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Grooming Your Beardie

by Cathy Goetz-Perry

Groomed Beardie in the snow

Couple to Dog Kennel owner:
"We’re looking for a smart breed.
One who can sit, fetch and
push a vacuum cleaner"

Anyone who owns a Beardie can empathize with this couple.
But, for better or worse, Beardies aren't self-care dogs. 

Grooming doesn't have to be a wrestling match. It can become a favourite time between a Beardie and his person. We have four dogs that all arrive on the table at the same time when someone pulls out a brush. The keys to success with grooming are training, using the right equipment, and routine.

EQUIPMENT

The list of equipment you will need includes: 

Pin Brush

Buy a brush with a flexible (rubber) base for the pins and a solid back. Pins may be nylon or metal and they may be tipped. Run the brush you are considering buying down your arm with a firm stroke. If the pins hurt you, they're going to hurt your dog. Buy the best brush you can afford. If you can keep it out of your dog's mouth, it will last for years. The quality of brush you want isn't usually available at pet stores. 

Recommended brands of brushes:

All Systems - available at most dog shows or through companies such Ren's Pet Depot. Cost averages about $25

Isinis - available through better hair (human) care establishments.

Mason-Pearson - actually has hog's hair with nylon pins. This is a human brush available only in European department stores, dog shows, or the Added Touch in Oakville. The cost of this brush would scare you! (Generic brands are good substitutes.) 

Metal pins are necessary for dogs with heavy texture to their coat or who have a heavy undercoat You need the metal pins to get down to the skin. Nylon pins are suitable if the dog's coat is kept in shape, for a straight coat without heavy undercoat or as a finishing brush. 

Comb

You need a stainless steel comb with both fine and coarse teeth. Recommended brand -Greyhound - available at most dog shows (or Chris Christensen, available from petempire.ca). Cost about $25. Again, buy the best comb you can afford. Many of the combs available at pet stores will not last.

Spray Bottle

Use this to lightly mist water (or water with conditioner or coat dressing) during grooming. If using conditioner or coat dressing, use a product that doesn't build up. As conditioner builds up, it can attract dirt, over soften the coat and cause coat to break. Mix conditioner/coat dressing according to directions but usually 1 part conditioner to ~ 10 parts water works best. 

Table

A stable table that is about 60 cm (24 inches) by 1 meter (3 feet) and waist height is best. You can make your own grooming table with plywood, a set of table legs (available at Canadian Tire), and rubber matting. Be sure to use an "I" shaped support to attach the legs to. You can purchase grooming table from dog show vendors and through pet supply houses for about $100 - $150. 

Miscellaneous: 

Nail clippers or grinder

Buy heavy duty clippers available through a vet that have a blade that can be replaced. Make sure you can view the nail quick (if the nail colour isn't solid) using the clippers you are considering buying. Average cost $15 -$25.

Grinders are usually used by experienced and well-sighted (that leaves Merv out!) groomers. 

Tooth brush and canine tooth cleaner

A soft, flexible baby toothbrush works well or you can purchase a (rubber) brush that fits over your fingertip. You may have more control with the finger-tip brush. 

Scissors

Straight, two-sided hair scissors for trimming around sensitive areas (anus, vulva, testicles for intact males and shaft of penis). If you want a clean finished look and are experienced thinning scissors may be useful in trimming feet. I am well aware that the standard says Beardies are to be untrimmed, but whether pet or show dog, few Beardies miss the experience of looking like a Clydesdale at sometime in their lives unless they are kennelled on stone or concrete or run long distances on concrete. 

Mat comb or splitter

Every Beardie owner will experience the joys of mats. A good mat comb used carefully can help remove mats without pulling out excessive amounts of coat.
More about that later. 

Hemostat or fine retractors

Available for purchase from your vet for use in removing hair from the ear canal. 

