Myth 1 – My dog needs a longer coat in winter to keep him warm.

Erm, actually, no, he doesn’t. The obvious exceptions are dogs that are permanently kennelled outside, the aged dog that can’t run around to keep warm on a walk (who’d probably benefit from a dog coat anyway) or a sick dog that needs more TLC than its regular breed counterparts.

Remember, long coats:

  • Stay wet for longer. Each extra half inch takes approximately an extra hour to dry naturally. That’s a long time to be damp and chilly if you turn your heating off during the day.
  • Matt. Mud and snow are the worst culprits for matting. The longer the coat is, the more the clumps of mud or snow balls act like the children at the end of a Maypole ribbon, weaving and knotting with every bounce and stride…
  • Retain smell. Eau De Fox Poo or Mud isn’t pleasant, neither is Wet Dog, or “Ash-Tray” Dog – all of which are considerably easier to remove from a shorter coat.

Whilst you can afford to let your dog grow out a little for aesthetic reasons, he will not thank you for having to wear the equivalent of several extra jumpers when you turn the heating up this winter! Remember, most dogs live indoors at 20-24°C for anything up to 22 hours a day.

At this time of year many clients skip appointments in the mistaken belief that their dog will benefit from growing a longer coat.

However, though you think your dog has just skipped a trim, in reality, it has also missed out on a sanitary trim, eyebrow shape, nail trim, ear pluck, bath and blast (which of course includes a free thorough all over examination at skin level). Why is this important?

By the time the next appointment rolls around, the dog that skipped that appointment will also have matted fur around the end of his willy or around her fu-fu. The fur around its anus is likely to have become clogged in poo which isn’t going to smell good in your home, isn’t going to look good smeared on your carpets or furniture and is pretty unpleasant for the groomer to have to pick off in the shower or bath. Moreover, matts and clogged poo clumps are painful. They pull on delicate skin. Matts in moving parts – armpits and groin especially.

All the Poodles and their crosses, Bichons and their crosses, Lhasas, Tibetians and the like need the fur trimmed between their eyes every six weeks. Leave it any longer and the dog can’t see out. This can lead to behavioural problems as dogs can’t see through this fur any more easily than we can. Most dogs react badly to nasty surprises – like the sudden arrival of another dog from nowhere whilst out on a walk. As we’ve bred them like this we have to be responsible and deal with it. Note, there are no long-fleecy-furred dogs in the wild.

Ditto ears of woolly coated drop eared dogs; they really do need plucking if the air is to circulate. Once clogged with fur the warm moist environment becomes an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, which will cost an arm and a leg to eradicate. Once again, there are no woolly drop eared dogs in the wild, again this is a man made problem so again we are responsible for maintaining it. It is unfair to expect a dog to undergo 40 minutes of ear plucking in one go so this should be done at every visit.

The Pawdicure essentially is the removal of matts from between the toes, the removal of all fur from between the pads, the shaping of fur on the foot and the trimming or grinding of nails. The quick grows inside the nail and grows down with it. The groomer can remove only the tip – cutting through the quick is as painful as cutting off the tip of your finger. You can easily see why some dogs literally go beserk when approached by a groomer with nail clippers! Just this part of the Pawdicure costs £19 at our local vets. Which makes your average £44 groom look rather good value when you see everything else that’s included…

Interim Nail Appointments are FREE for dogs that are on a regular grooming schedule. If you have other dogs in your household, there is a small charge to cover this service. £5 suffices if the dog is quiet and compliant, £10 - £25 if the dog requires muzzling and/or multiple assistants to restrain it. Most dogs can be trained to accept nail grinding without restraint or having to muzzle within 3-5 visits if the owner is willing to put some effort in their end too.

If its snowing outside, consider rubbing Vaseline into the pads and between the toes. This largely stops the snow from packing and balling in those areas; creating painful “stilts” which the dog is then forced to endure.

Myth 2 – You shouldn’t bath a dog too often because this strips the oils out of its coat.

This old wivestale is partially true. For the dog living outside all day, who are kennelled at night, stripping the waterproofing from its coat would be nothing short of cruelty. If your dog falls into this category, you may wish to consider hand-stripping (no bath given) to shorten or thin out the coat. Of course the dog will still benefit from a regular pawdicure and eyebrow trim / ear plucking session if its coat grows into these areas.

