I was fortunate enough to care for a German Shepherd. Not only was it a fantastic breed, but her coat was always manageable. I used to (and still do) look at people with breeds such as the Golden Retriever and wonder, “How on earth do they manage that much hair?”
Don’t get me wrong — in the midst of a hot July, Gypsy was capable of producing enough hair for me to knit an afghan (were I so inclined or crafty, which I am not).
However, her hair loss never approached the drastic shedding volume that some breeds can maintain throughout the spring and summer months. It can be enough to drive you bonkers.
Hair can gather just about anywhere — and it always seems to attach itself gleefully to any visitor in your home (which can be embarrassing). Proper grooming is the key to maintaining a tumbleweed-free home.
It is time consuming when you have a long-haired breed, but grooming isn’t just about the control of hair; it also enables you to connect with your pet on a trusting and loving level.
Brush It Out
Dogs are going to shed. So it is up to you to ensure that their home stays fur-free, and the best way to do this is to stay on top of grooming.
Make sure you are setting adequate time aside during the warm months to spend with your dog. You want to use the right type of brush, one that is going to pick up as much hair as possible from the coat. There are 3 general types of brushes:
- Bristle Brushes: These vary a bit in both the spacing and the length of the bristles. They can generally be used on all types of hair coats, but you’ll want to choose the right one for your dog.
- Wire-Pin Brushes: These may or may not have rubber-tipped ends and are used to help reach mid to long coats and those adorable yet frustrating curly coats.
- Slicker Brushes: These are used generally for removing mats and tangles and have fine wire bristles. Be careful — pulling too hard on tangles hurts!
Before buying a brush, decide what type(s) you need to have on hand. If you have a massively hairy beast like a Saint Bernard, for example, you’re going to need a long-bristled brush as well as a slicker brush for detangling (and a lot of patience). But if you have a boxer, you’ll need little more than a basic bristle brush because the Boxer’s coat is so short.
Grooming time should be fun for you and your pup. Set aside that time so you can be fully in the moment, rather than trying to make dinner, help with homework and brush the dog all at the same time. Your pet needs and deserves your attention because getting rid of tangles, mats and loose hair is going to make her feel more comfortable as well.
Try not to allow your pup to get rambunctious and playful; this should be a quiet time where you can attend to those hidden snarls and, as a bonus, check carefully for hidden pests like fleas and ticks. With puppies you may want to wait to do intensive grooming until they’re sleeping.
Gradually integrate this into a daily or weekly routine for you and your pup. Not only will you notice a difference in your house and furniture hair buildup, but you are also imparting valuable lessons to your dog about obeying commands and building trust with handling during the process.
Patience With Abused or Neglected Dogs
This same method can be applied to dogs who have been abused in the past and have trust issues.
You will want to start slowly — you know you love your new family member, but your dog has come to you with issues and will need time to build up a trusting relationship with you. Be patient and keep the sessions short at first, shooting for about 5 to 10 minutes.
If your dog has come to you with serious mats, tangles, burrs, ingrown nails or other immediate problems, consider allowing your veterinarian’s office to groom her for the first time.
From there, you will have time to approach the grooming habit with care because immediate issues pertaining to health and comfort have been attended to.
Rub a Dub Dub
Bathing is also part of the grooming process, and I have to say I have always found this to be a lot of fun!
Resign yourself to getting wet — it’s going to happen, especially when you have a playful and rambunctious pup on your hands. Decide to enjoy it rather than making it a chore. How you feel is communicated to your pooch and if you are not sending off negative vibes, she will be much more relaxed.
It is best before the bath to give your dog a good brushing to remove as much loose hair as possible. This will save you from wading through it in the tub and then pulling it all out of the drain later. You only need a few inches of water in your tub, and it is easiest to have a sprayer so that you can fully wet your dog but have control over the water at the same time.
If you don’t have a tub with a sprayer — and I didn’t — a simple cup or small bucket will let you control the water as you wet and rinse. If you are diabolical like me, this is also a perfect time to snap a photo of your wet pet — what could be more adorable?
Unless your dog really dislikes the bath, like the dog in this video, you might want to hide the cameras:
Don’t Forget the Ears
Use gentle and mild shampoos so that if some accidentally gets into her eyes, it won’t sting so badly.
This is a great time to check the ears for any buildup or evidence of parasites, and I can tell you from experience with Gypsy that ticks seem to love those ears! Check your dog’s ears regularly, even between grooming times.
If you choose to clean the ears with a solution, use a cotton ball and be careful not to get it in the ear canal. When drying, use a large towel to get your dog as dry as possible. You can use a hair dryer but carefully monitor the level of heat. Hair dryers can burn your pet’s skin.
Maintaining the Tumbleweeds
Proper grooming is going to wipe out a great deal of hair from your home. I will point out here that regular vacuuming will help eliminate this problem as well.
In the shedding season, try to stay on top of places that your dog regularly visits, but also pay attention to some out-of-the-way areas such as under the couch. It can be pretty surprising how fast hair gathers in those dark corners!
Done regularly — and in some cases, daily — does not take much time because when you’re running the vacuum daily or every few days, you’re keeping on top of the hair problem. This means you won’t need to dedicate a ton of time to just do a quick pass over the high-traffic areas and every few days check into those dark corners.
Have lint rollers on hand for clothing and furniture that is hard to vacuum — or barring rollers, good old-fashioned duct tape (my favorite).
With duct tape, remember that you have to actually remove it from your pants. One time I forgot and went out to the store with a big swath of it stuck to my leg — very embarrassing and not recommended.
Caring for any dog who has a lot of hair is going to be a challenge. But time spent grooming will not only enable you to maintain a relatively hair-free home, but you will also notice that the bond between you and your dog will be strengthened immeasurably by the contact and the time spent.
And remember, leave the duct tape at home!