To Shave or NOT to Shave? The Buzz from Pups about their Haircuts!

To Shave or NOT to Shave_

This image has been circulating social media again.  Every summer there’s a similar debate – should I shave my dog, or is shaving doing more harm than good?

Cutting to the chase here – it really depends on the situation.  Your dog: what breed and coat type, what activities is she doing, does she prefer to keep her coat or have it shaved?  And your environment:  do you live in Texas or the Pacific Northwest, like me?  Do you get the occasional heatwave, or is it 35C and above for months at a time?

The easy answer is to just ask your dog, (perhaps by booking a session) how their body feels after they have a shave.  In many cases, the dog will go out of her way to show you how she feels about her haircut, and here are some of the behaviors you may see:

Wildly running about after grooming!  This is a celebration of freedom, getting groomed is a tiresome chore for most dogs, and the initial running around is usually a celebration that the grooming is over and she’s free to move around and do what she wants again!  This doesn’t necessarily mean she likes her haircut, only that she’s happy to be able to run around – don’t mind if I do!

The thing to pay attention to is:  does her activity increase in the days after the haircut?  Is she able to play longer?  Run further?  This is the cue that most tuned-in dog parents take to determine whether they *should* continue to shave their dog in the summer months.  Is my dog happier when shaved?

A good indication that your dog could benefit from a shave is when you notice their activity steadily decreasing as the weather gets hotter.  Contrary to what the image above indicates, a huge coat of fur does not magically cool your dog!  Of course the tips of the long hairs are a cooler temperature than the skin exposed by a shave – the skin UNDER the long fur is even HOTTER than the shaved portion!

The real trick with shaving isn’t whether or not to shave, but whether to consider it as a part of your overall grooming routine!  If all you do to groom your double-coated dog is shave her once a year after it has matted, well, that’s better than nothing, but you’re really not doing your dog any favors.  Even before it mats, dogs with heavy double coats get horribly itchy close to the skin during a shedding cycle.  In the wild, double-coated canines are running through a lot of undergrowth, getting groomed by their environment several times a day.

Our domestic dogs have possibly been bred to look fluffy, have more undercoat than they would strictly require in the wild, are never exposed to the environmental extremes of wild canines, and often live longer, healthier lives than wild animals (depending on the species and region.  So you can’t beg off of grooming your big fluffy dog by pretending she’s a wolf.

The point of grooming is really about how the dog FEELS.  Most double-coated dogs don’t need daily brushing (though some do enjoy it), but weekly brushing will go a long way to prevent the itchy skin and stinky “dog smell” of a big hairy dog.

I love big hairy dogs.  My friend Ellie has two great ones.

We’re not just talking about double-coated shedding dogs though, I will get to the non-shedding dogs in a minute.

This idea that double-coated dogs should NEVER be shaved because the fur regulates their body temperature and protects them from the sun is too simplistic.  Fur is insulation.  Insulation can keep cool things cool and hot things hot.  But a dog is a living being, and when a dog runs around, she is generating her internal heat.

A dog regulates her temperature not through her coat, but through panting, and my moderating her activity.  Hot dogs love mud and water because it breaks the insulation of their fut and draws the heat off their skin, rapidly through their fur!  Getting wet and muddy is the natural way for dogs with big coats to regulate their body temperature.

As a last resort, dogs will reduce their physical activity.  This doesn’t mean your dog is content.  Very often your dog is bored and miserable.  It is not kind to leave a big fluffy coat on your dog, and let them lay on the tile floor in the air conditioned house all day.  If she perks up when you shave her, and can spend more time doing the activities she loves, by all means SHAVE HER!

I’m going to address this info-graphic from the dog’s perspective:

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Shaving does not increase exposure for heat stroke if the owner is doing his job.  A newly shaved dog may feel so much lighter and happier after a haircut that they overdo it, and their body hasn’t adapted yet to regulating their temperature with an extremely short coat.  Solution?  Don’t shave them bald!  Leave two inches of fur.  In the case of a Newfoundlander, whose long guard hairs don’t grow back at the same rate as the undercoat, you have good reason to simply brush her daily, and provide a wading pool.

