How often you groom your dog depends on how long-haired they are as well as whether or not they have a tendency to get mucky. And if your dog takes a fancy to rolling in fox poo – as many do – then you will soon find out that the answer to "when should I wash my dog?" is "right now, several times over!".
How often should you wash your dog?
Once a month should be enough for most dogs, but breeds with oilier coats and those that begin to smell strongly before that, can be bathed more often, even weekly.
Dogs that smell very unpleasant could have a medical condition and if it’s a regular occurrence, it's definitely worth taking a visit to the vet.
Dogs’ skin is not as robust as humans' so make sure you’re not over washing them (remember, dogs do tend to smell a bit ‘doggy’ naturally) and always use a dog wash or shampoo. Keep the water only lukewarm, and if you’re using the family bathtub, put a towel or mat in the base so it’s not slippery.
Keep a hand on your dog at all times and soothe them or offer treats if they’re a bit nervous about being washed.
Starting a bathing routine gently when they’re young gets them used to the whole idea. Massage in shampoo and use a sponge with no shampoo on it for the face. Rinse off with a shower attachment (check the temperature again) and pat dry.
It’s normal for your dog to want to shake itself dry, and the longer the hair and larger the dog, the bigger the spray! Taking them for a little walk to dry off in the sun is a nice way to get rid of the water and stops them immediately rolling around in the garden undoing all your hard work.
Dogs love a good brush – it’s just another excuse to have a good petting session with their owner. Some time spent brushing every couple of days means you can look for lumps and bumps, ticks and bites, or keeps your eyes peeled for dandruff or any other potential skin conditions.
Longer haired dogs need more brushing than shorthairs to prevent matting. Matting can trap dirt and insects, and cause nasty skin diseases which, if infected, will make your pooch very poorly indeed.
Use a dog grooming brush – all pet stores and vets usually stock them, even some supermarkets. Brush head to toe, in the direction the fur grows. Go gently over knots as you may need to use a small metal comb to gently tease these out.
So the clippers don’t get caught, brushing before clipping is a must. Clipping your dog’s coat isn’t generally necessary unless you have one of the breeds whose hair is long and keeps growing. In this case, the fur still doesn’t need to be clipped if it’s kept in good condition and if your dog isn’t uncomfortable in the heat (long hair can actually keep them cool as well as warm).
Most owners prefer to take their dogs to a proper grooming salon to be clipped, particularly if the dog is nervous and if they can’t be sure it’ll stand still to avoid being nicked.
If you do want to clip at home, make sure the coat is clean and tangle-free, use clippers or scissors designed for cutting dog hair, clip in strokes in the direction of hair growth and don’t take it too close to the skin.
Don’t use clippers on paws or on the face and carefully trim away any hair around their eyes if they’re having difficulty seeing – there are special curved scissors for this. At all times, make sure your dog is comfortable with being trimmed or clipped. For this, we suggest getting them used to it at a young age.
For more information on trimming and primping your pup, see our guide to dog grooming.
Cats are mostly very good at maintaining their own coats and are notoriously anti-water.
The only occasion you may want to wash a cat is if it is one of the odd ones that does enjoy a bath or if it has had some kind of incident where it would be dangerous or too much to expect it to groom itself in the usual way.
If you do want to wash your cat fully, only fill a sink or tub with a couple of inches of lukewarm water, put a mat or towel in the bottom so they have something to grip and use a gentle shower spray to rinse them down but don’t put it anywhere near their face. Always use a dedicated cat shampoo and then pat them dry with a towel.
Introduce your cat carefully to the water, and if they resist or don’t look comfortable, stop. You can always use a damp sponge/towel to remove contaminants should this become necessary.
Brushing a cat
Cats enjoy brushing a lot more than washing and if you get them used to it when they’re young (particularly longhaired varieties for whom brushing is necessary) they should enjoy their grooming session.
Use a comb to gently work through any tangles, as you would your own hair, getting down to the skin and comb in the direction of hair growth.
This will help you rootle out any tell-tale signs of problems that need attention, like the peppery specks that indicate a flea problem. Then switch to a bristle brush to take out loose hair that will help your cat avoid hairballs.
Shorthair cats only need brushing once or twice a week while longhaired cats may need it every day. Be careful to try and brush out a mat rather than cutting it out in case you end up nicking them. Go gently in general but go extra softly on their tummy, chest and face. For more information on preening your pet feline, see our guide to cat grooming.
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