Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tips for Keeping your Service Dog Happy, Healthy, Beautiful, and Welcome

This week I came across a news story from Australia Clean dogs only please, that brought up an important point; with the right of public access accompagnied by our service dogs comes standards of care including grooming that are higher than that for an average pet.

Many people partnered with their first service dog are also first time dog owners and dog grooming can be a daunting process. I found a great article on grooming basics for those wondering about the right brush, how to bathe their dog, and trim their nails (there are are even videos for the visual learners among us). I know I may be a bit odd, because I love grooming my dogs. I find it very calming after a long day for both myself and my service dog. When I was raising Bastien I took a community education course for several weeks at the local technical college and learned tricks and preferred tools from some area professional groomers. I would pack Bastien up at least once a month to go to the local do it yourself dog wash and go through the whole process from the tip of his nose to his tail. I also brush my dogs every day. Sadly, there came I time when doing the bath and everything myself just became too much physically. I then began to take them to a local professional groomer, while continuing maintenance grooming between visits. Choosing a groomer can be a long process, especially since groomers are not generally required to have any education or certification. The HSUS has a good article on choosing a groomer.
Tips for Keeping a Working Service Dog Clean:
1. Spend 5-10 minutes bushing your dog everyday. Brushing serves many purposes: keeps shedding and fly away hair down, takes the top dirt off before it penetrates to the skin,keeps painful and expensive mats from developing, distributes the coat oils that make your dog shine with beauty and helps ward off parasites. More on Choosing the right brush for the job.I love long, thick, double coats and never shaved Bastien. I pity anyone who would have given him back to me shaved! It is written on all his grooming cards in large letters- DO NOT Shave! Why Shaving double coated dogs is not recommended.
Shiloh while the length of her hair is short is also double coated. to keep the shedding at bay Shiloh and Bastien both have their coats stripped twice a year (at least) usually coinciding with when they begin to blow their coats. Stripping is not difficult it is just a long process requiring the right tools and patience.
2. Keep the sharp tips off your dog's nails. Dogs with long nails often have trouble getting their footing on indoor surfaces. Not to mention dogs that operate door
buttons and switches, possibly damaging walls. No all dogs nails grow at the same speed and some dogs do a pretty good at keeping their nails pretty short, so taking the tips off every 7-10 days is enough. Other dogs nails grow very quickly so trimming every week is required. If a dog's nails are trimmed regularly, the blood vein called the quick will stay back from the ends making it less likely you will injure your dog. Nails that hare not attended to can cause serious and expensive injuries.
3. No one likes the smell of wet dog! If you live in a wet climate like I do you might consider adding a rain coat or super absorbent shammy to your gear. It also a good idea to teach your dog to shake off on cue, so whatever they are shaking off doesn't land on nearby people, merchandise, or food tables. You can easily prevent your dog from shaking off by holding you hand (with a little pressure) on its head. Shaking off is a reflex that must start with the head, so if you stop the head, you stop the whole process. No more shower after dog baths!
4. Use unsented, hypoallegenic baby wipes between trips to the groomer for quick clean ups. Baby wipes are the same product as those pet wipes only cheaper. I use wipes will all my dogs and they love it. It's an all over massage.
5. Keep your gear clean! There's no point in cleaning your dog and putting dirty collars, leashes, vests, harnesses, etc. back on. Most gear on our service dogs can go through the washer; however, people with leather gear will want to protect it using proper leather care.
6. Dog Breath. Dog Breath is something I haven't experience with my service dogs. A dogs should have it's teeth clean regulary by a vet. They should also be fed high quality food. I also give my dogs some form of chew every day. The chewing serves to scrape teeth clean and keep them strong. Finally I brush their teeth regularly. This is also a service some groomers may offer.


Carolyn said...

This is such a useful and informative post - this should be in a manual for all new dog owners (both service and companion)! Thanks for the post!

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Carolyn,
Please feel free to link to the post!I am glad you liked it.