TRAINING 

The key with training you dog for grooming is to start early and make it fun! Brush your dog a little bit everyday as a pup and praise the dog for staying still (even for a second!) and for not biting the brush. Brush all points of the dog even for a few seconds including behind the ears, on the feet, on the stomach, under the tail and between the legs. To get to the stomach, scratch your pup's belly and then brush for a few seconds. Tummy time during formal grooming goes more quickly if a second person can help and hold a leg. Feet in this breed are very sensitive. So even if not grooming, handle your dog's feet. Separate the toes, scratch between the pads, look at the nails so your dog is used to having its feet fussed with. It will make grooming the feet and cutting nails much easier. Get your pup used to grooming before grooming becomes a necessity due to dirt or length of hair. 

Teach your dog about grooming on the table. Put your dog up on the table for very short periods when a pup. Praise the dog for staying (again, even for a few seconds). DO NOT ALLOW YOUR PUP OR DOG TO JUMP OFF A TABLE! You put the dog to the floor. As your dog becomes more comfortable and confident on the table, lie your pup on its side on the table by using one hand to restrain and hold the front legs and back legs respectively and LEAN the pup into the table gently. Hold the pup in that position for a few seconds and lavishly praise. If the pup won't hold still on it's side, it's time for firm, gentle domination. After putting the pup on its side, gently lay on top of the pup, praising when he stops struggling. The logic in teaching your dog to lay down to be groomed is to save your back and to enable you to access inconvenient spots. During these sessions, brush or comb your dog for short periods while he is lying on his side. If you don't have a table, you can lay the dog on the floor and groom or on another solid, stable surface. Some people use food to get a dog's co-operation during grooming, but you can use up an awful lot of dog cookies during an hour's grooming session. 

Throughout training it is necessary to be gentle but firm to establish your dominance in the situation and it is vital you lavishly praise co-operative behaviour. If your pup or dog won't lie still, hold him gently until he stops struggling and then praise the quiet behaviour. If more serious correction is required, get eye contact and use your voice in stem tone with a firm "No!", maintaining eye contact until the dog breaks the eye contact. If necessary, go to the next step of establishing eye contact, holding the pup by the jowls (loose folds of skin on either side of the jaw) and shaking the pup gently but firmly with a stem "No!". The last should be used only for serious misbehaviour such as attempted biting. Always end you training on a positive note not on a correction. Go back to something the pup has learned, repeat it and praise.

ROUTINE 

Just like a routine helps us all with our hectic lives in the 90's, routine helps make grooming part of your Beardie's life with you. It's just not realistic to expect your Beardie to lie down and know what the expect with grooming without training and repetition. And, you will get much more adept with repetition. Believe me, all of us started with those first awkward attempts at grooming and were mortified when we found the first mat! 

Once you've done some basic training with your dog, set up a regular schedule. Puppy hair is the most maddening as it tends to be soft and more prone to matting, so more frequent grooming during the puppy months and transition to adult coat is strongly recommended. Twice a week for a complete grooming during puppy months or when the pup does the unspeakable and gets really dirty will help keep his coat under control. After that, once a week is usually enough. Experience and discussion with your breeder or other Beardie owners about the coat type your dog has will help modify your approach. 

Different coat types require different grooming schedules. Merv and I have had dogs with four distinct coat types: the long, straight coat with little or no undercoat; the voluminous, rapidly growing rather soft coat with heavy undercoat; the coarse-textured, slower growing coat with moderate to heavy undercoat; and the "no- coat" type - the coat never seems to grow no matter what you do to it. The straight coat requires regular grooming but grooming sessions are shorter because there isn't as much undercoat to plow through. The voluminous coat takes very frequent grooming and grooming sessions are longer. It also seems to attract and hold dirt more than other types. We had a puppy that we had to groom each side every other day to keep his coat from matting. The coarse coat may require less frequent grooming but sessions are longer. Dirt seems to shed from this coat type the best. The "no-coat type" still requires regular grooming to keep the coat clean in hopes it might grow! 

