"Life isn't long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege even to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is.
Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!"--Tasha Tudor

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Corgi Grooming 101

Hi there! Well here we are as promised. Welcome to Cathy's Corgi Grooming 101. In the photo you can see some of my well-used (notice the fur and chalk all over these!) grooming tools.

Most people don't have the luxury of a 'dog room' or a 'grooming room' complete with a special sink used for bathing their dogs, a grooming table and a forced air dryer. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. I will share with you things that have been shared with me or I've discovered through the years regarding getting our Corgis clean and in good shape. I will tell you what I use (most of which has been accumulated over time) and some alternatives you can try if you don't have these items and getting them is not an option right now or you have them on your wish list for the future. Don't be afraid to adapt my suggestions for your own situation or to come up with creative uses for items you already have at home that can help make grooming time pleasurable and rewarding for you and your Corgi.

Let's take a good look at your Corgi:
So let's start with the basics, shall we? First, take a good look at your Corgi. What does her coat look like? Is it shiny and clean? Run your fingers deep into her coat, especially back toward her nub (or tail if you have a Cardi.) Does her coat feel dry and brittle? Does it feel luxurious and thick? Sad and skimpy? Does it have a dirty 'waxy' feel deep down toward the back? Take a good look down through the undercoat. How does his skin look? Pink? Flaky? Flecks of 'dirt'? Start at the back and working your way up inch by inch, really feel and look down at the skin. Check for any weird lumps, bumps, ticks, bites, anything. You should be very familiar with how your dog feels so when something is amiss you will find it right away. He will think he is getting a great massage and love it. Don't forget to turn him on his side or back and get the belly and chest, too. Lets look inside those glorious ears. What color are they inside? Are they a nice healthy pink? Is there dirt stuck here and there in the folds? Is there so much crud that the ear has a firey raw red-pink color? How about those nails? Is the fur under the paw (and ONLY under the paw) trimmed to show off the nice oval shape? Are the nails nice and short? Are they so long that her nails look more like talons on a big bird? :) Let's look inside her mouth next. Are the teeth nice and white with no plaque or tartar up toward the gumline? Is the gumline a nice healthy pink or red and raw? How does her size look? Is she overweight? Underweight? Do you know her weight? Stand up and look down at her. She should have a little waist. Does she? You should be able to feel her ribs but not see them. Really give a good evaluation. We are not being critical to beat ourselves up here, but in order to keep doing what has been working and work on areas that could use a little help. You may want to jot down a few notes for yourself as you go over your dog.
Assemble your grooming tools:
After you have evaluated your Corgi, assemble whatever grooming tools you may already own. If I could have only one grooming tool, it would be a good medium-coarse 'Greyhound comb.' There are a wide variety of combs out there, but I would choose one that is coated steel (as in the fur coated one in the photo above) or a traditional 'flat edged' similar greyhound comb, typically in a silver finish. In my opinion, learning how to properly "line-comb" your Corgi is the most important grooming skill you can add to your routine. More about that later. :)
Second on my list would be my trusty Mason-Pearson bristle and nylon combination brush, the black handled/red cushioned one in the photo. I have had the one above for years, as you can probably tell by the worn writing on the handle. It is an oh-so-spendy brush. We're talking the Manolo Blahniks of brushes here. If you have one for yourself, you know how wonderful they are. The Mister had originally bought one for me for a birthday gift for myself, many years ago. He just rolled his eyes when he saw that I decided to use that one for the Corgis (but it is also the brush he picks up when he feels like brushing one!) I've seen other natural bristle and nylon combination brushes that probably work very well and are 1/4 of the price, so do shop around if you decide to buy one.
Third on my must-have list is a good undercoat rake. This is not something you need to use every time you groom. When your Corgi starts to blow their coat (typically once or twice a year) you will be amazed at how well this removes the dead undercoat. You can find these pretty inexpensively in any pet supply store or catalog. I've added a few of the products I mentioned here to my Amazon widget to the left of this blog as that is where I purchased some of them, but do shop around.
Last but definitely not least is a good pin brush. The one in the photo is a Chris Christensen #27 brush. Mary Elizabeth gave it to me for Christmas. Carolann Van Wyen decorated it with her burning technique artwork. Mine has a likeness of Bridget and my name and it is one of my favorite gifts ever. This is not a 'slicker' brush, or one of those brushes with sharp pinchy bristles. This brush has a nice soft feel as it goes through the coat, but is firm enough to really get down and do it's job. Again, this brush is a bit spendy as well, but you can certainly find other brands or types that will do a fine job. But if you want something special, check out Carolann's work. You won't be disappointed.
One more thing to have on hand: a spray bottle for water. Make sure you can regulate the tip for a mist rather than only a stream. You can pick one up in the drug store.
The Bath:
If you do not have a special sink with a spray hose that you can use to bath your dogs, then I will share with you a life-changing secret. OK, OK, maybe not life-changing, but certainly a secret that can make bathing your dog so much easier. It is a product called a 'Rinse Ace.' This is not one of those rubber hoses that you push on to a faucet (that never fit) and as soon as you turn on the water they blow off. With this one, you simply follow the directions to remove your shower head, attach a little piece of hardware and screw your shower head back on. The hose and sprayer attach directly to the little piece you added on. You can take the hose on and off when you need to use it! And bonus? You can attach it when you want to clean the bathtub or shower walls or wash a child's hair in the tub. The one I have has a 6 foot hose and a sprayer with a trigger you squeeze like a kitchen sink sprayer. It is called the Rinse Ace Power Sprayer. It is awesome. However, I do see that they now have one with an 8 foot hose which they are calling the Rinse Ace Pet Shower Deluxe. I have not tried it, and I don't know if the sprayer is as powerful as the one I have, but I am tempted because it has two extra feet of hose which can help get under those short Corgi legs. I put both of them in my Amazon link to the bottom left of this blog (says Good Reads and Inspiration) so you can see them. Check out the Rinse Ace website for more info and their other products.
