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I need advice on taking care of my dogs' coats

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm sort of mortified by this, actually.  redface.gif  We've always taken really good care of our dogs, but have never really gotten into grooming much.  Like, first of all, they've always been sorta self-cleaning and have been pretty good at taking care of their own coats.  We've always brushed them here and there, and they haven't had almost any issues (though one of them likes to swim which has caused a few mats over the years).  But lately, like maybe as much as the last couple of years, they've been getting messier and mattier looking.  Does this happen with older dogs?  They are 12 and 13.  We've taken them to the vet quite a bit in the last 2 years, at least 3 or 4 times each and she has clipped their mats and toenails.  They also both have hard to cut dark toenails (so fairly nightmarish to cut) that used to never need cutting (I think they just wore down from walks) but for some reason they really need cutting now.  Gah!

 

Anyhow, they are looking TERRIBLE and one of them has some pretty bad matts and I can't figure out the best way to handle it.  And we are broke.  So, I want to do this as cheaply as possible.  I thought I could get some good clippers and just take care of their coats at home, but it looks like good clippers will cost at least $125.  Plus, I've never clipped a dog before.  Before I buy any I want to know that it's impossible to hurt them with the clippers.  (I tried to cut one of Ruby's mats out the other day and I cut her skin a bit and felt horrible about it.)  Can you cut their skin with them or is there some sort of safety thing that keeps that from happening?  Also, I'm wondering if maybe I don't need such expensive clippers.  Are there cheaper alternatives that work well?  I'm really wishing they made Nair for dogs right now...  

 

And if I did take them in for grooming  --  I'm thinking that would be around $70 per dog, does that sound right?  --  how often would I have to do that?  If it was like twice a year I could imagine doing it, but I feel like they'd need it like every six weeks or something which would feel pretty rough.  

 

They're both around 55 pounds and one's a border collie/golden/chow mix and the other's an unknown mix but he looks exactly like a norwegian elkhound but with longer fur, possibly not as thick, but he does have that same sort of undercoat.

post #2 of 17
We used to trim our long-haired Jack Russel a few times a year instead of paying to get him groomed. They do have a harder time grooming themselves when they're older. You don't need to spend that much on clippers, though. You can get Wahl clippers from most big box stores, and they'll work pretty well. I'd put a guard on the clippers so that you don't cut the fur too short, especially with winter coming up. The clippers with guard will not hurt the dog, but sometimes they don't like the vibration on their belly. I would cut the mats out carefully with scissors in that area. We would trim the fur, and then bathe him to get rid of the itchy hair from the haircut.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hmmmm, can you not use the clippers to get the mats?  I cut Ruby by mistake with scissors trying to get a mat out, so that's what I was thinking I needed the clippers for.  

post #4 of 17
You can, but it might pull a little. If you do it that way, just make sure that the dog is calm and you go slowly.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

I think she can handle it.  Our other dog would be more difficult with something like that.  There's a Wahl at amazon with good reviews for only $45.  My husband has a business trip this week that he has to pay for out of pocket (he'll get reimbursed in like six weeks rant.gif), so we have no extra money, but I'm gonna see if I can get a couple of items stocked in my etsy shop.  $45 is much more do-able than what I saw earlier.

 

Thanks for the info, cameragirl!

post #6 of 17
You're welcome. smile.gif
post #7 of 17

I bought some cheap people hair clippers at Target (like $20 cheap) and they did not work at all for my long haired dog. I just got the cheap clippers for the summer as a pre-emptive measure because he sometimes gets hotspots. In the winter I leave his hair long. We don't do haircuts much, but he does need to be brushed more frequently than I do it and does occasionally get dreads. I just cut them out with scissors. He hates it and tries to run away, but I've never cut him. I ended up just trimming his rump fur with scissors this summer since the clippers were a dud. He looked like he was wearing shorts, but I think it did help. I'm sure a groomer could have done a nice job (pretty much anybody could have done a better job) but I'm cheap and it worked as far as preventing the hot spots getting bad, and I didn't cut him even if he did think I was out to get him. If you cut out the dreads your dogs have now and keep them brushed that should do the job unless you just want them to have shorter hair all over. 

 

Our other dog is a self cleaning super short haired pointer mix, although she is a little stinky right now. She gets no grooming unless she's rolled in something foul or has fleas and needs a bath. It's like crew cut short with no undercoat at all. 

 

We don't clip nails often, but I did get our long-haired boy's clipped recently. He's 13. I think they are less able to take care of them as they get older. I noticed that with our old hound mix (RIP), too. When he got older his nails got long. He ended up tearing one, but I think it was his dew claw so not really a clipping issue. 

 

 

 

post #8 of 17

IDK what kind of clippers you'd need, but we got the $25 Wahl set at Target (they have it at Costco too).