Risk for sunburn – yes, if you’ve shaved so much the skin is exposed.  With a Newfie, their skin is darkly pigmented, so it may not be obvious if the pup is trimmed too short.  Honestly, this particular breed has a softer, finer coat than a rough-coated dog, and it isn’t quite as hot as a husky, a collie, a shepherd.  Remember that dogs coats were originally designed to protect them from the elements while doing their job – in the Newfie’s case, doing heavy pack work in driving rain and snow.  These days, pet Newfoundlanders are not exposed to the harsh winter elements, their breeding has opted for a more aesthetically pleasing, shinier silkier coat, and the human should not be allowing a freshly shaved dog to play recklessly in the sun all day.  If the coat has been trimmed too short, throw a t-shirt on her until it grows out a bit.  Bonus points if it’s a wet t-shirt on a hot day.

Biting insects – really?  Well, maybe horseflies and mosquitoes will now have more access to your dog, but fleas and black flies will get through the fur no matter what kind of haircut the dog has.  Unless you live in the North, land of the killer mosquito, it’s unlikely biting insects are going to post more of a threat to your dog once she has a shave.

Alopecia – certain breeds of dogs should never be shaved.  Talk to your breeder, and talk to other people with breeds similar to your pup to find out whether shaving ruins their coat.  This is not true for many dogs.

Scratching – Dogs who scratch after a shave have not been properly groomed BEFORE the shave.  Dogs should always be bathed, thoroughly dried, de-shedded with a furminator or similar brush, and THEN shaved only if necessary. Shaving should never be a grooming short cut!

Just be sure not to shave her too short.  I do see a few dogs shaved far too short, and this is a very uncomfortable sensation.  You’re not shearing a sheep (and I wish they didn’t shear sheep as close as they do, but that’s another discussion.)  The goal is to make your dog more comfortable, so start by leaving two INCHES of fur all over.  Two inches is enough to protect the sensitive skin from cold floors, cool breezes, drops of water, the careless teeth of other playing dogs, and the pokes of plant life on walks.

If your dog’s coat is very dense, and the pup is clearly still very hot, then try a one inch shave.  You should NOT be able to see a dog’s pink skin through a shave.  If you can see the skin shining through, you’ve cut it too short.  Throw a white cotton t-shirt over her when you go outside to protect her from the sun until the coat grows back enough to cover the skin.

You should not have a mentality of shaving only once.  This is why some people shave far too short – they want the shave to “last”.  This is insane!  Do you shave your own head so your haircut will “last”?  I suggest that everyone shave their head at least once, buzz it down to a ¼ inch, and you’ll experience the sensations that an over-shaved dog experiences.  Sweetie and I used to shave our heads in the summer, and this resulted in us wearing beanie caps in the evenings… in AUGUST!

Don’t over-shave your dog.  But!  Don’t think you can only shave your dog once!

I suggest you consider shaving your dog once every two months in the hot season – and leave the coat at least two inches long at first.  You can always go shorter if the pup is obviously still hot.

Checklist:  Should I shave my double-coated dog?

  1. Is my dog uncomfortably hot?  Has her behavior changed in the hot weather?

A hot dog is a miserable dog.  Dogs who are too hot in the summer feel like they’re wasting their lives!  They can smell all the smells, hear all the sounds, they still WANT to play and explore, but if they’re too hot for most of the day, they can get frustrated, irritable, and can get destructive or vocal when things cool down at night.

  1. Have I recently bathed and brushed out my dog?

If not, do this first.  I suggest you bathe on a Saturday, let the coat dry completely overnight, and go at the coat with a furminator on Sunday… outside… wearing an outfit you can immediately throw into the wash!

