Dogs are often brushed, combed and taken to grooming salons, but dog lovers may often miss out learning some interesting facts about dog grooming. A dog’s fur is made of keratin, the same protein that’s also present in hair, feathers, hoofs, claws and horns. Since dogs come in so many different shapes and sizes, it’s normal that they also have different types of coats which need different types of care. We may assume that dog grooming is just to for cosmetic appeal, but in reality, it has to do with health, and a whole lot too! Here are some fascinating facts about dog grooming that’ll hopefully help quench your thirst for canine knowledge and alongside help you discover something new too!
Dog Fur Grows in Stages…
Did you know? Just like in people, a dog’s coat tends to grow in stages and different hairs are in different stages. This is a good thing, because if the hair follicles were all in the same phase at the same time, people and dogs would quickly become bald! Let’s take a closer look at these stages of dog hair growth.
The anagen stage is what takes place when your dog’s fur is actively growing. The catagen stage is an intermediate transitional stage that signals the end of the active growth stage, meaning that the fur has reached its genetically determined length. The telogen stage is the resting, dormant stage during which nothing really happens, and finally there’s the exogen stage when dog owners start to despair as dog’s coat start actively shedding…a lot.
The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine tells us that most dogs’ coats are for the most part in a telogen-predominant cycle. The anagen stage is brief, and once the coat reaches its genetically determined length, it cycles into the telogen stage until it dies, falling off the dog and right onto the floor, clothing and furniture.
Because the coats of these dogs move rapidly to the dying and falling off stage, they are therefore shedding quite often, more than many dog owners may expect.
And Yes, Shedding is a Year-Round Affair
Many dog owners are frustrated when they notice that their dogs aren’t the “seasonal shedders” as they thought, but rather shed their coats all year long.
“Shouldn’t Fluffy be shedding her winter and summer coat just twice a year?”
Nope, this may have been true in the old days when dogs lived outdoors all the time and were subjected to a variety of seasonal temperature variations, points out Billy Rafferty an award-winning pet stylist and Certified Master Groomer in the book “Happy Dog: Caring for Your Dog’s Body, Mind and Spirit.”
The temperature-controlled environments most domestic dogs are subjected to live in nowadays has therefore managed to fool Mother Nature causing changes to their natural shedding patterns.
“Unless Fido is planning on taking frequent extended vacations in Antarctica to live with a pod of wild elephant seals, he will not experience true seasonal shedding.”~Billy Rafferty, Jill Cahr.
Some Dogs Grow “Hair “Instead of Fur..
Did you know? Some dogs have “hair” instead of fur. There is technically no difference in composition between hair and fur, so what makes these dogs so different?
It’s ultimately a matter of the pattern of growth. Hair in these dogs doesn’t shed like in other dogs because their hairs have a longer growing cycle (anagen phase). So the hair keeps on growing until it either dies or is cut, further explains Bill Rafferty.
As much as this sounds like good news, (less shedding anyone?), it has its own downside. Since the hair keeps growing, instead of most of it making it to the ground like normal dog fur would, it ends up getting trapped within the coat, intertwining with other hairs.
The outcome? A predisposition for paving the path to tangled and matted messes if these dogs are not routinely brushed and clipped. So the money you may save in lint rollers, you end up spending at the grooming salon.
What dog breeds have “hair” instead of fur? Here is a brief list: bearded collies, Lhasa apsos, coton de Tulear, Havanese, Tibetan terriers, Maltese, shih tzus and Yorkshire terriers. These are just a few of several dog breeds with hair instead of fur.
But Matted Hair is a Big Problem…
All dogs need regular grooming but as mentioned, some dogs need this more frequently than others to prevent annoying tangling and matting.
Mats are densely tangled clumps of hair that are not only unsightly, but painful and even dangerous too!
First of all, matted hair is difficult to comb, and dogs may start associating your grooming with pain, up until the point they may try to wiggle away or even get defensive. You don’t want this to happen!
Secondly, matted hair traps moisture which can lead to severe inflammation and even skin infections triggered by bacteria and yeast entities that thrive in such an environment.
In very severe cases, matted hair can cut off blood supply to extremities, cause a fecal impaction, or even cause fly larvae such as maggots to inhabit the dog’s skin.
