|GROOMING, BATHING & DRYING THE AFGHAN HOUND
FOR FIRST-TIME OWNERS
Many new Afghan hound owners that are having coat problems with their hounds have over time contacted me asking for help/guidance, so I thought an article on the subject would be of use to newcomers. Firstly, remember the Afghan is still a ‘dog’ under all that glamorous hair, and should live the life of a dog. Coat care comes second to beauty. Yes, after a muddy walk you may have to remove twigs, brambles and leaves, but you’ll have a happy dog as well as a beautiful dog! You can have Afghan raincoats made for wet days.
Many people are put off having a coated breed due to the work involved with the coat; well, with a little bit of dedication there is no need to run scared. On the other hand, if you really can’t do any more than run a brush over your dog (and even short-haired dogs/cats need regular grooming; it improves the circulation, forms a stronger bond with your dog, keeps them clean and gives you the chance to examine them for fleas, ear infections, long nails, dirty teeth, etc), then a long-haired dog is definitely not for you.
Also remember that there are dog grooming services galore available; even mobile ones these days that will come to your house and do the work for you!
Always remember that when you start a grooming session, you are dealing with a live animal. Over zealous brushing causing the skin to become sore or harsh pulling of knots really hurts, so if each grooming session is a painful one, your dog will run and hide as soon as a brush is waved in the air. (Dog’s skin is much more delicate than human skin). Same goes for bathing; if your dogs eyes are stinging from the shampoo getting into them, or the water is too hot or too cold, he will not look forwards to being bathed either! Animals feel the same pain/discomfort as we do, so no hosing down in cold weather outside. A bucket of warm water can be used to wash really muddy paws, but then they’ll need drying afterwards with warm, dry towels or a hair dryer.
I will add a list at the end of this article of various companies where you can buy appropriate equipment for grooming your Afghan.
It is vital that your Afghan gets used to being groomed from a very early age. I prefer to teach my dogs to lie on their sides, and they will generally go to sleep during the grooming session. You can stand your dog up, but as they get older their joints may be more tender and it will be an uncomfortable experience for them having to stand for lengthy periods.
As long as you don’t intend to show your Afghan, then keeping the coat in good order is much easier than for that of a show dog where ‘every hair counts’!
A Quality Pin Brush – with rounded ends to the pins (not scratchy pins or ones with balls on them). Rub the brush up and down your arm; if it scratches you, just imagine what it will do to your dog’s skin! List of suppliers of good brushes at the end.
Slicker Brushes – a bit of a bone of contention with me! Many on the market are too harsh and too scratchy; in fact their only use is to get hair off of the carpet. You can obtain soft pin brushes from professional outlets, and these can be used to lightly run over the coat when drying is finished to remove any little balls of hair left in the coat. NEVER put a slicker brush near your dog’s skin, and NEVER use them to remove knots; they are too harsh!
A Comb – a Poodle comb is best, with wide-apart teeth. Cheap and efficient are the wooden handled Poodle combs (cost about £3 to £4). These can be used to gently comb through the coat, and for finding any mats you may have missed.
A Mat Splitter – a useful tool to have to slice through any larger mats and to remove hair from under the elbows, in the groin area and in front of the ear canal where grease builds up. The best one (and very cheap, less than £2) is a Mikki splitter. It’s a tiny tool with a rubber centre for a good grip and a small blade in one corner. Groomed regularly mats shouldn’t present much of a problem, but even so, during the coat change period the coat can mat very easily even when well maintained.
A Grooming Table – an ordinary table at home can suffice if rubber car mats (or similar) are used to prevent your dog slipping. Then cover the mats with a towel for comfort. A good investment would be to purchase a proper dog grooming table; the best size is 36” x 24”. They can be obtained fairly cheaply, and fold up so they can be put away when not in use.
A Hair Dryer – the best and most efficient dryers are ‘professional stand dryers for dogs’. They are fairly expensive though. You can obtain hand held dryers for dogs (and holders to fix it to your grooming table) but they will take much longer to dry a fully coated adult Afghan than a stand dryer would. Avoid blasters; they will cause horrendous mats in a long coat. Some dryers are both dryers/blasters combined. These are OK as a blaster and can be used until the coat is about 2” long, after which time you can remove the blaster nozzle and use as a normal dryer.
Hair Products galore – Afghans have different coat textures, and therefore a shampoo/conditioner that suits one Afghan may not suit another, so experiment! There are some excellent de-mat products on the market; a cheap and effective one is ‘Ring 5 Outrage’. Mats melt away like a hot knife through butter. There are other good ones out there; again a list of recommended suppliers at the end of this article.
