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Grooming Your Pooch 101...
Skipping the trip to an official groomer will save you money and will get you more quality time with your pupperoni. When you’re grooming small breeds in particular, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
Start off with a solid training regimen when they’re young.
All dogs have unique personalities that will impact their behavior on a grooming table or in the tub. But any dog will benefit from good training early on.
Training for grooming requires some specific measures. First and most importantly, you want to make sure your dog is used to you holding and touching them. While your dog is young, regularly hold them and run your hands gently along their bodies, down their legs, and paws.
Puppers generally do not enjoy having their paws held unless they are desensitized to the experience. If they get accustomed to you touching their feet, trimming nails, pulling out thorns, or just making sure their feet are clean will be all the easier.
Small dogs + light fur = tear stains
Ugly, reddish tear stains can happen in any breed if the dog in question has light enough fur for the stains to show. However, there are a number of small dog breeds that are particularly prone to the problem. This includes Shih Tzu, Maltese, Bichon, Pekingese, and mini poodles.
As a result, if you have a light-furred little fella or lady, keeping these stains at bay will probably be a part of your grooming regime.
There are preventative measures you can take to try and reduce these stains. However, once they form, you’ll want to be sure to get some eye cleansing clothes to help wash away the surface-level goop. After that, there are a few solutions that will help cut through the stains.
Lemon juice mixed with water or contact solution with dilute boric acid are helpful. Just be sure, if you’re using something that could burn your pup’s eyes, to be very deliberate and only apply the solution to the fur around your dog’s eyes. Do not wipe lemon juice over the eye itself.
Choose size-appropriate grooming tools.
You wouldn’t want someone coming at your head with a pitchfork crooning, “Hold still, pumpkin, we gotta get out those tangles.” Would you?
Of course not! It’d be terrifying. If you have a small dog, use a brush or comb made specifically for small dogs.
While on the subject of size-appropriateness…
Bathtubs might be perfect to plop your pup in when it gets dirty. But if your dog is a runt, you might want to reevaluate. Keeping a little dog contained if they aren’t a fan of water might be a difficult task in a bathtub.
Try bathing them in your kitchen sink or small tub instead. The smaller size could help to keep them calm. It will also give them less space from which to attempt an escape.
Brush before you wash.
Let’s take a quick step back. Throwing a dog in water before brushing off bigger debris and working through rough tangles could make your job more difficult than it needs to be.
Brushing your dog before putting them in the sink or tub will help you to dislodge sticks, burrs, leaves, or random other smut that you don’t need to dirty your bath water with. Start at the base of your dog’s fur and work your brush or comb down through the fur.
Once you have your dog’s fur looking relatively manicured, go in for the shampoo and conditioner. Get your dog wet then work dog-specific shampoo into their fur. You’ll want to be gentle with smaller dogs. But you’ll still want to be thorough.
Work the shampoo into the roots along your dog’s little body. Once you have them covered in lather, rinse out the shampoo thoroughly.
Not all dogs (short haired, specifically) will need conditioner applied to their coats. However, for long-haired dogs such as Shih Tzu, conditioner will make a world of difference in maintaining their appearance and the health of their fur. A conditioner will add an extra level of softness to any pup’s coat.
Rinse thoroughly before moving on to drying. Once you have your water shut off, shampoo and conditioner rinsed out, and sink drained, lift your little guy or gal out of the sink with an old towel. Wrap them up and bring them to a surface they won’t accidentally slip off of in their hurry to get dry.
Towel them down gently to get off the excess water. Let them shake it out after then maybe give them another pass with the towel, especially if it’s winter. Little pups can be sensitive to the cold as they tend to not store much in the way of fat reserves and their fur can sometimes be on the thinner side as some breeds were not bred for outdoor living.
I gave my dog a brush and a bath. I’m all done! Right?
Wrong, my friend. Like you, dogs need their teeth brushed, ears cleaned, and nails clipped from time to time.
These are often activities dogs do not enjoy. Make sure you choose your tools carefully. Remember, buying toothbrushes and nail clippers relative to your dog’s size is an important first step. If you’re not sure the tool you’ve chosen is correct, ask someone at your local dog store or next time you take Fido to the vet.
Dog-friendly toothpaste is a must. Dogs won’t spit out toothpaste the way you and I can. So make sure the toothpaste you choose is designed to be edible.
Ears and nails, the final frontier of your dog grooming.
I’m sure there are dogs out there that don’t mind getting their ears cleaned and their nails trimmed. I, for one, have not met one.
When cleaning your dog’s ears, drip a small amount of ear-cleaning solution into the ear. Make sure it gets into the ear canal. At this point, hold onto the base of the ear and massage the ear to encourage the solution to really get in there.
At this point, let your pupper shake its head. This will loosen up some of the build up. After that, grab onto your little love again. Take a cotton ball and wipe the interior of the ear gently.
With smaller dogs, you may be tempted to use a Q-tip. However, this is not something I would recommend. If your dog moves while you are digging around with a small tool, you could run the risk of damaging their eardrum permanently.
When trimming a dog’s nails, you will want to use extreme caution. If you cut too close to the paw, you run the risk of nicking the soft tissue under the base of the claw. If you’re not completely confident you know what you’re doing, ask your regular groomer or vet to give you a demonstration before attempting on your own.
Be sure to get your pup used to being touched (paws, ears, etc.) early on to make grooming them an easier task. Use size appropriate tools/tub that will not overwhelm your pup. A good brush-out before wetting their fur will make the whole experience easier for you and your pooch. Choose a quality shampoo and conditioner (if needed) and be sure to keep suds away from their sensitive eyes. After the bath, pay special attention to cleaning their eyes (diluted lemon juice will lighten tear stains), delicate ears, teeth, and nails.
Remember to be gentle with every step of grooming and speak in a soft, reassuring tone to put your sweet pooch at ease.
Good luck and happy grooming!
Do you groom your small pup?
Comment below and tell us what you do!
For more awesome "pet how tos", check out How to Keep Your Pet Safe During the Crazy Holidays, How I became the Best Blogger On The Planet, and How the Sneaky Killdeer protects their nests.
About the Author: Adam Conrad is one of Pet Hangout's guest contributors, an active Shih Tzu advocate with 5 lovely pups, and owner/founder of shihtzuexpert.com. When not loving on his pups, he can be found pursuing his addiction to outdoor sports like surfing, biking, and running.