.
Why is it important ?
Let's first talk about the epidermal barrier - first line of defense
How does our skin barrier work ? -Bricks and mortar
The epidermis (outer layer of the skin), is the front line soldiers for our bodies defense system. It is often described as a wall of bricks, dead cells filled with Keratin (aka Corneocytes) and the mortar holding them together are made from lipids (fats). Within three layers of the epidermis it preforms many jobs, defense against bacteria and viruses, maintaining fluid loss, protects the inside from the outside world.
Hydrolipid film. - protector of the protector.
The epidermis is covered by a thin layer of water and lipids called the hydrolipid film. It is maintained by secretion from sebaceous glands and acts as a further barrier against bacteria and yeast
Where does conditioner fit in ? If a dog suffers from skin issues it most likely means there is a disruption to the hydrolipid film and the epidermis. The reasons for this disruption can be due to genetic, environmental factors or what usually is the case a mixture of both, making it a complex issue to fix. The role of shampoo is to remove dirt, grime and OILS. While there are different grades of shampoos and how much they strip oils from the skin differs from product to product, the end result is still a breakdown of the lipids and skin barrier. Healthy skin will reproduce the natural oils and replace the skins barrier on its own in time. This process however can take up to 12hrs. By applying conditioner we are replacing this barrier until the skin can replenish itself and avoiding long term damage.
For dogs with skin issues, replacing this layer may take longer or if it even happens at all. This is usually why a lot of dogs with skin issues end up with secondary bacteria and yeast infections. The job of conditioner can help replace this layer until the root cause of the skin issues are found and treated. Just like we as humans moisturise daily when we have skin issues, daily moisturising may also need to be part of your dog's routine.
If your dog has any skin or health issues, always speak to your vet, my advice for those dealing with chronic skin issues is to find a vet dermatologist for further help.
Have you walked out of many grooming salons, just disappointed in the grooms your dog receives ?
Quite often as groomers we get a lot of requests on how someone wants their dog groomed. I love a good styling challenge and I specially love when photos are included on what you want. Sometimes though, the photos given don't match the dog standing in front of us. The groom that walks out of the salon may be great, but if the owner have a preconceived idea of what they want without understanding how it's achieved, they will always end up disappointed. So how do you avoid disappointment ? Here are a few things to consider so you will always walk out as happy as your dog.
Coats come in different forms, curly, straight, wavy, double coat, long, short. What can be done on a curly coat, which can be made to look fluffy and lots of volume, may not look the same on a straight coat which lays flat. When looking at photos always see if the coat type matches to your dog's coat and if not be open to discus with your groomer how to make the style work or have something similar.
Certain styles will suit a dog with a long nose but may not suit a dog with a short nose. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and usually breed clips are designed to suit the natural shape of that breeds body and may not represent as well on another. A round teddy bear face may not work on a dog who has a long snout.
Behaviour and Health
Consider if that style will be ok for your dog's personality or health issues. A clip that's going to take longer may not suit an elderly dog that can't stand for long, or a dog that doesn't like its feet touched may not tolerate shaved poodle feet. If your groomer feels another style is suited for your dog's abilities, listen to that advise. Your groomer always has your dog's best interest in mind. Sometimes their are ways around it like frequent grooms so less time is spent on the table per session or getting a dog behaviourist involved to work on behaviour issues.
Coat Condition and Maintenance
Some styles may require time or a few sessions to get the desired look. Specially if you dogs coat is matted, the coat may need to be taken back to ground zero first and then re-shaped over time. Some styles may also require more visits to a groomer to maintain. If you are looking for longer styles 2-6wk intervals to maintain may be required. Consider if this is the type of commitment you want to put in and if not ask your groomer what alternative styles can work.
Photos are definitely a great way to communicate what you want, but remember to be open to adapting the style to your dog's needs and lifestyle. If you are not happy with the groom you received, always remember that we always have your dog's best interest first and we may not have picked up on exactly what your seeing first time round, everyone visualises things differently. Contact your groomer to discuss what you may want different from the last groom, and just remember it may take a few grooms to get there.
