When you chose your darling pup , it was probably the look in his eyes that made you fall in love. Then you experienced the honeymoon phase – the first four to six months of wonderful puppy coat that could usually be handled with only a light combing and brushing. “Oh lucky me,” you think! I won’t have to do much to make my darling a Diva. Wrong!
As your dog matures, you may find yourself spending more time than you anticipated on his personal grooming. But this aspect of dog care not only helps you bond with your canine companion, it actually helps improve his health.
Tricks of the trade
With such a great difference in the appearance of a good coat versus a poor coat, you may think all manner of tricks are necessary for perfect coat growth and flourish. In fact, it all comes down to three things: health, heredity and handling, and the greatest of these is health.
Health from the inside out
Unfortunately for canines, Nature denied them an efficient pore system and at the same time decreed that they should carry a coat. The coat, nourished solely from inside the body, takes its tone and texture from the dogs’ physiological condition. If a dog is worn out or run down, he will sport a lifeless, lacklustre covering, but if he enjoys good health, his every hair will look bright, alive and glistening.
More than skin deep
The absence of an efficient pore system robs the dog’s body of the ability to excrete poisons through his skin. Instead, the remaining organs of excretion must accept the full task of relieving the body of toxins so that the skin does not grow flushed and irritated.
That’s why good digestion and a clean intestine are the first requisites for healthy hair – because any clogging of the system with poisons will inevitably react to the detriment of the hair through the medium of the skin. Even temperatures can play havoc with a dog’s coat. Unlike humans, whose pores open and close according to the degree of heat or cold, a dog cannot radiate excess heat, and higher body temperatures frequently result in dry, scaly skin.
The skin of a dog is a lazy, feeble part of the canine body, yet it must be kept in a soothed and healthy state because it holds the follicles of the hair. It transmits body strength to the coat and only by virtue of continuously good condition does it willingly support the load it bears.
It’s in the genes
Heredity plays an important part in the quantity and the quality of the coat, both of which are handed down from previous generations along with other physical attributes. If the sire, dam, grandsire and granddam of a dog are noted for luxuriant coats, a puppy has a better chance of growing one himself. Otherwise it is practically useless to attempt to grow more than an average amount of hair.
Handle with care
Certain hair qualities, such as wiryness or silkiness, while just as definite a hereditary factor, can change depending on how you handle or care for the coat. A wire coat, for instance, left to grow too long, frequently becomes soft, while a silky coat left untended may lose something of its silkiness and fine texture.
Improper washing can also go a long way toward wrecking a good coat. Appropriate shampoos do make a difference but more
importantly you must remember to rinse, rinse and rinse again. Soap residue will ruin even the best coat and possibly cause skin irritation.
Brushing and combing create a stimulating action upon the skin, but you should carry out these tasks carefully, not with the vigor wielded by overzealous owners and groomers. The comb’s job is to remove fleas and debris and to separate hair strands so that air can get down to the skin and ventilate it. The brush, if properly selected according to the particular type of coat, has a burnishing effect upon the hair, giving it a live and glistening appearance when used. To a very limited extent, it also promotes the growth of the hair, but it cannot of itself produce a good crop of hair. Unless the body is fortified by good substantial food and the dog’s lineage includes typically coated ancestors, all the brushing in the world will not grow a single hair.
A good clip
As far as the comfort and well-being of your dog is concerned, there are only two reasons for clipping:
• to lighten the drag of an excessively heavy coat in water work
• to make brushing and combing easier
Many, many years ago when the Poodle was used for water retrieving to a greater extent than he is now, his coat was clipped to speed his swimming. Dog fanciers with an eye to fashion were quick to see the possibilities of beautifying and somewhat refining an already majestic dog. After a time, they evolved to now accepted methods of clipping dogs of this
breed. This is often how hair fashion develops.
Here comes the sun
Sunlight plays a key role in coat appearance but it’s a bit of a “catch 22”. While sunlight is required to encourage stimulation of hair growth, it also undermines colour intensity.
Blue is the principal color affected, though all colours will fade and dim to a certain extent under too frequent or too prolonged sun time. To support a body rugged enough to produce a luxuriant coat, you must give your dog his quota of sun and exercise each day. This winning formula will strengthen the body and activate the skin, and the hair will grow as a matter of course. While daily outdoor exercise is a necessity, please remember that your dog will benefit more if you regularly brush and comb his hair. In fact, lack of
brushing and the removal of dead coat may cause the animal to overheat more quickly and collapse.
Every dog’s coat is different so ensure you have the tools you need for daily grooming by talking with your breeder as well as a knowledgeable groomer (preferably one who has worked with your breed). Ask for demonstrations so you’re clear on what to do. Above all, enjoy this special time with your dog. He’ll thank you for it!
Lesley Weeks is the founder and owner of Pampered Paws Limited as well as a breeder under the prefix Caix's Reg'd. Kennels. Lesley has owned and bred multiple Best in Show dogs (Standard and Miniature Schnauzers) in both Canada and the U.S., and brings over 30 years experience in the Show Dog world to the grooming profession. She is an international teacher and has been featured on TV and in many newspapers and magazines.