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