Does your dog need a Christmas haircut?
As we move into December, it's finally safe to start talking about Christmas. And there are some Christmassy topics that need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Everyone wants to be looking their best on Christmas Day, and just like human hairdressers get booked up in the week before the big day, so do pet groomers. If you have a pet that needs a cut, brush and blow dry, make sure that you don't leave it too long to make the booking.
The big question, of course, is "does your pet really need to be groomed?"
I have two dogs - and neither of them have ever been to the dog groomer,because of the type of dogs that they are.
Finzi is a cross-bred Labrador, and she has short, dark fur. I give her an occasional brush-out, and she gets bathed if she rolls in muck. But with her type of fur, there will never be a need for her to have a hair cut.
Kiko is a small, short-haired terrier, and she needs a similar amount of hair care as Finzi. Again, her coat never grows long enough to need trimmed at all.
However there are several types of dogs that benefit significantly from professional grooming. A regular visit to a dog groomer may be an essential part of your annual routine.
The most obvious examples are those breeds that have the longest coats. The most extreme include Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, Bichons Frise, Old English Sheepdogs and many more. In these breeds, rather than the fur growing 2 - 3cm and then falling out, it just keeps growing. If the fur is not trimmed, it will grow so long that it will become unmanageable, getting matted and unkempt. You can do your best with combing and brushing, but at some point, you need to cut the fur.
These breeds are known as "low shed": their fur keeps growing rather than falling off the dog. They can be the ideal breeds if you don't like the idea of having dog fur around your home. They are not "allergy-free" dogs as many people think, but it does seem logical that if there is less fur in the house, there may be less doggy allergens around to provoke human allergic reactions.
Breeds like these often need serious hair cuts: it could take three or four hours to brush, trim, wash and blow dry a large long haired dog that has been left too long in between hair cuts. It isn't cheap to have a professional dog groomer do a full, show-quality job like this, but the results can be impressive. If you have seen show dogs on television at Crufts you will know what I mean.
Dogs of this type may need to visit the groomer every 6 - 8 weeks, so this can add a significant sum of money to their annual maintenance costs.
The second type of dog that often needs professional grooming is the medium-length coated breeds. Examples of these include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Spaniels and many others. While much of their coat can be easy to manage, there are particular parts of their bodies that can be challenging. They often have long fine fur around their lower legs (so-called "feathering"), behind their ears, and around their hindquarters and tail. If this fur is not combed regularly, it's prone to becoming tangled and matted. Many of these dogs are active outdoors creatures, enjoying running around the countryside, so they are also prone to getting muddy, with bits of vegetation caught in the longer strands of their coats.
Many people manage these types of dog themselves, with careful use of brushes, combs and occasional shampooing at home. But it isn't always easy: many dogs don't like being held still, and if you are not used to doing this type of home-grooming, it can be a challenging task. There's no doubt that it can be a welcome relief to hand the task over to a professional. Such animals don't need to be groomed nearly as often as the first group of dogs: a professional groom every six months can be enough if you are able to have a simple brush and comb routine at home to keep things under control for the interim periods.
How do you choose a dog groomer? As with many other services, word-of-mouth is the best way. Ask people who you know that have well-groomed dogs. If you see a dog in the park that looks particularly well, ask their owner where they go. There's a great deal of variety of skill, training and experience in the world of "canine beauticians", and costs can vary significantly too. It's worth doing careful research beforehand, so that you know what to expect.
There's a range of types of dog groomers: some run home-based businesses, others have "salons" in shopping centres, and you can even call a mobile dog groomer to call to your house.
Some vet clinics have in-house dog groomers: these can be particularly useful if you have a nervous dog who needs to be sedated before he can be approached with clippers and scissors. Injectable sedation is generally more predictable and effective than tablets, but it does need to be done under the close supervision of a vet.
One thing is sure: the best dog groomers book up long in advance for the period leading up to Christmas. So if you want your pet to be looking their best this year, don't put it off: make that phone call today.