- Keeping the toenails trimmed
- Cleaning the ears
- Expressing anal sacs
- Brushing your dog’s teeth
- Keeping eyes healthy
After you discover the basics of dog grooming — brushing, combing, and bathing — you have to tackle some tougher jobs, like brushing your dog’s teeth, cleaning his ears and face, trimming his toenails, and yes, some less glamorous and even gross tasks. Don’t panic! All dogs need these essential grooming tasks done regularly. In this chapter, I show you how you can do them without a struggle.
Toe (Nail) Tapping
Making toenail trimming a pleasant experience
– Getting your dog used to your handling her feet: Getting your dog used to having her paws handled is of utmost importance (see Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics). Most dogs simply detest having their feet handled, so the sooner you get your dog used to enduring it, the better (and easier) giving your dog a weekly manicure can be.
– Asking for help getting started: If your dog’s nails are too long the first time you think about trimming them yourself, ask your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how to trim them to the right length. After that, you can trim them every week or so.
– Trimming one paw at a time: This technique is a good one for fussy dogs. You can trim one paw at a time, giving your dog a rest before moving on to another paw.
– Providing a treat: Giving your dog a yummy treat after trimming her toenails also helps, and so do big hugs, a boisterous “Good dog!” and a healthy scratch behind the ears.
– Trying a nail grinder instead of clippers: Some dogs who can’t tolerate nail trimmers sometimes can deal with a nail grinder. If you’re experiencing major problems clipping toenails, a nail grinder (which looks like a rotary tool) may work.
– Trimming your dog’s nails once a week: Ideally, you need to trim your dog’s nails once a week. Weekly nail trimming not only helps keep them in good shape and prevents problems like broken nails but also gets your dog used to having a routine manicure.
If you hear your dog’s nails clicking as they touch a hard surface (floor or sidewalk), it’s time for a nail trim.
Gathering the tools you need
– Nail cutters for dogs: You can use either the guillotine or scissors styles.
– Styptic powder or a nail cauterizing tool: You need one or the other of these products in case you cut the quick (blood supply in the nail) and your dog’s toenail begins to bleed. Find out more about this problem in the following section.
– A slightly damp washcloth: Use a washcloth to clean up any styptic powder or other messes you may make.
– A nail file or nail grinder: The file or grinder is used to smooth off rough edges of the nail.
– Cotton swabs: If you need to apply styptic powder, you also need a cotton swab to apply it.
– A batch of those yummy treats: Rewarding your best bud for a toenail-trimming job well done helps ease your dog through this procedure.
Just a little off the tip: Trimming basics
If your dog has white nails, you’ll be able to see the quick. However, many dogs have black or dark-colored nails, and no matter what tricks you’ve heard about, seeing the quick in them is impossible. You have to snip carefully and look at the nail. If the nail feels spongy while you’re trying to cut it, stop immediately!
If you cut the quick (often called quicking), you’ll have an unhappy dog and a bloody mess. The quick bleeds a great deal, so if you cut it, you need either a nail cauterizer or styptic powder (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming) to stop the bleeding. Pack the nail with the styptic powder or use the cauterizer on the nail. Quicking hurts a lot, and most dogs remember the experience long afterward.
However, be sure and hold your dog’s foot gently.
Place a tiny bit of the nail in the nail clipper and snip.
Most people prefer to have their dog lying down or sitting when they cut the toenails. Use whatever method’s most comfortable for you and your dog.
Doing the dew
Some canine breed standards require dewclaws for animals that are intended for the show ring. Rear double dewclaws are the standard for Great Pyrenees, for example. Other standards say that rear dewclaws need to be removed. Check the breed standard on the AKC
Web site at www.akc.org.
Before removing dewclaws on a puppy, you need to check with the breed standard to find out whether removal is allowable, if you plan to enter your puppy in the show ring. In working dogs, dewclaws need to be removed by the breeder or vet when the puppy is 3 to 5 days old to prevent injuries that can occur when dewclaws are torn. Removal of dewclaws any time after that requires surgery and anesthesia at the vet’s office.
