Grooming Your Dog
Dogs take care of some of their grooming needs on their own, but still need a helping hand from their owners. Taking the time to groom your dog on a regular basis has its own rewards; it strengthens your bond with her and allows you to notice health problems before they become serious. If you find your dog won't sit still for an ear-to-tail going over, do one task each day. As she gets used to you handling her, you can begin to combine tasks so that you spend your time more efficiently.
Licking, scratching and shaking are ways dogs keep their coats clean and somewhat free of debris. A good brushing performed by you will keep her fur clean and free from painfully matted hair. Longhaired dogs should be brushed every day, to prevent tangles in their fur. Dogs with shorthair or smooth coats can be brushed once each week. Some dogs love the massage of a good brushing, but others take a while to get used to it. If your dog tries to escape while being brushed, get her used to it in small steps. Start by just running the brush along her coat two or three times while you talk to her in a happy voice. Give her a treat at the end of the session. Each time you work with her, increase the length of time you brush her.
As you brush your dog, run your hands through her fur down to the skin to look for plant debris and fleas. If you notice lots of dark specks on her skin, she has fleas. The specks are flea droppings. A very obvious amount of droppings indicates a flea infestation that should be treated immediately. As you brush the hair on and around her tail, look for rice-like debris. These are usually a sign that your dog has worms of one sort or another. You will need to have her checked by your veterinarian to determine the type of worm and get the proper medication.
Dental problems are common in dogs. To avoid costly veterinary treatments, keep your dog's teeth in top shape by brushing her teeth each day. You can use a child's toothbrush, or a finger toothbrush designed for use on pet's teeth. Be sure to only use toothpaste labeled for use on pets; human toothpaste can be toxic to your dog. In addition to brushing, give your dog rawhide chews to gnaw on-they help keep her teeth and gums healthy.
Some grooming tasks don't need to be done everyday. Ears and nails can be checked weekly and monthly, respectively. Once each week, look inside your dog's ears. If you see coffee-ground-like specks, your dog may have ear mites. You should check your dog's nails at least once each month. If you walk your dog frequently on sidewalks, she is probably wearing her nails down on the concrete. However, it is important to check to be sure they have not grown too long. Dogs with overgrown nails develop physical problems as they shift their weight as they walk to avoid discomfort. You can learn the proper way to clip your dog's nails from a standard pet care book, or your veterinarian.
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