3.  Does my dog have access to cooling areas?

A kiddy pool?  Frozen Kong treats?  Ice cubes to play with?  A cool tile floor?  A patch of dirt in the shade?  If not, create a cooling area, and if so, does she spend more time in the cooling area than moving around enjoying herself?

4.  Does my dog tolerate shaving? Does she feel better or worse after a shave?

You can book a session with me to help answer this question if you’re not sure.  (Use the coupon code ILoveMyPet).

If she hangs her head and hides after a shave, then never shave her.  Provide a kiddy pool, wet cool towels, an ice pack collar or vest – there are many different things you can do to help your fluffy dog stay cool without stressing her out.  NEVER laugh at or point at a shaved dog!

Always admire her, tell her what a good girl she was, have everyone in the house say how beautiful she looks, and give her a special treat to celebrate her haircut!  Even if your dog doesn’t understand the words you say (many of them do!) she will definitely understand your intention and the energy behind your words.

  1. Evaluate: has my dog’s behavior changed for the better, after being shaved?

If she is doing well after a two inch shave, fantastic!  It is much more comfortable for a dog to be shaved to a reasonable coat length so they can self-regulate more easily!  Your dog will still run around to warm up when she’s too cool, and she’ll still reduce her activity when she’s too warm, but for the summer months, she shouldn’t be getting too cold, and if you left her enough fur, she won’t be sunburned or overheat as long as she has access to water and shade.

Again, I strongly encourage you to opt for a longer shave, and shave twice as often to keep the coat at an optimally cool length for the summer months!

My dogs.

Back in the days when I had dogs, my big dog Mocha, and my little dog Happy, our summer grooming routine for each of them was unique.

Mocha was a cattle dog shepherd mix.

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She had a double-coat, and she was a wash-n-wear dog, requiring very little grooming.  She was not a fluffy dog like a husky or a collie, but she did have a thick undercoat that protected her 20C below freezing and she did just fine up to 30C in the heat… as long as I took care of her coat.

Mocha, being a cattle dog, tended to “blow” her coat twice a year, with the big blow being in the spring.  The only time I ever bathed her was when she rolled in something too offensive to wipe off, or twice a year when she blew her coat.  When I was washing her in preparation to brush her the next day, I always used lots of shampoo, because the shampoo would strip away all the oil in her coat.  That oil is important for weather-resistance, but the oil also prevents the shed fur from falling out, by clumping it next to it’s neighbors.  If I put off grooming her in the spring, her hind end pantaloons would begin to mat, would smell, and would get itchy.

So just twice a year I’d give her a good shampoo.  The next day, I’d go at her coat with a Furminator.  Furminator brushes are excellent for double-coated dogs, but it really works best on a freshly bathed and thoroughly dried dog, so the hair does not get caught in the tool, and the threads of the Furminator does not get clogged with oil and begin to pull painfully on the coat.  Only use the furminator on the back, tail and pantaloons (top thighs) of your dog, not her head, belly or legs.

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The furminator works by sliding over the fur that’s still attached to your dog, while grabbing on to the fur that’s loose and pulling it through.  If the tool becomes clogged with hair and oil, the tool will start to drag on *all* the fur, and the dog will find the process irritating and potentially painful.

Speaking of painful, reconsider your wire slicker brush, if you have one.

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Now that we have the furminator, we need to consider whether this tool is still the right one for the job.  Mocha found slicker brushes to be painful and scratchy – and this is the most common complaint from dogs about grooming, aside from shampoo stinging their eyes or water getting into their ears or nose.  Those corners are sharp, the ends of the bristles are sharp, and too much pressure  – or the bristles being too long – are a common reason for dogs and cats to learn to hate this tool.

If you do use a slicker brush, be mindful of how you use it.  Be certain you’re not pressing it right down on to the dog’s skin, and take care not to bang those corners into her face or limps.  Brush only her back, chest and tail with it – never her ears, head, belly or legs.

