Nature vs. Nurture

By Carolyn Contois –

This is a continuation of last week’s blog on grooming.
I learned some standard practices that were widely accepted 20 years ago. Today, there are many conflicting schools of thought. I tend to go with a more natural and gentile approach to grooming, still keeping in mind that we are working with domesticated animals. In many ways, they have been altered from their wild counterparts, so some adjustments to their natural state need to be addressed.

The most obvious one are the breeds that don’t shed. If the hair doesn’t fall out naturally and you don’t keep them combed out, you will have mats and in some cases they can develop dreadlocks. I know that’s a fashion statement, but on a dog, it can clog up the feet,eyes,ears and privates.Not a good thing, definitely not hygienic!

Anther common issue, is pulling the hair out of the ear canal. This call should be made on an individual basis. Dog’s with ears that stand up, like Shepherds, and some Terriers, have less ear infections because the internal canal is exposed to air and light, making it more difficult for yeast and bacteria to settle in. Dogs that have ears that hang down, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, etc., tend to have more infections. Yeast and bacteria like it dark, moist and warm. A long hairy ear rolls out the red carpet for this scenario. If you have such a breed, check the ears often, say, every 3 days or so.There are many ear cleaners on the market that work fine. You can use plain old alcohol but ONLY if the ear is not red and swollen. It evaporates quickly and gets rid of dirt and wax. It is for healthy ear maintenance ONLY!!!!! Non-shedding breeds have hair that pulls out easily. I’ll check the ear and remove SOME of the hair, NOT all of it. Remember, pulling a hair out leaves an open follicle. The hair acts as a safety net and filter system. If the ear is infected, consult your Veterinarian and remember to put the medication IN the ear, it doesn’t work on the shelf!

Expressing the anal glands is another controversy. These are glands with a very bad smelling fluid located at the base of the anus. Just like a skunk, these sacks are expressed by the dog when he is scared. Many large breed tend to empty them when they have a bowel movement. Smaller breed don’t. Many groomer will empty them during the bath. Sometimes the sacks can fill up and get impacted.This is a job for the Vet. You can do a lot of damage if you attempt this yourself, not to mention the pain and discomfort your dog is feeling! When I start grooming a new puppy, I will empty them only if they are starting to present a problem, like scratching or scooting their butts. Manually emptying the glands may cause the muscle to weaken over time which can cause more problems. If it’s not broken ,don’t fix it!

That’s a good rule of thumb for most questions in life. If you have questions or comments, shot me an e-mail, Visit my web site at

Grooming 102 A Great Groom Is….

By Carolyn Contois –

Grooming 102: A great groom is… Last week, I said that International Groomers Association was an organization that certifies groomers. I retract my first entry. The organization is International Pet Groomers,, sorry for the mistake. I will always correct myself or update my reviews, according to the latest research. Let’s talk about the definition of “a great groom”. If you’re not in a confirmation dog show ring, then your dog does not have to reflect the breed standard. For example, if you watch a dog show on TV you will see a poodle groomed in a Town & Country or a Continental cut.

This is not pet grooming. A good groom is a style that you are comfortable with and works for you. There are different coat types. Some dogs like Poodles, Bichons, Maltese and those designer, mixed breeds, do not shed. These coats need a considerable amount of grooming. I have noticed, however, that the client cannot always explain what they want. Many times they will bring me a picture of what they would like the dog to look like and it is a picture of the dog’s head. This tells you what the client sees&. they see the part that looks back at them. They do not have a concept of what the rest of the dog should look like. This gives me the opportunity to ask about the length of the hair, tail and ears. I need to see the condition of the coat and skin. Is the hair too matted to comb? Sometimes you need to get the hair off and start again. If you looked at the damaged hair under a microscope, you would see that the end looks like a corkscrew.

These little corkscrews will matt up very quickly and you are back where you started. The process of dematting can also be too traumatic for your dog. It can be painful and irritating to go through the process. I let the client know that, although I want to please them, I won’t torture their dog to do it. They will often agree. Breeds like Golden and Labrador Retrievers have hair that grows to a certain length, then falls out& ergo, shedding. These breeds need a lot of brushing to keep them from shedding all over the house. Many of you use the new Furminator combs on the market. They work great, but are a little pricey. Furminator did not invent the comb; they have been around as shedding blades for years. Try a company called Laube. They have great combs for half the cost of Furminator. I do suggest you use these tools outside and make it fun. It can be a great bonding time for the two of you. Many clients will have these breeds shaved to reduce the hair. It is an option; however, I try to keep the dog in a balanced state.

