Grooming your pup and the rites of passage

It’s time for the first ritual in your puppy’s life. It’s the momentous first grooming session. This will determine how your friend will respond to cleanliness and hygiene for the rest of his life. And didn’t someone say cleanliness is next to me-ness? If you don’t want your pup to stink to high heaven, follow these simple steps.

Preparation is key

For a few days before the ritual handle your puppy’s sensitive areas like paws and ears and get him used to contact there. Get him used to the feel of scissors, nail clippers and water by gently placing it on his fur. Right before the ritual, play with your puppy so he’s worn out. Practice holding your puppy firmly. Ignore his squirming and reward him every time he relaxes. Let him sniff the brush and other tools. Gradually start using the implements on him — from a minute to two and then increase the time. Always reward him after each grooming activity.

When to start

Different sects have different beliefs on when to start. Some say not before six months, others bathe them only when they are dirty. I say it makes sense to start early, before habits and fears are built. By starting early, you can ready your puppy for a full grooming session by 16 years of age, and even teach him to enjoy it.

Coat care

Different breeds require different coat care. There are brushes for each hair type, and metal combs to divide hair and remove dirt and small bugs. Short-haired breeds require bristle brushes, double-textured fur and long-haired breeds need pin and slick brushes. You should brush your pup daily, but for a short while. Have your pup sit or lie on her side while you speak to her softly and praise her as you brush her hair. First brush in the opposite direction and then in the direction of the hair growth.

Giving the pup a bath

Holy water! Your puppy is never really going to be ‘ready’ for a bath. If you’re waiting for him to like it, you will likely be waiting a long time. Start by wiping your puppy with a damp cloth. Generally, long-haired pups need a bath more frequently. After brushing, place your little friend in a tub or a sink that’s as big as them. Fill it up with only a few inches of lukewarm water. Use only dog shampoos as they have sensitive skin. Don’t touch the face, use a damp washcloth to clean the face. After finishing up, wipe down the pup and keep him warm until he is fully dry. There are also sprays you can use in between baths.

Cutting and clipping

If the hair on the puppy’s face grows too long and irritates your puppy’s eyes or nose and is matted because it’s too close to the mouth you might have to trim it. Be careful and attempt it only after your puppy is responding calmly and positively to other grooming activities. Don’t attempt to fully cut his nails yet.  Just tip them once every week. You might have to get help holding your puppy still. Hold his paw between your index finger and thumb. Don’t squeeze the toe. If the pup tries to wriggle out, say ‘no, stay,’ and praise him if he follows the command. Puppies have nerves and blood vessels, called the ‘quick,’ in their nails so be  take care while cutting. The quick is easily visible in clear or white nails, it will appear pink. It is difficult to spot in darker nails. If while cutting, the center of the nail turns darker, stop immediately. 

Dental care

To get your puppy used to oral care, squeeze some dog toothpaste on your finger and allow him to lick it off. Put some more and massage it onto his teeth. Once he is accustomed to this feeling, you can start using a dog toothbrush. Wrap a damp cloth on a finger and scrub the outside of the teeth. Though the teeth should be cleaned everyday, thrice a week is also acceptable. By 16 weeks of age, the puppy starts teething. Their teeth are sharp as needles, but still developing. Chewing on hard things might break their teeth. It’s also normal that your puppy might swallow their milk teeth while eating.

It’s a good idea to stop before the puppy gets fussy, take frequent breaks and keep rewarding him with treats. If he starts associating grooming with fun, he will be more cooperative in the future. Good luck and praise be!

The grooming rites of passage:

Handle the dog (Petology 4:16)

And I replied: “Handle the dog with all your heart and with all your should and all your mind till he is used to contact.

Short time periods (Love Pets 3:11-12)

From that time vets began to preach and say, use implements for less than a minute and gradually increase

Make it fun (Pet Care 4:22)

Blessed is that puppy that feels rewarded by bath time, in the future an aide to self-maintenance

Soft and gentle (Pet Care 5:16)

Don’t think twice, a puppy rough-handled, fears you, fears grooming

FAQs

When to start grooming my puppy?

As with human children, if you want to inculcate good habits, start early. Some trainers and groomers will tell you to wait for six months or 16 weeks, but you can start at home even earlier.

Should I trim paw hair?

You may trim hair on the paw when it bunches up under and in between the toes. Comb out the excess hair, hold the scissors flat against the paw and cut.

How to clean a puppy’s teeth?

Introduce the toothpaste to the pup through your finger. Once he is accustomed to that feeling and he is old enough to have strong teeth, start using toothbrushes. Although, some puppies may reject the toothbrush and you might have to continue using your finger.