Dog Barker: “Skin” In The Game

By: Paige Figueroa
It has been quite amusing every month trying to blend informative, humorous experiences and facts into reading material. I’m not taking sides on this subject; however, I do want to express myself as someone who has stood knee-deep in fur and hair.

My question to you is: How do you keep cool when the thermometer gets up into the high ’90s, or keep warm when the temperatures in Alabama get below 40 degrees; what is comfortable? Through the years, I have seen “dreadlocks” on dogs coming in for grooming, especially on non-shedding breeds. There are two different kinds of hair or fur to be maintained on these dogs that mat up. Whether there are fleas or not, their skin itches; then to comfort themselves, they lick and scratch and rub themselves.

Maintenance on a dog’s skin and hair is very important. When a dog does not get enough attention paid to their grooming, they are just like us; they’ll start scratching and itching all over. When a dog’s hair is matted, what happens is that the skin will start to break down and underneath that matted hair, you’ll find infections and wounds. Disgusting as it sounds, I and other groomers have shaved dogs down and found maggots underneath all that matted hair. Yes, I said maggots!

Regular grooming of the skin and hair is very important in all breeds of dogs; in fact, even the hairless ones need a bath or wipe down. All breeds need to be maintained, or they can be a host for fleas and ticks which can invade your home. They can be spread from one animal to another and throughout neighborhood yards that back up to each other. Just remember that hair needs to be maintained properly. Oh yeah, I have even run into mites several times and had to bathe in Dawn. Creepy feeling.

Hair is an environment. Think about it. Dogs that have extremely dense coats are Pyrenees, Collies, Huskies, Malamutes, and Chows. Those are just a few breeds that have undercoats and guard hair to protect against Arctic cold. We also see this in dogs with wolf-like characteristics. So let’s put it this way…Go to the Swiss Alps or the Himalayas, strip down to your underdrawers and expect to be comfortable in a blizzard…you have another thing coming! So, reverse that analogy. You are an Arctic fur-bearing dog surviving in the Deep South with our sweltering summers, high humidity, and high heat index of Alabama; your hair is so dense; sitting in the sun makes your tongue hang out and the pads of your feet sweat. I would be begging, if I were a dog, “Cut my hair. Brush out my undercoat.”

What does hot hair feel like? Not bad hair when you get out of bed in the morning. I’ll tell you what hot hair feels like – it is being in a permanent state of menopause and hot flashes. If you men don’t understand that, then ask your wife or your mama.

So, let’s try to sum all of this up and simply talk hair and fur. Schnauzers, Maltese, and Bichons have non-shedding coats. As a responsible pet owner, it is wise to research the breed not only for temperament and energy, but your purpose. Ask yourself what you are willing to do to maintain the comfort of your animal in the Alabama weather.

So many of the short-hair breeds shed. I’ve actually clipped a few down not for their comfort, but because of shedding. Some of those breeds are Corgis, Pugs, and the Feist breeds. For your information, there are now de-shedding products. Also, there are hand mitts and baby wipes that can help.

Remember this, if you question your pet’s comfort, put on your long johns, mittens, scarf, and heavy coat in July and go outside in the Alabama sun. Then, you’ll be packing up and moving to Alaska to keep those Arctic breeds comfortable. Oh, and by the way, I’m too old to do those big dogs, so I don’t need money. This is 30 years of experience and compassion speaking.
By: Paige Figueroa