How to Groom Terriers

posted: 05/15/12
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What's the best way to groom a terrier?
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There are many terrier breeds, ranging from the fluffy, soft-coated wheaten terriers to the sleek, short-haired Bostons. The type of coat your dog has will largely determine her grooming needs. Most experts agree long-haired dogs should be brushed daily, while short-haired breeds will do fine with weekly brushings. Brushing (with appropriately sized tools, of course!) is important not only to remove knots, mats and debris from your pup's coat, but also to check for parasites, skin irritations, lumps and sore spots that might need attention -- or a trip to the vet.

There's still disagreement among the pros on how frequently you should bathe your terrier, so ask your vet what he or she recommends. But in general, a bath at least every other month is a good idea for any dog, says Alexandra Mason, head certified groomer with Dogtopia, a national chain of dog day cares, spas, boutiques and boarding facilities. If nothing else, it familiarizes your pooch with the experience, so that a bath doesn't become something unexpected and stressful. And brush your dog before your bathe her so knots don't become wet and set. Afterward, clip her nails while they're soft and pliable from the water.

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If your terrier's coat needs frequent trimming, you might like to do that yourself as well, rather than visiting the groomer all the time. Just keep in mind that certain breeds, such as Westies and Scotties, have double coats that need to be painstakingly hand-stripped to retain their true colors. Hand-stripping, which involves pulling dead hair by hand, strand by strand, takes a long time and is costly. If you nix this in favor of home grooming, even just a few times, your dog's coat may become permanently paler in color -- and possibly fluffier -- than you typically see pictured for the breed.

And finally, before you haul out your dog shampoo, brush and clippers, remember that, according to the American Kennel Club, terriers are active, fearless dogs originally bred to control vermin such as rats, rabbits and foxes. They're also mentally tough, despite their diminutive size. So to execute a successful grooming session with your frisky little terrier, first try to tucker her out with some exercise. Take her to the dog park or for a walk. Play tug-of-war or toss a ball -- anything that will make her happy and a bit tired, and therefore less likely to resist.

Because of your terrier's breeding, she may instinctively swat at grooming tools (like a brush or clippers) that she sees moving back and forth out of the corner of her eye, mistaking them for prey. This swatting can also quickly turn into a game. Gently tell her no, this isn't prey or a game, and then distract her with a toy or treat.

If your terrier is resisting your grooming efforts, don't fight it. Terriers are bred to win mental battles, and if she senses you're becoming frustrated or angry, she'll become twice as frustrated and angry, Mason says. Better to just hang it up and try another day.

- Adams, Dr. Julia. "Grooming Tips for Dogs." Resident veterinarian, No publication date listed. (April 6, 2011.)

- "AKC Breeds by Group: Terrier Group." No publication date listed. (April 19, 2011)


- Mason, Alexandra. Head certified groomer, Dogtopia. Personal interview; conducted April 6, 2011.

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