Is your dog in need of a haircut or bath? While there are many good reasons to groom your pet regularly, an inexperienced groomer, or even a well-meaning pet parent who decides to give grooming a try, can do a lot of damage if he or she isn’t careful.
Here are five things that may sound like a good idea when it comes to grooming but, in reality, should be avoided at all costs:
Shaving Your Dog in Summer
Sure, it sounds like a good idea. After all, that extra hair can’t be a good thing when temperatures hit the 90s, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Shaving your pet during warm-weather months is usually unnecessary and it interferes with their natural body temperature regulation, according to Laurel Birmingham, health staff manager at the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA.
“Not only does it make them more prone to sunburn, but dogs with undercoats, such as German Shepherds, Huskies, Pomeranians, and Chows, among others, are very efficient at trapping air within their undercoat,” Birmingham says. “This helps keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
In addition, shaving can damage the hair follicles, causing the coat to grow back dull or sometimes patchy in places, says Tracey Ditto, groomer and instructor of DIY puppy grooming classes at Dogtopia dog spa and daycare in Waco, Texas.
“A better alternative is to remove any excess undercoat by brushing regularly,” says Ditto. “For long and curly-haired breeds, such as the Shih Tzu or Bichon Frise, a short cut is okay as long as there is enough hair to provide protection from the sun.”
Washing the Inside of Your Dog’s Ears
Water in the ears gives bacteria an ideal breeding ground and can lead to infection, says Ditto. “And water in the nose might cause irritation, discomfort and reverse sneezing and/or coughing,” she adds.
To keep water away from your pet’s ears, nose and eyes, Birmingham recommends using a wet cloth to clean your pet’s entire head.
Giving Your Dog a Quick Rinse
Poor rinsing can lead to serious skin irritation, hair loss, matted fur, and other problems.
“Dry shampoo will crust and eventually mat or tangle the hair, and shampoo residue will leave your pet’s coat dull,” says Birmingham. “Be sure to rinse your pet thoroughly to avoid this.”
To make sure your dog’s coat is thoroughly rinsed after shampooing, use a decent amount of water pressure, says Colorado-based Wag N’ Wash groomer Tauyna Stites.
“The water needs to be able to penetrate the layers of their coat,” says Stites. “Keep rinsing until you stop seeing any bubbles coming from their fur, then rinse a little more.”
If your dog has sensitive skin, Stites recommends using a dog shampoo made with tea tree oil. “The oil can relieve itchiness and help calm the skin,” she says. “Conditioners made with aloe vera and certain medicated shampoos are also effective.”
One word of caution about oatmeal shampoos: Stites says that while oatmeal can soothe itchiness caused by seasonal allergies, it can also exacerbate conditions caused by yeast infections. If your dog has a skin condition, ask your veterinarian what type of shampoo will be best to use.
Brushing a Wet Coat
If possible, Stites recommends brushing your dog’s hair before a bath, as water can make mats and knots even tighter.
“Many brushes can grab the wet hair and pull at the skin, causing discomfort or pain to your dog,” Stites says. “Instead, try to dry them as much as possible after the bath and then brush their hair evenly and in the direction of the hair’s growth.” If you find that you really need to brush while in the bath, Stites suggests using a brush with wide, rounded bristles or a comb.
If you have a short-haired breed, try using a rubber brush to remove dead hair and prevent excess shedding, says Ditto. Since short-haired dogs won’t mat, you can brush them while they’re being shampooed or after the fur has dried.
Giving Your Dog Daily Baths
Daily baths strip your dog’s coat of its natural oils and can make dry skin even worse, says Birmingham. “Barring any skin issues, bathing your dog once monthly should be sufficient and also allow your dog to produce natural oils to help keep the coat naturally shiny,” she adds.
After bathing, towel dry or let your dog’s hair dry naturally. Using a hairdryer might be tempting, but there are many risks involved. For starters, Birmingham says you can burn your pet by over drying or drying too closely.
“You can also cause over heating by causing your pet’s body temperature to raise above dangerous levels,” Birmingham says. “Plus, you can dry your pet’s skin out, which can lead to other problems.”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.