Next after the Rinse Ace, the second bath product I love is called a Zoom Groom. It is an inexpensive rubbery scrubbing thingy that really helps you to massage all the way down to their skin and aids in removing dead fur. I was skeptical until I tried it. Even though you will be combing your Corgi thoroughly before bathing, the fact is that there will still be quite a bit of fur that comes off in the tub. You do not want this fur going down the drain. Depending on what kind of drain you have, there are drain screens to fit over it to catch the fur. I highly recommend using them whenever you bath your dog. You may have to scoop the fur out as you go so the water can go down the drain, but it is better than having to deal with a clog down the road. You can find these online and in hardware stores.
Of course we will need a good dog shampoo. I always use a (human) baby shampoo on my Corgis heads and faces so if soap gets in their eyes it won't sting. On the rest of their body, there are so many choices that your head can spin when you try and choose one. One shampoo that I've been using for everyday was Mrs. Meyers pet shampoo. I am so sad that they have recently discontinued it and have been buying it up in the store whenever I see it. Whatever shampoo you use, I recommend that you dilute it before putting it on your dog. Even just a little. If their white parts (paws, chest, pants) look like they could use a little brightening, I use Chris Christensen White On White shampoo on those parts. It is dark purple and may look a little scary to put on their whites, but trust me, it rinses out completely and you are left with whiter whites. A little secret: while I don't recommend using products made for humans on dogs, in a pinch I have used a shampoo from Clairol called, 'Shimmer Lights.' It is intended for use on silver, grey or white human hair to remove any yellow cast. I've used it on my dog's paws. My grandmother who was a hair colorist told me about it years ago, not for the dogs but to remove any brassiness from highlights you may add to your hair! I'm brunette and depending on my mood when I go to the salon I tend to get caramel color highlights and occasionally use the Shimmer Lights shampoo in the Summer if the sun turns them a little brassy. Oh yes, back to the dogs...... Right now under my sink I have lots of different shampoos. Besides the Mrs. Meyers (sigh) the ones I keep reaching for are: a shampoo from an Australian company called Plush Puppy. It smells really good, almost like a men's cologne. I also have #1 All Systems shampoo and a shampoo and conditioner from a company called Sweet Petula I found on Etsy which I like very much.
Drying your Corgi:
Towels. You will need 2 or three towels, a face washcloth and some q-tips, and rubbing alcohol.
Where are you going to dry your Corgi and what will you use to dry her with? A grooming table with an arm and a 'noose' make grooming your dog so much easier. If you do use a grooming arm and noose, you will want to make sure you NEVER ever leave your dog unattended for even one second. This is why gathering all of your tools before you begin is important. Before you attach the noose to the grooming arm, make sure you attach a safety release that would allow her to break free should (God forbid) she fall from the table. If she jumps from the table without it, she could hang herself and die. Please remember, safety first in all things. Safety first. What about a dryer? A forced air dryer which does not have a heating element (such as a Metro) is the ideal. It blows the water right off of your dog and once you have used one you will want one of your own. But what if you don't have a grooming table and a forced air dryer? Here is where you want to get a little creative. If the weather is nice and you are outside, do you have a sturdy picnic table that you can put a thick towel on and groom your dog there? How about a rubber mat or towel on top of a hard topped dog crate? Did you know you can also buy a grooming arm and clamp without a grooming table? If you already have a table you think you can use, then this may be a good alternative for you. Just remember that the clamp will be tight on the table and can scratch it up. You can try putting a thin cloth in between, but you are still tightening a clamp to the surface, so be aware of that before you potentially damage a favorite table. Unless your dog has been trained to stand or lie down without moving, I highly recommend enlisting the help of a friend to hold your dog while you are drying and grooming. What about the dryer? If you don't have a forced air dryer, you can certainly use your regular blow dryer. Just be aware of how hot it is. Hot air is really not great for coats. You also don't want to burn your furry friend. Always keep a finger between your dog and the dryer so you are constantly aware of the temperature.
Oh God, those nails! :
What will you need to start working on those nails? Try a nail grinder or a dremel rather than a traditional nail clipper. You still need to be mindful of the 'quick' of the nail with a grinder, but even though your dog may not be used to the sound and feel of it at first, it is a much better way to get those nails looking spiffy in no time. You will need a scissor to trim the fur on the pads of their paws as well. Some people use a little hair shaver to buzz it off. I prefer a scissor but that is entirely up to you. Have some Groomax powder or other styptic powder on hand in case you do come too close to the quick. This will quickly stop any bleeding. The more frequently you do his nails, the more you will train the quick to go back and the shorter you will be able to get them and the more used to having them done he will be.
What about those choppers?
You want to brush your Corgis teeth on a regular basis. There are many good soft toothbrushes and toothpaste on the market. Do not use human toothpaste on your dog! For one thing, it will foam up and your dog won't know to spit it out. Instead of dog toothpaste, sometimes I will pour a little hydrogen peroxide (the kind for first aid, not for hair coloring!!) into a little saucer and have another small container with water and another saucer with a bit of baking soda in it. I dip the brush into the water, then the peroxide and then the baking soda (not much) and use that to brush their teeth. I also will use a dentist's tooth scaler if I need to. Mary Elizabeth and I are very used to doing this with one person holding open the mouth and the other doing the scaling. I do not recommend that you try this at home. It takes practice, and you can damage the gums and the tooth enamel if not done properly. Stick to the toothbrushing. Tartar is something that is not only unsightly, but did you know that it can introduce certain bacteria and viruses that damage your dog's heart? If you have tartar that you can't remove, let your veterinary dental hygienist handle it.

