The warmer weather is on its way and keeping your dog cool, happy, and healthy in the summer can be as tricky as keeping him mud free in the winter! Groomer Anna Pollard shares her summer grooming tips.
Here are some top tips for you to consider when planning your dog’s summer grooming routine.
Coat length is an important consideration all year round and people will nearly always ask their groomer for a longer hair cut in the winter and a shorter one in the summer. However, it’s best not to ask for your dog to have his coat shaved off in the summer as this can lead to sunburn, particularly in dogs with very pink skin.
The coat offers a little protection from the sun; it also helps to move heat away from the skin in the same way that it traps air to keep dogs warmer in the winter. Dogs with darker coats will absorb more heat and dogs with thick double coats will find it harder to cool off. However, shaving off a double coat isn’t recommended unless advised by a vet. Keeping your dog’s coat knot and tangle free is the best way to make sure it is working efficiently. Also check that the hair at the bottom of the paws, between the pads, is kept nice and short so your dog can sweat through his paws as well as by panting.
Playing in water is a great way to keep your pup cool. However, you need to make sure that you dry your dog off by patting him dry. Rubbing causes friction and friction causes matting! Once your dog has dried off, use a de-tangling spray and make sure he’s brushed through thoroughly with a suitable brush and a comb. Avoid letting him do ‘zoomies’ around the garden and rolling, as this again causes friction in the coat. If you have a short, smooth coated breed then of course you can let him dry on his own. When it gets warm in the salon we often turn our dryers on to cool and leave the dogs a little damp so that they don’t become overheated.
If you have a dog who is a beach lover, make sure that you rinse out the salt and sand from his coat once you’re off the beach, before patting your dog dry and brushing him through.
If you have a wallower who thinks he’s a hippo and is always in and out of water, then you need to be vigilant about his ears, particularly if your dog has heavy, hairy ears where there isn’t much air flow around the ear canal. Water in the ears can lead to painful infections. It is a good idea to get yourself acquainted with your dog’s healthy ear smell and appearance; it can vary from dog to dog, but if your dog’s ears smell yeasty or worse, are looking red and inflamed, or are bothering your dog, it’s best to get them checked by your vet.
Ear plucking is something that we are often asked about and it’s a pretty controversial topic; some groomers do it and some don’t. We don’t as if we remove hair and there is an infection brewing, it can make things worse.
Grass seeds are pesky, horrible things — and another reason why regular grooming appointments could literally save your dog’s life! They seem perfectly harmless in a field but can be disastrous for your dog’s health. Once grass seeds are in the coat they can only travel one way due to the ‘barbs’ they have on them, and it doesn’t take much for the sharp end of the seed to pierce the skin.
Once a grass seed works its way through the skin, it can track around the body and may need to be removed by the vet. It’s really important to check your dog regularly yourself. Areas such as ears, in between toes, chest, armpits, and where your dog’s collar and harness sit are the most common places affected. A regular grooming appointment means that your groomer will also check thoroughly, remove grass seeds, and keep the hair trimmed in between the toes so you can spot them easily.
If you’re heading off on holiday this year and your dog can’t go with you, it’s worth considering his grooming routine while you’re away. Some kennels and house-sitters off er grooming packages to keep your dog looking tip-top and tangle free; if not there are other options you can consider. Your pet-sitter could take your dog to the grooming salon for you so that you don’t miss your regular appointment, or you could have your dog clipped shorter before you go so his coat is less likely to get knotty and tangled while you’re away and by the time you get back it will have regrown. If you follow a regular grooming schedule and you know that you want your dog to smell amazing when you get back, don’t forget to book an extra bath for him just before you return.
I’ve already mentioned that keeping your dog’s paws hair and mat free helps you to spot any grass seeds and allows your dog to sweat through his paws. Keeping pad hair trimmed down is also really key for joint maintenance; excess hair can make pads slippery and dogs can damage themselves by slipping and straining. Removing their hair does leave the paws a little more exposed, so it’s more important than ever in the summer to make sure you’re not walking your dog on hot pavements. It’s a good idea to use a paw balm to keep the paws moisturised and free of cracks, which can become sore. Some paw balms double up as a nose balm and some contain an SPF too.
If you have double-coated breeds such as Pomeranians, Huskies, and German Shepherds, you’ll notice that they’re constantly dropping hair, but nothing compares to the summer time when they are shedding! The best tool to deal with this is an undercoat rake; it lifts out the dead coat without damaging any of the top coat and it’s a rake with smooth pins rather than a blade, which can cut the coat. Regular grooming sessions will really help to loosen the coat and the high velocity dryers will get out the hair that your rake misses. There are also de-shedding shampoos and mud masks on the market that are designed to remove the dead hair, exfoliate, and nourish the skin. Adding an omega oil to your dog’s diet can also help to reduce shedding.
Ways to cool your dog
If you are wanting your dog to be cooler for the summer, the fastest and most effective way to achieve this without impacting on how your dog looks is to clip out a panel of coat under his belly, from in between the front legs to the hygiene area. This allows the dog to lie on a cool floor, a cooling mat, or a wet towel and cool down his core quickly. This can be done on almost any breed and is hardly visible.
The warmer weather also sees the return of unwanted visitors — such as ticks and fleas. Always let your groomer know if you think your dog may have fleas as it might affect your appointment. There are lots of flea shampoos on the market that work really well and a key ingredient in repelling unwanted visitors is neem oil. You can get neem oil as a topical spray to spritz on you and your dog before a walk (seek advice from your vet if you’re unsure which product to choose). The better maintained your dog’s coat is, the easier unwanted visitors will be to spot.
You must make sure that you also treat your house, car, bed/dog’s bed, and around skirting boards to break the life cycle of any fleas and their eggs. It’s really important that ticks are removed safely with the correct tool too; don’t use anything topical in an attempt to smother them as this can cause them to regurgitate the blood. They can sometimes carry Lyme disease, which can affect humans as well as dogs. If you’re walking or taking your summer holidays in places where deer and sheep hang out, be super-vigilant for ticks.