You be the judge…
Granted, this quantity is only about twice a year non stop for a couple of weeks. Thank goodness!
All last week I was asked over and over “Zora looks thin? Did she lose weight?” Or “Tom’s looking skinny, did he lose weight?”
This happens like clock work twice a year. Spring and fall.
The answer is no, neither did. Actually at the vet appt a week or so ago I learned Tom has actually gained 1.5#. Not lost at all.
So, what happened?
I brushed them. Seriously, that’s it.
We could have had a 3rd dog with the fur that came out between the 2 of them. Shedding season is upon us. Yippee, my hands hate shedding season. At least the dogs look good and fit.
Tom and Zora posing for a shot on a recent walk.
We’ve been in a deep freeze out here in New England, and that plus forced hot air means Tom is a staticky mess. Not Zora though for whatever reason, just Tom.
Touching him is really most unpleasant. Every strand of fur charged to the max. Zap, zap, zap!
Thankfully there are remedies for this
This spray in leave on moisturizing conditioner works incredibly well. EQyss Premier Pet Hydrating Spray. Spray it on him, massage it in and I can once again pet Tom zap free. Thank goodness as a Tommy without petting is a very sad sight indeed.
we’re having a heat wave. Or at least I hope it’s just a wave. Please let this end soon. I’m not a fan. Last week was highs of 55-60’F overcast and cloudy. That’s my kind of weather! 90+ and sunny, so not my cup of tea.
Anyway, we’re having a heat wave. And the dogs are blowing their coats. Tom loves to be brushed anytime, anywhere for as long as I (or anyone else) is willing. When my little 3 year old niece gets out his brush even he’s in heaven. She says, “I’m going to brush Tommy. Tommy loves being brushed!” And sure enough he does. (Not to worry, we have conversations on how she can tell Tom loves it, and how to tell when he’s had enough, practicing behavior observation skills, and adult supervision always. She also only uses his blue kong zoom groom rubber massaging brush so no chance of her poking him too hard with brushes more effective for getting his coat out that I use)
Zora, Zora tolerates brushing as she sees its value. When she was a little pup she detested it. thought brushing was a stupid idea thought up by dumb humans just to annoy little corgi dogs like her. Then she went through her puppy to adult coat transition in the middle of summer. She was hot, I brushed her and she was less hot. Cause and effect won her over to the value of a good brushing.
Most times of the year if I’m brushing Tom, Zora leaves us be. No desire to participate. This time of year is a different story.
This morning I gave Tom a good brushing. And Zora asked for a turn. Meaning she must really want it.
Sure enough as I’m brushing her she lies down flopped on her side enjoying the undercoat being pulled out. One side done, I paused, as often if she’s had enough she’ll decide to walk away. Instead she flopped the other side. Relaxed and happy I was helping her shed about a pound of corgi under coat.
Both dogs now sleek and shiny. Much happier and cooler.
People often ask me what I used to brush my dogs. My 2 go to brushes are my good old fashioned Greyhound Comb and Slicker Brush. For Tom and Zora, with their coat type of thick dense under coats, over 90% of the time I use the greyhound comb. If they happen to get something sticky in their coat or some burrs in it, then I use the slicker brush. Tom enjoys being massaged with his Kong Zoom Groom rubber brush as well as I mentioned above.
Because I’m a brushing avoider (it’s not an activity I enjoy. Increased pain and cramping in my hands is not an activity I enjoy. I do it because its part of responsible caring dog ownership), I keep those 3 brushes right next to the couch on the book case so I have easy access for when the mood to brush the dogs strikes me. If I had to get up and dig the brushes out of the closet every time I thought the dogs could use a brushing, it would be done a lot less.
While nail trimming is something I am religious about, I more than easily admit other grooming tasks not so much. Since Tom’s recent dental extraction for a broken molar, I have become significantly more consistent with teeth brushing. But tasks like brushing, yea no. I purposefully keep a couple of dog brushes on a table next to our couch so that when the mood strikes me I can instantly comply as I know if I had to get up and go rummaging in the closet brushing would happen even less.
So yesterday both dogs got a good brushing. Tom adores being brushed. The moment he sees the brush in my hand he comes over “Me! Me! Me!” and he will stand there until the cows come home loving every stroke.
Zora is less thrilled about brushing, but at this stage of her life she has come to see its purpose. When she was a puppy, she disliked brushing a lot. Then she went through her first coat shed in the middle of the summer heat. When I brushed out that under coat she felt so much better and as a result become a brushing convert. She sees its use. So she sat on the couch tolerating as I pulled a small corgi out of her coat.
For Zora especially, after she copes with the brushing we go outside and play one of her favorite games, kick the ball. Tom he finds brushing highly self rewarding, and once we are outside all he wants is for me to keep petting him, scritching him and raking my fingers through his coat.
In the past some people have expressed wonder why I spend as much time as I do teaching my dogs husbandry behaviors. Why I spend so much effort and time teaching them to be ok with nail trims. Or stand for exam. Or brushing. Or baths. Or letting me look in their mouths. Or their ears. Or lift up their tails. Why I spend time conditioning them to wear a muzzle. Or stand comfortably on a grooming table. Or tolerate a hair dryer. Or being towel dried. Why I set up an actual training plan for myself to progressively get any of my dogs over the years to the point where they have the safe coping skills to handle this kind of stuff. Why I don’t force any point of it. And do my utmost best to listen to my dog and what they are saying they can handle.
Yes it takes time. Often lots of time. And planning. And forethought. And progressive bit by bit steps. But experiences like this morning remind me why all of that planning and effort and practice and time are oh so worth it.
