Right out of the bath; Elsa with her long glorious hair which took a ton of work to keep up.  

Maintenance - Like it or hate it, it's gotta get done and that includes our dogs.  I know that many of you strictly rely on your groomer to do it all but after listening to so many groomers complain that people do nothing and dump their dog on them in a huge mess; it seems that many people don't do some maintenance that they should be doing.  When I say maintenance I mean the stuff that needs doing on a regular basis.  There are the weekly things, monthly and every couple of months.

I've been catching up on some maintenance lately.  Luke needed a good teeth scraping; with my schedule as of late he has not had as many bones as normal so his teeth needed tending to.  He is so good about it; even this time when I needed to get the very back teeth.  Sure he's not a fan of having his teeth scraped but he lets me do it and it is a bonding time for us.  It is very close and very intimate to be dealing with his very back molar.  The plaque flew off in pieces and we were done in no time.  Then I looked at Elsa and thought that I should do some scraping to get her use to it.  She's had it done before and was good but this time she was not so good.  She didn't mind the scraping, it was the tight face holding that she was not a fan of.   So we set to work and she is having them scraped daily with treats until she is fine with it.

When you scrape teeth it is a very sensitive and pressure filled activity.  You must hold the dogs face firmly and very still. After all you are using a very sharp tool and some of the plaque is on there really good.  Of course the more often you do it the less you have to do at each scraping.  Lots of practice work needs to be done before you actually get the job done.  But it most certainly can be a part of your general maintenance.  It is a great feeling when you are done and your dogs teeth are all clean once again.

Ears are another thing.  Even if you have a smooth coated dog with no hair in their ears you should still be having a look in there every once in a while.  Ears get dirty and need cleaning.  If you have a hairy dog that tends to grow hair in the ear like my breed then there is plucking to do.  My rule of thumb about hair plucking is to take a bit at a time.  Less hair more often is far better for the dog than plucking an ear clean.  When people pluck all the hair out at one sitting it irritates the ear and opens it up for infection.

At first most people are very afraid to pluck hair out.  Believe me, dogs get very use to it but you have to be careful and gentle.  The light fluffy hair comes out easily with no problem.  But you must get your dog accustom to this activity as well.  I start on this one right away with a puppy.  Poodles have a lot of hair in their ears and it is something that needs constant attention for some.  Elsa is one who grows a ton of hair in her ear so I'm always in there doing something.  After an ear plucking I clean her ears by just wiping them with a clean gauze.  For ear plucking I use a hemostat which makes the job quick and easy.  But you must take great care to grab only hair and not skin with hemostats.  

Brushing and combing should be done regularly on all dogs.  My little Jack Russell needed the most brushing, she shed like a monster.  Brushing kept the shedding to a bearable level.  Each time I brushed her I was amazed by the amount of hair left in the brush.  My poodles are very easy to brush and get brushed very rarely when they are sporting a short clip.  Their coat tends to stay in nice tight curls which don't mat at all.  But if they have a longer coat they typically get brushed several times a week.  Do not wait for the trip to the groomers every three months to have the groomer do all the brushing

Nails are something I'm constantly on top of.  I really hate long nails and not all dogs wear them down on their own.   I use both a dremel tool to grind the nails and a nail clipper to cut them.  I do it weekly; it is much easier to take a bit off every week than to chance taking a big piece off every month or so.  I know that nails are something that many owners are afraid to tackle but once you conquer it; keeping it up is a breeze.  Like many of the maintenance issues with our dogs; nail cutting needs practice and rewarding to get to a point when you can simply just cut their nails without any fuss.  Again this is something that I start as soon as I get a puppy and with the addition of lots of treats, nail cutting becomes a non issue.

There is bathing to do, which I tend to do on a need to bath basis.  I don't like to bath too much because it dries a dogs skin.  Although I bathe weekly during the summer/flea months.  Bathing a dog and leaving the suds on for 5 minutes drowns fleas.  :)  Some people say that they never bathe their dog, "they are never dirty."  Well, I've smelled some of those dogs and they are indeed dirty.  I did a photo shoot with a woman who believed in NEVER bathing her dogs.  Let's just say it's a good thing the shoot was outdoors.

As far as anal glands go; which is something I know that many people have done at the groomers each visit.  I believe they should be left alone unless something is wrong with them.  Nature takes care of those without our intervention.  Squeezing anal glands can actually create problems that were never there to start with.  Here is a good article on the lovely subject of anal glands by Dr. Karen Becker.  So if your groomer is squeezing regular, ask them to stop and hopefully they are not damaged.

That's about it for general maintenance.  Of course there is the "going over" that should be done as well.  Just giving your dog a regular once or twice over with your hands.  It is a good way to find out if there is anything knew on your dog that you should be aware of.  Dogs never mind this, it's like a massage.

So pull your sleeves up and get some maintenance done.