Article for Dogs in Canada – written by Lesley Weeks for the November Issue.
Is it purely for Fashion?
Why do I need to Brush and Comb?
There is little doubt that the coat is the dog’s best bid for public favour, its colour and it quality attracting many a passer by whatever their particular interest in dogs may be.
When you choose your little darling it was probably the look in his eyes that made you fall in love. God was kind to you and your little one and gives you four to six months of wonderful puppy coat that usually only a light combing and brushing brings out the glamour of the coat ….. oh lucky you, you think! I won’t have to do much to make my darling a DIVA. WRONG!!
The dogs coat has a diversity of colour, along with a wide range of texture and length, and its variety of growth trends in the different breeds, it may well be called the dog’s finest advertiser, so far flung is its appeal to every taste.
A good coat can quite successfully camouflage a poor specimen; a poor coat can ruin a good one. Consequently it stands to reason to make the best of a coat no matter what its type or individual development may be. This is your job as an owner to ensure that the coat is well maintained and enjoyed by all but mostly so that your dog can be comfortable.
There is a great difference in the appearance of the good coat and the poor coat that the new owner may be pardoned for believing all manner of tricks necessary for perfect coat growth and flourish. If the truth is to be told the only tricks of the trade are those which any beginner can understand and successfully master, a three fold origin governs the perfect coat; health, heredity and handling of the coat and the greatest of these three of course is Health.
The biggest trick that was ever played on dog flesh is when Nature denied it an efficient pore system and at the same time decreed that it should carry a coat. The skin is like the earth in which plants grow, it serves to convey the balance of nourishment of the body to each separate hair, in the same manner that the earth feeds the roots of the tree for the sole purpose of giving life and strength up to the leaves. The fact that the earth is porous, permits oxygen to go down and assist in the feeding. Air and moisture serve our plant life two fold; without contact with the atmosphere and from within by virtue of the changes work underground. However, the dog gets little assistance from the outside except as regards to cleanliness and brush stimulation offered up by the owner. We must all remember that the coat is nourished solely from the inside the body, taking its tone and its texture from the physiological state of his being. If the dog is worn out or run down he will carry a lifeless, lack luster covering, but if he is in good condition his every hair will look bright, alive and glistening.
The absence of an efficient pore system robs the dog’s body of the ability to excrete poisons through his skin. The remaining organs of excretion, must accept the full task of the body’s relief of toxins so that the skin does not grow flushed and irritated. That is why a good digestion and a clean intestine are the first requisites for healthy hair because any clogging of the system with poisons from this source will inevitably react to the detriment of the hair through the medium of the skin. With changes of temperature, humans are met with the opening and closing of pores according to the degree of heat or cold, lack of pores play havoc with the dog’s coat often times because such opening and closing of pores are not physiologically provided for. The dog is denied much of man’s power of radiating excess heat, thus his higher body temperature results frequently in a dry and scaly skin and even in pustular eruptions that must in the end take toll of the coat. The skin of a dog is a lazy, feeble part of the canine body, yet it must be kept in a soothed and healthy state because it holds imbedded the follicles of the hair. It transmits body strength to the coat and only by virtue of continuously good condition does it willingly support the load it bears.
Heredity plays an important part in the quantity and the quality of the coat, both of which are handed down from previous generations along with other physical attributes. If the sire and the dam, the grandsire and ganddam, of a dog are noted for luxuriant coats the chances are that a coat of the same nature can be grown on the puppy. Otherwise it is practically useless to attempt to grow more than an average amount of hair. The quality of the hair, such as wiryness or silkiness while just as definite a hereditary factor, can be changed to a certain extent by the method employed in its care. By this it is meant that a wire coat, left to grow too long, frequently becomes soft and the same way, a silky coat left untended may lose something of its silkiness and fine texture. These are faults of handling the coat sometimes referred to as a jacket incorrectly not due to hereditary factors.
Improper washing can go a long way toward wrecking a good coat. Proper selection of shampoo must be made but more importantly is that one must rinse, rinse and rinse again. Soap residue will ruin even the best coat and possible set up irritation of the skin.
Brushing and combing are in themselves valuable for their stimulating action upon efficacious the skin, more for their cleaning and cleansing effect. Having said that both brush and comb should be used with care, not wielded with the vigor all too often seen by owners and groomers. The comb’s job is the removal of fleas, debris and the separation of the hair strands which permits the air to get down to the skin and ventilate it. The brush, if properly selected according to the particular type of coat, has a burnishing effect upon the hair, giving it a live and glistening appearance when used. And it does to a very limited extent promote the growth of the hair, but it is not as efficacious as many seem to think; in other words it cannot of itself produce a good crop of hair. Unless the body if fortified by good substantial food; unless the dog is backed by typical coated ancestors, all the brushing in the world will not grow a single hair. Removal of dead coat and excess undercoat gives your dog a strong fighting chance to show off his jacket and have it admired by the masses, but he can’t do it himself. You the owner are held responsible to do this; it is your obligation as an owner. Daily combing and brushing will also help you bond with your animal and this should not be overlooked.
The remaining factor in handling a coat to the best advantage is that of sunlight, and here we find a substantial contradiction in theory and practicability. Much as sunlight is required to encourage the hair through its stimulation effect upon the skin and upon the general tone of the body, it acts to the detriment of colour intensity. Blue is the principal color affected, though all colors will fade and dim to certain extent under too frequent or too prolonged sunning. However change of colour depth will be found most noticeably after the growth has reached its peak and turns rusty or dull as much from age of the hair as from the action of light. Just like humans the sun can be damaging, yet we need some sunshine for overall good health.
The marked contradiction in coat conditioning comes about through the fact that the amount of sunlight needed for a healthy skin is sufficient to run the depth of the more delicate reds and blues, consequently the best attainment of these colours necessitates clever manipulation often times. To provide a body rugged enough to produce a luxuriant coat, one must give the dog his quota of sun and exercise each day. The body is strengthened, the skin activated, after which the hair proceeds to grow as a matter of course. Daily outdoor exercise is a necessity, but one must remember that the animal will benefit more if the hair is well brushed and combed. Lack of brushing and the removal of dead coat may cause the animal to overheat more quickly and cause the animal to collapse, as the owner has not done their job by assuring the overall health, comfort and well-being of the dog by lack of brushing.
As far as the comfort and well-being of the dog are concerned, there is but one excuse for clipping, and that is to lighten the drag of an excessively heavy coat in water work or to ease our labor in brushing and combing. Many, many years ago when the Poodle was used for water retrieving to a greater extent than he is now, his coat was clipped to speed his swimming. Dog Fanciers with an eye to fashion were quick to see the possibilities of beautifying and somewhat refining an already majestic dog, so with a profuse coat as their field of operation, they evolved after a time two now accepted methods of clipping dogs of this breed, one known as the Continental clip, the other the English Saddle clip for the adult dog. The latter method leaves a short hair covering on the hips and flanks while the former takes it off clean save for two small decorative tufts on either side. Younger dogs were left with a full coat referred to as a Puppy Trim. This trim has become the most requested model for the household pet.
To educate yourself in the proper selection of comb and brush, talk with your breeder, ask for demonstrations, talk with a knowledgeable groomer, again ask for demonstrations, but never ever overlook the benefits of the comb that will separate each individual strand and assure you of a tangle free coat that offers the greatest comfort to your dog.