It's that time if year where grass seeds can cause a bit of havoc. They like to travel through the hair towards the skin and then pierce the skin and keep traveling. Here are a few tips after a walk, to help reduce these pests causing problems
Check the skin.
The main areas you will find grass seeds are in between the toes and paw pads, under arms and groin.
Use a hair dryer
A hair dryer can help you see to the skin by separating the coat. Hold the dryer at a distance where you can see the skin but the hair isn't folding back in on itself (this can create knots)
Thorough brush through
Brushes the coat from head to toe straight after a walk. This will get the grass seeds out before they get to the skin.
I'm a stickler for seeing the skin from head to toe. The skin can tell us a lot about our dogs health so I'm always sure to be systematic so I don't miss anything. It also means I will pick up on grass seeds the have already hit the skin and able to remove before they become a problem. Once I spot one my tweezers come out and I check right through the entire coat.
When you think of vitamin D, the first thing you consider is the sun. Humans can convert a chemical precursor from sunlight and utilise it as a source to manufacture our own vitamin D. Dogs and cats, on the other hand, can't meet their requirements from sunlight to produce their own.
So where can dogs and cats obtain the correct vitamin D? Good sources come from eggs, pork, wild salmon, sardines and liver ( care needs to be taken when feeding liver as they are abundant in other nutrients and can cause excess problems). While vitamin D can also be found in plant sources in the precursor form D2, cats cannot utilise D2 efficiently. Not enough research has been performed to know if dogs have this ability, so it is preferable that dogs also obtain vitamin D through animals sources ( which contain D3)
But here is the catch, you are what you eat plays a role. Let's take the egg, for example—a 2013 study assigned three groups of chickens to various conditions. One group were kept indoors, one outdoors and one with an indoor/outdoor option over 4wks. It was found that the vitamin D3 content in eggs was three to four times higher in the groups that were exposed to sunlight compared to the indoor group. In contrast, free-range eggs from supermarkets had low vitamin D content. Why is this so? Definition of free-range can be very vague. Free-range means that birds are given "access to a fixed space" that can be as small as one sqm per bird. Free-range can also mean birds are free to forage over expansive tracts and rotated land. That is a big difference in describing free range. Sunlight is not the only form where chickens obtain vitamin D but also in the plants and bugs they forage.
Given that supermarket-bought eggs are mass produced, it's easily guessed which definition of 'free-range' most would fall under. So how can you tell the eggs you are purchasing are from foraging chickens? Their are two ways, 1. Look for labels that contain pasture-raised eggs; a new definition farmers use to differentiate themselves from mass-produced eggs 2. Get to know your local egg farmer and ask how the chickens are raised, how many chickens per hectare, do they rotate on different land and how much outdoor time do they receive and exposure to sunlight ( exposure to sunlight does not mean a window on a shed which I have heard a few times)
Wild-caught fish are shown to be more beneficial compared to farmed fish. They contain higher levels of vitamin D, can be leaner in fat and have a better-balanced ratio of omega 6:3 ( a whole different topic I will eventually cover). Fat has a higher calories density than protein and carbs and does not contain vitamins and minerals. While the right fat plays an important role, too much can mean the ratio of nutrients is low for the amount of daily KJ required for your pet, not to mention the risk of overweight pets as KJ requirements can easily be exceeded.
So why is vitamin D important? Not only does it play a role in calcium/phosphorus conversation and absorption for healthy bones, but we are also learning, it plays a role in many chronic diseases. Cancer, arthritis and skin health, to name a few. In fact, many of the body's tissues contain Vitamin D receptors and plays its part in cell growth, immune function and reduction of inflammation.
So let's recap what we have learnt. Dogs and cats need to obtain vitamin D from quality food sources as they can't efficiently absorb through their skin. Vitamin D plays many roles in the body to keep it functioning and healthy. Lastly, sourcing pasture-raised and wild animals, create an excellent opportunity to support local farmers who make positive farming environments and also encourages humane farming practices, with a better understanding of where your food comes from and how they are treated.
If you would like to know more, links and sources are added below. If you would like a detailed description on vitamin D and the role it plays in dogs and cats, I highly recommend reading the link below from The Possible Canine a great source of information in all things dog health.
