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"What is this thing called grooming?"
Well, when you wash your face, brush your teeth, and comb your hair, you are grooming yourself. So grooming a dog means this kind of care given to his appearance . . . to his coat, nails, ears, and general cleanliness.
Such care can be either complicated or simple, depending on the breed of dog and how handsome you want him to look. But there are certain easy grooming duties you should perform every day, regardless of the kind of dog you own. A pet that has this regular minimum care feels better and will seldom have fleas.
Coat: Since Beans has a short, flat coat, all he needs every day is about five minutes of good brushing with a fairly stiff brush. The kind of brush your mother uses to scrub vegetables is good for this purpose and not expensive. Dogs that are wire-haired or have long, thick coats require a wire brush of a kind that your vet or pet-shop owner will recommend.
Always put Beans up on a table when you want to groom him. He will stand still there and you can work on him more easily. Start at his head and brush around his neck and down his back. Then brush his sides. Turn him over and brush his stomach. Be careful not to brush so hard you hurt his skin. Now stand him up again and this time start brushing from the tail toward his head, against the way the hair grows. After you've gone over his top and sides, start at the head and brush down toward the tail again, until his coat lies flat, smooth, and shining.
If Beans has been scratching and you suspect he might have fleas, you should also comb him from head to tail with a fine-toothed comb. Actually, a dog who is brushed regularly will seldom have fleas unless he catches them from another dog or from grass where other dogs have been.
If you want to be very fancy, you can take a piece of flannel or put an old woolen mitten on your right hand. Put a few drops of castor oil or coconut oil on this cloth or mitt and smooth Beans's coat all over, as if you were stroking him.
This kind of coat care is all that is needed daily for dogs like the Boston terrier, dachshund, smooth-haired fox terrier, or other short-haired breeds. That is one reason why such breeds are so popular in cities, where the room in an apartment is usually too small to permit more strenuous grooming.
Of course long-haired dogs like spaniels, Pomeranians, or chows should also get their daily brushing. Such breeds need a brush with longer, stronger bristles. First, brush the coat rather vigorously to remove the dirt and dead hair. Then take a coarse-toothed comb and go all over the coat to break up any snarls that may be left. Be careful not to yank at these and hurt the dog. If a stubborn snarl or mat refuses to come out with combing, cut it out with a pair of blunt-nosed scissors (blunt-nosed so they won't jab into the dog if he moves unexpectedly). If the coat seems dry, you can rub a little castor oil into it.
If you have a dog whose coat needs plucking or trimming, like a wire-haired fox terrior, a Kerry blue, or a poodle, you will probably have to take him to a pet shop for this service. You can learn to pluck or trim, but it requires quite a lot of time, study, and special instruments to do it correctly. If you can't afford a professional "beauty treatment," it is much better not to pluck or trim at all, rather than try to do it yourself and do it badly. Such plucking or trimming, for the breeds that need it, makes a dog feel and look better. But if you simply brush and comb your pet's coat every day to keep it clean, you can have a good-looking dog even without plucking.
Reminder for those who own long-haired dogs of any breed: Daily brushing keeps a lot of those annoying hairs off your furniture, rugs, and clothing!
With proper exercise, a dog's toenails will probably be worn down to their right short length, and you won't have to worry about them. But if they should grow too long and start to curl under the dog's foot or even into the pad, better take him to a vet to have them trimmed. Or if your parents have nail clippers and will do this for you, they can cut the nails by being careful to cut off only that white part which curls, and not into the pink quick. This is something you'd better not try to do yourself, for fear of hurting your dog. Just look at his nails from time to time to see if they need cutting.
If Beans should get chewing gum or tar on his feet or nails, you can take it off with a piece of cloth dipped into nail-polish remover, benzine, or cleaning fluid.
Never wash your dog's ears with soap or water. Most of the time, leave them alone, as they are very delicate. Never put anything into the ear canal itself. If your dog paws at his ear and whines, seeming to be in pain, consult a veterinarian.
Between his fourth and fifth months, Beans will begin to lose his baby teeth, as the big, permanent teeth start to grow in. You will see that his gums may be swollen and he wants to chew on hard things. You should keep him supplied with large bones at this time. Your butcher will give you suitable marrow or knuckle bones. After you cut off whatever fat or gristle may be on them, let Beans gnaw away to his heart's content. This chewing will help his second teeth to cut through the gums. Don't bother to look for his baby teeth as they fall out. You won't find more than one or two, if that many, for no one knows where they disappear. He probably swallows them!
