Grooming tips written by: Lynn Orbison Sprint musher and dog groomer, Two Rivers Alaska.

Grooming your dog is a little bit like training your dog. If you have a fancy breed or want a fancy look you might need to have some training yourself, but just by virtue of being the person in charge of a dog you are also both the trainer and the groomer. It helps me if I stop worrying about doing things "right" and just practice loving and caring for my dog.

You are grooming your dog when you pet your dog. The oils from your hand can actually help the dog's coat, and the physical touch from a human can help the dog's heart and spirit too. Fancy grooming is really just a kind of "deluxe" petting! (When I think of it this way it isn't quite so scary...)

There are LOTS of grooming tools. My single most important tool are my hands! Second on the list is probably my toe nail clippers. That is a job that just can't be done without the proper tool. I prefer the scissor type clippers, not the guillotine type. I like to be able get the tool around the sides of the nail without having to poke the nail in the hole. I have several different size toenail clippers because I work with a variety of dogs and cats too.

My next most used tool is a comb. I probably have a dozen brushes, and I use them all at various times. I have slicker brushes, pin brushes, hound brushes (sorta like a bumpy scrub mitt), rakes, demating combs, and a furminator and other shedding blade type tools. I use whatever works depending on the temperament and coat of the dog (or cat!)

I also have shears (aka scissors.) My favorite shears are my thinning shears. I can use it to blend the coat and it removes hair without making the dog look "choppy." If you're not good with scissors, don't use them on your dog. They cause more damage than they can fix! I also have clippers (aka shears?!) These are power tools that use blades to trim the hair to a specific length. I have several pair, and they are very expensive. You can buy cheap clippers, but they won't hold up for trimming a dirty dog, so I think you're better off either paying to have the dog groomed or getting the top of the line pair of clippers and taking care of them and learning how to use them so you can get your money's worth out of them.

My brother came to watch me work at the Grooming Salon and said: "I had no idea that grooming a dog was mostly about feet!" And, well, he's sorta correct! On dogs that don't need fancy haircuts, the feet, the face, and the sanitary areas are the main grooming tasks.

I don't take the hair off the feet of my sled dogs. They need it for insulation in the winter! And my bassets don't grow that much hair between their toes or on the bottoms of their feet. But some dogs can really be helped by grooming the feet. Some dogs get mats between the pads of their feet and these can create sores or infection. House dogs track less mud and dirt into the house if you trim away the excess hair on the bottom of their feet.

The most important thing about grooming a dog is to be kind and careful. I never liked it very much when my mom combed or brushed my hair because she was always in a hurry and she always seemed upset with me for being so messy. Plus, it HURT!!! Dog's are sorta the same. They hurt too. Some are more sensitive than others. If they think you are mad, bored, frustrated or otherwise distracted, they'll make your job ten times harder. If you can BE THERE and be present and work with, through, and around your dog with love and tenderness, you can get more done in a lot less time. If you can't do this, take your dog to someone who can. You'll both be much happier with the results.

If you have specific questions about YOUR dog or your tools, just ask, by filling out the contact me form!

Louise and her furry friends...