It’s been a chilly winter in Austin, though nothing like what many of you are experiencing in other parts of the country! Still, the cold temperatures have not deterred Ty and Buster in their never-ending coat blowing escapades. Both boys are shedding like it’s their job! And, as the battle with the fur bunnies wages on, I’ve devised a way to get a bit of an advantage – without freezing my backside.
Everyone knows that brushing your dog once a week goes a long way toward minimizing housekeeping chores like sweeping and vacuuming. But, baby, it’s cold outside … and neither I nor the dogs want to stand out there shivering in the name of a less-furry floor. Pamela’s Train Your Dog Challenge got me thinking … there must be a better way!
We started with an inexpensive memory foam bath mat that I found at a local big-box store. Teaching the boys to stand on the mat was more fun than work, and it kept them entertained on some blustery days. We did find that taking turns was a must – there is nothing harder than trying to train two dogs at the same time.
I got out the clicker and the treats, and every time a paw hit the mat, I’d click and throw a treat … away from the mat. They’d scamper over to pick up the morsel and I’d stare intently at the mat. This was now the most interesting object in our universe! Eventually they’d investigate what could possibly hold me so captivated, and when a paw hit the mat, I’d click and throw a treat. They caught on pretty quickly, and soon we were able to start building … two paws to get a treat … then three. I kept throwing the treats away from the mat, and they kept coming back for more. It wasn’t long and they’d figured out that putting all four paws on the mat was the goal of this game!
Brushing is not a new experience for Buster and Ty, so once we’d nailed standing on the mat, I added the brush. Feeding them a few treats while I brushed kept them in place, and the fur stuck to the fabric mat like a magnet.
If you’re working with a puppy or a dog who’s not used to being groomed, be sure to acclimate them slowly and use treats to make it a pleasant experience. Training seems to work best when you can find a way to make it into a game!
Ty is suspicious of the vacuum cleaner – not really afraid of it, but not relaxed either – so with him brushing and clean-up are two separate events. Buster loves the vacuum cleaner, so we combine the brushing and the clean-up into one affair.
Our canister vac with no attachments on works best. I position the hose near the mat and, as the brush gets full, I use the suction to pull the fur off. Most of the loose fur that falls off is also sucked up by the vacuum.
When we’re finished, Buster enjoys a once-over with the little brush attachment on the vacuum to catch any loose fur we missed. Once he’s satisfied that he’s looking his best, it just takes a few more minutes to vacuum the mat and the floor and empty the canister.
We prefer to use natural products on our dogs, and we like to keep them fresh smelling and clean – even in the winter when it’s too cold to give them an outdoor bath. There are a lot of options available, but I find that diluting a couple tablespoons of white vinegar in water and putting it into a spray bottle is both inexpensive and effective in combating dog smell. Once I’ve finished brushing the boys, I grab the paper towel, give them a quick spritz, and wipe them dry. This removes any loose hairs you missed and, once it dries, there is no detectable smell.
Cleaning their ears and trimming their nails are the next order of business. Having them sit on the mat also makes these chores much easier, and I keep the treats handy, because these are two of the boys’ least favorite activities.
My dad is a carpenter, and he taught me that using the right tool for the job is important. The problem with grooming dogs is finding the right tool! There are tons on the market and they tend to have a pretty high price point – so guessing wrong can get costly. And then, there are the changing conditions. Sometimes a brush really seems to be doing the trick and suddenly, for some reason I don’t understand, it stops working entirely. Who can figure it out?
Right now we’re using a Zoom Groom from Kong on Ty and it’s working great. I’ve noticed that Ty’s skin has gotten softer as he’s gotten older and some of the metal combs and brushes that we’ve used in the past scratch him – and we can’t have that! The Zoom Groom’s little rubber cones remove Ty’s fluffy undercoat like nobody’s business and can’t hurt him if I accidentally brush a wrinkle the wrong way.
Of course, my boys have completely different coats, and the Zoom Groom doesn’t work on Buster at all. My favorite brush for B is the ShedMonster. It works like magic, and the big goofball seems to love it! Inside, where he’s not distracted by squirrels, enticing smells, and all manner of passersby, he’ll let me brush him for as long as I want. Though the working part of the ShedMonster is metal, the edges are rounded and it doesn’t scratch Buster like some other tools we’ve tried.
So, there you have it! I hope these tips help you keep your dogs brushed and your floors clean until the weather warms up and we can all get back outside!
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