Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rub-a-Dub-Dub

Chili gets a bath
Preparing Chili and Jedi for a dog show is quite the chore. The dogs need to be washed (conditioner too!) and blown dry and fluffy. Usually RK and I do this on a make-shift grooming table in her front yard. However, the temperature was in the 30's last week and we needed a Plan B -- preferably one that didn't kill our backs!

RK found a boarding kennel near her house that was willing to help. The business has a small grooming room connected to the boarding kennel. The room has a tub with hot water and a grooming table which the owner, Marcia, agreed to let us use for next to nothing. What a lifesaver! We brought our own towels, brushes, shampoo, conditioner and a doggie dryer. Marcia even let us use an open kennel to hold the dogs when they weren't being groomed. Thanks to the proper tools, we were able to wash and blow out both dogs in less than 3 hours. Marcia was kind and helpful -- and even invited us out to wash the dogs before the next show.
I want to give a big shout out to Marcia and McKendree Kennels! Marcia has a nice set-up with reasonable rates, and is conveniently located by the airport. If you're in Jacksonville and you need to board your dog, check her out!
Anyway, washing and drying is just the tip of the iceberg. When you have a show dog, you groom a lot! I'm constantly brushing, combing, cleaning ears, brushing teeth, clipping nails and trimming stray hairs. Just before going in the ring Jedi gets a spritz and fluff, along with a finishing spray to shine up the black in his saddle. He's just a German shepherd! Can you imagine all the clipping, teasing, fluffing and chalking going on over in the poodle section?!

At 90 pounds, Jedi is the second largest dog I've ever had -- and he's not done growing. (FYI, Pepper was about 110 pounds). Fortunately, he's also the easiest dog I've ever groomed. I can wash him by myself without any problems. (By comparison, it takes at least two grown people to bathe 65 pound Roxy, and there are lots of problems!) So on this Training Tips Tuesday, I'd like to share some of the things I actually did right when it comes to teaching a dog to tolerate grooming. Hope it helps!
  • Be positive: Use a soft, happy voice and provide lots of treats. You want your dog to think this is a good thing. Make sure you smile; dogs pick up on that.
  • Go slow: Let your dog smell the brush or hear the clippers before using them. Hair dryers are loud and scary, especially the forced air blower. We let Jedi just listen to it while feeding him bits of chicken several times before we actually touched him with it. Stop grooming when the dog gets anxious. Sometimes you can spread things out to make the dog more comfortable. For example: Do you really need to clip all the toenails on the same day? Can teeth and ears be cleaned at different times?
  • Timing: Wait until your dog is tired and relaxed before you start grooming. Add in some massaging and belly rubbing. Jedi has actually fall asleep while I was brushing him. 
  • Touch your dog: You should give your dog a once-over regularly -- touch his feet, play with his toes, stick your finger in his ears, open his mouth, wipe his eyes, lift up his tail, check his pits, stroke his hair backwards, etc. Not only are you desensitizing him to touching, you can check for fleas, ticks, and hot spots. (BTW, your vet will love you for this!)
  • For ears: Float the bottle of ear cleaner in a bowl of warm water before using it. (Don't forget to test it before using. You don't want it too hot.) Put the warm cleaner on a cotton ball to clean out the ears, then take a dry cotton ball and wipe out any excess cleaner. A Q-tip can be used to remove any dirt you see stuck in the folds, but NEVER stick a Q-tip into your dog's ear canal.
  • For teeth: Experiment with different toothpastes until you find one your dog likes (Jedi prefers vanilla to chicken). If your dog doesn't like the toothbrush, try a finger brush instead. I have a friend who just uses a wet washcloth. It gets the job done! Try to clean your dog's teeth at least twice a week. (For me, daily is just not possible.)
  • Finally, don't be afraid to seek professional help. I'm squeamish about toenails and am always afraid I'm going to hit the quick. I'll trim the dogs' nails a little bit each week, but never seem to get them short enough. About once a month I take the dogs to visit Kathleen at Petsmart. She does a great job; but on the off chance she gets too close I'm not the bad guy. It's worth the $20.
How about you? Do you have any great grooming tips? -- K


P.S. This was suppose to be part of a blog hop, but it appears that the hop isn't happening today. Too bad, because I really need some good tips on teaching a dog not to pull on the leash. Jedi nearly ripped my arm out of its socket this weekend going through the hotel. If you have any ideas, please share. Please!