Dr. Marty Becker on Regular Dog Grooming

Aug. 23, 2004 -- Aside from stroking their canine ego by making them the center of your attention, regular bathing, brushing and banishing bugs from your dog's coat leaves them with what I call a "huggable coat."

That is, a coat that is sleek, shiny, parasite-free and with very little shedding or dander. Attaining a huggable coat is now much easier, and quicker, than you think. In fact, with some great new products, you can give a dirty dog a "quick-and-dirty" cleanup in about a minute or a "down and deep" bath in 10 minutes or less.

Quick Cleanup

For keeping dogs clean, let's start with the scenario thatcompany has called on a cell phone saying they're five minutes away from your house. Meanwhile, your mangy mutt is scratching at the door with dirty paws from digging in the flower bed. Don't panic. You can wipe your dog clean in about a minute with a new product called the Spotless Paw grooming glove (www.spotlesspaw.com). The super-absorbent six-finger glove, which won the best new pet product at this years American Pet Product's Manufacturer's Association meeting, is a dirt magnet. When you're done with the glove, you can throw it in the washing machine and it's ready to reuse over and over on Rover.

Controlling Parasites

Face it, nobody, not even veterinarians like me, want to "hug a bug." Fleas, mosquitoes and especially ticks creep people out. More importantly, they can cause serious conditions like flea-allergy dermatitis and carry serious diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

In the past, controlling these external parasites meant the home equivalent of chemical warfare with a variety of sprays, powders, collars, dips and bombs deployed to battle these pesky bugs that can not only harm the pet, but can put the human family at risk of disease as well.

Luckily, there are some great new parasite control products available from your veterinarian. One new product, Bayer Animal Health's K-9 Advantix, (www.K9Advantix.com), not only kills fleas, ticks and mosquitoes but it repels mosquitoes and ticks before they can bite.

The product can spare your pet unnecessary discomfort while preventing the transmission of disease. Best of all, it only takes about 30 seconds to apply the product to three to four spots along your dog's back. The product, which is resistant to bathingand swimming, offers one month of protection. Ask your veterinarian which parasite protection product is best for your pet.

Brushing, Combing, Grooming

Nobody likes to wear their pet to work, or have their sofa resemble a shag carpet. Regular brushing removes dirt and debris from your dog's coat, helps distribute natural oils to keep their coat more lustrous, while giving you a chance to look for bumps, growths, skin conditions or parasites that might require a closer scrutiny from a veterinarian.

Regular brushing also prevents uncomfortable mats, which restrict the flow of air to the skin, making it more difficult foryour dog to stay cool in warm weather and increasing the risk of skin irritations and infection.

How often should you brush your dog? Long-haired dogs should be brushed daily while shorter-haired dogs do fine with weekly grooming sessions.

The key to effective brushing is to follow the direction of the hair, working in short, quick strokes that come as close to the skin as possible without actually touching it.

Avoid willy-nilly brushing which leaves spots unbrushed and allows tangles and mats to form. Rather, mimic the pattern grooming pros follow by starting on your dog's head, work your way down the back to the tail, then do the sides, followed by the legs. Hagen offers various brushes,combs, rakes and blades for pets (www.hagen.com).

Better Bath-Times

How about giving your dog a professional dog groomer quality "down and deep" dog bath in 10 minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes or more? It's now possible with the BathPro Traveler by Hydrosurge (www.hydrosurge.com).This $199 portable bathing system sits on a shelf by the tub or clips around your waist and allows you to utilize pulsating fingers of water to comb through your dog's coat flushing away debris, dead skin, dander and loose hair. Plus pets love the invigorating massage! This system users a much smaller concentration of shampoo, deep rinses, and thus helps prevent the itching and irritation that comes from residual shampoo being left on the dog. The end result is a much healthier skin and coat for your dog and the ability to bathe your dog much more frequently if you desire. As a rule of thumb, use lukewarm water to bathe and rinse. Check the water temperature by running water on the inside of your arm. Use only pet shampoos. Human shampoos are too drying for pets. Wash long-coated dogs at least every two weeks and short-haired dogs once a month.

The dogs used in Dr. Becker's segment are from Canine Companions for Independence. Find out more about the organization at www.caninecompanions.org. Many of the products, including the shampoo and brushes, in Dr. Becker's segment are sold at PetEdge (www.petedge.com).

Find out more about veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker on his Web site: