- Understanding what makes a longer-haired double-coated breed
- Handling the big hair
- Grooming and grooming your double-coated dog
- Sprucing up your long hair’s coat for show
It’s time to talk big hair. If the short-coated breeds are the wash-and-wear dogs of the canine world (see Chapter Warming Up to Double-Coated Breeds), the double-coated breeds probably are the biggest headaches as far as the grooming world is concerned. It isn’t so much that double-coated dogs are extremely grooming intensive, except (of course) when they blow their coats, or shed, but rather it’s what happens to their coats when you don’t care for them — mats!
Introducing the Big Hairy Deal: Double-Coated Breeds
You have to brush and comb a wooly double-coated dog every day to keep his coat from looking ratty. During shedding season, you’re in for a royal headache. The undercoat becomes matted with guard hairs, making it nearly impossible to comb through.
– Skin protection: Double-coated dogs aren’t made to walk around without their coats (truly naked) and can be more susceptible to sunburn, hypothermia, and heat stroke without them. When a double-coated dog’s fur is brushed and free of blown or shedded hairs and mats, the guard hairs (or top coat) provide shade to the body and enable air to circulate closer to the dog’s skin. With a well-maintained coat, your dog can actually remain cooler than she can with a shaved coat.
– Skin health: Don’t forget that your dog needs time to regrow his coat. After you shave him to the skin, he’s starting at square one. Health conditions can impede your dog’s ability to regrow his coat, and that can spell trouble, especially with fall and winter approaching.
The best way to deal with mats — especially with a double-coated dog — is to not let them form in the first place. You can do that by brushing and combing your dog regularly. If you take care of your double-coated dog’s hair, it’s probably going to look good and be free from tangles and mats.
Using a slicker brush removes the loose hairs, and using a comb helps you make sure no tangles are present and removes more hair.
Be sure to get all the way to the skin as you brush your dog this way.
You can best use a flea comb by parting the coat, starting at the root, and combing through.
Don’t clip the hair between the pads — just any excess that otherwise may get in the way or inhibit a neater appearance.
Grooming easy-going wash-and-wear dogs
As you’re brushing your huge and hairy dog, you may be wishing for (or dreaming of) a washand-wear type pooch. Well, being the sadistic author I am, I’ve decided to list those just plain easier-to-groom breeds right here in this sidebar amid your long-coated agony:
Nonetheless, you love the look of your longhaired, double-coated breed, don’t you? I do, too. I have Alaskan Malamutes. Still, we’re allowed to look longingly at the easier-to-groom breeds — don’t you agree?
Surviving shedding season
If you own an intact female dog, she usually blows coat, or sheds, right before or during her heat or season. In fact, that usually was the sign I looked for so I knew when one of my intact females was ready to come into season. (I’ve since spayed them all.) But some females don’t follow this menstrual schedule, or they blow their coats only after their season, so you can’t rely on this hint as a solid tip.
There isn’t a comb, slicker brush, or other grooming device made that can hold as much hair as a big dog releases when blowing coat. I swear when they’re in full blow, they cast off enough fur to knit three more dogs. A good tool to invest in (if you haven’t already) is a shedding blade (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming). These blades pull hair from the dog with a single stroke, depositing the hair on the ground. Then, you can bag up the hair and throw it out or hand it to someone who spins dog hair — I’m serious; see the nearby “Puttin’ on the dog: Spinning dog hair” sidebar. Just never use a shedding blade on your dog in the living room, or you’ll be wishing you hadn’t. You’ll end up going through many vacuum cleaners.
Some people recommend bathing a dog in warm water to loosen the hair and facilitate shedding. Although this works to a certain degree, you’re more likely to have clogged sewer pipes and a tangled mess for a dog if you do it. Better to bite the bullet and brush and comb out your dog before and after bathing. Having a hair strainer in your drain helps, though.
Puttin’ on the dog: Spinning dog hair
You may be amazed (and amused) to discover that like wool, dog hair can be spun into yarn. The fur is called chiengora, (SHEE-en-gora) which is just a fancy term for dog hair. (That way your mom won’t balk when you hand her a chiengora hat for Christmas.
Here are some Web sites that cover knitting with dog hair. These Web sites are for information only; I don’t specifically endorse any of them:
– Handspinning Dog Hair Homepage – www.mdnpd.com/pd/default.htm
– VIP Fibers – www.vipfibers.com/index.php
– Betty Burian Kirk Dog Hair Yarn Custom Spun – www.bbkirk.com/Dog%20Hair%20Yarn.htm
One book a knitter friend of mine recommends is Knitting With Dog Hair: Better A Sweater From A Dog You Know and Love Than From A Sheep You’ll Never Meet by Kendal Crolius (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997). My friend considers it the bible of dog-hair knitting.