Their hair insulates them against the cold as well as the heat. Before dogs slept in your living room, they dug dens and the shed acted as insulation. Shaving can expose the skin and change the coat in a variety of ways depending on the breed and the individual dog’s health and age. The dog will still shed, but the pieces will be shorter. Some clients say that it makes living with the dog bearable. In that case, I’d rather the dog loose his hair than his home. Next week… nature vs. nurture on some common grooming practices. As always e-mail me with questions or comments at

Grooming 101

By Carolyn Contois –

Grooming 101: the study of dog grooming. How do you find a good groomer? There are no government standards for the industry, such as state licensing. Anyone who buys a clipper can call themselves a groomer. They can be grooming for 20 years…. doesn’t mean they ever learned to do it right!So how can you know if your groomer is good? Most people will tell you to look at other people’s dogs.If you like what you see, ask them for a referral.This method may work some of the time. Better yet, visit some local shops,look around.Is it noisy, smelly, does anyone look or act in a professional manner? Will they allow you to see where your dog will be kept during his stay? Is the place disorganized and cluttered? Chances are, the ambiance will reflect in their work and their attitude. Next, do they have any credentials?

To date, I know of two organizations that do volunteer certifications. They are the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and the International Groomers Association (IGA). Unless they have credentials with either or both … they are not certified.. period! Each has a member listing you can check online. No…. the American Kennel Club (AKC) is not for people… it’s for dogs. I actually read a groomer advertisement that claimed they were certified by the AKC.I’ve also seen ads that say New York certified. It may be true, but when I e-mailed this person about how they obtained this, I did not get a response. When people e-mail me for information, weather it’s a potential client or fellow tradesmen, I’m proud to share what it took 25 years to learn! I’m eager to share the knowledge, especially if it is a young person that would like to get into the business.I want to encourage them to seek proper channels and be exited about their decision. Certification may not make them the best groomer, but at least it shows the clients that they care enough about their work to take on the challenge. Here’s an idea.

There are huge grooming shows all over the country.Goggle Groomexpo or Intergroom. These are two big east coast shows in the spring and fall,there; you can link to other shows in your area. Admission to the floor is usually free. There are vendors with everything imaginable for your pet and then some. The best part is that in the center of the floor, are ongoing grooming competitions. Want to see how your dog should really look? Take a seat and watch the pros groom! These people are amazing talents, and most of them have grooming shops. Talk to them after the competition, they are proud of their work. If they are not in your area they can direct you to someone who is.It’s how I started in the business.

It’s a fun day. Please … always feel free to e-mail or check my web site for answers to your questions. If I don’t have an answer… I’ll get one. Next week… Grooming 102

A Storm of Changes

By Carolyn Contois –
Sunday, Aug 31, 2008 03:14 –

Hurricane Season…… wait, watch, hope….pick up the pieces and move on. We, in the dog world, have learned to do the same. As we prepare for Gustave to make land fall, preparation and prayers are in full swing. All the best planning can only lessen the event of losses and tragedy. Many pets will never return to their homes, but as fate would have it …. they may find there way to yours.

Here are a few tips if you find yourself rescuing a lost sole.

1. Be careful. This animal is scared, lost, possibly injured, hungry and dehydrated. Approach them with extreme caution and keep them separate from your pets.

2. If you get past the initial introduction, give food and water in small amounts, even he seems ravenous. 3. Contact local authorities, check for any identification. Take them to a local vet or shelter to check for a microchip or tattoo. Many shelters use tattoos for identification. Check the internet lost and found listings.

4. If you decide to keep the dog, please make sure that you have tried to find the owner. If it was you , you would have wanted the same courtesy.

5.If you cannot keep him yourself and /or you cannot find a suitable home, PLEASE, take him to a shelter… DON’T just dump him off somewhere , thinking he’ll have another chance…. he won’t. They get lost, starve , get hit by cars, and an infinite variety of other catastrophes. I was a Humane agent in Miami for years… I’ve seen it all.

Don’t know what to do ? Call your local shelter or you can E-mail me. I will always try to help. Or visit my website

Getting To Know Your Dog

As those early days of getting to know this animal, a rude awakening unfolded-when I walked her in the park or the neighborhood or anywhere for that matter, she got into fights with other dogs. It didn’t matter how big or small they were-she was a fighter. Initially, I used a choker, then a harness, then a choker, than a collar, but to no avail. She lunged fiercely at other dogs not matter what I did and even pulled me flat on my face on several occasions. I was furious with her, with my husband and most of all myself for agreeing to keep a dog that I couldn’t control. Truth be told, I succumbed a few times to my fantasy of letting her be free by “letting her run off leash”. Oh what a price I paid for that delusion!

