Every week there is one date I faithfully keep: “ablutions” time with my dogs. I don’t know why we started calling it that – probably when I was completely and totally addicted to Regency Romance novels. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “ablutions” is “a washing of the body, especially as a religious ceremony.”
We don’t actually do a full-body dog wash every week – I’m told that less frequent bathing is better for a dog’s skin and fur – and it’s not really a ritual. We do trim nails, brush fur and teeth, clean ears, and wash faces. Because of the breeds we have; Brussels Griffons, Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs, skin folds, beards and mustaches, and wrinkles get special attention.
It’s down to a routine in our house; it doesn’t take much more than about 15 minutes per dog, once you catch them. One person holds the dog. The other “ablutes.”And the benefits are vast. The dogs seem happier, they smell good, and we have the chance to check each one for anything that doesn’t seem quite right.
Contrary to popular belief – clean, healthy dogs really shouldn’t smell. “Dog breath” may be an indicator that the dog’s teeth need cleaning. There are many products available to care for dog’s teeth, but a start can be made with just a damp washcloth or gauze. Special toothpastes made just for dogs are readily available. Human toothpaste isn’t a good idea – it can be too harsh and dogs tend to dislike both the foaming action and the taste of products made for people.
Your nose is an invaluable tool in assessing your dog’s health. Any odor from a dog’s ears may be a sign of infection. But we know that cleaning ears can be a challenge. We use a solution available from the veterinarian. It’s inexpensive and helps wash away any dirt or wax. Getting it into the dog’s ears is where the problem arises in our house. Even after four years of this weekly routine, our Boston Terrier struggles mightily to see what we’re doing. No matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to convince her that no one can see inside her own ears!
Keeping a dog’s nails trimmed is another part of the routine that can be challenging. Many people are wary of cutting the nails too close and hurting the dog by nicking the blood vessel. Some people avoid the problem by using a hand-held sanding device – but a light touch is essential. Power tools are exactly that – powerful. It’s better to do too little than risk hurting the dog. Most groomers and veterinarians will trim nails for a nominal fee. If you’re hesitant about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, it’s well worth the monthly visit to have a professional do the job. Even if you don’t trim nails yourself, take a look at your dog’s feet. See if their pads have any calluses or cracks or any abnormalities.
Lastly, a good brushing, in addition to taking care of any tangles, or mats in the fur, will make your dog look and feel terrific. You’ll distribute the natural oils that keep fur healthy and remove any dead fur that may have accumulated. By paying attention during brushing we discovered a growth on our Brussels Griffon we would not have discovered. A visit to the vet and a couple of stitches later, what might have been a major health issue later was disposed of with very little fuss. As with humans, early detection is the key for dogs.
Our weekly “ablutions” may not be as much fun as playing ball in the yard, but it is time well-spent with our beloved pets. Getting them used to the routine may take some patience but they’re well worth the effort.