 

As for nails, do you have a Dremel-type tool (like an electric screwdriver that has different heads you can switch out, but instead of screwdriver heads they have different grades of sandpaper/abrasives)? You can get a knock-off brand (again, got ours at Target) for $20-30 or maybe even cheaper. I use that to file the nails down so I don't have to worry about clipping the quick. You can start by just filing off the extra-long/sharp ends and then in a few days go back and shorten a little, then a little more til they're where you need them to be. Then it's like a weekly/monthly maintenance depending on how fast they grow. It can get hot, so only touch each nail a few seconds and then move on to the next, then you can go back again if you want to take more off. But don't just go to town on the same nail for a long time or it'll feel hot to them and they may not like that.

post #9 of 17

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Edited by ChitownTracy - 7/19/12 at 8:02pm
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

IDK what kind of clippers you'd need, but we got the $25 Wahl set at Target (they have it at Costco too).

 

As for nails, do you have a Dremel-type tool (like an electric screwdriver that has different heads you can switch out, but instead of screwdriver heads they have different grades of sandpaper/abrasives)? You can get a knock-off brand (again, got ours at Target) for $20-30 or maybe even cheaper. I use that to file the nails down so I don't have to worry about clipping the quick. You can start by just filing off the extra-long/sharp ends and then in a few days go back and shorten a little, then a little more til they're where you need them to be. Then it's like a weekly/monthly maintenance depending on how fast they grow. It can get hot, so only touch each nail a few seconds and then move on to the next, then you can go back again if you want to take more off. But don't just go to town on the same nail for a long time or it'll feel hot to them and they may not like that.


Did the $25 clippers work well for you?  I haven't seen them at our costco, but I haven't been looking.  Maybe I'll ask.  And if I could file down their nails that would be awesome!  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChitownTracy View Post

Don't have any advice...but is your dog a mix between the Elkhound & its cousin -the keeshond http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeshond?

We have Keeshonds & i have to brush them several times a week to avoid mattes- when we have matted, i use a kitchen scissors to clip the matte (if i can't work it out) but then it's only an occasional matte... 

as a side note- i love Elkhounds- they are so sweet!!!!


No.  He doesn't have any elkhound or keeshond in him, we don't think.  My husband actually met the parents and I think there was some chow and lab and other stuff there, but they didn't look at all like Muddy.  It's funny though because I was at the off-leash area of a huge park in Brooklyn with Muddy once when he was like six months old and there was another dog there who was a dead ringer for him and it turned out to be a full brother from a previous litter.  He does have a very sweet disposition, though.  :)  And he's really beautiful when his coat is looking half-way decent.

 

So, I think the root of our problem is probably fleas.  I didn't think they had fleas because we've been religiously using Advantage, but then I saw two fleas on *my ankle* yesterday  --  which is so odd to me because we have all hardwood floors.  So I looked through Muddy's fur and I did see one.  Wah!  He's super sensitive to them.  And I'm pretty sure the mats that Ruby's getting are flea related, They're on her back end in the area that they seem to get bothered with fleas.  I'm so bummed the Advantage doesn't seem to be working.  Their last treatment wasn't even three weeks ago, and it seems like they've probably been a problem for a few weeks now.  I'm picking up some other flea stuff from the vet today that we haven't tried before.  Thank goodness my vet is willing to give it to me without seeing the dogs.  It's $40 for the pills alone (one pill for each dog)!  But if I'm seeing them on ME, then I'm thinking the dogs *really* need to be treated asap.  Sigh...

 

But anyhow, I guess it gives me hope that if the fleas are under control their coats will go back to their beautiful selves.  I think I'm still going to have to get clippers, though, to get them back into shape.  

 

post #11 of 17

Sorry, DS interrupted me while I was typing and I lost my train of thought... The rest of the first paragraph of my other post should have indicated that I mentioned the price of the clippers b/c they were much cheaper than you had mentioned ($25 v $45)..... But I bought them to use on DH and DS.... Our dog is a short-haired breed with no undercoat so we don't use clippers on him. So I have no idea what you'd need in terms of features in a clipper for dogs, but if you just need regular hair clippers, you can get a nice set for $25 at Costco/Target. I wish I had more information to share on that....

 

The filing definitely works better than clipping for us -- it's slower, but easier. I give the dog a bowl of yogurt and peanut butter mixed up and frozen, and he just keeps himself busy licking it til I finish.

post #12 of 17

People hair clippers don't work on dog hair in my experience. The people hair clippers I bought couldn't begin to get through our long haired dog's undercoat and top coat. 

 

I'd much rather pay the $12 my vet charges to clip my dog's nails than try to do it myself. It's super quick (about 5 minutes) and they're done. I'd be battling him for who knows how long and chasing him around the house and I'd be afraid I'd mess up, too. He's a little touchy. Much better for them to do it once in awhile.

 

Oh, and you might just want to bathe them for the fleas. Bathing kills fleas just fine. It does not kill their eggs, but if you soap 'em up good and leave the soap on for 3 or 4 minutes before rinsing you'll kill the fleas that are on the dogs. You should still use a product like Advantage or Program (pill you give the dog for flea birth control) to kill any that hatch from eggs in your carpet or the dog's bedding. Vacuuming frequently helps too.