However, for the other 99% of us, even fine and short coated dogs benefit from a bath once every 6 to 8 weeks.

Imagine how your skin would feel and smell if left unwashed this long. Bathing not only removes dead skin and dead hair, but forest debris, dirt and smell as well.

In a professional environment each dog is treated to two shampoos, the first to loosen the dirt and unclog the pores, the second to remove the debris and moisturise the coat.

If left, even regular mud will stain a white dog, if left on a poodle or designer crossbreed however, it becomes a major contributory factor to matting.

We almost exclusively use Animology Shampoos, conditioners and sprays here at Centre Stage. I was a shampoo-junkie for several years and believe me, I have tried nearly everything on the market. The reason I’ve stuck with Animology is that this is the only shampoo that I can bathe 6 dogs a day in without having to reach for hand cream between each dog. How it cleans the dogs so effectively without stripping the oils from my hands is a bit of a close-guarded-secret that they’re not willing to share – but it does give me huge faith in the gentleness of their product. In addition to this, not one dog has had a reaction to their products, which is a real result. Especially if you own a sensitive skinned dog like a Westie…

After the final rinse, the dog is treated with a leave-in conditioner that effectively “scotch-guards” their coat, protecting it from the worst of the elements for much of the following week. If done correctly, blasting in conjunction with this product can remove some light matting without brushing at all whilst giving the groomer a clear view of the dog’s skin. We are usually the first people to notice a rash, a lump or minor injury on the skin because its not something you see unless you’re blowing the coat apart or massaging the dog all over. Blasting also invigorates the skin, improves the circulation, removes masses of dead hair, dander and bacteria, keeping your dog sanitary in your home.

Finally, only when the dog is squeaky clean, knot free and bone dry, can you choose whether to trim the coat down or not.

If you choose to have just a little tidy up, remember that the dog is the same size that it always was and it will require the same number of passes with the clippers to trim off 2mm as it would to trim off 40mm!

The Best Cheats For Winter!

The best ever cheats for winter are the False Skirt or the Blended Short Belly Clip.

Why on earth people insist on keeping all that belly hair to get wet, muddy and stinky after every walk when they could have an extended sanitary trim that goes right up to between the armpits I’ll never know.

You’ll not notice a thing while the dog is walking on lead, bouncing in the park or romping with his mates. In fact, until he’s lying on his back waving his legs in the air, it will be his and your secret ;-) (We won’t tell a soul, honest!!)

The False Skirt works well with breeds such as Westies, Schnauzers, Bearded Collies, Rough Collies and Cairns, but the Blended Short Belly Clip works best with fleece / wool coated breeds.

Myth 3 – The groomer can clip through matts.

Sorry. No. We can’t. Clippers can only go UNDER the matted fur. We don’t subject a dog to any more than 20 minutes of gentle de-matting. That’s equivalent to a 50p sized matt behind each ear, one on each elbow and one under its tail. Any more than that requires humane matting release with clippers. The Animal Welfare Act covers this in much more detail.

In conclusion

Autumn and Winter grooms are every bit as important as the summer clips.

Your winter grooming guide, every:

8 weeks

  • The maximum recommended interval between baths (you can do this yourself).
  • The maximum recommended interval between Pawdicures.

6 weeks

  • The maximum recommended interval for full grooms for wool/fleece coated breeds.
  • The maximum recommended interval between eye trims and sanitary trims for any dog.

4 weeks

  • The recommended full groom schedule for Bichons, Poodles and Designer Cross-breeds – especially if you have chosen to increase the length of your dog’s coat.
  • The best schedule for a bath and blast appt for Retrievers, Labs, Shepherds, Collies and other heavily shedding breeds.
  • The recommended interval for ear-plucking – this can be separate to a full groom appt.

1 week

  • Long coated dogs need combing through, including legs, tails and paws.
  • Teeth need cleaning, or the dog needs a good bone meal so he can do this himself.

Daily Brushing

  • With a pin brush for wirehaired, fleece coated or wool coated dogs
  • With a soft bristle brush for smooth coated dogs (Whippets, Labradors)