Did you know the worst thing you can do in winter may be to let your dog’s hair grow out? Apart from the holiday season, spring and summer are the busiest times of the year for dog groomers because many people grow their dog’s hair out over the winter and shave it off in the spring or summer.
Unfortunately, they often don’t realize how harsh that can be for their poor pup if that long hair becomes matted. Let’s discuss how you should be maintaining your dog’s coat this winter to help them be happier and healthier.
#1 Brush more, not less
When your dog’s fur gets tangled, it can pull on his skin and cause or hide sores, infections, hot spots, and parasites. Mats also hold onto moisture, keeping your dog wet and cold longer than necessary after a romp in the snow. Over the course of an entire winter, many people let their dog’s coat turn into a matted shell, which is terribly uncomfortable for the dog.
Think about it this way. I want you to grab a handful of the hair on your head and yank. Now imagine that painful feeling over your entire body all hours of the day and night for months on end. A lack of brushing does that to your poor dog. In severe cases, matting can become so bad that it can cut off the circulation to an ear, tail, or leg, resulting in a very slow, painful amputation.
If you want to keep your dog’s hair longer in the winter, it’s crucial to brush it at least once a week. If your dog wears a sweater, you need to remove the sweater and brush the hair underneath every day or two, or your dog’s coat will turn into its own matted sweater, which can be painful for your dog.
Also, don’t forget to use a metal comb to check for tangles and mats. You should be able to get a comb through your dog’s hair all the way down to the skin. Another common problem that groomers see is that the top layer of a dog’s coat is brushed out, but everything underneath is completely matted. A comb can help you find tangles that a brush is just gliding over.
#2 Go shorter, especially around the feet
If you live in a climate that gets a lot of snow, you may actually want to take your dog’s hair shorter in the winter than you do in the summer. Snowballs can stick to your dog’s fur. Not only is that unpleasant for your dog until the snowballs melt or fall off, but those snowballs make your dog’s coat mat more easily, leading to more pain and discomfort for your dog as time goes on.
Sidewalk salt can be toxic for dogs, so it’s crucial to keep the hair on the bottom of your dog’s feet short all winter. Long foot hair can drag in more sidewalk salt for your dog to lick off his feet and potentially get sick from. While you can use scissors to trim the hair on the bottom of your dog’s feet, it’s safer to use clippers with a #10 blade on them. You can check out our clipper buying guide here.
#3 Bathe less
Bathing your dog can dry out his skin and coat, and this is even more noticeable in the winter, when we all tend to suffer from dry skin anyway. Brushing your dog can help distribute the natural oils in his coat, and unscented baby wipes or wipes made for dogs can help remove dirt and doggy smell in between baths. You may also consider keeping towels by any door that leads outside so you can wipe off your dog’s muddy feet before they come inside.
#4 Consider coats, sweaters, or booties to protect your dog
If your dog gets cold in the winter or hates to get wet in the snow, you may want to consider coats, sweaters, or booties to keep your dog comfortable. When comparing coats and sweaters, you should keep the material in mind. Knitted sweaters are more likely to pull your dog’s hair into the weave and tangle their hair, causing painful mats. Consider fleece or another material instead.
Icy sidewalks, snow clinging to furry feet, and toxic sidewalk salt are all good reasons to put booties on your dog to protect his feet this winter. Yes, your dog may have difficulty the first time they have boots put on, but boots do serve a useful purpose, and your dog will get used to them in time. In the end, your dog will probably prefer wearing boots over chewing snowballs out of his feet.