Sextiped Valley: Hair today … (mostly) gone tomorrow
This year, our more than usually prolonged spring and warm February has led to an early start to the pet hair shedding season, so unless you take some action, you’ll be vacuuming up those clumps and tufts for a while yet. Here are some tips and alternatives for coping.
1. Watch for signs your dog’s coat is “ready.” Undercoat is lighter in color than the outer coat (except in white dogs) so you’ll spot tufts of lighter-colored hair working their way to the surface, starting at the hips and rear end, then the tail, then the neck and shoulders, and finally the back and rib cage. Try taking hold of a small tuft and pull gently. If it comes out easily, try another. If they are quite loose, it’s time to get the coat rake out and get those clumps before they become entangled with new hair growth and make mats.
2. When an area is “ready” — the chaps, say — start at the lowest point on that body part and rake through the coat with a rolling motion, working upward an inch or so at a time. Rake, then brush, then finally see if you can get a comb through a section before moving on — and up.
3. Work on your dog in small increments, making sure he is comfortable and contained and offering treats as you go.
4. Don’t assume that bathing the dog first will make the process easier. It won’t. Wet hair stretches and then shrinks as it dries, creating tight, comb-resistant mats of undercoat and new growth.
5. Always get the packed undercoat raked out thoroughly before bathing the dog. Then, if you have a blow dryer, you can blow out most of the rest of the undercoat instead of waiting for it to shed naturally. Finish by brushing through the coat.
6. If you have done this thoroughly, still expect shedding to continue for up to two days post-bath. Then the skin tightens and shedding mostly stops.
7. Remember that pulling rooted hair hurts. Most of the dogs who resist the brush have experienced the pain of hair pulling. This is why you must make haste slowly by moving up the body in small sections, keeping grooming sessions short and the dog comfortable.
8. Should you just have your dog clipped all over several times a year? Clipping doesn’t stop shedding but it can make it easier to care for the coat and skin. It tends to change the texture of the coat, in some cases permanently. You’ll need to do it regularly after doing it once. Having a short haircut can make an outdoor, active lifestyle easier for the dog, and for you. Easier to find and remove ticks in spring, see cuts and scrapes, notice ear, eye and foot issues and need for nail trimming, not to mention reducing the amount of hair to vacuum up. But even short-coated dogs and cats need grooming several times a week for health and cleanliness. Brushing and combing short hair, whether natural or clipped, facilitates well-being and most pets learn to love this attention when it is painless and results in treats and admiration.
9. Groomers are very busy this time of year, but most of them will be happy to demonstrate the tools and techniques for keeping your pet in good shape all year round. Yes, undercoat does provide insulation — for warmth in winter, and from sunburn in summer. But matted hair does neither and masks problems, including sometimes serious injuries. If you’re honest with yourself about how much time you’re able to give to regular home maintenance grooming, a groomer can help you devise a schedule of home and professional care that will be affordable and adequate for your lifestyle.
10. There isn’t much that is more delightfully sensuous than stroking the silky clean coat of a dog or cat you love — a shared pleasure that’s easily available all year-round, with just a bit of care.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.