Whether you use a Furminator or a slicker, or some other de-shedding tool, never use it on the sensitive areas and limps.  Instead, use a soft brush for those, or a plastic comb.  (Metal combs popular with groomers and in shows are quite pokey, and there’s no reason for us regular pet people to use them.  Most cats and dogs prefer plastic combs to metal ones.)

I would consider de-shedding to be phase one of every double-coated dog’s summer grooming routine – even if you still plan on shaving her.

A good de-shedding can make all the difference, and you may even find you don’t need to shave her until it gets REALLY hot!  Without all that excess undercoat, the air can move freely between the dog’s top coat and her skin, she will dry faster when she gets wet, dirt will fall off of her more easily, and sun will be able to penetrate much of the coat, preventing bacteria and moisture from building up next to the skin, causing hot spots and encouraging ring worm.

All my Mocha dog every needed was a good de-shedding twice a year, and a wipe with a damp cloth after a muddy walk.  She wasn’t thrilled with her grooming days, but she was so much more comfortable afterwards.  In Mocha’s case, it would have been detrimental to shave her coat.  Her top coat did not grow as quickly as her undercoat, and her top coat is what protected her from the elements.  Mocha would have been made very uncomfortable if I had shaved her just because it was faster than de-shedding her.

Shaving Mocha would not have helped her skin – the unshed undercoat would still have been next to her skin, being smelly and itchier than ever.  Without the guard hairs, the undercoat would fall out in some places and mat in other places.  She would have been itchy, too hot, and too cold most days.

So you can see how understanding your dog and her coat is what really determines her grooming needs.

If you’re not sure, take the checklist in stages.

This brings me to non-shedding dogs, whose grooming needs are completely different than double-coated dogs.

The easy answer for non-shedding dogs is take them to a professional groomer four times per year.  Be sure your dog is happy to see her groomer, and remind the groomer not to cut her too short.  Many groomers opt for a closer shave because they believe the owners will be happier with a cut that “lasts longer”.  Assure them you want the experience to be positive for the dog, and you want her feeling lighter, fresher and happier, not exposed after her grooming.  If your dog is used to feeling everything from the chill of the seat belt buckle to the heat of your hand a second before you touch her because her coat is too short after the groomer, she’ll come to hate going to the groomer!  So make it a positive experience, and always be sure she feels great about herself and in her own skin every time she visits the groomer.

Again though, you need to consider the coat of your dog.  With my little dog Happy, I had a couple of challenges.  He didn’t tolerate being handled by strangers without a muzzle, he didn’t enjoy car rides, and we didn’t have a groomer within 2 hours of our home.  For a few years there, we didn’t even have a car!

So I groomed Happy all on my own.  I even wrote a post about it.  

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Happy needed grooming every six weeks because his coat was incredibly fine as well as fast growing, and partially non-shedding.

What?  Partially non-shedding?  Yep, that’s a thing.  It happens with designer cross-breeds like Happy, who was a papillion crossed with a toy poodle.  Happy enjoyed none of the weather-resistance of the papillion’s undercoat, but none of the skin-protection of the curry poodle coat.  His non-shedding fur was long and silky, and his shedding fur was short, curly-ish and prone to matting in his armpits and crotch.  Oh, and his belly fur grew long very quickly, and if it grew too long, he would pee on it.  I discovered this the second day I had him, when I realized he smelled like pee and that his first Mom must have just bathed him right before handing him over to me.  Oh Happy, this little dog taught me so much, including how to groom a cantankerous little fear-biter!

I had to desensitize Happy to grooming, by working on it with him every day for the first six months I had him.  It literally started with me showing him the scissors and then giving him a treat.  Then placing the scissors next to him, and giving him a treat.  I did have to muzzle him and restrain him once to cut his belly fur that he was peeing on, for hygiene’s sake, but that was only necessary once.   By the time I needed to trim his fur the next time, he tolerated my ministrations with grudging acceptance, and no longer bothered to growl or snap.

