Hi, folks, Terrie here from TLC Dog Grooming here in Hamilton.

I just wanted to pop on here and share a few matters that cause concern with dog owners about their dog’s coat during the long, cold winter months.

It’s a big deal and people get really worried that their pup is going to be cold as soon as the temperatures start to drop.  People fixate on the cooler temps, and the length of their dog’s coat, a lot. They want to keep the coat long on the dog, thinking this will help keep the dog warm.  

The next sticky bit of business is that dog owners generally stop having their dog groomed during the winter months.  That’s right, it is not uncommon for groomers to hear their clients say in SEPTEMBER……

“Thanks, have a great winter and we’ll see you in the SPRING!”

What is the better plan for all dog owners in winter?

The best action plan is to maintain a consistent grooming routine.  Have your pup seen by a professional every 6-8 weeks. At home, you keep up with bathing, brushing and for goodness sakes, don’t forget the combing after brushing.

Many people think dog grooming means that the coat must be cut short.  Which is why they get afraid to bring their dog in for grooming at the salons.  Not true folks, not even remotely true! Grooming means taking care of the skin, coat, nails, ears, pads, and a bunch of other goodies in between.  It is perfectly fine to have 6 inches of coat or more on a dog all year round. Here’s the tricky part……How well you maintain that skin and coat determines the length.  

I’ll get clients who come into the shop saying, “I don’t want any length taken off because it’s so cold.”  But guess what? If a dog is matted, I gotta take it short! And if you go a long time in between groomings, matting WILL occur.  

Meet Emma

Look at Emma here as an example. She’s a liver and white poodle, and she’s right on the cusp of being too matted for a long haircut.

Emma, the liver and white poodle at TLCpets

If this owner went any longer without bringing her in for a grooming, the curly nature of her poodle coat would start to wind and twirl around itself.  You see, a dog’s coat, especially dogs with curly hair–you get a patch of curly hair and another path of curly hair beside it, and beside that patch another patch of curly hair.  The entire dog is one big mass of patchy curly hairs.

Those patches of hair will grow longer, they’ll grow into each other, they’ll get twisted around each other and eventually, if not brushed and combed out……they’ll start to form matting in the coat.  You will know this is happening when and if you can’t easily run a brush and then a COMB with ease through the dog’s coat. You don’t want that in your dog! You want the comb to go through smooth like butter..

Combing and Brushing Emma the Poodle with Too Long Hair

The brush doesn’t go through nicely in these images.  Once I get her bathed and dry, it’ll go through the hair better. But, it is very important to note that she needs to be clean, it needs to be brushed out thoroughly, and then combed thoroughly.  Any snags with the brush, or the comb, is a sign that………

A. there is still work to be done.
B. the coat is too long for the owner to manage.
C. the wrong tools are being used.
D. the right tools are being used but the wrong technique.

What did Emma come in for?

Today, her owner wanted a Face, Feet, and Fanny.  It’s getting colder outside and she doesn’t want her hair cut short during winter.  I said, “Ok, but you’ll have to bring Emma back in a few weeks.” You see, if she doesn’t bring her back and her coat stays this long, it will quickly and easily start to mat up.  Any friction from coats and sweaters, with long walks or romping and playing in the snow, as all dogs do. Those things are going to make that longer hair–already on the cusp of matting– get more matted!  Add wet and snow to the mix, it gets even more matted. As the hair grows, the curls keep curling and the matting keeps getting tighter and tighter. Owners have NO IDEA that this is the reality of what is going on under that beautiful hair on their dog.

Why can’t I let her hair grow out?

What happens when the dog’s coat gets really, really long and matted….but you don’t realize it yet?  You think, “It’s okay. She’s warm, she’s got lots of long hair, and it’s thick and full.” But it’s not OK!  If a dog has a lot of mats, the cold air gets trapped between the mats and the skin, thus the dog remains in a constant state of cold.  Your dog basically stays cold all the time, and cannot regulate her body temperature effectively.  

Guelph University did a study on this back in the 90s to find out who was warmer: the dog with the matted pelt or the shaved dog?  Turns out the shaved dog was warmer! It was due to that cold air getting trapped in between the matted hair and the skin. They learned that the dog that had been shaved short was able to easily regulate their body temperature, thus heat up faster and stay warm longer.  The dog with a thick coat of mats wasn’t able to regulate their body temperature easily, thus felt the effects of the cold for longer periods of time. Interesting stuff, eh folks!?!?

What happens when you skip winter grooming…

Owners are sometimes shocked when they come in for Spring grooming, and all the hair comes off in one big lump or a sheet!  I tell them that the dog was freezing his butt off all winter! Then they feel bad, and well…we also don’t want our owners to feel bad!  This is why I do what I do and share what I share. I help pet parents make more informed choices and feel confident in those choices.

I would say 4 out of 6 customers come in with a long coat, and say, “I don’t know…don’t want to take it too short, it’s too cold out, he gets mucky and smelly, but I just can’t stand the thought of him being too cold all the time…”  I’m sure if I’m having this experience, there are thousands more out there experiencing the same thing and having the same concerns.

So what do you do?  Maintain your regular 6-8 week salon visits like you do during the warmer months.  If you want the coat longer, then you may have to shorten the length of time of your regular visits.  Keep the hair mat free and clean. If you aren’t sure what is too long for you to manage, make an appointment with your groomer and have them do a “tidy up.”  We call them Face, Feet N Fanny.  They can point out problem areas for you and make suggestions and recommendations.  Follow those instructions and if you struggle, ask for help, we love to help our clients out with these things.

But for the love of all things sacred…

Don’t go the entire winter without having your dog in to see the goomer at least once during the winter months.  If you were in during September, you’d be back in November, and then again in January, and then again in March, then May, then July and what do you know……it’s been a year, and it’s September again…..and repeat.

Here is Emma in all her glory after a fresh visit with us.  We made a plan with her Mom. Today she had a Face, Feet N Fanny.  She’s pre-booked to return in 6 weeks. At THAT visit, I will put her into a longer all over hair style.  She’ll still have a good length to her coat. It won’t have any knots, tangles or mats and she’ll still look sexy!

Fresh Groomed Emma the Poodle

If you have any questions about grooming your dog in winter, I’d love to hear from you.  Send me a note, send me a DM on FB, shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you.  I hope you found this information helpful, share it and let people know!  I’ll appreciate that.

For more grooming tips, techniques, and answers to common challenges, hop on over to our Consumer Education page.  I also share a lot of behind the scenes from my shop on both Facebook and YouTube.  I’d love to see you there.

Make it a beautiful day folks.

Big Love,

Terrie