Linebrushing is the backbone of successfully grooming a Beardie. Using your brush, make a part either horizontally across the dog or vertically down the dog. Use the part as the base for linebrushing. Ensure the brush penetrates down to the skin and brush the hair up or to the side, away from the part. Mist the coat with water or water with conditioner as you go. Divide the dog into sections (head, neck and chest, shoulders, side, rear, tummy, legs) and completely brush that section before moving on. I start at the head and move to the rear. 

There are other points of detail you must attend to while grooming the dog: 

Head

Use the coarse teeth of the comb or the mat comb to comb through the moustache and beard if it's sticky or matted, then finish with the fine teeth of the comb. It's important to keep the beard clean of food. Combing through the moustache and beard daily is ideal. Use a warm, wet washcloth to wipe the moustache and beard every day or so. Keeping the moustache and beard clean helps to decrease staining, but most Beardies end up with some staining due to hard water or ingredients in their food. 

If the beard and moustache are really dirty and you're not up to a complete bath, a product call "Self-Rinse" can be used to wash any area of the dog requiring a touch up. We put the Self-Rinse in a spray bottle and spray it into the moustache and beard or into the feet, lather up the rinse and then dry vigorously with a towel. Comb through the area after drying to ensure no tangles remain. Self-Rinse is available through dog show vendors or pet supply houses for about $8 for a small bottle. 

Eyes

Check the comer of your dog's eyes daily for "sleep" and remove it with a tissue or cotton ball. Look for excessive build-up of matter, a colour that is green or yellow or a reddened upper eyelid. These may be indications of an eye infection. Some Beardies like their hair tied up in cloth elastics, barrettes or braids. Some pet owners have the dog's hair cut in bangs like a miniature schnauzer. Caution if cutting bangs: make sure the dog's long eyelashes are left. If they are cut away, more dirt can get into the dog's eyes. 

Ears

Lift the ear at the top (so your dog looks like a Beardie Batman) and brush or comb the entire back of the ear. The area behind ears is notorious for developing mats. I swear mats grow and are fertilized there. Then, turn the ear inside out to expose the inside of the ear. Again, comb or brush gently through the hair around the entire edge of the ear. All Beardies have a small double flap on the lower outside edge of their ears and special attention must be paid to combing through the double-decker hair in this area. The inside ear flap should be plucked free of hair (not the long hair, just the hair on inside surface). If you are going to finger-pluck, do only a little at a time because it does hurt and your dog will let you know. Some not-so brave should use scissors and lightly scissor the hair. Then, clean the skin with an ear cleaning solution from your vet (such as Epi-Otic) or warm water. if the skin is dirty, a warm saline solution or quarter-strength warm vinegar solution can help gently remove the junk!
Dry thoroughly! 

The ear canal also needs to be plucked fairly free of air to allow air to circulate in the canal, prevent wax buildup and possible infection. Pull the ear up and out in the Beardie Batman position to straighten the ear canal so it is visible. We use small retractors to gently grab small sections of hair, twist and pull. You can also finger-pluck. Again, do only small amounts at a time as it does hurt. If you are unsure, ask your vet or your breeder to demonstrate. Vets are now recommending leaving some hair in the ear, because plucking itself can set a dog up for ear infections. After removing hair from the canal, clean the canal thoroughly and then dust a tiny amount of "Eye, Ear and Wound Powder" (available from your vet) or plain cornstarch into the ear canal. It will help close up. the hair follicle after plucking and help prevent infection. After all this, expect your dog to want to have a good head shake. 

Teeth

Teeth need brushing at least once a week using a toothbrush and a CANINE toothpaste (don't use a human toothpaste). Some owners use 2" x 2" surgical gauze squares. Rinse after brushing. Vet dental surgeons recommend tooth scaling be done only by professionals so the tooth surface may be polished after. When you have as many dogs as we do (8), learning to scale teeth becomes a necessity. Tooth scalers are available from vets for about $15. 