Towels – a good supply of thirsty towels is worth having to hand. Not only for drying your dog when he comes out of the bath, but also for use following wet walks and to lie on when being dried/groomed. These days they can be bought on the Internet at low prices. My preference for when wet are microfibre towels, and thick bath towels for lying them on when being dried/brushed.
Bath Mats (non-slip) – before putting your Afghan into the bath, put a long non-slip bath mat on the bottom. This will stop your dog from slipping and hurting himself, will make him feel more secure and prevent any scratches on the bath surface!
Empty Washing Up Liquid bottles – these are so handy for diluting shampoo and conditioner. And best of all ‘they are free’!
A Shower Head – makes wetting and rinsing your Afghan so much easier. A shower cabinet isn’t much use unless you want to take a shower (planned or otherwise) at the same time!
So far, unless you want to obtain a proper grooming table and stand dryer, the above won’t have cost much more than £40 to £50 in total. A small price to pay to keep your dog’s coat in excellent condition. Yes, you can hire a professional dog groomer, and ‘yes’ it saves you all this work. But, isn’t it nicer to have that bonding time with your dog, and to pat yourself on the back when you admire the great job you’ve done keeping your Afghan looking knot free and beautiful? And others admire your work too?
|Before you start|
Before you start the bathing process examine your dog carefully! This part goes for all breeds of dog; they should be carefully examined on a weekly basis, so that anything untoward can be dealt with sooner rather than later!
Look in his ears (and smell them); are they free from dirt, ear mites, wax and do they smell fresh? If the answer to any is ‘no’, then ask your vet to look at them for you. Also ask your vet to show you how to clean them properly. Ears are very delicate (never push anything down them like a Q-tip – a shake of the head and you can puncture the ear drum)! If your dog is shaking his head, have a vet examine them as soon as possible; a grass seed may have got into an ear and they can cause untold damage.
Also examine the feet; grass seeds can get in between the toes, and having a barbed like structure have been known to get into the leg, and track upwards causing serious problems! Over time little knots will form between the toes; you can cut these out carefully with your Mikki Mat Splitter. Afghans have very sensitive feet, but don’t turn anything to do with them into a battle! Knots left unchecked between the toes will cause much discomfort too.
Check the nails for length, splitting etc, (don’t forget the dew claw, a rudimentary thumb inside of the front legs roughly level with the ‘stop’ pad). If left unattended they can (and do) grow round in a circle and back into the leg or stop pad. Ask your vet (or pro-groomer) to show you how to trim the nails. Cutting the quick is like ripping your own fingernail off; a lot of bleeding and very painful. Clear nails are easy to trim, as the pink quick is more easily defined. Black nails not so! With experience you will learn how much to trim off each time. If you don’t feel proficient enough to attempt it, then ask someone (even an experienced doggy friend) to do it for you. Either way ‘always’ have a dog-specific styptic powder to hand just in case!
Examine your dog’s teeth. Fed on a raw, meaty bone diet (see BARF section in this website), the only tartar that will collect is at the gum line on the large canine teeth. This can be easily removed with your fingernails. Fed on mushy or processed food, over time a more serious build up of tartar will appear, and to save teeth (and many illnesses caused by the bacteria being swallowed) you must have a vet clean them for you. This can be avoided by the feeding of a ‘species appropriate diet’; which in turn will save you huge vets’ bills, and prevent risking your dog’s life under anaesthetic! If feeding processed food, you must brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft bristle brush (mine tolerate the new battery-operated ones on the market, but that is purely for polishing after I’ve removed any slight tartar line on their canines), and the best toothpaste I’ve found is the natural herb infused roast dinner toothpaste, which is slightly abrasive, from Dorwest herbs (http://www.dorwestherbs.co.uk). If you scale your dog’s teeth with a metal scaler (which is very necessary if there is a build up of tartar), then it is imperative that you polish the teeth afterwards! Leaving a rough, unpolished surface will cause tartar to build up at a much faster rate, giving it something to cling to. Your dog’s breath should NEVER smell; if it does, something is wrong. He may have a gastric problem, but most likely he will have dirty teeth brought about by eating non-species specific food. Gastric problems can be caused by feeding processed pet foods, all of which contain carbohydrates (cereals); something not easily absorbed by a carnivore!
Examine your dog’s skin for ectoparasites, ie. fleas, ticks and lice. If found treat as appropriate; ask your vet for advice. Frontline can now be obtained without prescription from the Internet and in general it is much cheaper buying it this way. Also feel for any lumps, bumps or swellings over your entire dog including male genitals, mammary glands, leg bones, ribs, mouth (including gums) and even the tail! If anything untoward is found, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. Not all lumps/bumps are cancerous of course, but better be safe than sorry! As an aside; never leave anything you don’t think looks normal to ‘wait and see what happens’. Always obtain the advice of a veterinary surgeon!
