‘Tis the season… for shedding!

Like many other people, my dog sheds A LOT. Some information on dogs and shedding:

  • Short haired, single-coated dogs shed a little bit, all year long. Most people don’t really notice it and will say their dog doesn’t shed. It does, just not a lot! These are breeds like short haired terriers, Great Danes, most hounds, chihuahuas, and so on. On these short haired/single coated breeds, the white areas shed more.
  • Double-coated and long haired dogs shed a tiny bit all year long, and then more heavily in the spring and fall when they grow in their summer and winter coats. These dogs range from Labradors to German shepherds to… well, all shepherds and collies, among many others. Most dogs are in this category.

There are all sorts of brushes and things you can use for de-shedding a dog, and they certainly help (especially if you brush your dog regularly). But MY favorite method is the coat-blowing method.

You can take your dog to a groomer and say, “Please blow out their coat!” and most groomers will know what you’re talking about. Or you can do it yourself! Here’s how:

1. You’ll need a dog dryer. You can get these for about $100 on most pet websites. You do NOT want a cage dryer, but an actual machine with a hose attached! I highly recommend one.

2. You’ll need a brush.

Now, assuming that your dog enjoys being brushed but probably doesn’t appreciate the dog dryer, you’ll need to get them used to the dryer. Make sure you have a leash and collar on them, and a pocket full of treats. Hang onto the leash, face the nozzle of the dryer away from your dog, and turn it on. Your dog will probably bolt away. That’s okay! Ignore the behavior. Treat the dryer like a leaf blower for a little while. You’re waiting for your dog to stop bolting away and realize nothing bad has happened. This typically only takes a second. Once they stop bolting away, give them a treat and praise them for being brave.

Next, start leaf-blowing closer to them. It’s easiest if there’s a wall or fence nearby so your dog doesn’t just run circles around you. They’ll sidle away from the dryer toward the wall. That’s fine, too! Keep acting like it’s no big deal. When your dog is relatively calm (if not totally calm), give them another treat and move the air stream closer.

At some point, your dog will decide they’re done being against the wall, leap over the air stream/hose, and zip the other way. That’s okay, too! Talk to them. Tell them what you’re doing in a conversational tone of voice. Let them know that you aren’t worried about this dryer. Blow it on your own legs and body so they see it isn’t hurting you. Every time you get the dryer closer to them (even accidentally), give them another treat.

My dog, who knows exactly what the dryer is and isn’t afraid of it, still moves away when I do this. I’m pointing this out because you’re not trying to get them to stop moving away entirely; you’re trying to get them to stop flinching. We want to see that while they might get away, they’re doing so casually, without any tension or panic. This can take anywhere from ten minutes to several days, depending on whether or not your dog is afraid of other similar things. (Vacuums, leaf blowers, hair dryers, etc.)

Once your dog is moving away more causally, sit down. Encourage your dog closer. Give them more treats.

Any time you introduce something that your dog might not want to touch them, start at their hind end. Holding onto your dog’s leash near the collar, start blowing toward their back legs. Blow up their back legs, stop as soon as they stop flinching, and give them a treat. We’re trying to teach them that the best way out of this uncomfortable situation is just to let it happen and be calm. When they let it happen and be calm, we’ll stop. That said, we’re looking for shifting and maybe a little bit of a startle but quick settling. Maybe your dog will try to, again, casually walk away before stopping when they can’t. If you dog has a big reaction, back off and go to the earlier steps.

If your dog startles and is clearly unhappy (but not panicking), stop right away, treat it like a game, give them a treat, and do it again. In that situation, I might do this:

Me: *turns air toward dog*
Dog: *unhappy but not panicking*
Me: *flicks air away, gets treat to give to dog while speaking* Good job! Was that a silly thing to do? I know! That air must feel so funny! It’s kinda fun, isn’t it? Let’s do it again! *turns air toward dog, flicks it away right away* Woo hoo! What a fun game! You’re so silly. I’m gonna do it again! *repeat* Oh my gosh, I have so much fun playing with you!

Sounds silly, right? But what am I teaching my dog? I’m teaching them that this is fun, that I’m confident, that nothing scary is happening. I might even convince them that this is a good game. That’s an excellent place to start from.

Eventually, your dog will accept you blowing on his hip. From that point, you start slowly working upward. As your dog tenses about you moving toward their head, stop and move back down. Bit by bit, you’ll be able to inch higher as they get comfortable. Keep giving treats during this time!

Safety: don’t blow in any one spot for very long; the air gets hot! Keep it moving so it doesn’t over-warm one spot of skin. Don’t expect your dog to sit gracefully while you do their head, ears, or face, either. While you can force the issue eventually, it’s just as easy to let those areas air dry — and your dog will appreciate it! (Would YOU want high powered air forced up a nostril on accident? Me neither!)

Okay, that was the training portion of blowing your dog’s coat. Now that your dog can handle a dryer, tie the leash to something handy so they don’t wander off, grab your brush, and start brushing! In most cases, if you brush the hair backward while you dry, more of it comes out. If you wash your dog before, then by the time they’re dry they’ll also be pretty much shedded out!

Since the hair loosens at different times, and since washing, drying, and brushing all loosens more hair, this isn’t a total fix. After you do it the first time, you’ll see an instant decrease, followed by a few days with lots of loose hair floating around the house (but not clumps of it), followed by a reprieve. Then, as more hair starts to shed, it will gradually get worse again. Repeat as needed!