This morning we went for a woods walk. And a bit through the walk, while we were on a board walk over a stream I noticed Zora seemed to be gimping a bit. So I stopped her, picked up her feet, stretched her out, and then she seemed fine. No more limping. No easily visible cuts or thorns. So off we continued on our walk.
We get to the end of the walk. As I’m leashing her back up I go, “Why are your legs all red? Wait, why are you all bloody?”
She has a cut in her front paw pad with a lovely gash and flap of skin. Ok, great. And yet, she still isn’t limping. Or licking it. Or seeming upset about it in anyway.
So we get home. I lock her in the bathroom while I take care of everyone else so she doesn’t track blood through the house.
And then I give her a bath. And I wash out the cut. And I trim off the flap of skin. And I have her stand in a few inches of water and Epsom salts to soak it for about 10 minutes. And then I rinse her off again. And then I towel dry her. Then carry her to the basement, to up on the grooming table. Where I take the hair dryer and dry her foot off. To where I can bandage it. And vet wrap it. And put a sock over it. Give her a biscuit. And carry her back upstairs.
Through all of that she was perfect. No panic. No upset. No trying to escape the tub. No muzzle needed. Not even flinchy with her foot. Tolerated everything I asked her to. Let me handle her foot. Let me cut a freaking flap of skin off of it! Let me flush out the dirt. And all the rest.
Because I’ve taken the time over the past 2 years to ensure she trusts I would never intentionally do anything to harm her. Taken the time to build that trust. Through all of our training and practice and skill building. During every nail trim experience. Every time I brush her. Every time I try to honor the trust she and I have built.
So that when days like today happen. So that when days when I really need that trust happen. It’s there. And all can be well. With no trauma. And as little stress as possible. And a dog who still believes and trusts that I’m on her side and together we can handle anything.
I am a stickler for short doggie nails. Apparently I am such of one that an acquaintance once told me right before she left her house to come visit she realized her dog’s nails were very long and she decided she would rather be late to my house than show up with the dog’s nails as is. So she rushed back into the house and trimmed nails before coming.
About half of why really has nothing to do with the dog’s well being but related to the fact that I am beyond incredibly noise sensitive. And dogs click click clicking on the floor as they walk drives my sensory system absolutely up a wall.
And the rest of why is really truly about the dog’s well being. I’ve lost count the number of dogs who after I trim their nails look at me with relief and walk normally without pain once more. Imagine walking with your own toe nails so long they touched the floor, or worse so long they caused your toes to splay out? Ouch!
So needless to say nail trimming is something that is a very routine activity around here. There was one point in Zora’s life where her nails were growing so fast that I trimmed hers at least twice a week. With the dremmel rotary sander. Which gets them very short. Now hers only seem to need it once a week. Thankfully, since I invariably end up dremmeling my own hands usually multiple times when doing the dog’s nails and twice a week meant my hands were getting pretty beat up.
Tom’s nails are incredibly hard and strong. I don’t think I’d be able to trim them with hand clippers. He gets the dremmel too. Unlike Zora, his grow at a rather slow rate and so his nails only need trimming every 3 weeks or so.
Because I feel and believe dogs need to be comfortable and as low stress as possible for husbandry tasks like nail trimming, brushing and the like I spend a lot of time ensuring the dogs are comfortable with the routine. Zora I have stand on a padded bench when I do her nails simply because she’s short and having her up is easier and safer on us both. Tom stands on the floor and I pick up his feet one by one like a horse. Afterwards they get good treats and we go outside to play.
The dogs and I practice and train the nail routine to the point where they are comfortable quietly standing while I pick up each foot and trim. No force, no restraints, no being held down, or leashed, or muzzled. The end desired quietly standing behavior is taught over time through both classical and operant learning. When they are learning, there are lots of short sessions where many times no nails are even touched let alone trimmed. Over time as they get more comfortable with standing patiently, we progress to feet handling and the dremmel sound. Then 1 toe, then 2, eventually 1 foot, then 2, until in the end the stand quietly for all 4 feet is learned and reinforced. And trimming my dog’s nails becomes a quick, painless, low stress routine activity.
With pretty cute feet as the result.
As I said, I believe striving to teach dogs to be that comfortable is a need. With some dogs who have had trauma associate with nail trimming, the goal make take years or never fully be met, but I believe the owner/handler/trainer needs to strive to work towards that goal. Helping a dog feel as relaxed, safe and in control as possible for routine procedures such as nail trims, brushing, vet visits, ear cleaning and such is something I feel very strongly about. Forcibly making a dog tolerate such simply because we are in a hurry or impatient is wrong. Yes teaching the dog the skills to well tolerate husbandry procedures takes time, patience and practice, but is something I feel we all, as dog owners, need to make time for. Even starting with teaching a dog to step up onto a low platform and stand quietly on a mat, so that the next time at the vet getting on the scale for a weight isn’t stressful, makes a difference for the dog. Or teaching a dog to rest their chin on your hand on cue so you can flip back their ear to take a peak. Or if the dog has had enough adverse experiences to be a bite risk, taking the time to desensitize the dog to wearing a muzzle, so that being muzzled isn’t an additional trauma.
Many of the experiences we ask our dogs to be ok with can be very hard to be ok with. Helping dogs learn the safe skills to cope and tolerate with such experiences not only makes their lives better, but improves the safety and speed at which such necessary experiences can be accomplished. Which makes caring for our dogs even easier and more pleasant, for them and for us.