Wow! You're still with me? I'm impressed. That's pretty much it as far as the basic grooming tools and supplies you will want to gather together. In the posts ahead, I will go through the techniques we use for bathing, drying, combing, brushing and grooming coat and doing nails and teeth. I can just see Corgis everywhere running and hiding. -CS ^..^


Winjammin' said...

Great post Cathy!! We've already printed it and put into the dog folder to show potential puppy buyers.

Can't wait to read more!

Rus & Sherilyn
Winjammin' Corgis

ClassyChassy said...

This is super! Anxiously awaiting the next 'installment'!!!

Anna M said...

My grooming tools are scattered, thanks for reminding me I need to gather them up into a tote or something. Luckily I'm trained by Patty so the girls get groomed well and I do their teeth and nails like she taught me. More than luckily the girls are trained by Patty and they are easy to groom.

Agatha is such a kook that she comes running on the rare occasion when I blow dry my hair, she adores being blow dried!

^..^Corgidogmama said...

WhooMama, where have you been all of my life? This is fantastic info, and much, much needed!
Thanks Cat!

Ivy@PaperElixir said...

Oh wow, this is awesome! I'm printing it out so I can review it when we're in "action" :) Thanks!!

Steph said...

OMG, I'm exhausted just reading this!!!!! The kids were easier to groom:)


Cathy Santarsiero, "The Christmas Corgi" said...

LOL! For sure! xo xo -C ^..^

Karen in Maryland said...

Wow Cathy Thank you for this wonderful post. I recently purchased my first Corgi and I am planning or showing her at the request of the breeder(she is a HoneyFox gal) I showed Shelties for years but, but a Corgi is so different when it comes to grooming, I keep having to fight the urge to brush the hair up. I do have a lovely Mason Pearson brush that I am oh so glad I saved from my Sheltie years. I have printed the post and I thank you so much for all the wonderful suggestions.

Dances with Corgis said...

Cathy, thank you for this great series!

Also, on a "the world is small" note, Earl and I have actually visited Carolann at her home in Pennsylvania when we were initially looking for a corgi! She was so nice and just enthusiastic about helping us find a corgi. We had hoped to get a pup from her most recent Wynfox liter, however it didn't work out as she decided to keep and show all her pups! Then we found Linus on petfinder as a rescue and the rest is history.

But when we were at Carolann's lovely home, she showed us all of her many woodwork creations and they were certainly beautiful!

E.J. Stevens said...

So much information! This is really the most informative corgi-specific article I've read on grooming. I'm off to add the zoom groom to my shopping list (I hadn't heard of this before). Thanks for all of the info!
p.s. Your corgis are adorable.