Years when I haven’t blown out Cash’s coat, we spend 3-5 weeks battling MAJOR hair. My place is small, which makes it worse, but typically I vacuum every day because the hair is so bad — and dog hair doesn’t generally bother me. Years when I do blow out his coat, I vacuum probably seven days total when the hair is bad, spread over 3-4 weeks and two baths/coat blowing sessions. It’s a definite improvement!

**

The African Grey Parrot Probably Named Tango still hasn’t been seen (his or her mama is being very protective, and a good mama) but looks like this about now:

Eyelids will just be forming (they’re sealed until now), so occasionally you’ll see what looks like a dot in the center of the closed eye. Their beaks are still soft and malleable at this age, to allow the parent’s beaks to get in there and feed them! The down is starting to thin out, and pinfeathers haven’t even started thinking about coming in yet. But they have gone from about 18 grams at birth, to 44 grams now! There’s lots of growing being done!

Jenna

Allergies

Every so often, I get questions about allergies. All sorts of things can cause allergies, from food to stress to environmental factors. To figure out what’s causing your dog’s allergies, you need to talk to your vet.

However, to manage allergies, there are some things you can do.

1. Obviously, if you can cut out whatever’s causing the allergies — do so!

2. Benedryl. Benedryl only works on 30% of dogs, but if your dog is itchy (and you know it’s not fleas!), try it! Give a dose appropriate to your dog’s weight. Cash, my 110 pound shepherd, gets an adult dose. Lily, my 60 pound pit, gets a child’s dose.

3. Honey. Cash got 1/4 tsp of locally grown honey with his meals every day for 2 months to help him become immune to his pollen allergy. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Note, however, the TINY amount — and my holistic vet did warn me that if it made him itchier, I needed to cut back!

4. Fish oil. This actually helps moisturize their skin and coats. Dry skin can cause itching.

5. Baths. If your dog has an environmental allergy, more baths can often help! Make sure you use a hypoallergenic shampoo. (You might have to look around for one that really helps; there are only two that work for Cash!) You might also add fish oil to their diet, if you’re bathing them often, as bathing will dry out their skin!

Not sure if your dog has allergies? Check their bellies and the insides of their ears. You shouldn’t see speckles (a sign of flea bites), but rather a general pinkness to the skin. Most dogs have little to no pink tone to their skin, instead having a very white or slightly brown look. Pink is usually a sign of inflammation!

Good luck!

 

Teeth brushing

So lately, I’ve been working on a new goal: to brush my dog’s teeth daily. I’ve been doing pretty good at it, too; it’s hard to create new habits (for both us and our companions!), but I’m working on it!

As it happens, my dogs are really good about having their teeth brushed, but if your dogs aren’t, there are some things you should know (including how to make it happen).

First, dental cleanings are supposed to happen every two years, unless you brush your dog’s teeth. That’s several hundred dollars saved every couple of years — I like that!

Second, chewing rope toys (or toys with thread) brings a very slight chance that the threads will wrap around the base of your dog’s tooth and kill the tooth within six months. It’s a very slight chance — let me repeat, VERY SLIGHT — but since my dog, Lily, chews cloth and rope like it’s going out of style, it’s a chance I don’t want to take!

Now, teeth brushing for a dog is much simpler than for a person. You stroke each tooth 3-4 times with downward strokes; no scrubbing needed. (Though… I still scrub. If my dogs will tolerate it, and they do, I figure I might as well! I scrub the insides of their teeth, too, though I’ve never heard anyone saying that’s nesecary.)

If your dog is like most dogs and doesn’t want to tolerate teeth brushing, training them otherwise is simple, though it takes a few months and some patience. Each step should be completed at the dog’s speed: when your dog will tolerate step one, move on to step two, and so on. Let it take as long as it needs; in some cases, this could take weeks.

Step 1. Touching your dog’s muzzle.

If your dog really won’t tolerate this, start at the top of their skull and stroke downward, then give them a treat as you reach their muzzle or right after you’ve petted. When they’ll allow that, try rubbing the sides, and treat.  When they’ll tolerate that, you can segue into the next step by rubbing their lips hard enough to lift slightly. Don’t expect this to work overnight; more like a week!

Step 2. Showing teeth.

You need to see your dog’s teeth before you can brush them. Once you can rub their muzzle, start lifting their lips to spot the teeth. Again, lift and treat. When they’ll let you lift, then work on lifting for longer. If your dog isn’t nippy, you can always try to hold their head somewhat still, but do so in a happy, laughing, having-fun kind of way. If they’re really determined to fight you, you’re pushing too hard and need to back off. Creating a real fight will only make the whole thing something your dog wants to avoid! You can also start putting toothpaste on the tips of their teeth; dog toothpaste tastes good, and it’s an instant treat and incentive to let you touch their teeth.

3. Brushing!

Once you can lift your dog’s lips enough to see canine teeth, you can start brushing! Use a dog toothbrush, your finger, or a little finger-cover. Stroke down over one tooth, praise and treat! Don’t worry about getting the gumline or anything like that; that can come later. By this time, you can start using toothpaste, and that’ll help in both cleaning and treating.

As your dog gets better about letting you stroke, stop treating for every stroke and start using the toothpaste as a treat. Lots of praise and love, and bit by bit work up toward the gumline and start including the back teeth.

Some things to remember: don’t start a fight. If your dog is truly uninterested, slow down to an earlier step or take a break. You can use some slight restraint, but as soon as your dog starts to really pull back, stop. Restraint makes a dog much more likely to fight! Use dog toothpaste; human toothpaste is bad for dogs. Dog toothpaste tastes like chicken or peanut butter, and it’s an automatic treat!

All that said… off I go to brush my dog’s teeth. Good luck!

Jenna