Friday, November 6, 2009

Winter Grooming

The best kind of grooming is regular grooming. Whether your pet is a fluffed out poodle princess or a seasonally shedding sheltie, there is an appropriate grooming interval that a discussion with your groomer about the specific needs of both you and your pet can help reveal. If that interval is 4-6 weeks, as it typically is for most drop-coated or curly-coated breeds, or closer to 8-12 weeks, as is often the case for short-coated shedding breeds, it's generally a good idea to stick to that interval year-round. Often, however, winter gives pet owners pause when it comes to their regularly scheduled grooming.

"Well, it's cold now, so we're going to wait a bit," is a common comment heard at grooming shops across the un-temperate parts of the country. The reasoning usually is that a pet whose coat is allowed to grow out a bit longer will be more comfortable in the cold weather. Unfortunately, skipping or stretching grooming visits often results in exactly the opposite -- a less comfortable pet. Why is that?

First of all, drop-coated and curly-coated pets who are prone to matting get a double whammy. The extra length of coat combined with the snow-balls and moisture the coat is exposed to creates an ideal environment for tangles to form and tighten and grow. So now your longer coated dog's matted coat actually does the opposite. A matted coat dries more slowly, leaving your pooch wet and shivering after a romp through the snow. Additionally, the tangles in the coat prevent it from insulating efficiently -- an unmatted coat insulates by trapping a pocket of air close to the body while a matted coat just traps dirt and moisture. Of course, this can be prevented by being more vigilant in brushing and combing at home, but that's a lot of extra work without the extra benefit you would expect. Adding a bit more length of coat doesn't really add to the insulating power of the coat the way putting a cute doggie coat on your pet would. By the way, those coats will help accelerate the formation of tangles as well, yet another reason to keep up with a tidy, insulating haircut!

Second, a dog who spends the majority of his time indoors is really not going to appreciate any extra insulation while he's inside, enjoying an otherwise comfortable life with central heating. If he suffers in the cold, doggie clothes will keep him cozy while he's in the cold, without his having to wear his "winter gear" while he's indoors as well!

And while they don't suffer from the cold nearly as much as our designer dogs do, a dog with undercoat often needs a bit of help keeping his coat's insulating power in top form. Undercoated dogs often run into trouble when hairs that were released but didn't shed out properly mat up or otherwise block that nice double-pane window effect and interfere with natural insulation as well. Brushing at home can certainly help keep the coat in top condition, and you should feel free to put off grooming for however long you can stand the eau d' ungroomed dog!

If the points above don't convince you to keep to your schedule, bear in mind that the haircut is usually the most apparent, but arguably, not the most important part of professional grooming. You can certainly request a longer haircut in the winter time so that you can enjoy all the benefits of a professional bath and comb-out, nail trimming and ear cleaning, without taking as much (or any) coat off. Your groomer can make sure your pet's rear end, pads of the feet, eyes and other problematic, debris-catching areas stay clean and tidy while preserving the length of the rest. There's no reason to miss out on the joys of a clean, styled pet just because the snow flies, now is there?