Grooming is definitely a challenge and requires physical stamina and a strong back. If you have physical or time limitations, paying a professional is well worth it. Also, home haircuts can look, well…homely, especially for beginners. So, if the perfect doggy hairdo matters to you or your dog, leave it to the experts.
One advantage to do-it-yourself grooming for small dogs is that they are simply easier to handle than larger dogs. Also, grooming your small dog is a priceless opportunity for bonding. Another reason to try your hand at grooming is if your dog has physical or behavioral challenges. For example, one of my dogs is a nightmare in the tub and the other refuses to stand up for longer than 30 seconds because of a bad back. No wonder one groomer stopped returning my phone calls!
If you do decide to try this at home, my best piece of advice is to buy a great pair of electric clippers. A cheap pair will make you want to tear your own hair out! You can shop online or buy at your local pet store, but check the return policy in case you need to upgrade.
For actual grooming techniques, many clippers include a how-to DVD with step-by-step instructions. Also, check for books at your local library or bookstore for breed-specific advice.
Another bit of important advice: Clippers work best on a shampooed, dry coat because clean hair cuts more easily. I wash my dogs the day before grooming to take full advantage of those expensive clippers I bought. Also, you will need to buy blade lubricant to maintain the clippers, although some clipping kits include this.
Small dogs in particular are prone to unsightly eye discharge, which requires daily upkeep. Rinsing your dog's eyes with plain contact saline works well; just catch the runoff with a tissue. Keeping the area trimmed prevents the eye gunk buildup that can lead to infections and corneal scratches.
Trimming nails, clipping ear hair and expressing anal glands are three difficult grooming issues for the novice at-home groomer. Before proceeding with these tasks, it's best to get some training, whether from a groomer, vet or knowledgeable friend.
Trimming a dog's nails can be risky, especially if the nails are dark. One wrong snip can result in pain and nasty bleeding. If you decide to try it, have styptic powder on hand to stop any bloody mishaps.
The big question regarding ear hair is to pluck or not to pluck. Some professionals believe plucking ear hair with forceps helps keep the ear canal clean, preventing ear infections. Others think that simply trimming the hair does the job. I've tried both and actually had more success with a careful clipper trim.
Lastly, let's tackle the infamous anal glands, which with luck are not an issue for your pooch. Signs of problems include scooting, licking the area or a emitting a foul odor. Usually, a professional groomer empties these glands externally during your dog's bath. If you think your dog has any issues here, check with your vet before trying this at home!
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