Pet Peeves Part 2: Good Grooming
Dogs are by far the most expensive pets to groom. Cats need a good brushing and maybe the occasional bath, birds clean themselves (as do rodents) and fish LIVE in a bath. So, dog grooming is where a lot of pet owners drop a wad of cash. It doesn't have to be that way.
I used to take my dogs to Petsmart for a good all-over grooming — bath, trim, nails, ears, tooth brushing. Petsmart grooming fees differ depending on the breed you have, not the type of grooming that is performed. Because I have two small dogs that might be considered high-maintenance breeds (a Shih Tzu and a Pekingese), my fees run about $50 per dog, plus taxes. I always thought that this was a bit unfair — I can see charging $50 each if I wanted the dogs to have long, silky hair that was brushed out and swooped up in bows, but I have my dogs clipped short all over. That doesn't matter to Petsmart.
All in all, I used to spend over $119 every three weeks to have my dogs groomed (nearly $2070 per year).
Once I calculated that total, I realized that grooming my own dogs was going to be key to saving myself some moo-lah. After a bad experience with $30 Costco dog clippers, I found that although an initial investment in grooming supplies might cost me more than a couple of groom sessions, the purchase would pay for itself within the first four months of ownership.
DIY pet grooming isn't nearly as difficult as it sounds. If you just set aside a little bit of time each month, you can save a bundle and still have happy, clean pets.
The First Cut is the Priciest
First, clippers. The groomers at Petsmart were happy to tell me which clippers they used in the doggie salon, which were conveniently sold at Petsmart for roughly $220. I wrote down the model number and found them on eBay for $160, less than the cost of two grooming sessions. These clippers do require maintenance and replacement blades, but they are still much cheaper than having someone else trim my dogs. Also, I can give my Shih Tzu a Mohawk whenever the whim strikes me.
Now, I'm not claiming that I as good a job trimming my dogs as the people at Petsmart did. But my dogs aren't that vain, and they look good enough that so far, no one has laughed openly at them.
Next, bathing. I had tried unsuccessfully to bathe my dogs by setting them in the bathtub and shampooing them while pouring pots of water over their heads. My little guys are small, but absolutely determined to be nowhere near the water flowing out of the faucet. Turning on the shower did no good because the spray was too dispersed and difficult to aim at such a small target. And they were just too big (and gross) to wash in the kitchen sink. Because I had to do so much fighting, I ended up wasting a lot of water, and I'd usually run out of hot water halfway through bathing the second dog, so that one of them was guaranteed to be shivering and miserable when I was finished (as opposed to just miserable).
Thus, I was delighted when my sister gave me a Rinse Ace Indoor Pet Sprayer, which she had started using on her large dog after it got too cold to simply hose him off outside one winter. An ingenious little device, the Rinse Ace is a hose with a showerhead that you can plug into your current showerhead. The hose is long enough to reach into the tub for bathing small dogs, and you hold down a little switch to the turn the water on. When you let go, the water stops, thus saving dozens of gallons every bath. Having to hold the button down does cause some hand fatigue, but it's better than using all the hot water, and struggling to keep the dog in the tub while pouring water over its head.
I also like using this when I occasionally have to bathe the cat. Since we got her when she was a kitten, she's easier to bathe than a cat that has never been in the water. I have to wear rubber gloves and long sleeves for the process, but it significantly cuts down on her shedding and my allergies.
As far as canine beauty products go, I really like the Lavender and Mint Buddy Wash shampoos and conditioners by Cloud Star. They cost between $9-13 per bottle, but they are concentrated so that they last a long time, and leave my dogs smelling great. And, one of my dogs has terrible allergies that cause him to chew and scratch, but the Buddy Wash Conditioner soothes his dry skin and keeps him from scratching.
Towels. Never fall for the ruse that your dogs need special towels. Just use your old ones.
Grin and Brush It
Tooth care. This aspect of pet care is often overlooked, but you should brush your dog's teeth at least once a week, if not every day. If the process is followed by praise and treats, your pooch with probably endure it. You don't need to get an Oral B Extra Sonic Ultra Laser Boom Brush like the one that you use — a simple doggie toothbrush and some dog-happy toothpaste is enough.
I am Canine, Hear Me Bark
Ears. Cleaning your dog's ears is actually easier than it sounds. Simply take some tweezers and pluck out most of the small hairs that crowd your dogs' inner ears (not inner-inner — you're not plucking out their eardrums or anything). Pulling the hairs out is remarkably painless for most dogs. Then swab the inside of the ear with a soft cloth (or Q-Tip, if you have good aim and your dog has small ears). An ear cleanser should be relatively inexpensive and free from alcohol.
Putting Their Best Feet Forward
Pedicure. This is my least favorite part of caring for my dogs, and I will occasionally take them to Petsmart with me when I go to pick up their special, hypoallergenic prescription diet, and pay $5 to have someone trim their nails. If you are brave enough to do it yourself, ThePetCenter.com has instructions. Remember that it is uncomfortable for dogs, as they have nerve endings in their claws that we don't in our fingernails, so be gentle and patient, but firm.
When I went to Petsmart grooming, I often paid extra for anti-flea treatments, in addition to using Advantage flea-treatment capsules (I use Advantage rather than the better-known Advantix — it's cheaper and safer around cats). The combination of a flea bath AND flea medication is not necessary. Stick with whatever your vet gives you (Advantage, Advantix, whatever) and forgo anything else. You will need to wait about a week after bathing your dog before using any flea treatments. And all dogs should be protected against fleas, unless you want to deal with worms some day. You don't, trust me. Grossest thing ever.
Smells Like Wasted Money
Perfumes. Bunk. Unless your carry your precious poochie in your handbag, or unless your dog is exceptionally stinky, and your vet has told you that it's not a medical problem and you just have a stinky dog, dog perfumes are simply a waste of money. They can cause skin irritation, and probably cause your dog immense embarrassment around other dogs.