Chilli in his dogrobes robe in a hotel bathroom

My Dog Spa at Home Routine!

Chilli loves strutting his stuff! He walks around London as if he owns the city and has the looks to show it, especially with his bling collars (ok I chose those). Everywhere I go he goes. So obviously must have a metrosexual grooming routine!

Having a set routine for your dog’s grooming needs can be very helpful as it will either prevent problems from developing, or at least keep them under control. By problems I mean issues such as your dog shedding fur all over your home, curly hair turning into knots, or teeth collecting so much plaque that the gums get infected and bone decay might begin. On top of that, though, your dog will feel great and always look his or her best, with fluffy tail feathers (if applicable) and fresh breath. Oh and let’s not forget the doggie manicure!

How to stop or minimise dog shedding

Chilli is a short coat Chihuahua with fur similar to a cat’s. You can imagine how much fur he sheds daily! One quick and easy thing I do is to brush him mornings and evenings with 2 types of brushes especially for dogs: a bristle brush and a slicker brush. The softer bristle brush is great for his sensitive areas such as his head and tummy, while the slicker brush is ideal to run through bunchy patches such as the bum and back. My German shepherds used to have the same brush (just a lot bigger of course!), and each grooming affair removed handfuls if not bagfuls of fur! I found that this was best done outdoors, so I recommend the same if you have large dogs. With little dogs be careful not to hurt their skin as these metallic brushes are quite strong. You can also ask your vet if your dog could benefit from taking Omega 3 supplements. They are a natural anti-inflammatory and relax the dog’s system, reducing the amount of shedding that occurs. This works great on Pugs apparently! Just remember that different breeds shed differently, so for example Poodles and Maltese dogs don’t shed, whilst short coat Chihuahuas and Golden Retrievers shed a great deal.

If you have any great grooming tips for dogs please let me know so I can add them here!

Cleaning Dog Tear Stains

Some dogs tend to tear more than others, and it can also vary according to season. Summer and allergens can cause your dog to tear more when being outdoors than during the colder winter months. There’s nothing wrong with tears, however they do begin to tear stain the fur underneath the eyes to an almost blackish colour, and can leave hardened crusty patches of fur. If this goes on for a prolonged period of time, say a few weeks, you might have to cut off those parts of the fur. Touching those can be uncomfortable for your dog so it is advisable to clean the tear stains with a dog tear stain remover that works. Chilli and I love Hydrocol 5 – I spray it onto a cotton wool pad until it’s saturated, then I gently wipe the entire eye area with the pad. The tear stain remover is safe to touch the eye, and it even brightens the eyes. Please take care to use one wool pad per eye – this stops any infection or irritation from spreading from one eye to the other. For me Hydrocol 5 is the best tear stain remover I’ve used so far. I have also heard that some show dog owners use baby (talcum) powder underneath the eyes to absorb the tears and avoid stains temporarily. 

A little note: if the secretion of the eyes is reddish/pinkish in colour it could be an indication of a fungal infection. If this happens always consult your vet.

The best way to clean your dog’s teeth

I’m not convinced that dog tooth health is emphasised enough. As a puppy a dog has beautiful bright white teeth and we all think that by chewing bones and the proper diet they will stay that way. Unfortunately this is generally not the case, and this also varies breed by breed. Chihuahuas for example are known to have teeth which need dog dental care and dental cleaning. Over time plaque and tartar builds up on dogs’ teeth if we don’t clean them regularly.

So how to clean your dog’s teeth? Which type of dog teeth cleaning products you use depends greatly on how sensitive your dog is to having objects placed in his or her mouth. A chilled dog will easily allow you to use a soft human toothbrush with dog toothpaste. Chilli, on the other hand, hates having a toothbrush approach his face, so I use a dog finger toothbrush. It is ionised, meaning it is antibacterial for 6-8 weeks (depending on the brand). You can also use it with dog toothpaste and dog tooth polish if you like. The most important thing is to keep the plaque off the teeth.