Feet

Along with brushing or combing out mats, nails need regular cutting. Cutting nails regularly (every two weeks) keeps them from getting excessively long. Hold the foot with the hair held back from the nail and position the nail so you can see the quick (the pink area in the nail). Use the nail clippers to trim the nail a small bit below the quick (1/8"), but make sure the nail does not extend past the pad of the foot If your dog clicks when he walks, it's time to do the nails. Keep a styptic available if you cut into the quick. If you don't have one, some cornstarch put onto the quick and held with pressure and a clean tissue or towel will help stop the bleeding. If you have cut into the quick and have gotten the bleeding to stop, have your dog rest quietly in its crate for an hour or so or it may start again. 

Separate the toes and pads of the feet and check for stones, mats or irritation between the toes. Turn the foot over and inspect it from the bottom. You may need to trim the hair growing between the pads of the feet to be flush with the surface of the pad of the foot. During the winter, some owners of Beardies who aren't being shown trim the hair between the toes and pads of the feet to help prevent snowball formation and frostbite. 

Delicate matters

For girls, it's necessary to use scissors to trim hair around the vulva and between the lips of the labia to keep the area clean. This is usually a two person job. Trim carefully and then clean the area with a warm, wet cloth or cotton balls, cleaning from front to back and not wiping an area already cleaned. Inspect the area for redness or excessive, coloured, or odiferous discharge. Girls normally have small amounts of clear discharge. 

Boys need the hair along the base of the penis trimmed, but don't cut the hair too short! It helps to leave some long hairs at the head of the penis. As these hairs grow, they will help direct urine, so your fellow doesn't go all over himself. This area also needs regular (every other day, at least) washing with a warm, wet washcloth. wipe the head of the penis and the inside of both back legs and any long hair that might have been hit. Cornstarch may be dusted on the hair hat has been hit by urine. If your boy is not neutered, you either need to carefully comb around his testicles or trim the hair around the testicles. 

Boys and girls need the area around the anus carefully checked every day or so. During grooming sessions, trim a small amount of hair all the way around the anal opening. Usually, a wipe with a wet washcloth around the anal opening will help clean away excess fecal matter. if you keep the anal opening clean, you're less likely to have the unpleasant experience of pants full of poo! 

However, if you are ever confronted with that experience, it's best to just soak your Beardie's bum in a warm tub of water and loosen what fecal matter you can. Towel the area dry then use Self-Rinse or cornstarch on the hair before you begin the task of using a comb or mat comb to remove the remaining mess. When all else fails, trim the mess away. 

Some vets recommend milking/expressing the anal glands regularly. Others believe milking/expressing the glands sets the dog up for infection or impaction. Talk to your vet about what he recommends, and he can demonstrate the technique. If your dog is scooting his bottom, he may have an anal gland problem. 

Mats

Mats are part of the Beardie experience. They range in size from a few hairs to hard balls the size of your fist. They tend to develop across the chest, behind the ears, behind the elbows, between the back legs, under the tail or any place else you can think of. Some mats can be brushed out or teased out with your fingers. Try separating the mat with your fingers and working out what you can. then, if necessary, using the coarse teeth of the comb or the mat comb, split the mat into smaller sections if you can. Hold the hair at the base of the mat so you're not pulling the hair as you're working on the mat and gently comb out the mat. Move slowly and don't ever rip mats out. Your Beardie will never forgive you and you will undo all the hard work done in training your Beardie. Regular grooming can help keep the mat work to a minimum. 

Burrs

If burrs find your Beardie, try dusting the burrs with cornstarch before you try teasing or combing them out. The cornstarch will help dry the burr out. (Thanks to Sharon Dunsmore for that tidbit.)

 

Copyright © 1997 [Cathy Goetz-Perry]
Reviewed and updated 2012 [Lois Gaspar]
All rights reserved.

 

 

 
 
 
   


© Bearded Collie Club of Canada 1997 - 2010
All rights reserved

Last revised: February 11, 2012