There is growing concern amongst pet groomers about the promotional language used by some breeders of the “designer dog breeds” known colloquially, collectively as ‘Oodles (e.g. Labradoodles, Spoodles, Cavoodles, etc.) which is misleading first-time owners about the grooming requirements of these dogs. As a consequence, the welfare of these animals is suffering, whilst new owners find themselves in for a shock the first time they take their ‘Oodle to be professionally groomed; leaving the groomers in a very difficult position.
So first, let’s talk about hair. All mammals grow hair somewhere on their bodies, if not all over, in the case of most dogs. Hair is the same structure on all of these animals - on people, sheep, platypus, dogs; whether we choose to call it hair, fur, pelt, wool, fleece... it is all in fact the same thing: hair. Each individual hair is a chain of protein molecules strung together, specifically, a protein called keratin. This chain grows in strand-like form from a follicle - or opening - in the skin.
Now, in people, only one hair grows from each follicle. In dogs, up to 27 hairs may grow from each follicle. One of these hairs is coarse and colourful, and is called a primary or guard hair, which in some breeds, like the Poodle, can grow all the way to the ground. The other hairs are fine, soft and pale, and are called secondary or undercoat hairs, and do not grow longer than a few centimetres. If you have ever seen a cashmere goat in Winter, this is the clearest depiction of guard hair versus undercoat hair: long, strikingly coloured, guard hairs poking through masses of soft, fluffy, creamy coloured undercoat hairs. This undercoat is often referred to as “fleece”, but is still, in fact, hair.
Hair, no matter how fine, coarse, straight or curly, has a life cycle. Each strand grows, rests, dies, and eventually falls out, when a new hair grows in its place. This is true of all hairs on all mammals. Any woman with long hair, or any man who has ever unblocked a shower drain, knows this to be true. Relatively speaking, guard hairs have a longer life cycle than undercoat hairs.
Thus, when ‘Oodle breeders claim their dogs are “non-shedding”, this is biologically incorrect. All breeds of dog shed hair. Granted, their pattern of shedding varies - some, like Labradors, shed lots of hair all of the time, because their hairs have a very short life cycle. Some, like Golden Retrievers, shed large amounts of hair twice a year, and only small amounts the rest of the time, because their guard hairs have a long life cycle, but their undercoat hairs, which increase in number during winter, have a short life cycle. Others, like Poodles, who have long lived guard hairs and few or no undercoat hairs, shed very small amounts of hair all of the time.
‘Oodles are created by crossing Poodles, with their long, fast-growing, longer-lived, curly guard hairs and few or no undercoat hairs, with, for example, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers or Cavaliers, with their shorter, coarser, straighter, short-lived guard hairs plus masses of fluffy, even shorter-lived undercoat hairs.
Many ‘Oodle breeders are claiming this creates a wonderful new “fleece” coat which requires only monthly brushing and yearly trimming. Sadly, this is wholly untrue. But first-time owners don’t know this, until they take their new dog to the groomer for the first time, usually when it’s almost 12 months old.
The groomer is then faced with something resembling a sheep left out in the wilderness for the past 5 years. Whilst the top few centimetres of the coat may look terrific to the untrained eye ... this is because it is comprised solely of the tips of the ‘Oodle’s longer guard hairs, which the owner has probably been brushing happily every few weeks. Closer to the skin, however, the guard hairs are intermingled with the shorter undercoat hairs, which, due to the non-shedding genetics of the Poodle inheritance, are now not shedding out as easily as they would in a Labrador, but staying put for longer and thus matting tightly together.
You see, when you brush a dog, if the brush doesn’t go all the way to the skin with every stroke, your efforts are completely pointless. Achieving this takes skill and the correct tools - and is impossible to achieve with a long-haired dog if not done at least twice a week. None of these facts are being communicated by ‘Oodle breeder to their puppy buyers.
The saddest part is, these owners love their new dogs. Often they’ve paid handsomely for them, and honestly believed they were looking after them correctly based upon the breeder’s communications. And then, instead of returning proudly from the groomer with their beautiful pet, they leave with something which looks like it’s been waxed from nose to tail, because the matting was so bad and so close to the skin it would be extremely cruel, if not impossible to brush it out, and only the shortest of clipper blades managed to cut underneath it.