And third, in order to remove tight mats things get quite delicate, a groomer will need to use a very low blade to get under the mat and cut it off and this can lead to razor burns, serious skin irritation or even a serious cut should the dog move at the wrong moment, according to Best in Show Grooming Salon. For this reason, many grooming salons will not accepted severely matted dogs, but would rather refer to a veterinary practice.
And So Are Ear Hematomas…
Sometimes mats may form over a dog’s ears, and these can cause complications after being removed.
Mats restrict blood flow and after having the mats removed from the ears, a quick rush of blood will reach the vessels, and since the tissue has weakened, it can cause “bleeding out,” explains Debi Hilley, a former competitive groomer in her blog.
Sometimes, after being groomed, getting the ears cleaned or having hairs of the ears plucked out, dogs may feel compelled to shake their head. Excessive shaking may cause what’s known as an “ear hematoma” the swelling of the dog’s ear flaps from filling up with blood.
To prevent this, Best in Show Grooming Salon suggests for small dogs, cutting the end off of a sock and putting it over the dog’s ears in a hoodie-like fashion, just tight enough to prevent the dog’s ears from flapping, but loose enough, that the dog can move around comfortably. Alternatively, owners may invest in what groomers use: a product known as a “Happy Hoodie”
“In the case of pets with heavy matting removed from the ears, it is not uncommon for the pet to shake the head so aggressively as to cause the formation of hematomas (bleeding bruises) at the edges of the ear flaps. This happens frequently in cocker spaniels and other breeds with drop ears.”~Town and Country Veterinary Care
Seeing the Groomer Can Be Stressful…
Let’s face it: a trip to the groomer can be a stressful event for many dogs. It’s often inevitable for some level of unpleasantness to be associated with those visits. Baths, nail trims, blow dryers, noisy clippers, proximity to other dogs or people, being handled, restraint and the mere fact of being in a place away from home and separated from their families, all may play a role.
According to findings from a study, the grooming shop can be stressful for dogs for the entire duration of the grooming session but also during the the arrival up until the exit.
It’s therefore, for a good part, the responsibility of staff at grooming facilities to take extra care in minimizing the stress from these visits. There are several things grooming staff can do to make visits less stressful such as giving arriving dogs a cookie (with the owner’s permission) and letting the dog approach them first rather than the other way around, suggest Daniel Estep, Ph.D. and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. in an article for the Rocky Mountain News.
But There are Many Things Dog Owners Can Do
Dog owners can take a proactive approach to making those visits to the groomer more pleasant. For instance, stopping by the salon frequently just for getting treats by the staff, may help dogs familiarize themselves with the place and people. These “mock” visits are to create positive associations.
If your dog already is uncomfortable going to the groomer, these visits may help “compensate” the dog’s negative prediction of being dropped off there or having something unpleasant done. The action of entering the salon can also be put on a positive cue, such as saying in an upbeat tone “let’s visit our friends!”
Most of all, dog owners can take a proactive approach by recognizing what components of the grooming session triggers the most anxiety. Is it the car ride? Is it being around strangers? Is it being touched in certain areas? Do certain noises make him anxious? Does your dog hate the slippery table? Tip: a non-slip mat may help. Once recognized the stimulus or stimuli that cause stress, dog owners can then help their dogs better tolerate them by letting the dog associate them with tasty treats.
For example, if your dog doesn’t like to have his ears handled, start touching him in an area nearby that he doesn’t mind much, and pair a cue, like “ears,” with the gentle touch in that area giving a tasty treat during and then immediately after handling the area. Then, start gradually moving more and more towards the ear area, taking a step back in the process if the dog ever appears uncomfortable. Of course, use caution, if your dog ever seems defensive, avoid doing this and consult with a behavior professional.
There are also several calming aids that can help dogs relax more during these visits. DAP collars, the Happy Hoodie, Thunder Cap, not to mention natural calming supplements that your vet may recommend. Also,it might be useful to train your dog to accept wearing a muzzle, that way, he’ll readily comply if the needs for wearing one at the vet or groomer ever arises.
- The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, What do we know about the hair cycle in dogs? retrieved from the web on Oct 21st, 2016.
- Pet Education, Skin & Hair Anatomy & Function in Dogs, retrieved from the web on Oct 21st, 2016.
- Evaluation of dog welfare before and after a professional grooming session Chiara Mariti 1, *, Scighei Bein2 1 Department of Veterinary Science, University of Pisa – Italy 2