Pro Tips: Brushing at Home
Have you ever brought your Long Coated dog to the groomers with a specific style in mind and been told it was not possible due to tangles and matting? Even when you sacrificed hours or days trying to brush your pup to prevent those tangles? How about those wiggly and mischievous dogs who are masters at escaping the brush?
You are not alone! Our dogs don't come with handbooks and most are excellent at getting their person to stop doing something they don't like. Usually once we have tried and failed a time or two, we unwittingly adopt a new body language and tone of voice that alerts our dogs to what we're planning to do and sends them running. Most dogs would prefer to do just about anything else, and can make brushing at home almost impossible (even though the professional has very little trouble). So, how can we change this scenario? Let's start with a clean slate!
Step One: Find a 'Work Space'. It's not fun having something 'done to you' but it's another story when you are 'doing something together'. Entering a 'Work Space' sets your pup up to know what to expect. They will feel less ambushed when there is a consistency in where grooming work occurs. For small dogs, a mat on a counter or washing machine works nicely. Get a grooming lead to secure them, and prevent jumps or falls. I recommend making a loop that goes over the head, then slide one leg in, so the loop is going across the chest. This prevents neck injuries. Large dogs can be groomed on the floor but pick a spot and stay with it. Place a mat down for them so there is a change that makes your place a 'Work Space' while it's there, then remove it once done. Use a grooming lead in the same way. Installing a simple O ring in the wall gives you a place to tie the lead to, allowing you to use both hands.
Step Two: Change your approach. You remember that happy moment when your dog made you so proud by.... Well, take that feeling, fill up with it. Look at them with that feeling! Use that tone of voice! They need to see, sense, feel and smell the positivity from you. (They can smell the chemical changes in your brain, so they know what you feel regardless of how well you disguise it). Get a dish of their favorite treats (small ones) and set it within your reach and out of theirs and be generous with them. 10 seconds is a long time for a pup who is 'doing something' for you, so reward them. As you both get better at this you can space out the treats more. Remember that you don't have to do all the work in one go. It's better to stop for the day and start again tomorrow, than to force through and have a bad experience.
Step Three: Learn How. Unfortunately human brushing techniques don't work on dogs. We can set the brush on top and pull down and through and we have done a good job, but dogs have a lot more surface area to brush and so we need to take a more 3D approach. In order to brush all of the coat, all the way to the skin, we need the proper tools and techniques. You will need a high quality Slicker Brush, a metal Greyhound comb. Bristle brushes are NOT recommended as they generate static which causes tangles. Start on an area your dog doesn't mind, such as a leg or the rib area and start low. Use your non-dominant hand to lift the coat, and brush the coat down little by little with your slicker. If you find a tangle, pinch it to protect your pup while you brush. If it is a mat (big tight tangle ball) brush in this pattern: north-south-east-west, until it's worked out. Use doggy conditioner spray and avoid brushing too hard, easy does it. When detangling to let the skin rest as you brush, to prevent Brush Burn (a rash caused by repetitively scaping the brush against the skin), so brush 5 times then move to a nearby spot for 5 brushes, then move back. When you think you are done, use your comb to check for remaining tangles. Never use your comb to detangle, it hurts.
Grooming your dog can be a great experience, increasing your bonds and improving their health.
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