MOORHEAD — The other night as I was making dinner, I loved how the spring sun was shining into my kitchen as I stirred spaghetti sauce on the stove. I soaked in the bright light as I took a whiff of garlic bread baking in the oven. Mmmmm, my senses were alive on this lovely spring evening.
But then, reality set in — the downside of the bright sun shining in my house — and I could very clearly see dog hair all over my floor. And I mean everywhere, from small strands on kitchen chairs to clumps by the air vent.
Our family owns a very lovable dog named McKenna. She's part golden retriever, part Labrador retriever and all crazy shedding machine.
According to veterinarians, labs can shed year-round, but shedding might be especially heavy for a couple of weeks in spring as the dogs lose their winter coats for a sleeker, lighter summer coat. No matter which, it can be a mess. Combine that with the fact that I'm allergic to dogs and it's led to some uncomfortable days. (It's a very long story why an allergic person would get a dog and I won't go into it here, but thanks to modern medicine, I cope just fine.)
One day while complaining about my allergies, my co-worker Emma Vatnsdal mentioned she's allergic to her new puppy, a miniature schnauzer named Chieftain. I guess we're gluttons for punishment. But gosh our dogs are cute, so we think it's worth it.
Whether or not you have allergies, many dog owners are looking for ways to get their dog ready for spring with a good, deep cleaning.
"It's our busiest time of year except for Christmas," says Jeni Chance at Dogs by Design, a dog grooming business in Moorhead.
Chance agreed to take a peek at McKenna and Chieftain and give us some tips for getting them gorgeous for spring.
Do it right
Chance says when it comes to grooming, it makes sense to get the dog an overall cleaning from head to toe.
"All dogs benefit from getting their ears cleaned out, getting their toenails cut down and getting a really good brushing and bath," she says.
Chance recommends a full grooming every four to eight weeks, but she says it's really up to the owners' lifestyle and personal preferences. Owners can do minor maintenance on their dogs at home every day or every week, too.
Big price range
According to one recent report, getting your dog fully groomed will most likely cost you between $40 and $100 dollars depending on the size and breed of your dog. Dogs with heavily matted fur will need more attention and could cost more, so there isn't one set cost for a grooming.
In winter, too
Chance says they see a lot of dogs this time of year with matted fur. Some owners choose not to get their dogs groomed in the winter because they think longer fur and even matted fur will keep the dog more insulated in the winter, but it's really the opposite.
"The air is able to get closer to the skin under the mats, so it's actually colder and more uncomfortable for them," she says. "It's really better for them to get trimmed before it mats."
Watch out for this
Sometimes you don't have the time or money for a groomer and choose to cut your dog's toenails yourself. That's fine, Chance says, but be careful.
"There's a little nerve in the blood vessel that runs through the toenail called the quick," Chance says. "You don't want to cut into it — it would smart. It's not the end of the world, but it does hurt a little."
Vets suggest if you cut the nails too short, just apply a little pressure to any bleeding, apply a cold compress and maybe add a little cornstarch. But don't worry too much — unless your dog has a bleeding or clotting disorder, the bleeding should stop on its own. When in doubt, see your vet.
Trim those feet
Chance says because dogs don't sweat like humans, it's important to be aware of how they cope with overheating.
"Of course they pant, but dogs also lose heat through their feet, so it's important that the hair doesn't get too long which makes it harder to cool down," she says.
This was a concern for little Chieftain, but not for McKenna, who has shorter hair.
Brush all over
"It's easy to just brush your dog's back," says Chance. "We see a lot of little dogs — poodles, Shih Tzus — who are beautifully brushed on top, but not their neck, head or belly."
Dogs might resist getting brushed on other parts of the body, but try to give them the once-over at least some of the time.
As is true with many things, you get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap brush not suited for your dog, it could cause irritation and get very little fur off the dog.
"Talk to your groomer about what brush might be best for your dog and try to test it out," Chance says.
There are many different types of brushes, including slickers, rakes, pin and bristle brushes.
Chance says if you're in a pinch — for example, your dog rolls in a mud puddle and you have nothing else on hand — using a human shampoo on a dog will get them clean. But it's not a good idea most of the time.
"Dogs have a different pH than humans," Chance says. "There are so many good shampoos out there for dogs with different coats, it's best to get one of them."
Chance says for those of us with allergies, frequent pet grooming can make a big difference.
She prefers to use a slicker brush to get dirt and debris from underneath the pet's fur, which can lessen allergy symptoms.
Vets also advise allergy sufferers to groom their dogs while wearing a face mask and to groom outdoors when possible — and unless your neighbors object, consider leaving the discarded dog fur outside for birds and other animals to use in their nests.
Of course, frequently vacuuming your house and taking medications are also effective tools to help deal with allergies.