All of the above should take 5 minutes or less, but it is 5 minutes well spent!
|Bathing and Grooming|
Before putting your dog in the bath, get all that you will need near to hand. Dilute the shampoo in one empty washing-up bottle and dilute the conditioner in another as per the manufacturers instructions. Never use NEAT shampoo or conditioner; it will take forever to rinse out and it isn’t necessary to use that much product! Make sure the mixtures are warm (not too hot and not too cold). You can fill the bath with a few inches to a foot of warm water, and pour it over the dog with a jug until he is wet to the skin. A showerhead is much easier to do this with. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR FINGERS IN CONTACT WITH THE SHOWERHEAD WATER TO ENSURE THE TEMPERATURE DOESN’T CHANGE, PREVENTING YOUR DOG FROM BEING SCALDED!
Once wet all over start working the shampoo into the coat in a downward motion. Rubbing long hair into a ball will cause mats. Leave the topknot and ears until last otherwise your dog will keep shaking. Once your dog is thoroughly soaped up all over, then shampoo his topknot and ears. Then rinse out the shampoo thoroughly! I cannot over-emphasise enough the importance of thorough rinsing. Soap left in the coat will leave it sticky, and in turn it will collect more dirt and therefore more mats. It can also leave your dog with itchy skin. Once fully rinsed out, then put the conditioner through the coat in the same manner as the shampoo. Again, it is best to rinse all conditioner out, but a little left in the coat won’t do any harm! Gently squeeze as much water as you can from the coat whilst the dog is still in the bath.
Put plenty of towels on the bathroom floor and let your dog hop out onto them. At the same time put towels on his back, and draw out as much water as possible by gently squeezing the hair all over (don’t rub the coat).
Some people prefer to de-mat their dog before bathing, others after. If purely a pet dog, it really makes no odds but mats are easier to see in a wet coat. Looked after properly, there shouldn’t be huge, tight mats to the skin, but just a few here and there from every day movement or from a coat change! When you come across any, spray your de-mat lotion in and gently tease apart with your fingers from the outside in. Then they can be easily brushed out. On a warm day you can brush your wet dog through and let him dry in the sun, just giving a final brush through afterwards to make sure no snags have been missed. In the colder months he’ll need hand drying I’m afraid.
Never leave your dog lying around wet or damp! Dry to the skin, but NEVER brush the skin! Practise brushing from the hair roots down, without brushing the skin. Don’t dig in with the brush; keep your wrist still and brush straight down from roots to tips. When drying, dry in a downward motion; you can do this whether the dog is standing up or lying down. If using a hand held dryer you can thoroughly dry the dog, then brush the coat through. A little bit of de-mat lotion, or a little conditioner mixed with warm water (and shaken) in a spray bottle can be used on the dry (or wet coat) to ease the brushing.
Check for knots everywhere; behind the ears, between the front legs, in the loin area, underneath and inside the back legs are favourite places for them to form. Any knots left behind will grow in size, and each time you bath your dog, they will be more of a nuisance to you and, more importantly, very uncomfortable for your dog.
Puppy coats. Puppy coats are easy to look after, although it is preferable to give weekly baths and daily brushing to accustom them to being groomed. Once your puppy reaches approx 9 months, the coat change period will start, and this can go on for 2 years or more! Before you run screaming, as long as you regularly brush your puppy (preferably daily), remove any knots (you can use the mat splitter) and bath him at least once a week you shouldn’t have a coat problem! Only badly neglected coats will need professional attention. Don’t ever let your pride get in the way of asking for help if you hit any coat problems. Most Afghan hound fanciers would only be too happy to help. And don’t forget those dog groomers out there who can help you out if necessary. They are used to seeing coats in all kinds of messes; they won’t hold it against you! NEVER let your dog’s coat get into such a state whereby it is suffering; act sooner rather than later!
|Clothing for your Afghan Hound|
There are many different items of clothing made specifically for an Afghan. A ‘snood’ for meal times is a must if you keep your dog in coat. It will prevent the ears falling into the food and getting messy, plus your Afghan can get the hair trapped in its teeth/mouth if the ear hair is long. Most breed clubs have stalls at their shows selling snoods; or they can be ordered by post.
Wet weather coats are great for those muddy walks and rainy days; various outlets make them. Boots are also very handy, as they prevent all those twigs and leaves being picked up whilst out walking. If you were going to have just three bits of clothing, these would be the most useful! You can also obtain towelling bath suits; once bathed you can put it on your Afghan and it will absorb much of the excess water. I wouldn’t be without mine.
|Useful websites for appropriate Afghan Hound grooming products|
|Marcelle King, 2005|
|(if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me)|