If you haven’t done this (and most people haven’t), and your dog’s teeth are covered in plaque and stained yellow or brown, it is high time to go to the vet and have a consultation about a professional dog dental cleaning option. This is strongly recommended as the plaque can enter below the gums, and not only can it cause gum disease, it can continue to affect the bone and cause bone recession, after which teeth begin to come loose and need to be removed. One factor that must be considered is the almost full anesthetic that this procedure requires. It’s probably a good idea to do this whilst your dog is young and the risks are lower, and afterwards to be vigilant and keep those teeth clean.

A little suggestion:  I personally wouldn’t let anyone other than a qualified vet professionally clean Chilli’s teeth. During the process the vet will take X-rays of any teeth that could be dying or in danger of becoming bad and can then make the right decision as to whether to keep a tooth or not.

Dog Nail Trimming

When I first got Chilli as a tiny puppy, my vet suggested I learn the best way to trim a dog’s nails myself. He gave me a special set of dog nail clippers, and showed me which part of the dogs’ nails can be cut and which part is alive with blood running through it. The outside part of the nail is made of keratin, just like our human nails, and the inside contains tissue called the ‘quick. When you look at your dog’s nails in bright daylight, you will see the outer layer looking translucent, and within it is the quick, identifiable by its pinkish colour. When you are cutting dogs nails at home you must stay in the translucent part – NEVER touch the quick or even come close to it. Once your dog experiences the pain of you cutting into the quick by accident he or she will never give you his or her paws again. Cutting the nails too short would not only be extremely painful for your dog, it will also cause significant bleeding. 

If your dog has black nails it’s a bit more tricky as you can’t see the quick. In this case I would advise you take your pup to the vet or a trusted groomer. They may even be able to teach you some tricks on how to cut black dog nails at home.

Dog Bath Time!

Depending on the size of your dog, giving him or her a bath can be a quick cute affair (like it is for Chilli and me) or a more tedious and monumental undertaking if you have, say, a Husky. For toy dog breeds I would really suggest giving them a bath at home. It can be stressful for a dog to go to the groomer’s, whereas at home your buddy feels safe and happy to be with you, even if bathtime isn’t his or her favourite pastime. Just make sure you adjust the temperature of the water to a comfortably warm temperature, or if it’s summer and very hot outside maybe a cold refreshing bath is just what is needed. When it comes to dog shampoos the choice is yours as there are so many products on the market. Initially it depends on how dirty your dog really gets, but you can also consider other points such as whether you want to go organic, ! One shampoo that might be worth using -no matter where you live – is one with an anti fox smell. Dogs love to roll, especially in fox poo!

The worst experience I ever had with bathing Chilli was when he rolled in human excrement in the park. Definitely not funny! Well, maybe now I do giggle thinking about it now, but at the time I was on the verge of being sick! For these occasions, however, you need a good strong shampoo.

If your dog requires some serious bathing and subsequent grooming, like a Pomeranian, Spitz or Standard Poodle, it is worth asking around for a recommended groomer. Personal recommendations are always the best as you will want to minimise the stress on your dog.

Some extra hygiene tips for your dog!

One thing I do religiously with Chilli is to clean his paws after every single walk. Only then do I let him run around at home. I use either unscented baby wipes for delicate skin, or rinse his paws with a mild soap under the tap. I live in London where the pavements are full of dirt, bacteria and pigeon excretion. The pigeon poo (for lack of a classier word) is corrosive, so if your dog picks this up several times a day and carries it throughout your flat, you might see it affecting your floors and furniture over time. Plus I like to take off my shoes at the door and walk around barefoot, so it’s only fair!

For those of you with male dogs, something to look out for is that sometimes their penises can leak some whitish/yellowish discharge which bothers them. You will notice that they lick themselves obsessively to stop the irritation. My vet’s recommendation is to dilute some Hibiscrub disinfectant (1 part Hibiscrub to 20 parts water) in a bowl, and using a paper towel or cloth gently wash his bits a few times. How often you do this will be determined by how often he has needed to clean himself.If you noticed the irritation quite early, then bathing him once may be all it needs, but if the problem is more severe then you may need to do this several times over a few days.