If you plan to remove the dewclaws from a litter, have your vet show you how. If dewclaw removal isn’t done right, you can end up with malformed dewclaws or worse — an injured or crippled puppy!
Don’t forget the dewclaws. Some dogs have dewclaws; others don’t. If your dog has dewclaws, pay special attention when trimming them. They tend to grow long because they don’t normally touch the ground. If you fail to cut them, they will eventually grow back into your dog’s foot, which is quite painful.
The dewclaws are a dog’s thumbs. But unlike your opposable thumbs, they’re not really useful. They’re located a little bit higher on the inside of the leg above the foot. Most dogs have dewclaws in the front; some also have them in the rear.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Dog owners (usually Poodle owners) often pluck the hair inside their dog’s ears. They use ear powder to dry the ear and yank the hair out. Ouch! I don’t like this procedure, and I’m sure dogs don’t either. But if your dog has hair growing in his ears and has a lot of infections, plucking may be something you have to do. Ask your vet.
Making ear cleaning a pleasurable experience
– Getting your dog used to your gently handling his ears: Get him used to your touching his ears (a gentle ear scratch), holding his ears, flipping up the ear flaps (if he has hanging or dropped ears), and looking into his ears.
– Cleaning your dog’s ears when he’s a bit tired: The less your dog fights with you, the less he’s going to have his ears pulled.
– Cleaning your dog’s ears once a week: The longer you wait to perform a grooming task like this one, the longer it takes and the worse the experience is likely to be for the dog and for you.
– Giving your dog treats for behaving while you clean his ears: Give him a goody even if he’s good only long enough for you to touch his ears.
– Never pulling on your dog’s ears or jabbing anything deep into them: It’s painful, and if you do it, your dog will never let you near his ears again. Ears aren’t doggie handles, no matter what a former president may have done with his dog’s ears.
Gathering the tools you need
– Mild otic (ear-cleaning) solution for dogs: Don’t use anything with insecticides. Otic solution is available at groomer’s supply houses.
– Sterile gauze or sponges: Use the gauze or sponges for removing the otic solution or cleaner.
– Surgical forceps or clamps: No, you’re not doing surgery. You wrap the clamp or forceps with the gauze and then wipe the gauze inside the ears to clean out any dirt and otic solution.
Cleaning your dog’s ears
Sitting down beside your dog usually works.
Gently massage the outside of the ear canal to enable the solution to do its work
You can wrap the gauze or sponge completely around the forceps or the clamp (mentioned in the preceding section) to wipe around the ear.
Don’t leave any excess solution behind; it can lead to an ear infection. And don’t use insecticides or mite treatments, because they can cause irritation. If you notice any red dirt, anything that looks like coffee grounds, or a waxy buildup and you suspect ear mites (see Chapter Grooming Emergencies: Knowing Doggie First Aid), see your vet for the appropriate treatment.
Recognizing an ear problem
- Blisters or abrasions on the ears
- Crusty or red ears
- Excessive waxy buildup
- Foul-smelling odor coming from the ears
- Red or black waxy buildup
- Scratching at or pawing his ears or shaking his head
- Yelping when you touch his ears
Unclogging Anal Sacs
Ask your vet before attempting to express your dog’s anal sacs for the first time, because although the procedure is harmless in most cases, in some dogs you can cause impacted anal glands and in really bizarre instances can rupture the sacs.
Making anal sac expression a pleasurableexperience (Yeah, sure)
Gathering the tools you need
– Paper towels: Having plenty of paper towels for any type of cleanup always helps. Heck, you may even want to try a diaper wipe or other moistened cleansing wipe.
– A clothespin, heavy-duty rubber gloves, welder’s apron, rubber boots, and tongs: With these tools you can glove up, cover up, and thus avoid the gag reflex the way Michael Keaton does while changing diapers in Mr. Mom.
