Routine dog care keeps your dog looking and feeling healthy, and it is also a great way to practice critical body handling skills that will enable your pup to remain relaxed in uncomfortable situations. While every handler approaches these tasks differently, here are a few practical tips that will have even the most skeptical dog looking forward to these special routines.
1. How to Cut Your Dog's Nails at Home
Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is an important part of routine care, and while veterinarians are happy to provide this service, it is quick, easy and more pleasant for your pup if you do it yourself. If you’ve never trimmed your dog's nails at home before, remember to take the process slowly and associate it with something your dog likes, such as treats, a new toy or even dinner.
There are two types of clippers you can use on your dog’s nails: guillotine clippers and scissor clippers. The guillotine type has a small blade that comes up to slice off the nail, while the scissors type acts just like a pair of scissors. If you choose the guillotine type, insert your dog's nail into the hole; make sure it is perpendicular to your dog’s nail, and the blade is running from top to bottom (instead of cutting from side to side). If you opt for scissor clippers, hold the scissors at a right angle to your dog’s nail.
No matter what type of clippers you use, be sure to trim off only a little bit of your dog's nail at one time, as cutting their nails too short could cut into the quick, causing your dog to bleed. If this happens, your pup will likely yelp and pull their paw back. If bleeding occurs, dab the nail in a clotting powder to stop it – something as simple as corn starch will do.
If you're new to nail trimming, don't try to do it all once – this will be stressful for you and your dog. Reward your dog with more treats and lots of praise for each nail clipped. Depending on your dog's level of comfort, you can move on to the next nail, or stick with just one nail each day until he actually looks forward to the process.
2. How to Bathe a Dog at Home
As with nail clipping, if dogs associate bath time with yummy treats, they will start to look forward to it. If your dog is leery of bath time, start by simply hanging out in the bathroom and getting him used to the sights and sounds of bathing. Place him in the tub when it’s empty, or leave him outside the tub but run the water. Throughout this process, be generous with treats. This will help condition your dog to the process.
Before you bathe your dog, gather all your materials – shampoo, towel, treats, etc. Be sure to use dog shampoo, which is mild and specially formulated to not strip away dogs' natural skin oils. Never use human shampoo, which can dry out and irritate your pup's skin. Massage the shampoo into your dog's coat, staying away from delicate areas such as eyes, ears and the mouth. If these sensitive areas need extra attention, use a damp washcloth and gently wipe. If your dog is willing, place cotton balls in his ears to prevent excess moisture from entering the ear canal.
As you wash and rinse your dog, talk to him in a casual but happy voice, and keep the first few baths short and sweet. Remember to stay relaxed: if you're stressed, your dog will be, too. Follow up the bath with plenty of treats and some play time for positive reinforcement.
3. General Maintenance for Healthy Dog Ears
Routinely inspecting and cleaning out your dog's ears can help prevent infection. Inspect your dog's ears weekly for signs of debris or wax build-up. (This will also help him become comfortable with regular ear handling.) If the ears do appear dirty, use a cotton ball dipped in mineral oil or a little canine ear-cleaning solution and gently wipe the area, being careful not to clean too deeply. Cleaning a dog's ears too frequently can irritate the ear and even cause infection, so only clean the ears when necessary and be sure to never put anything in your dog's ear canal. Be sure to remain positive and give your dog lots of treats before and after cleaning.
4. How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
It might sound crazy, but dogs need to have their teeth brushed, too! An estimated 85% of dogs over the age of five suffer from periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease. Regularly brushing your dog's teeth can help prevent this – and also freshen their breath!
Your dog may not love your hands in their mouth, but they will quickly learn to love the flavored toothpaste that you use. Dog toothpaste comes in an assortment of flavors, from liver and chicken to mint and peanut butter. Never use human toothpaste on your dog. Keep in mind that they will likely ingest a fair amount of toothpaste during this process, and that human toothpaste, which is not meant for mass ingestion, could give them a stomachache. Dog stores will sell special dog toothbrushes, but your finger can also suffice – just remember to wash your hands first!
If your dog isn't comfortable with his mouth being touched, start by conditioning him to have your hands near his mouth. Dip your finger in something tasty and let your dog lick it off. As he licks, move your fingers around their mouth like you would if you were brushing his teeth. Take it slow. As he becomes used to you handling his muzzle, you can gently rub his teeth and gums with the toothpaste on your finger.
Brushing your dog's teeth every day is ideal, but even two or three times a week will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Penn Foster Career School offers many programs where you can take your love for pets and start a new career. These include our Pet Grooming Certificate, Natural Health Care for Pets Certificate and our Veterinary Programs today!