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A Grooming Primer

Remember to stay calm and talk with a gentle voice. If the clipping starts to tire you or the puppy, STOP and take it up later in the day or tomorrow.

Grooming is a necessary part of owning a dog, especially a Cocker Spaniel.  Cocker Spaniels need frequent brushing but not as frequent baths or hair cuts.  You can groom your Cocker or you can have someone groom him for you.

A lot of grooming can be done at home. A fine-toothed comb for soft, silky hair and flea control and a brush are minimal tools necessary for the job. Owners who can manage may also want a pair of clippers for trimming dog toenails.

The first step in home grooming is to teach the dog to accept the attention. The best strategy is to start when the pet is a puppy, teaching him to accept the handling of all his body parts and to stand and lie on his side by command. Use hands, a soft brush, or a coarse washcloth to groom a puppy. If the puppy has a tough time staying still, place a mat on the kitchen table for traction and work with the pup on the mat.  If you have an older dog they might already be trained if not he can still be taught to stand or lie still and accept this necessary attention.  As with any training effort, you will often need more patience to teach shy or fearful dogs than confident or dominant dogs.

When grooming a dog with a tangled coat, work gently to avoid irritating the skin. Comb the outside of the tangle, gently progressing towards the skin, just as you would comb a child's snarled tresses. If the coat is severely tangled or matted, work in short sessions and praise the dog frequently for accepting the sometimes irritating or painful combing. Or consider taking the pooch to a professional for an evaluation of his condition and possible clipping.

 Bathing

Frequent baths remove necessary oils from a dog's coat, but occasional baths are fine. Warm baths can hasten the shedding process. The choice of shampoos for dogs is as wide as the choice for people. There are scented and unscented shampoos, medicated shampoos, herbal shampoos, and flea and tick shampoos; rinses in each of these categories, and flea and tick dips.  Some Cocker Spaniels have allergies and scented shampoos may irritate their skin.

The first step in bathing a dog is the same as the first step in grooming teach him to stand and to accept hands all over his body. Baths are also easier if the dog trusts the owner and willingly climbs into the tub and remains there until the final rinse is done.

Use a washcloth to clean the dog's face and avoid getting water in his ears. Moisture inside the ears provides the conditions for fungus infections.  Towel dry your dog and use a hand-held hair dryer to make drying faster. If his coat is not thoroughly dried, don't let him out in cool or cold weather and keep him in if it's raining as well.   You may want to use a hair dryer.

 Skin

Healthy skin is certainly a consideration for a well-groomed dog, and healthy skin begins with a good diet. Again, the choices are endless. The rule of thumb is this: If your dog does well on the food you buy, if his skin and coat are healthy, if he has energy and enjoys life, if he is maintaining his optimum weight, if his intestines are working well, if the food is highly digestible and thus leaves little manure to clean up, keep on giving it to him. But if the dog's energy level is low, if his coat is dull and his skin dry and itchy or sore, if a vet check shows no thyroid or other medical condition to account for the anomalies, consider switching the diet or supplementing with fatty acids.  You also may want to Concider a holistic diet.

Grooming is essential for healthy skin, not so much for keeping it clean, but for making the owner aware of any problems that may be developing. Flea allergies can cause severe skin problems, so daily examination of the dog during flea season is a must. Contact allergies can also cause skin to break out. Irritated skin leads to scratching, which can open the skin to staphylococcu infections. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure for the dog and the pocketbook the antibiotics for skin infections are among the most expensive medications, and the cost of treatment can be dollars a day for a couple of weeks or longer.

Skin irritations and infections can creep up overnight, so keep a close eye on the situation. Groom daily for fleas and ticks if Rex has had a problem. Use a fine-toothed comb to check for fleas, then flick the tiny insects into a container of warm, soapy water. Remove ticks with tweezers and drop in a vial of alcohol. Treat the house for fleas as well; modern controls for these pests use genetically altered natural insecticides, growth inhibitors, and drying agents that are both environmentally friendly and less toxic to people and pets.

 Ears

All Cockers should have their ears checked periodically. Cockers are especially susceptible to fungus and bacterial infections and should be checked at least weekly. Veterinarians can prescribe cleaning agents for ears to dry them out, or you can clean them yourself with Q-Tips and Baby Oil.

