DIY Grooming…for the rest of us
You don’t have to groom your dog to have him fit for the show ring, but you do need to keep on top of it.
Big, white, fluffy dogs produce big, white, fluffy dust bunnies. Pyrs shed, no way around it. They are a double-coated breed with a dense, fine undercoat that serves as an insulator against both heat and cold. Pyrs will completely blow their coat at certain times of the year. The good news is that the topcoat seems designed to shed dirt and mud after it dries, even after the dog has been snuggled up in one of the craters they’ve dug in your new landscaping. On the practical side, if you spin (or know someone who does), you can gather this fluffy white stuff into garbage bags. Once washed, spun into yarn and crocheted or knitted, the material has a soft, angora-like consistency reminiscent of the big, fluffy white creatures it comes from. It’s an ancient practice, one whose origins and uses are discussed here.
Whether you choose to recycle your dog’s fur or not, it is important to keep up with grooming to avoid matting and skin problems. It is also a great way to spot any skin issues or ticks. Your grooming routine should also include checking mouth, ears, eyes and paws, as well as trimming the distinctive dewclaws on all four legs. We suggest you have your groomer or vet demonstrate how to trim the dewclaws.
The need for grooming will vary by the type of coat your dog has, your industriousness and your dog’ tolerance for being groomed.
The best way to keep your Pyr’s coat under control is to designate 30 minutes at least once each week to light grooming.
Everyone has their favorites, but these are the basics we recommend for your grooming tool kit:
– Rake (it should be deep enough to penetrate to the skin; we love the Rescue Rake™, though sadly it is no longer being made.
– Large, curved slicker brush
– Wide-toothed plastic comb for wiry butts and ruffs
– Mat splitter
– Heavy duty, shear-style nail clippers
– Cotton balls to wipe ears and eyes
– Ear wipes, such as Malacetic Otic or whatever your vet recommends
– Optional: Soft bristle brush and pin brush; toothbrush and dog toothpaste if needed
– De-tangling spray
If you sense there are tangles, or if your dog is sensitive to brushing, use the de-tangling conditioning spray beforehand. Don’t spray it directly on areas such as the anus or vulva, even though dogs tend to mat around those areas.
Start by running a wide rake through the entire coat, at a 45-degree angle, starting at the neck and gently combing to the base of the tail. Then go the same route along the sides.
Next, take a curved slicker brush and brush out the coat by sections, lifting the section to create “loft” for air to circulate. This lets the skin breathe and also helps keep the dog cooler.
Follow with a wide-toothed comb or another raking.
The neck and shoulders are where the fur usually is thickest and longest, particularly in males who have a “mane” or “ruff.” Tangles usually form on their beautiful, plumed tail, underbelly, rear end and the “pantaloons” on their back legs.
If you need to attack a mat, use the mat splitter or in tough cases, CAREFULLY use a scissors, to divide and conquer. Some people spray de-tangler on it, others simply spray water from a plant spray bottle. Then work at it with the rake and then the comb. (Those of us who become desperate, cut out the mat with a scissors, particularly if the dog is older and has arthritic hips or has had orthopedic surgery.) Serious matting on a new rescue can require some shaving.
Now, check the dewclaws and trim the claws; cut hair around the feet with a scissors as necessary. The fur that grows between the paw pads should be trimmed as well; not only can it trap bacteria, but it can cause some dogs to slip on smooth floors or stairs.
Clean the outside area of the ears with cotton balls and if appropriate, the ear wipes.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe
Over-bathing can reduce the dirt-shedding qualities of the Pyr coat. If you do decide to take on giving a giant a bath, be sure to use shampoos designed for dogs; their pH levels are appropriate for a dog’s skin and fur. Specialty products, such as whitening shampoos, should be applied following the initial general shampoo and left in for 5-10 minutes prior to rinsing.
After making sure the coat is entirely wet, run a thin line of shampoo down the dog’s back and work it in with your hands or a bath mitt. Rinse thoroughly and run your hands through the coat, making sure all shampoo residue is gone.
Conditioners go on last, of course, and some of those, such as selected aloe and oatmeal conditioners to soothe the skin, can be left in.
Some owners put a large cotton ball just in the outside part of the ear to prevent water from getting deep in the ear canal and causing an ear infection. Whatever you do, be sure to dry the ears thoroughly with cotton balls after the bath. Towel-dry the dog afterward, and then anticipate a substantial amount of time for the coat to air-dry (without flopping into another crater in the yard) or for a blow-dry on low heat (necessary in the cold weather and to prevent moisture causing any skin issues) for a big fluff-out.
It happens. If the dog got hit in the face, which is common, you may need to irrigate his eyes with a saline solution. On the outside chance that the skunk oil entered the eye, a visit to the vet may be necessary.
First thing NOT to do is use water; that only disperses the skunk’s oils and makes it more difficult to get out. You need to break down the oils (that’s what the dish detergent does) and then change the chemical structure into an odorless compound (with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda). Never use peroxide solution by the eyes, and be careful around the mouth. There are commercial de-skunking solutions you can buy, or keep the ingredients for the home-made as outlined here and here.
Follow up with a pH balanced, dog shampoo.
Should you shave a Pyr?
Unless you have a dog with heavy matting, we do not recommend doing a full shave down of a Pyr. If you have to have a severely matted dog shaved, make sure they try to leave at least 2 inches or more of length if at all possible, to avoid sunburn and damaging the hair follicles (that prevents the hair from growing back to its full state).
In areas of extreme heat in the summer, there are owners who do a “puppy cut” or shave the underbelly and inner thighs to help the dog stay cool in excessive heat. A “thin and trim” cut by your groomer can thin out the body with a comb attachment on a razor, and a scissor-sculpting of the rest of the body/legs.