Saturday, May 12, 2012

Grooming Your Samoyed (Alternate title: Why you should just give in and buy a dog dryer)

First, I am not getting into specific "show grooming" details here because if you're looking for input on show grooming you really aught to talk to your breeder or mentors in person so they can show you specific techniques.  This is a guide for the average pet owner who just needs a little input on every day grooming and advice on tools to get the job done.


Simply put, the more you comb the easier it will be.  Both because there will be fewer tangles/mats/lumps and because your dog will become more used to the idea and give you less grief.  Make this a regular ritual so it doesn't become a big burden when things get out of control.  Lay a sheet on the floor or on your bed so it's easy to clean up, comb while you watch TV or while you talk on the phone (using speaker phone).
What you need: Buy a greyhound comb.  A genuine "Greyhound brand" is best, but anything is better than nothing.  Also, get an undercoat rake.  Get the kind with straight tines rather than the "double row" or "rotating teeth" or other crazy contraption.  An undercoat rake is excellent for when a dog is blowing coat or for a really fast comb out when you're crunched for time.  I also find that I really like this "shedding comb" I found at the local Fleet Farm.  If you're not ready to take the plunge on a Greyhound comb, this comb is a good place to start (and sometimes I find my hand gets less fatigued with the handle this comb has).

Line Combing 
Line combing is a process of combing out a dog one section at a time, using one hand to hold the hair up (against the grain) and gradually combing the hair out from under that hand (with the grain), line by line, so that eventually you comb out each and every square inch of the dog. (see video below)  This can be done with an undercoat rake (first), greyhound comb (for a more thorough combing), or with a slicker brush (not a good choice for all dogs because it may irritate sensitive skin).

It is not at all necessary to comb out an entire dog at one time, in fact, it's a pretty terrible idea.  Not only does it make you and your dog totally hate the whole experience because you both lose your patience with each other, it's simply too time consuming.  Ideally, comb only one section at a time every day and be sure to remember to reward your dog for good behavior.  Samoyeds are not typically likely to keep up good behavior if they get nothing out of it - give them a good reason to LIKE grooming time and you'll like it a lot more as well.

Blow Drying

If you think the above section on combing sounds like it... well... sucks, you might want to consider getting a blow dryer.  Are they expensive?  Yup.  Are they worth every penny?  Absolutely.
Here's the catch - not just any dryer will do.  In order to have a dryer that will penetrate and reasonably blow out a Samoyed coat, you'll have to get a dryer powerful enough, which means you're better off NOT getting a cheap one.  My suggestion:  Electric Cleaner's K9II dryer.  This dryer will completely dry a heavily coated Samoyed boy after a bath in about an hour and is strong enough to blow out dead undercoat or act as a substitute for most combing.  A dryer can be used in a methodical "line combing" way, section by section, just like combing. 
With a good dryer, most of the combing you would spend hours doing can be taken care of in about 10 minutes a week.  Quick combing of problem spots will still be needed, but it will be much easier with a dryer getting the majority of it.  My Mendel (and Lilly) get blown out with my K9II dryer once a week, and other than grooming for shows, no other grooming is needed.  Many of my friends with dogs of other breeds love to borrow my dryer to blow out the undercoats of their dogs (both short and long haired) as well.

One thing to take into consideration is that many dogs will be afraid of the dryer at first.  My Mendel has been getting dried and combed on a grooming table since he was 8 weeks old, so he's very used to it, but my rescue (Lilly) is still not a huge fan of the whole process.

Watch this great video showing both line combing as well as use of a dryer to blow out dead undercoat.  (combing can also be done with a dog lying on his/her side if this works better for you).

There are some very important things you need to understand as far as bathing your Samoyed are concerned.  First, Samoyeds are like gremlins, getting them wet can be disastrous if you're not careful.  If you take a Sammy with mats or lumpy undercoat with lots of dead coat caught in it and get him wet, there is a very real possibility his undercoat will "felt" as it dries creating a solid sheet of awfulness.  This can be nearly impossible to comb out!  You MUST ensure that your Samoyed's coat is properly combed/blown out before bathing.  If you don't bathe your dog yourself, you need to make sure your groomer knows this as well.  You wouldn't believe the horror stories I have heard about groomers bathing a matted dog and creating hours upon hours of painful combing for the dog and owner.

** Don't forget about this if you kennel your dog.  Many kennels will partially bathe a dog if he gets dirty at a kennel and most kennel staff are NOT familiar with the grooming needs of a coated breed like a Samoyed.  Make sure you VERY clearly explain to the staff that you do NOT want them to bathe your dog under any circumstances OR make sure your dog is thoroughly combed out when you drop him off and the staff understands the dog must be dried COMPLETELY if he gets wet for any reason.  A bad skin infection under all that coat can go a long time without being noticed at a kennel and you'll wind up picking up one very unhappy dog.  **

If you're thinking of bathing your Samoyed at home, you can check out our completely awesome (in my opinion) bathing set up here.

Remember that dryer we talked about?  If you plan to bathe your dog yourself, you absolutely have to have one.  After a bath, it is extremely important that a Samoyed's coat is completely dried all the way down to the skin.  (same goes for after swimming)  Coat left damp can very quickly turn into a nasty hot spot.  Keeping this in mind, it's pretty easy to see how a dryer will quickly pay for itself.  At the cost of most grooming salons, a dryer will likely be paid for by the 4th trip to the groomer.  Of course, if sending your dog to the groomer is what you prefer, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you make sure it is done often enough.  Your groomer will likely charge you less if you provide her with a dog who's coat is in good condition rather than matted, and you will make the whole process much easier on your dog as well.  Whether you bathe your dog yourself or not, regular grooming yourself is a MUST.

Samoyed Moms have a cute website put together by some Samoyed fanciers that has some great grooming advice and videos on it.  (the video shown above is from their set of videos)  I encourage you to go check it out.

Note: The "Circuitier" drier they are using is the same as the Electric Cleaner K9II.  These dryers are marketed to both cattle people as well as dog people, and the two brand names are used for the same piece of equipment.  (I know, very strange, but if you decide to buy one be sure to google both names because you never know - you might find one cheaper under one name than the other)

Note 2:  You may notice that the undercoat rake in the video is of the kind I recommend not getting.  Certainly, if it's all you can get it's better than nothing, but I find the wood handled rakes to be far superior to the ones often found at places like Walmart and Petco.  The wood handled rakes are all my friends and I use.

Over time I am likely to add more to this page, but to be honest Samoyed Moms have done an awfully good job of covering the basics.

Why a dryer is awesome:  (It's how we support our local bird population's nest building efforts)