Doing so provides an absorbent pad to catch the liquid.
Note the position of his anus in relation to the paper towels.
Keep your face out of the way! (You’re welcome!)
Throw away the paper towels.
A clean doggie rump is a healthy doggie rump.
If your dog shows discomfort back by his butt and his anal sacs aren’t producing any fluid, he may have an impacted anal sac, which requires veterinary intervention.
Pearly Whites — Tooth Brushing
Brushing your dog’s teeth obviously is important, but how often you do it depends on your dog and your motivation factor. Poor doggie dental care, however, can lead to dental infections that can travel to your pooch’s heart, causing major problems and even death. How’s that for motivation to brush your dog’s teeth?
Making brushing dog teeth a pleasurable experience
– Brush frequently. Ultimately, you need to brush your dog’s teeth every day, but realistically, you’re better than most pet owners if you can brush them once or twice a week. Frequent brushing gets your dog used to the brushing routine and to the idea of having her mouth handled by you.
– Choose the best time. A great time for brushing is right after your dog has exercised and is a little tired. At least, that time’s preferable to when she’s willing to fight with you over handling her mouth.
– Train your dog to allow you to touch her mouth. You can get her to tolerate having her mouth handled by following the instructions in Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics.
– Get her ready to have her teeth brushed by
- Flipping up her lips (see how to do so in Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics and Figure 6-3).
- Wetting the edge of a clean washcloth so you can rub your dog’s gums and teeth; hold a corner of the wet portion of the washcloth with your index finger and use a gentle, circular motion.
- Talking to your dog in calm, soothing tones.
- If your dog grows impatient, do Steps 1 through 3 for only a few seconds, and then stop and give her a treat.
- Repeat Steps 1 through 4 again tomorrow, gradually lengthening the amount of time you spend doing them.
Gathering the tools you need
– Toothpaste for dogs: Don’t ever use human toothpaste! Doggie toothpaste is flavored with malt, chicken, or some other yummy flavor that dogs can’t resist. It makes the experience a little more enjoyable. (Imagine your dentist offering to clean your teeth with chocolate? Mmm. I’d wait in line for that dentist, wouldn’t you?)
– Toothbrush for dogs: A finger toothbrush that’s made for pets is best (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming). You can use a human toothbrush, but it isn’t as good as a finger brush.
Twice a day and between meals: Thelowdown on brushing a dog’s teeth
At the risk of repeating this information, never use human toothpaste on a dog. Human toothpaste contains fluoride, which in large quantities is poisonous to dogs. Dogs can’t rinse and spit, so they pretty much swallow everything you put on their teeth. Follow these steps to properly brush your dog’s teeth:
Most dogs like the flavor, but some don’t. Don’t worry about it one way or the other.
Some people like to purchase a dental scalar, a device they use to scrape away plaque from their dogs’ teeth. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can injure your dog’s gums, not to mention make one unhappy pooch. That form of teeth-cleaning is better left to your vet, especially when your dog has a lot of tartar and buildup and big teeth!
Spotting a dental problem
- A lump above or below a particular tooth
- Bad breath
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Red, swollen gums
- Sudden, unexpected chewing on inappropriate items
- A grayish or darkened tooth
The Eyes Have It: Keeping Your Dog’s Eyes Shiny and Bright
As dogs have various head types (see Chapter Inside and Out: What Affects a Dog’s Coat and Grooming), dogs likewise have various eye shapes and sizes. Some dogs, especially those with brachycephalic (short, pushed-in) heads — Pugs and Pekinese — tend to have large, protruding eyes that are more susceptible to accidental injury. Other dogs have almond-shaped eyes — Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and still others have rounded eyes.