Happy would *never* tolerate a shave.  It terrified him.  I don’t know who groomed him before I got him, or how they did it, but the sound of a shaver sent him into a blind panic.  So Happy got scissors.

The other reason I only ever scissor-cut Happy was that he was an *extemely sensitive* dog who needed at least three inches of fur on his back to feel safe.  His coat was very fine, even with the undercoat, and he needed the extra inch of protection from the wind, the sand, and just his general environment.  He was the kind of dog your could pet with a couple of fingers, not your whole hand, because he was so sensitive to touch pressure.

I would keep him trimmed quite short on his legs, as he didn’t really feel cold on his legs as much, as long as his body was warm, and his leg fur loved to pick up every leaf, stick, and clump of dirt he encountered.  Happy’s haircut was determined mainly by hygiene and his sensory needs.

If you have a dog that really hates grooming, I *strongly* encourage you to book a session with me to get to the bottom of it.  Maybe your dog is sensitive like Happy and just needs a scissor grooming, maybe a part of it is hurting her, or maybe there is something simple you can do to make things better for her!

Grooming is such an important piece of a dog’s quality of life – and whether you have a pup who needs grooming every six weeks, or only twice per year, it’s so important for your dog’s comfort and enjoyment to get it right!

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And hey, if you’re interested in learning how to communicate with animals yourself, you can join my growing class! 

I already have a few one-to-one mentoring sessions booked for September and I’m *so* looking forward to hearing how my friends in learning are progressing!

If you have any questions about shaving your pup in summer, please post a comment!

Happy summer to you and your animal friends!

Ep 24. Fleas, Angels Calling, Precognition and Spiritual Cheating!



Happy Tuesday!  It’s Podcast day!  Episode 24: Fleas, Angels, Precognition and Spiritual Cheating!  

The pets, Sunshine the Cat and Happy the dog took me on a bit of an introductory detour as we discussed fleas and grooming and their experience of topical flea pesticides.  Then we get down to business, following up with the questions from October 11th blog entry: No Wrong Way to Die.

We have gotten so much mileage from this post.  We ask and give possible answers to questions such as:

I forgot where I came from (spiritually) only because I wanted to remember again?

Because “heaven” is too wonderful and souls are eager to learn things the hard way? 

Because the time and temperature on earth is perfect for human habitation so why not?  Let’s be suffering humans? Really?!

Big existential questions, y’all!  I do my best.

Then MB came in with questions about Dowsing & Pendulums – how the heck to those things work?  And precognitive dreams, how do you know when you’ve had one?  How can you tell if it’s real???
And you get the context for this photo:
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Pet Psychic Pup Quote of the day!

Pumba doxie pet psychic kate sitka

This is Pumba who lives with blog member Brooke!  Simba has another dachshund friend named Raffi and a golden retriever named Simba, who will be making their own appearances!  Pumba is the organizer / boss / leader of his little tribe.  Raffi looks up to him and Simba is happy as long as everyone around him is happy!

Thank you to everyone who’s sent in photos of their beauties so far!  Please keep ’em coming!

And if you like these photos, please share them with your friends 😉  I’m really focusing on building the blog in the next few months and I can use all the help I can get!

Mom eats chocolate!  

juliette kate sitka pet psychic

(Juliette the Bichon Frise)

Before I had an official psychic business, I was doing pet readings for friends and clients by word-of-mouth referral.  This little bichon, Juliette, is my friend’s dog and she’s had so many funny things to say over the years!

Juliette is probably the most demanding and diva-esque dog I’ve ever met, although I spoke to a lovely little Yorkie named Sophie who had a long, thought-out list of special requests for her person too.

With Sophie, she came up with the requests in part because she knows her human enjoys fulfilling her needs so much – so she invents a few extra needs.  She’s a 5lb dog in a big world, after all.  Who wouldn’t want a pillow by the bed to land on?