Lady Dog has taught me some serious life lessons about commitment, consistency, patience, freedom and my responsibility to dog ownership and care that took me into new territory emotionally and financially.

Fast forward to December 2007 when my husband of 14 years and I separated. I left our house and moved in with my daughter and two young grandsons. Lady stayed at the house with my ex-husband while I licked my wounds and figured out next steps. My daughter already owned two very unruly spoiled Malteses named Coach and Prada who I didn’t enjoy being around very much. So come January my husband moves out and can’t keep Lady at his new apartment. I’ve already lost a house and a husband and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing this dog, but what about her aggressiveness and living with the two yappy Maltese????

I had a kennel built in the backyard of the house I now shared with my daughter and grandsons. It cost about $1500 with the fencing, pavers, doghouse, etc. When it was done and I brought Lady home and put her in it-she went ballistic. She barked all the time and when the Malteses came into the yard they barked at her which drove her crazy. We did this transition all wrong and my worst fear came true-Lady busted down the gate and attacked Coach and nearly killed him. All of this happened while my daughter and I were in the house.

So after the emergency vet visit to the tune of $800 and many tears later- Coach survived multiple puncture wounds and lives today minus 3 or 4 teeth. You know, every time I’ve had a “bad” experience with this dog, it’s been only myself to blame. So ok, I’m watching Cesar Milan faithfully and I’m calling a local dog trainer for help. So I pay this trainer $125 for an hour of his time with Lady-but I learned a ton! The pinch collar has transformed our walks into a pleasant time together with me in control now instead of her pulling me everywhere. I’ve lost 30 pounds since I now walk-run her everyday for nearly an hour sometimes twice daily.

So things were going better until one day when I left her in the kennel to go shopping with my Daughter. When we returned home after a few hours to find that Lady had left town and done some serious damage on her way out. Our back sliding screen door was ripped to shreds and she was gone. I walked the neighborhood and called for her-she was nowhere to be found. I was in a panic and my imagination was running rampant-did she attack some other dog? Did someone find her friendly nature and good looks to good to pass up and take her in? Was she lying dead somewhere, hit by a car or truck?

I called the pound and praise the lord, they had her in custody. A kind dog loving neighbor had called them upon finding her in their yard. I paid the $40 release fee and brought her home and tried to figure out how to keep her in the kennel. In the meantime, she ended up in the house most of the time and I had to play musical dogs all the time to keep them separated&.sigh&.


I had just taken her up the stairs after a walk when I released her leash before I got the gate open-she turned tail and ran down the street quite a ways. I was running after as fast as I could when the whole ugly fight scenario broke out. A woman was walking her little white dog and Lady headed straight for her and tore her to pieces. The woman was screaming helplessly and by the time I got there and pulled her off the little white dog had been punctured and shaken pretty badly. I can’t tell you how awful I felt-I walked Lady back to the kennel and threw a bucket of water on her bloody face. She slinked into her doghouse and I gave the poor woman my name and phone number.

So $870 later Chanel (the little white dog) recovered. Chanels’ owners had called the cops but didn’t file charges because I paid the bill. I called around to find another home for Lady, but never seriously pursued this course of action. My daughter thought I was nuts to keep Lady since she was such a risky liability and if there was another incident they would put her down.

All this happened last spring and here I am coming into September. I have let her run off leash only twice when we were in a remote wooded area. The last time she ran off and I called her for nearly an hour as I walked the path back only to find her waiting for me at the end of the trail.

Several months ago I purchased a 30 foot lead which I use to train her to come when I call, but I’ve been too inconsistent with this aspect of training. So I’m upping my commitment to be more consistent with this and do it at least 3x per week. I also purchased a competition pulling harness which I’ve yet to use. I keep thinking I’m going to buy a wagon or cart and teach her to pull it. I know she would be really good at this-I just need to move on it.

August 30th-Today I took Lady

The Beginning of Life with LadyDog

By Janet Lee –

My story of LadyDog begins on a snowy Valentines Day here in New York-2 years ago to be exact when my husband and I went to the local pound in search of the perfect dog for us.

I hated the experience of seeing and hearing nearly a hundred barking howling dogs frantically jumping on their wet dark cages in hopes of a rescue&.most of them pits and mixed breeds. It was dog prison for sure.