Exploring ways to keep your dog’s teeth white
If your dog doesn’t handle brushing well, you can use one of several methods for keeping
your dog’s teeth clean. Most of these methods have something to do with feeding him the right kind of food and giving him appropriate kinds of chews. Here are some of the items you can use to clean those pearly whites:
Making cleansing your dog’s eyes a pleasurable experience
A dog’s eyes are particularly sensitive, so you want to avoid bringing them into contact with soaps, chemicals, or anything that may cause irritation or abrasions. Unless directed by a veterinarian, avoid using eyedrops altogether. When you do use eyedrops, make sure they’re made specifically for a dog’s eyes.
– Try cleaning the accumulated gunk from your dog’s eyes. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball moistened only with water. You’ll be cleaning off gunk deposits that my mom called “sleep” (as in “rub the sleep from your eyes . . . “) and other deposits that accumulate.
– Avoid directly touching your dog’s eyes. Do you like having your eyeballs touched? I think not.
– Gently rub your pooch’s jowls and forehead, and give him a scratch or two behind the ears as you talk to him in a calm, gentle, and reassuring voice. Setting your dog at ease like this gives you better access for cleaning the areas around those sensitive orbs.
Don’t cry for me Argentina: Tear stains
If your dog has tear stains, take him to a vet first to make sure there isn’t some other problem. Tear stains are natural for certain breeds but not for most.
Gathering the tools you need to clear up minor tear stains
A vet can help you get rid of Poodle eye (tear stains) — if that’s indeed what the problem is — with a course of tetracycline, which usually helps get rid of the staining but not the tears.
– A soft cloth, makeup pad, or cotton ball: These materials, or others like them that don’t contain any soaps or chemicals, can be used to apply grooming products to rid your dog of tear stains.
– A 10-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide with water, or other grooming products for getting rid of stains: These stain removers may or may not get the total stain out, depending how bad it is.
Always be extremely careful not to get any of these products in your dog’s eyes.
– Face cream, powder, cornstarch, or other cover-up products: Yes, you have a choice of either getting rid of the tear-stained hair or covering it up.
– Electric clipper with an appropriate clipper guard or guarded blade: Use this tool with extreme care if you choose to get rid of stained fur altogether.
Getting rid of your dog’s tear stains
– Wiping them off: If you choose to wipe off the tear stains, use the 10-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide or another stain-removal product for dogs. Gently swab the solution over the tear stain, but don’t get any of these products in your dog’s eyes. Make sure that you rinse the residues from your dog’s fur.
– Clipping them off: If you decide to clip out the stain, do so very carefully with guarded clippers, or try plucking the stained fur. Note: Your dog must be extremely tolerant of clippers to remove tear-stained fur; otherwise, using the clippers can spell disaster.
Never use scissors around your dog’s eyes or face for any reason.
– Covering them up: If you choose the face cream, powder, or cornstarch coverup route, you’ve chosen the safer but less permanent way. Here’s how those products work:
- Cornstarch: Use it in a pinch, because it can whiten or lighten the stained area.
- Face cream/powder: Dampen the area and then use a small bit of cream or mousse to apply the powder. (Make sure none gets in the eyes!) Then you can gently brush out the area. Some of the powder will stick, thus making your dog’s face more appealing.
Technically, a show dog is never supposed to have chalk or powder left over. The truth is that some stays in, but the handler must get most of it out so that it doesn’t appear that the chalk is still there.
Eyeing other eye issues
Knowing when your dog has an eye problem
- Bulges or is out of its socket (that one is a no-brainer!)
- Is red or tearing profusely
- Is lacerated or exhibits another apparent abnormality
- Appears opaque or cloudy
- Bleeds or shows other signs of injury
- Has foreign matter in it
Your dog’s face is the first thing you and other people see, so keeping her face clean and looking great makes sense, right? Some of the problems many dogs have in maintaining that glow usually have to do with wrinkles (if they have them) and beards (if they have them).
Making cleaning your dog’s face a pleasurable experience
Gathering the tools you need
– A damp washcloth
– A mild soap, dog shampoo (the tearless variety works well), or groomer’s blue shampoo (a great cleansing product that you don’t have to rinse out)
– Cotton swab