Your dogs coat covers the skin, which is the largest organ of the body.
The skin is constantly exposed to the world around it, including all the bacteria, fungi and allergens.
It's no wonder that an un-groomed dog often develops a bad odor, bald spots, skin growths and mats.
Dealing With Mats
If you have a long-haired dog, pay particular attention to brushing behind the ears, where the front legs meet the chest, where the hind legs meet the groin, and along the tail. These are the areas where mats and tangles are worst.
If your dogs coat already has mats, don't cut them out.
You risk cutting the skin beneath the mat. Isolate them from the rest of the hair, then separate each one into small clumps.
Remove each clump by holding the skin beneath the mat while you pull the clump upwards and toward the head. Pull slowly. The mat should slowly separate from the rest of the mat.
Once you have the mats out, you can begin daily brushing.
Start with a wide-toothed comb and work your way from the head to the tail.
The wide spacing between the teeth minimizes hair pulling.
Keep an eye out for fleas, any new skin growths (or older ones that are growing bigger), and follow the comb with a wire brush designed to remove dead hairs.
There are many different types of grooming brushes, each designed for a different type of your dogs coat.
If you want a general purpose brush, purchase a slicker brush.
It has a rectangular head with close-set, fine metal bristles.
Even a short-haired dog will benefit from regular brushing.
Brushing also massages and stimulates his skin, and distributes the natural oils in your dogs coat.
And it helps remove dead skin cells from his hair and from the skin itself.
Most dogs love a good brushing. If yours doesn't like to be brushed, don't give up.
He may have had a bad grooming experience before he joined your family. Here's a chance for you to use a little behavioral training to make your life easier, and his a little healthier.
Begin by brushing a quarter of your dogs coat each day, or until he becomes upset.
Use a reassuring voice while grooming him. Praise him while you're brushing, as his cooperative behavior deserves to be praised.
If he becomes upset or stressed, stop immediately and take a break. You don't want him to continue to associate stress and upset with his daily brushing.
Walk away without making a fuss. Return to grooming later when he has relaxed. As he becomes used to the brushing, gradually increase the area you groom each day, until eventually he allows you to brush all of him every day.
Don't forget to bathe him. Baths are a helpful treatment for any skin condition. But don't wait for him to develop a skin problem. Bathe him whenever he's smelly, greasy, dirty, itchy or flaky.
Use only a mild dog shampoo. Dogs have a neutral or slightly alkaline skin. Humans have slightly acid skin, so our shampoos are not for dogs as they can cause skin irritation.
Use lukewarm water and keep the suds out of his eyes, as they may damage the cornea (unless it's a "tear less" shampoo). Start at the head and work your way down and back towards the tail.
When you're done, gently dry the insides of his ears to prevent ear infections. Use cotton balls or a soft towel to wipe away the excess moisture that can promote these infections.
Your dogs coat and skin suffer a daily onslaught of dirt, allergens, dust, bugs and microbes.
A daily inspection and brushing, along with regular bathing, will keep his skin problem-free and his coat looking lustrous.
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