What these poor owners - and equally poor dogs - don't know, is when they leave, the groomer feels just as tearful as they do. Groomers love dogs - but most especially, we love fluffy dogs! We love styling their hair and making them look and feel amazing. We love seeing the joy on their owners’ faces when they come to pick them up. And ‘Oodles, when properly maintained, can be the stars of any grooming salon, with that amazing “big hair” look lending itself to all sorts of fantastic styles like Asian Fusion and more.
Groomers hate shaving dogs. It deprives us of any chance of demonstrating our creativity, the love we have for our job or the skills we’ve worked hard to acquire.
So, on behalf of groomers everywhere, this article is a plea to request ‘Oodle breeders reconsider their approach to the promotion of their dogs: because if all ‘Oodle owners knew their pets needed to be brushed to the skin twice a week and groomed professionally every 6-8 weeks, every grooming salon in the country would be such a much happier place!
Biologist, Behaviourist, Veterinary Nurse and Groomer (and former Wool Classer)
Water is often overlooked when talking about nutrition, but it is in fact the single most important aspect of your dog’s diet. While many dogs are more than happy to drink from a muddy puddle on the floor, there are those few who can be very fussy in drinking water on a regular basis. This can result in dehydration, especially on those hot days. So here are some tips on increasing your dog’s water intake.
1. Adding water to their food
Adding water or liquid stock to their dry food or wet food will increase their water intake. You can also add a mixture of water and yoghurt to make it more palatable for your dog.
2. Electrolytes help dogs too
There are specific products for dogs but human versions diluted can be used as well. Great if your dog is showing signs of dehydration. If your dog is showing signs of dehydration also seek vet advice.
3. Water fountains
Some dogs don’t like to drink stagnate water (this is instinctual as stagnate water sources can be prone to bacteria and germs). Sometimes dogs prefer to drink from a flowing source, this also helps add oxygen to the water.
4. Coconut Water
Great alternative that most dogs love. Not only is it a great way to encourage your dog to drink, its also pack full of electrolytes and can help with hydration.
5. Icy poles
Making your own pet icy poles for those hot summer days will not only increase their water intake it can also reduce boredom and be a fun game. Fill a container with water and then add food items that will interest your dog, such as dog food, carrots, dog treats, peanut butter, yoghurt etc. and freeze overnight.
6. Adding flavour
Adding a small amount of chicken, beef broth or drained water from a tuna can, to your pets water can make it seem a little more interesting for your pet to drink. You can then gradually decrease the amount of broth added until your dog is drinking plain water.
7. Switch to raw
Dry dog food only contains a water content of about 10% meaning pets on this diet are required to source water elsewhere to meet all their needs. Wet dog food has a water content of about 75% but feeding just wet food can cause dental issues down the track as it does not allow tartar build up to be scrapped off through chewing and grinding. A raw diet of meaty bones not only gives a higher water content than dry food, it also helps keep your dog’s teeth in top condition.
I often get asked by new clients do I pluck the dogs ear hairs; a short answer would be not unless requested. Ear plucking was once a normal part of the grooming process, but in recent years new knowledge has changed whether it is a help or a hindrance to ear health.
So, what is Ear Plucking?
Ear plucking is the practice of using fingers, haemostats or other tools to remove excessive amounts of hair from a dog’s ear canal. Floppy-eared dogs or very hairy breeds such as Poodle, Schnauzer, Maltese and Bichon Frise can be in need of plucking. It was originally performed because it was believed that this would help increase air flow to the ear canal and prevent all too common ear infections.
It is now thought that ear plucking can have the opposite effect to what we are actually trying to prevent. When we pluck the hair from the ear canal pores are opened up from where the hairs are removed and can now become exposed to bacteria and debris.
