A big part of a small dog’s appeal are his charming good looks and easy-to-hug size. But while small dogs may not be as likely as a large breed to bound through a muddy puddle, many still love to play outdoors. To keep your small dog clean, healthy and ready to cuddle, regular grooming is a must.
Grooming your small dog involves more than simply keeping his coat clean and well-clipped. During a full groom, your small dog can also have his ears and eyes checked, his teeth brushed and his nails clipped, so it’s usually best to leave it to a professional. Grooming time is the perfect opportunity for your groomer to check for parasites (such as fleas and ticks), and identify any patches of dry, flaky skin your small dog might have.
Professional groomers suggest having your small breed puppy groomed for the first time as soon as its second round of vaccinations has taken place – particularly if it’s a small dog breed that will require regular trims in the future. Later, you can book a full groom every six to eight weeks and your small dog will soon get used to the grooming routine. Give your small dog a bath the night before to reduce any areas of matted hair, and go for a relaxing walk together before you set off.
Regular brushing is the ideal chance to bond with your small dog. Brush or comb long-haired breeds (like the Shih Tzu) daily, and medium-haired breeds (such as the Cavalier King Charles spaniel) once a week. Short-haired breeds (like the French bulldog) can be groomed once a month, using a rubber grooming mitt. Brush gently in the direction your small dog’s hair grows and, if you’re concerned about applying too much pressure, choose a puppy brush – it has very soft bristles and is ideal for sensitive skin.
Knowing what your small dog was originally bred to do can help you to understand why his coat is short, smooth or curly. For example, the Jack Russell terrier was bred to run through fields and burrow down holes so that’s why your terrier’s wiry coat is short and tough. Finding out more about your small dog breed, and how physically active he is likely to be, will also help to explain how his coat should be groomed and clipped.
Most small dogs will only need a bath once a month, in water that is slightly warmer than lukewarm. You can use a gentle doggy shampoo and conditioner to smooth your small dog’s coat – special ‘white coat’ shampoos will also enhance the colour and shine of small dog breeds like the Bichon Frisé.
To keep your small dog’s coat smooth and shiny, a detangling spray can make brushing and combing easier between his full grooming sessions. In winter, avoid dry cracked paw-pads with a soothing paw wax massage and, on sunny days, protect your small dog’s nose and ear-tips with a special doggy sunscreen.