How often and when, really?
– You can bathe your dog as much as you want provided you use a pH-balanced shampoo for dogs. You won’t ruin his coat by bathing him too often. Forget that old wives’ tale.
– If your dog gets dirty digging a hole or getting into other filthy things, it’s time for a bath; otherwise, the dirt will just cause mats.
– Bathing your dog will take a fair amount of time, because he needs to be brushed, bathed, dried, and then brushed again, and you may even want to add a clipping session or two. That mean’s you need to plan ahead for your pup’s baths.
When bathing your double-coated dog, be sure to wet your dog all the way to the skin. Some coats are so dense they keep water away from the skin, so be sure to feel all the way down to the skin to make sure your dog’s all wet.
A handheld shower head or tub faucet attachment is ideal for wetting down dogs if you have good water pressure.
Be sure to rinse the residue from the skin and undercoat.
One made to keep the hair from tangling is good. No-residue conditioners are good, too.
Feel for any soapy, slimy spots next to the skin, and continue rinsing until they are gone. Although billed as no-residue conditioners, these products will leave a residue, if you don’t rinse them out.
Preventing tangles and mats
– Brushing out your dog’s coat before bathing is imperative. Yes, I know, she may be filthy or stink beyond belief, or she may be shedding worse than anything you’ve ever seen. Brush and comb her; otherwise, after you get that double coat wet, it will mat and tangle worse than a preschooler’s hair. Do you and your dog a favor and brush and comb her out before her bath.
– Detangler solution is your next best friend. Removing all mats, foreign objects (twigs, burrs), and blown coat before you bathe your dog prevents tangles from forming after the bath.
– Use a mat rake and mat cutter to eliminate tangles that can become serious mats.
– Use a coat conditioner that prevents tangles and matting.
– Rinse your dog thoroughly when bathing. Any leftover residues will attract dirt and cause mats.
– After bathing, always blow-dry your double coat in a clean area where he’s unlikely to pick up more dirt that can cause tangles.
– Dry your dog thoroughly. Wet hair picks up dirt and thus causes tangles.
Preventing collar marks
One big problem with double-coated breeds is the marks that collars can leave on their necks. If you’re a conscientious owner, you know that you must have a collar and tags on your dog at all times so you can identify him if he accidentally slips away from you and so he can then be returned to you. The problem is that most collars rub the fur in such a way that a mark is left where the collar was worn — even after you clean up and brush out his coat.
Many show dog owners don’t make their dogs wear collars, preferring instead to rely on microchip or tattoo identification of their dogs. However, this form of identification can be risky, because many people don’t know to look for tattoos and microchips. Someone may find a dog and not bother to take him to a vet or humane shelter, because no tags were present and the person who found him may not be aware of microchip IDs. Another issue with microchips is that the devices that read the information on the chips haven’t been standardized; not all readers read all microchips. So if you decide on microchipping your dog, be sure that it is a common microchip. Check with your vet.
You can keep a collar on your dog without ruining his fur. Rolled leather collars do a minimal
amount of damage to the neck fur. They come in buckle and slip styles (ones that tighten when the collar is pulled on), and you can use either type. Be aware, however, that when these collars get wet, some of them can stain your dog’s fur.
As a note or warning: You should never leave a slip-style collar on an unattended dog.
Preparing for Show
When showing your dog, understanding the breed standard and the correct coat type your dog should be wearing, if you will, are essential. A good place to look for breed standards is on the Internet at www.akc.org.
- Trim your dog’s toenails.
- Brush out your dog.
- Remove any mats.
- Bathe your dog.
- Dry your dog.
- Brush out your dog again.
- Clip stray hairs and trim your dog’s coat to keep the clean line that is allowed by his breed standard.
- Use coat dressing to spruce up you dog’s coat, whenever appropriate.
Mousse and a spritz — Conditioning the coat
You need all this stuff, because using it has to do with giving your dog the proper coat type. For example, certain breeds are supposed to have what’s called a harsh coat. That means the dog’s coat feels a little stiff to the touch and is weatherproof. When you bathe and condition your dog frequently, that feel can be lost because of coat maintenance, or the dog’s coat simply may not have the right feel. Whatever the reason, you need to adjust the coat so that it feels as close to the way the breed standard dictates as possible, and that requires some coat dressing.
Making the hair stand up
– While your dog’s coat is drying, use your blow-dryer against the lay of the hair and backbrush your dog’s coat (using a brush or comb) to puff it out.
– Spray bodifier over your dog’s coat, backbrush again, and let the coat air dry.
– If the hair starts to lay back down, use a bodifier or water mister to spray on the coat and backbrush the hair as required.