Juliette has a very natural life out and about in the British Columbia wilds.  In fact, I’m pretty sure her ancestors have been pampered city dogs for generations.  Juliette gives me the impression of a humourous, slightly-put-out, female gentile in the wild, wild west, who has adapted to and adores the rugged environment that is now her home, but who hasn’t forgotten the comforts of a more civilized existence.  This is reflected in her requests before her Mom travels.

They do always know where you’re going, what you’re doing, so don’t even think you can pull one over on your pet!

Juliette knows when her Mom is headed to the city, and comes up with city-specific requests.  She loves doggie boutiques because the staff always fuss over her and tell her how pretty she is, and she’s one of those dogs who enjoys new collar, a variety of coats, a special, gourmet dog treat to eat.

Juliette also knows when her Mom is eating one thing, but thinking she really *should* be eating something else.  Juliette has consistently reported her Mom’s guilty snacking.  Mom eats popcorn.  Mom eats chips.  Mom ate chocolate – and I didn’t get any!

Juliette doesn’t really care whether Mom eats treats or not, she just reports on the state of emotional eating.  As her Mom was going through one heck of a stressful time, Juliette was really reporting on the things her Mom did to make herself feel better.

It’s really funny what they notice.  I get a kick out of it, anyway.


Ep. 13 – Funny & Surprising Animal Quotes!

sleep deprive

We have a very special Sleep Deprived version of the podcast today!  Yes, it’s off-the cuff and entirely un-edited.  Today’s one of those days where you just do what you gotta do!  It’s summer, it’s busy and if you’re reading this, would you kindly take a moment to visualize Kat & I in our own little cabin or house somewhere quiet?  We’re really at the point where we need to seriously look into moving.

Here it is:

On a brighter note, today’s podcast is about one of my favourite topics:  Funny animal quotes!  If it wasn’t a “clean” podcast I would’ve titled it, “Funny shit animals say!”  But then, that’s probably the sleep-deprived brain, thinking that’s funny.

And now, I’m going to get away from this noisy house and hopefully have a nap on the beach.


How to Bathe a Tiny Dog

happy kate sitka pet psychic

I’ve talked a lot in the Joyful Telepathy Podcast how Tiny Dogs are different creatures from other dogs who are 20lbs in size or larger, and they really have “special needs”.

Happy taught me a WHOLE LOT about being a tiny dog and what sort of special treatment they need in order to feel comfortable and safe in the world.  I’ll eventually do a series of the “Special Needs of Tiny Dogs” so you’re witnessing history here, the very first instalment:  How to bathe your tiny dog.

In Happy’s first home, his first Mom rarely bathed him herself, but took him to a groomer.  Here’s a list of things I’ve heard tiny dogs say about their groomers, so these are things to keep an eye on, and discuss with your groomer.

She goes too fast / too hard / too rough / its scary.  Many professional groomer’s bodies have muscle memory habits from working with larger dogs.  They may also have an eye on a quota they need to meet in order to make their grocery budget that week, so they really need to be conscious of slowing down and moving their hands lightly and gently with tiny bodies.  Some groomers actually *specialize* in Tiny Dogs, and have all the gentle tiny-dog-handling-habits programmed into their bodies.  If I did take Happy to a groomer, I would look for one who had a lot of other tiny dog clients.

The blower is too hot / too loud / scary.  This is a common complaint of a lot of dogs, but for tiny dogs the experience can be catastrophic.  This is a rock and hard place situation, because the alternative to the blower might be sitting wet and cold!  I have  solution to this, which comes at the end of this post.

Happy *hated* being groomed and had some aggressive habits when I adopted him – he had a laundry list of complaints from his former groomer too, although he did appreciate that she always gave him cheese (so he wouldn’t bite her, I’ll bet.)  His first Mom didn’t disclose these biting habits (a rescue would have been honest – lesson learned) but it was easy to see him tense up and stare at the slicker brush the moment I brought it out.  His belly fur was also so long that he peed on it every time he went to the bathroom, and his toenails were so long they were nearly full circles.  I was required to groom him on his third day in our home!