Infected ears can also lead to further complications. Not only is the dog painfully uncomfortable, he may cause a hematoma by breaking a blood vessel while shaking his head in response to the discomfort. The hematoma may dissipate on its own if Rover stops shaking his head -- or it may grow and require lancing and stitching. They can also develop ear infections or ear mites.

Eyes

Most Cockers' eyes water.  To clean it you should take a wash cloth and a little dish detergent and wipe off the gook.  If the gook hardens you should do that twice a day and make sure not to rub too hard because it will hurt your dog.

Feet

Dogs should have their toenails cut every two to three weeks. A dog that wiggles during toenail clipping will sooner or later be nipped to the quick, and the next time the clippers come out of the closet, he'll head for the hills. So teach the dog to stand or sit still and offer his paw, clip a tiny bit off each nail a couple of days in a row, or have the vet or groomer do the job.

Dog nails have a quick that can be seen as a darkening of light-colored nails but is invisible on dark nails. The quick has a nerve and blood supply; nicking the quick not only hurts the dog, it causes profuse bleeding, so keep a quick stop product on hand or use flour or cornstarch to stem the tide.

Include an examination of the dog's feet into a grooming session to make sure there is nothing stuck between the pads. Seeds from some grasses can stab into the pad, pebbles can get stuck, chemicals used on lawns can burn, and fungus can cause irritation, which lads to licking, which can lead to hot spots and infection.

A home-grooming session can help the dog-owner relationship. Dogs naturally groom each other to reinforce pack behavior and show subordination., and you can take advantage of this behavior. Spend 10-20 minutes every day or two, depending on the season of the year, and you'll increase the bond with your pet immeasurably along with insuring that you'll keep his skin and coat healthy and be aware of any subtle changes in condition.

 Choosing a groomer

If you decide that you have neither the time, inclination or physical ability to groom your dog, dozens of professional groomers can do the job. But the choice is far more complex than a digital walk through the Yellow Pages. Selection of a groomer should be done with at least as much care as choice of a barber or hair stylist, for you must be pleased with the results of the "haircut" and the dog must be treated with care while at the shop.

Many veterinarians have incorporated grooming into their clinics, so you may start there. If your veterinarian is not associated with a groomer, he may have a list of recommended groomers. Other sources of recommendations include friends who own pets, boarding kennels that don't have their own grooming service, pet supply stores, shelters, and purebred breeders.

After getting some recommendations, make a few telephone calls and ask questions about services and costs, pick-up and delivery.  If your dog is geriatric or has a chronic medical problem, ask about special handling.  Visit the groomers who answered your questions without the dog. Make sure the shop is well-lit, that the groomer and assistants handle the dogs gently, that old or arthritic dogs are treated with special consideration, and that the shampoos and flea and tick products meet your needs. 

Sometimes groomers require proof of certain vaccinations.  If routine vaccinations, including Bordatella, are not required, be aware that rex may bring home more than a new hairdo.

The Owner's Responsibility

Here are some hints to make a trip to the groomer easier on both you and your dog:

  1. Teach the dog to stand on command and to accept the attentions of a stranger without cringing or growling. Obedience classes are wonderful for this good manners exercise, which is an integral part of the Canine Good Citizen test.
  2. Comb Mango regularly to prevent tangles and mats. Or schedule more frequent visits to the groomer. Matted hair can cause great pain to the dog and to the groomer who gets bitten because Mango's in pain from tangled locks.
  3. Crate train Monster so he'll sit quietly while drying and waiting for your return.
  4. Warn the groomer of any bad habits that could interfere with successful grooming. If, in spite of all you can do, Monkey hates grooming and is likely to bite, tell the groomer so she can take precautions. If Peanut is tranquilized for the session, if she has a heart problem or is subject to seizures, if she has arthritis, or if she is extremely fearful, tell the groomer so she will be prepared.

A groomer is not a miracle worker. She cannot take a poorly maintained dog and turn it into a show-stopper in one visit. You should maximize your chances of satisfaction by teaching the dog to accept the attentions of strangers and keeping the coat free of mats and tangles.

 

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