I couldn’t for the life of me decide on any one dog. I turned to my husband and said “This is your valentines present, you choose”. He picked a two year old 50 pound black and tan chow shepherd mix named Milly whose friendly wagging tail and beautiful markings suggested a good choice. She had been in the pound for five months. They had found her tied to a tree-isn’t that miserable?

I took her out of the kennel for a brief walk to see how she would walk with me-it was really difficult, she pulled me across the snow and ice in this blizzard like a sled dog and I could barely control her pulling, but I figured she had a lot of pent up energy and could be trained to heel. The pound folks also said she loved people but was aggressive towards other dogs. I guess I didn’t really listen to that part-we signed the papers, ran out to an ATM to pay the $80 in cash and led her to the car where she eagerly jumped in!

We brought her home and let her settle in to the space. We had a large backyard bordering a park and back windows where she could sit on a bench and look out. I took her to the groomer the following day and our life with Lady Dog (we renamed her) began.


Yet Another Dog?

By Latifah Abdul’laah –

So, I just couldn’t resist.

I adopted a dog from our local shelter in late August, and she has been a dream. I did worry about how Jennie Beans would get along with my Kali, a Japanese Chin, but Kali is like the best therapy dog on the planet. Well, as far as I am concerned anyway right!!!!

So last week, trolling CraigsList, I found an ad for a 5 year old Yorkie and wonder of wonders, the owners didn’t want some outrageous “rehoming” fee. I didn’t expect to get a response to my email. Anyone that has been on CL before knows how crazy some of these people can be, if they answer at all.

Not only did this couple answer, they weren’t looking for a fee at all, just a good home for their little Allie, who I have taken to calling Allie Bear because she has a teddy bear face. She is the smallest little thing and she only cost me the gas to drive to the suburbs and back. She is a purebred little Yorkie, small at 4 lbs., and they gave me her kennel, pillow, bag of food, harness, and leash. Yaaay Right!!!!

I couldn’t resist when I went to meet her. But I’m a pretty soft touch for animals anyway, although I never expected to be one with dogs. My family was like “C’mon, no more dogs” but who can say no to such a cute little face. Plus she just puts us at our limit on dogs.

Another wonder is that she has cured my desire to go look through the ads on CraigsList. That can really be addicting because there are the ads, responses to the ads, responses to responses to the ads etc., and it really gets to be entertaining after awhile. I mean there were some days I just went to see what the discussions were. Silly, I know. But I’m a stay at home mom, homeschooling a 9 year old, amazed at what goes through the 3 year old mind, caring for a 99 year old, and helping an 81 year old. Sometimes CL would be the only outside thing going on, and I know that’s sad to say, but I also found the cutest little angel there too.

So, I think that in this year alone, I have gone the spectrum on where a person can possibly get a dog from. Kali, my Japanese Chin, I got from a backyard breeder. Jennie Bean, a Chihuahua mix, is a rescue from a local shelter. And last but not least, Allie Bear, a gift from a great couple on CL.

So now the challenge is to get these girls all reliably housebroken. But everyone has a kennel and that shouldn’t be too hard. I mean, I have plenty of time, I have their whole entire lives lol.

So, that’s it for me. I just wanted to share my joy with other dog lovers that will understand how exciting it was for me to add another dog to our family, because my cats aren’t so thrilled lol. But the human members of my family have fallen in love with her just like me, and three is no more trouble than two in the end.

Gone to the Dogs

By¬†Latifah Abdul’laah —

Friday, Sep 05, 2008 11:58 –¬†
I have gone to the Dawgz.My two little lovelies Kali and Jennie. Kali is a wonderful purebred Japanese Chin and Jennie is a Chion, Chihuahua/Papillin mix.

Having owned cats the majority of my life, I didn’t fully understand the love and companionship that my dogs were going to bring me. I always had the perception of dogs being stupid and cats being smarter, but I just didn’t understand dogs. My Jennie puts the smartest cat to shame. She only needs one correction and doesn’t repeat the behavior because she is so eager to please. Kali is a smart cookie too, but her beginning was different from Jennie’s. Kali came from a hobby breeder and Jennie was a shelter dog.

Dogs are like the best companions. Kali like a cat that listens and comes when called. Jennie is just a little love bug that always wants to be held. I can’t imagine what life would be without them.

Always consider a rescue or shelter dog, they need homes and love too. And from personal experience, shelter dogs are so eager to please and be a part of the family.

Until next time,