After Beans has his full set of second teeth, you usually won't have to give them much care. Unlike humans, dogs don't have to brush their teeth twice a day so long as there is plenty of hard substance in their food. Look at his mouth once in a while to see that no food or bone splinters have become stuck between his teeth. If you see a splinter, take it out.
If you have the time and want to be sure to keep his teeth clean and his breath sweet, you can do this: Wrap a piece of cloth around your finger. Wet this with a little water, then dip it into plain salt. Rub this doggy toothbrush and powder gently over Beans's teeth and gums.
With enough dog biscuits and occasional bones to chew, a healthy dog shouldn't have any tooth trouble until he's old. However, if you should notice that Beans has a bad breath, refuses to chew hard food, and hangs his head and whines, you'd better take him to a vet to see if he has a cavity or needs a tooth pulled.
People have almost as many different ideas about bathing a dog as they have about feeding one. These ideas go from one extreme . . . "Never bathe your dogl" . . . to the other extreme . . . "Bathe your dog as often as you want!"
Now, it is true that some champion show dogs and pets have never been given a bath in all their lives. But it takes a lot of other kind of work to keep their coats in a beautifully clean and shining condition . . . brushing and combing for at least fifteen minutes a day, dry shampoos, oil treatments, daily gloving with dog mitts, or even special food!
And it is equally true that there are other prize dogs who've been given a bath every week from the day they were six months old. But this in itself takes a lot of time and work. It often requires extra oilings to replace the natural oils lost in such frequent baths.
For you and your pet, it will probably be most sensible to steer a middle course between "no bathing" and "lots of bathing."
But before you start the water running for Beans's first bath, here are some things you should know:
No pup should be bathed until he's at least six months old.
No pup should be bathed more often than once a month . . , and not that often unless really necessary.
No pup should be bathed right after he's eaten, or if he has a cold, or if he has any kind of skin disease.
But suppose Beans has been outdoors where he has rolled in the mud, or in something that smells bad. Since he is six months old and healthy, you decide this is a good time for a bath. What do you do?
First, decide where you're going to give the bath. Be sure the room is warm, if this will be indoors. Or be sure the weather is hot, if you're going to bathe Beans in the yard. A kitchen laundry tub is a good place in the house, or a tin tub out of doors.
Next, get together near the tub all the things you will need for the bath. These will include:
A mild toilet soap or soap flakes A small, soft cloth
A brush, like your mother's vegetable brush A large bath towel
A can holding warm rinsing water, or A spray attached to the faucet
Now put on some old clothes, or your bathing suit! Even the smallest dog will shake an awful lot of water all over you.
Then run several inches of lukewarm water in the tub. If you are using soap flakes, put them in the water now. Call Beans to you and place a small wad of cotton in each of his ears, to keep any water out.
Pick him up gently. Talk to him so he won't be frightd ened, as most dogs dislike a bath. Put him into the water slowly and be ready to hold him there! He will undoubt~ edly try to scramble out.
Using the cloth, wash his face carefully without soap, staying away from his eyes. Then pour water all over his body until he's good and wet.
Next, quickly make a ring of lather around his neck. This will keep any fleas from jumping from his body to his head.
Now lather all the rest of his body with your hands . . . back, stomach, tail, legs, and feet . . . rubbing the soap well into his coat.
When he's covered with nice, thick suds, take the brush and gently but firmly scrub him up and down and sideways. Always remember to keep soapy water away from his eyes.
Now rinse him with lukewarm water, either by turning the spray on him, or by pouring cupfuls of water over and over his body.
Then soap again and scrub again, to be sure he's really clean. Rinse thoroughly again with clear, lukewarm water. Be sure to remove all the soap from his coat. His skin will become dry and itchy if you don't.
Squeeze out as much water as you can with your hands, then wrap Beans in the big towel and lift him out of the tub. Hang on to him nowl He'll be wild to shake himself and run around. But before you can let him do that, you must first rub him dry with the towel.
When he's almost completely dry, right down to his skin, let him go and watch him run. Most dogs are very playful right after a bath. This is good, because it keeps them from catching cold. Play and run and roughhouse with him . . . but keep him indoors unless it's a very hot day. The best rule for city dogs is to keep them in the house for at least three hours after a bath. Don't let Beans take a nap. Keep him moving around and warm, until you're sure he's perfectly dry.
Dry-Cleaning a Pup
If for some reason you want to get Beans especially clean between baths, you can dry-clean him. Put him up on a table that is covered with newspapers. Take some cornmeal and rub it well into his coat, until he is covered with it. Then brush it all out. And finally, go over his coat with a damp cloth to remove every last bit of the cornmeal.