 

I had our dogs on Frontline+ (better for ticks) this summer and they got fleas (ugh) and are doing better on Advantage now. I wouldn't be surprised if there's still a few rogue fleas that pop up now and again, though. 

post #13 of 17

We love our Tool Shop brand dremel for toenails.  We got it at Menards for like $24 and it has 2 batteries, charger, and tons of sanding pads, etc. They make the nails so nice...and I do nails every other weekend because I can't stand long nails.  Otherwise, a good idea would be to call your local community college that has a vet tech program and see if you can put a WANT ad up.  A lot of times they have poor college students who will come to your house and do it for you for super cheap.  I used to live on a farm and we always did ads for calf feeding or lamb feeding help...and a lot of those girls were goin to be vet techs and were really skilled at grooming.  They would probably do it for like $20!

post #14 of 17

A few random thoughts from an owner of two densely-coated Goldens (so I know EXACTLY what you're dealing with, hehe):

 

--People hair clippers probably will not not work on your dogs. You can try them, but the problem is that people-clippers are designed to get through a lot less hair, so for something like that thick Golden double-coat, the clippers have to work a lot harder to get through it (if they can at all) and this makes the metal plate start to get quite hot, and could burn your dog (worst case) or make him freak out and develop a skittishness about grooming sessions.

--No, you cannot use the clippers on the matted sections. Unless you have an amazing pair of clippers (like professional dog grooming quality), they will pull at the hair terribly and jam up. Painful to your dog and frustrating for YOU when you're chasing him around the house trying to detangle the clippers, lol! Cut the mats out (slowly, and carefully, just go a tiny bit at a time parallel to and as close to the skin as you're comfortable getting) with a pair of grooming safety scissors. For example: http://www.petedge.com/product/Top-Performance-Ball-Nose-Straight-Shears-7-12/57455.uts (these will prevent you from stabbing the dog with the pointy scissor tips accidentally)

--Dremels are amazing for grinding down dog nails and for the absolute best tutorial on how to do this I recommend Dawn's site, here: http://homepages.udayton.edu/~jmerenski1/doberdawn/index.html ...please note it is possible to grind into or burn the quick, which hurts just as much as clipping it, so do read up on how to do it safely (and how to introduce dogs to the process, because I assure you, you do NOT want to be fighting a dog over this) before giving it a try. =) (and yes, your doggie's nails are getting out of control now because as they get older, they are less active so there's less friction filing them down while they run and play.)

--If it's all a bit overwhelming, keep in mind that most vets will trim doggie nails for a low fee ($10-15) or groomers frequently offer a "brush and nail trim" for a low price too (I think Petsmart does it for $15-20?). Every 6-8 weeks should be enough, could you budget one dog each month for grooming?

--Don't forget it's the right time of year for a HEAVY shed, so your dog's coat will probably look like it's falling out in patches or clumps for a while, which also means they're more likely to develop mats during this time! A little extra care every other day (5-10 minutes of brushing) during the shedding season will keep things under control.

 

My grooming kit is very, very simple, and is comprised of a pair of ball-nose safety scissors for cutting out mats, a comb for picking out hair clumps and not-quite-matted sections (like http://www.dinodirect.com/comb-double-sided-dog-grooming.html), and a Dremel for their nails. My older boy is starting to get "old man coat" and so I give him a going-over with the comb once or twice a week while I watch TV - that keeps him maintained. Nails I'm terrible about keeping up with so I'll pretend I'm a great dog mom and their nails are never overlong or ragged. lol.gif

post #15 of 17

i would add some fish oil, coconut oil or flax to their diet, it helps with coats alot

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by starrlamia View Post

i would add some fish oil, coconut oil or flax to their diet, it helps with coats alot


I second that. My vet recommended fish oil. Omega threes also help with the immune response if they're really sensitive to flea bites. Our JRT was super sensitive, and he to squish open fish oil capsules.

I didn't realize how thick the coat is on your dog. In that case, pp is right that is is likely better to use scissors. If it is really matted, it would probably pull, and that is what you're trying to avoid.
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by aeterna View Post

--Don't forget it's the right time of year for a HEAVY shed, so your dog's coat will probably look like it's falling out in patches or clumps for a while, which also means they're more likely to develop mats during this time! A little extra care every other day (5-10 minutes of brushing) during the shedding season will keep things under control.

 

This.

 

I think once you get it under control you can keep up with their coats with good regular brushing.  I am a groomer so I am going to reccomend going to a professional groomer for a bath and brush out and nail trim.  If you go to a decent groomer just getting your dog a bath will get all the mats brushed out, the undercoat blown out (which will help A LOT)  and the nails done really well.  If your dog went to my shop for a bath and nails it would be about 40-50 for each dog.  Paying that a couple times a year during the shedding seasons and then continuing to keep the dogs brushed out real good should be enough.  A clipper probably won't go through a mat.  Even my high powered professional dog clipper doesn't.  I still need to demat the dog before giving a haircut especially on thick coated dogs. 

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