Because of his high-anxiety state of mind, I decided to groom him myself rather than take him to a professional.  I’m also a bit of a control freak when it comes to my animals, (I would observe their spay / neuter surgeries if I were allowed) so whenever I can do something for them myself, I do.  I think that basic dog grooming is a great skill for all dog owners, and if you do it well, it will become an opportunity to bond with your dog (even if the dog is less than thrilled with the bath, like Happy.)

Here we go!  First thing:  Get your dog *really dirty*!  He’ll be tired, happy, and more willing to tolerate your ministrations.

Happy says, I smell fish.

The dirt tastes like salt .

Back at home, gather all your supplies, so that your dog spends a minimal amount of time wet and waiting for you.  You see three bottles:  One is a dog shampoo for sensitive skin which whitens his coat.  It is great for drowning fleas, because it has foaming agents.  Foaming agents leave a residue on the fur and make him itchy, so I give him a second wash with my own shampoo that does not have foaming agents.   Today I’m using a conditioner that’s also good for his skin.  I use a locally made product called Sea Wench, which is a great souvenir if you ever visit Tofino (be sure do drop me a line if you do!)

I suggest you look for something with no sodium laurel sulphate, no parabens, and no strong scent.  Try it on yourself, and get a little in your eyes (even “no tears” dog shampoos can sting like crazy)  If you get it in your own eyes, you’ll be darn sure to never let it get into your dogs’!

In the past I’ve used “earth bath” for my own hair as well as my dogs’.  Tiny dogs are extra sensitive to even a little bit of detergent left on their skin.

Here I’ve gathered one big towel, and a stack of facecloths.  If I were planning on giving him a haircut afterwards, I’d have scissors, nail clippers, combs and brushes on this counter too.

I fill one of my sinks up with warm water:  the temperature *really* matters with tiny dogs.  It needs to be warm enough to keep them from shivering, but not too warm as to feel painful on their skin.  Tiny dogs are like babies – it needs to feel warm to your wrist but not tingling hot.  I like to add a little shampoo to the first sinkful of water.  I use a pitcher to wet the dog, not a spray tool.  Hand-held shower heads can be jarring and feel like a fire hose!  If you use one, keep the water pressure on the low-end.

I’ve put some wet dish cloths over the edges of the sink so Happy can stand up.  He’s more comfortable this way.  The dish cloths give him traction, which helps him relax.  If he was feeling like he might slip, his muscles will be tense and he’ll feel unsafe.  The idea is to make him as comfortable as possible so that he’ll tolerate the bathing process as well as possible.  Most dogs don’t like baths!

The moistening.  Look at his little face!  His feeling is Ewwwwwwwwwwww.

I pour water into my cupped hand to direct it to the underside of Happy’s body.

He kind of likes getting it poured on his shoulders and down his back.  I *do not* get his head wet until the very end.  As soon as his head is wet, he starts losing body heat like crazy, and his tolerance for the process is *over* when he gets cold.  This is contrary to most dog grooming instructions where you want to start at the “top” and work your way down.  A big dog can tolerate a wet head for a long time, because they have a larger body mass.  A tiny dog has a much harder time regulating his body temperature, especially keeping warm.  From this point on, I pour a pitcher of warm water over his body every minute or so to keep him warm.  Ever notice how quickly you get cold if you step out of the running water in the shower?  Well your dog gets cold even FASTER!  My whole goal is to get through the process without Happy shivering.

Shampoo time!  A lot of people don’t know this:  If you can keep your dog suddsed up for five minutes (a really long time if you’re a dog) it will drown a lot of the fleas on his body, because they can’t travel through soap suds, and they need to breathe.  Fleas will also try to take cover the moment the dog starts to get wet, so apply shampoo first to the dog’s groin, around the base of his tail and then around his neck, to cut off their escape routes.  Fleas will try and crawl into body cavities to hide from soap and water – NOT a fun feeling for a dog!  This is another reason to leave his head dry until the end – any fleas on the dog’s head will try and hide in his ears, so you want to ambush them last.

