Winter can be a magical time for dogs. Squirrel visibility rises when the ground is white, and cuddling by the fireplace can be undeniably cozy; but winter’s whipping winds and dry indoor heating can take its toll on fur and skin.
For advice on how to care for your canine companion’s grooming needs when the temperature drops, Paw Nation caught up with professional groomer Cassandra Reed, a Season 2 contestant on Animal Planet’s “Groomer Has It” and owner of Mutley Dooz in Akron, Ohio.
1. A little extra hair helps
It’s never a bad idea to ask your groomer to leave your dog’s coat longer than usual during the winter. “As a groomer, when I groom dogs in the winter, I leave a little extra hair between the toes,” says Reed. “I’d like to think that it helps keep them a little bit warmer.”
2. Keep skin moisturized
An easy way to keep your dog’s skin hydrated is bathing them at home with ultra-moisturizing oatmeal or shea-butter shampoo or conditioner. Reed stresses that you should always use all-natural shampoos that don’t contain any artificial dyes, as these may trigger an allergic reaction or worsen itchy, dry skin.
3. Stay on paw-pad patrol
The mixture of dry indoor conditions and chilly outdoor weather can cause paw pads to cut and crack, a painful experience for animals who are constantly on their feet. Many groomers offer special paw scrubs that exfoliate and moisturize paw pads, and pet stores sell all-natural paw balm you can apply to dry paw pads at home. Reed also mentions the importance of using animal-friendly rock salt to melt ice on your property. This specially-formulated ice melter is gentler on paw pads and won’t harm your dog if it’s ingested.
4. Dry wet fur properly
Rubbing wet fur vigorously with a towel may seem to get the job done, but Reed warns that this drying method will tangle your pet’s hair. “Hold the towel on your dog’s body to dry their fur,” she suggests. “This will help with tangling and matting.” As for pesky snow balls that cling to dog’s fur, “I haven’t found an easy way of removing them yet!” said Reed. A blowdryer is your best tool, as rubbing or blotting will only turn the snow balls to ice. Reed warns, “Watch the temperature when you’re blowdrying your dog because you can burn your dog’s skin if it gets too hot.”
5. Visit your groomer often
Even if your dog isn’t getting out enough to muddy up their coat, it’s still crucial to bring them to the groomer every 4-6 weeks. Less exercise in the winter will lead to longer nails, as they won’t be filed down from long walks. Aside from regular nail trimmings, groomers can provide insight on the condition of your dog’s skin. “There may be something going on with a dog’s skin that the owner doesn’t notice,” said Reed. “A groomer will notice a lot more things, which is why I recommend bringing your dog to the groomer regularly.”