“Healthy ears are self-cleaning”
The number one rule I like to follow while grooming is ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it’. Human and canine bodies do a great job of maintaining themselves. So if I come across an ear that is healthy, I usually leave it as is. However not every dog is the same and like in humans some dogs are prone to health problems. When I do come across an ear that is not too healthy my first suggestion is a vet visit. There could be a number of reasons for a problem; some examples are if the ear canals are too small, problems related to allergies, bugs or other foreign object inside the ear or a yeast infection. Once a vet has figured out the base-cause a groomer can then assist in keeping the ear clean. Shaving around the ear canal can prevent leaving pores open but still assist in air flow and help make it easier to apply any treatment necessary.
Going on holidays with your pet can be a lot of fun. Here are some tips to keeping your pet safe and happy while away.
· Make sure your dog’s microchip details and I.D tags are up to date. Being in an unfamiliar environment can heighten their desire to escape and increase the risk of becoming lost. Staying on top of your pet’s identification will enable a quick and safe reunion if needed.
·Packing essentials. A list of things needed to make the experience less stressful:
Ø Ample food and water (for the car ride and your stay)
Ø Prescribed medication
Ø Insect repellent and sunscreen (yes, dogs require this too)
Ø Carrier /crate
Ø First aid kit
Ø Treats and toys
Ø Lead and collar
Ø Bedding and familiar items from home. Your dog may feel out of place in a new environment so having familiar items will help them feel more settled and at home.
Ø Doggy towels if you’re heading to the beach
Ø Travel food and water bowls
Ø Poop bags
· Pet safety in the car is a must, not just for your pet but also for you and other family members in the car. Dogs should never be seated on the driver’s lap or the front passenger seat. A crate or harness is a good way to keep your dog secure and safe.
· If it’s a long drive, regular breaks are essential to keeping your pet comfortable and allowing them to have a stretch, play, have a toilet break and hydrate.
When You Arrive
· Spend time introducing your dog to the new environment. Having a play or throw of the ball will even give the new area a positive feel.
· Check that all fences and gates are secure and if needed find a safe place that your dog can be tethered out from all the elements.
· A thunder shirt is a great tool for those dogs that tend to get a bit of anxiety in new places, helps them feel safe and secure.
Lastly, have fun and enjoy!!
Ever seen your dog swallow a piece of food whole, or eat something that would make you sick? Here’s a break-down on how they digest their food.
Human jaw- can move up and down side to side and in a rounded motion. Teeth are designed for grinding having a flatter surface.
Dog jaw- can only move up and down. The teeth are designed to crush dense objects, having a three root system and are solid and sharp.
Human- used for breaking down food and lubricating digestion.
Dog- also used for lubricating food but they lack the enzymes to break down food. Instead their saliva contains enzymes that kill off bacteria. If you've ever seen your dog eat something old and gross and not get sick? Now you know why.
Humans- helps keep food from entering the wind pipe and designed for food to stay in our stomachs
Dogs- Good gag reflex. Even though dogs cannot chew up their food before it goes down the throat, it must still be the right size and amount to fit. If not, the dog simply throws up! Your dog is not sick. It's just his body telling him to try again. I know it's gross but completely natural.
Humans- food takes about one hour to move through our stomach, but depending on the amount and complexity sometimes longer.
Dogs- this is where most of their ability to break down foods take place. Their stomach is more acidic so it can break down large pieces of meat and bone. Food is kept in the stomach for a longer period of time, allowing the acid to break down animal proteins, bones, and fats. This explains why dogs can live with being fed only once or twice a day. They feel full longer because the food remains in their stomach longer.
Humans- where absorption of food takes place, the human intestinal tract is a lot longer than a dogs and therefore the body has more time to absorb nutrients from more complex foods such as plant and grain based foods.
Dogs-Digestive tract is a lot smaller. This means the dogs have less time to absorb nutrients from their food. This is why dogs do better on foods that are easily broken down such as meats bones and organs. But can struggle on complex foods such as plants and grains. This also means that bacteria have less time to multiply and cause problems. Ever seen your dog eat poop? Yes very gross, but plant based nutrients found in poo have been pre-digested making it a very convenient meal for our canine friend.
Yes some of our doggy friend’s habits may not be socially accepted by human standards but as you can see there may be reasoning behind their behaviour. Just maybe hold back from those doggy kisses!
Bianca is the owner and groomer at Funky Fur dog grooming and always looking for ways to help you care for your pet.