Fleas also like to hide in arm pits and skin folds: soap these up next!

Then I do the rest of his body, down his back, his belly, his legs, feet and tail.

I keep applying smallish amounts of warm water to keep him from shivering.  See his head is still dry?  He doesn’t mind the process much as long as he doesn’t get cold.  I probably go through twice as much shampoo by constantly rinsing him with warm water, but he’s so small, it doesn’t add up to a lot.

When I’m ready to do his head, I apply water to his head with a wash cloth.  This has a HUGE impact on his sense of safety and comfort.  Pouring or spraying water directly on a dog’s head can wash soap into their eyes, it can get into his ears, nose and mouth, and can make him feel like he’s being water-boarded.  A soaking-wet wash cloth does the job well for tiny dogs, and you can control where the water goes.  I use a different wash cloth for applying shampoo, and sometimes a third clean one for rinsing.  You want to rinse all that shampoo off immediately, because guess what he’s going to do next!?

Lick all that water away from his mouth!  If there’s any shampoo in there, it’ll taste VERY bad, and shorten his tolerance for the process – and it’ll affect his overall idea of “baths”.  If a dog gets shivery, stinging eyes and a nasty soap taste every bath time, he’s going to dread the process!

Final warm rinse!

I was wanting to apply conditioner this time, but he looked up and was like, Mom, I am done now.

Can you see the subtle differences in his posture?  He has tension between his ears, he’s starting to get cold and his submissive looking up means he’s done cooperating.  If I were to continue, I’d be “forcing him”.  Not an experience I want to bring to bathing, so, we’re done!

If you can recognize your own dog’s “we’re done” face, it’ll improve his perception of the experience because you’ll be ending on a good note.

Towel time!  This is his favourite part.  I grabbed the stack of 10 or so dry face cloths.  I use the big towel to get the bulk of the water off of him.

Here’s my face cloth trick:  After the first towel gets waterlogged, I use one face cloth after another to continue to dry him.  Once a cloth gets as damp as the dog, it’ll stop drawing water off of his fur, so I keep switching to bone-dry face cloths to continue to draw as much water off his fur as possible!  It works really well.  10 face cloths gets him 2/3 dry, and he *loves* this part of the process.  Remember to dry his armpits, belly and legs too!  If his legs are wet, he’ll re-wet his belly when he curls up to rest.

It’s also a really great bonding time.  Many dogs like being rubbed on the front of their chests (slowly).  Happy especially loves getting his ears dried between the folds of a nice cloth.

Here he is, mostly dry!  As long as the fur gets fluffed up at it’s roots, it’ll do a better job of keeping him warm.  I have a heater in my bathroom and I turn it up to 20 C.  If you don’t have a small heated space, you can tuck your pup in a kennel with a hot water bottle (make sure he has enough space to move off of it) or tucked into blankets on the couch.  I prefer to keep wet dogs off of my furniture, so leave Happy in the toasty bathroom for a half-hour with a bowl of water and some special treats.  Happy would prefer to zoom around the house until he dries off.

All dry and all done for today!  Happy is a poodle / papillion cross, and so some of his fur sheds and some of it doesn’t.  I’ll have to give him a gentle brushing later tonight to get all of the shedding fur out of his non-shedding hair so he won’t get mats.

Phew!  That’s it!  Next time, I’ll document his haircut process.  Happy is a “run through the mud” kind of dog, so his haircut needs to for practical, hygienic purposes.   If I had a local groomer, I’d probably bathe him myself and take him to a professional to be scissor-cut (those buzzers are too big for tiny dogs.)  But, alas.  We have no local groomers!  So you’ll get to see his home-hair cut next time!

(PS:  I’m using Live Writer to compose this blog entry offline.  Its the first time I’ve used it, so if anyting goes wrong with the formatting or photos, that’s why!)