Stop! Don’t make another move. Where are you going? To the groomers? If you feel as if you must, go ahead, but not before considering performing some of the grooming activities yourself.
Don’t groan: Many owners of Golden Retrievers view grooming their precious family member not as a chore, but as an incredible chance to bond with him. They take this opportunity to lovingly groom their pup – from brushing to bathing to clipping.
Sometimes just the way you view your newfound chores can make a world of difference in how you approach them. And believe it or not, your Golden Retriever will respond in kind. Guaranteed!
As you perform your grooming activities, talk to him gently and softly, with love. It won’t be long before he looks forward to these sessions himself. Before you know it, he’ll trust your hands and even enjoy the way you touch his body as you groom him.
The Basic Grooming Experience: Brushing
Be prepared to brush your Golden – often. Remember what I mentioned in Chapter 1: Golden Retrievers shed. There’s absolutely no way around it.
Brushing is a way to keep some of his hair off your clothes and furniture, but more than that, this very basic activity keeps his coat clean, free of tangles and most of all, glowing. You’ll want to brush him at least once a week, and sometimes twice a week.
There’s also a very important health-related benefit to brushing. It stimulates his circulation and helps to maintain healthy skin.
Even with this seemingly simple act, there’s a definite way to brush a Golden Retriever.
Before you even touch a brush to your dog’s hair, lightly spritz your dog’s coat with water. Some Golden parents prefer to spritz with a diluted conditioner. Simply mix one tablespoon of conditioner with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle.
The conditioner helps to prevent static electricity and hair breakage. Once you’ve spritzed his coat, brush or comb his hair in the direction it naturally grows.
When you get to an area where the hair is longer than other parts of the body, like his tail, the back of his legs, rear end and behind his ears, simply divide his hair into sections. Brush or comb each of these sections separately and smooth the sections back together again.
Make sure that you’re brushing all the way down to his skin. This prevents matting. Don’t, however, use a lot of pressure on his skin. This is especially true if the brush you’re using has sharp metal tips that can scratch him.
You don’t have to worry about your Golden Retriever not loving water. Most just love to jump into water – whether it’s a lake or a puddle. Taking a bath, though, may be another matter altogether. But, here’s your chance to demonstrate to your dog that baths aren’t the demons they might imagine – and you’ll both benefit from that!
Teach your Golden Retriever to love – or at least not be fearful of – the tub even before you give her that very first bath. I call this “pre-bath” training. It takes a little bit of time on your part, as well as some planning, but it’s oh so worth it! The exercises teach your Golden to accept a bath without putting up resistance or becoming fearful of it.
You start by simply putting him in the empty tub. Praise him. You can even give him a treat. If he stays in there quietly, allow him to get out, but if he struggles, hold him firmly, but gently in the tub while you talk to him softly. He’ll stop struggling, and then you can give him a treat and take him out of the tub.
Should he get out of the tub before this, don’t praise or reward him. The aim of the exercise is to provide him with an understanding that he must remain in the tub.
Repeat this process – you could even approach it as a game – at least once, ideally twice, a day. Do this for several days in a row. Each time require him to stay in for longer periods of time.
Once you feel he’s comfortable with the dry tub, add some lukewarm water to it. Put in just enough water so his feet are wet – no more. Do this daily. When you feel he’s comfortable with this much water, then you’re going to go to the next step.
Place him in the tub; wet his body with a sprayer or by simply pouring water on him. Reward him when he doesn’t resist or make a fuss. Praise him while you’re wetting him down as well. Once he accepts all of this, then he’s ready for the real deal.
Now, all you have to do is get yourself ready as well.
Getting Your (Rubber) Ducks in a Row
It’s bath time! Get yourself organized even before you put one drop of water into that tub. I’m sure you’ve been through it yourself. You get all comfy in the bathtub just to discover some vital piece of your routine is missing. (I usually look around and realize the towel is missing!) By the way, the following items are your basic tools of the trade when it comes to bath time. Have these lined up and you should be good to go!
- Dog shampoo
- Nonslip mat
- Towels – one or two
- Hose or unbreakable container – for rinsing
- Cotton balls
- Eye ointment
Even before you wet your pup down, brush him. This removes much of the loose hair as well as any foreign matter. Next you’ll place a cotton ball into the opening of each ear for the protection of the ear canal.
Apply the eye ointment at this time too. Soap, should it get into your dog’s eyes, has the potential to burn. You can purchase this ointment at any pet store as well as from your groomer or veterinarian.
Having done all this, you’re finally ready to put Goldie into the tub. Praise her and reward her for this. Your first step is to wet her down thoroughly. The water shouldn’t be any warmer than lukewarm.
Apply the shampoo, working it into her hair well using your fingers. Start at your friend’s neck and make your way towards the tail (don’t worry about the face yet, we’ll get to that in a little bit!).
Don’t forget to wash his belly as well as under his back legs. Wash under his tail too! To wash his face, use a wash cloth. This greatly lessens the chances of you getting soap into his eyes.
It happens all too often. And there’s usually not much we can do about it. If your Golden does happen to get fleas, you can usually wash them away with a normal dog shampoo, but there is a specific technique to use in this case.
Begin by creating a “collar of lather” high on your dog’s neck. This prevents any of the fleas from leaving her body from hiding in her ears. Now you can lather the rest of his body. Leave him lathered up like that for approximately 10 minutes before you rinse him off. In this way, you’ll drown the fleas.
During this waiting period check his ears and head for the presence of fleas. If you should find any, remove them either with your hand or with the aid of a flea comb (you can buy a good quality metal one at your local pet store), then drop the fleas into a container of soapy water.
Whether you’re bathing to get your Golden clean or to kill fleas, be sure to thoroughly rinse the shampoo off your Golden. Any lingering sap residue may irritate his skin. Especially rinse his armpits. Soap likes to hide there. Soap can also hide under his hind legs as well as in the groove that runs on his belly between the ribs.
Once you’re confident all the soap is rinsed, using only your hands, gently squeeze all the excess water from his coat. Take a towel after this and pat him dry. Squeeze the longer hair on his chest, belly, and his legs.
Don’t rub him dry, as you do when you jump out of the shower. This method just creates unnecessary tangles in his hair. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to brush out.
Once you let go of your Golden, beware! Wet dogs – and Golden Retrievers are certainly no exception – like nothing better than to run around, roll around and rub up against all sorts of objects when they get out of the bathtub. You’ll find them rubbing up against furniture, bedspreads, walls and even rolling around the carpets. Before you “set him free,” place a collar and leash on him for easier retrieval.
Some parents of Golden Retrievers prefer to use a hair blow dryer to dry their long, gorgeous hair. This is not a bad idea at all, just be sure to use a cool setting. Hot air damages his skin, and in warm weather, the additional hot air of the blow dryer can actually overheat your pet.
Other parents prefer their canine children to air dry. If you go this route, keep your frustration level down by confining him to a waterproof room. It wouldn’t be surprising if, following his bath, your friend may need to relieve himself. When you take him outside, take him out on a leash. If you don’t, you may watch in horror as your clean Golden Retriever rolls around gleefully in the dirt.