Grooming the Beast!

Regular grooming of your Bouvier includes removing mats, brushing & combing, trimming nails, cleaning ears & teeth, as well as occasional bathing (3-4 times/year).

Beginning the routine early in puppyhood will help your dog to really enjoy this special one-on-one time together. TALK to your dog while you are working; this can make it even more relaxing for him and pleasant for you.When you are about to use a new or unfamiliar piece of equipment, let him sniff it so he can be more prepared (and relaxed about it). E.g. electric clippers -- with clippers turned off, let the puppy sniff them, inspect them sitting on the table, feel them against his coat.Then turn them on while speaking encouragingly to the pup, them off and on, let him smell them again, then go to work!

Most pet owners do not invest in expensive grooming equipment such as electric clippers and all the blades and guards that can go with them, grooming tables, heavy-duty dryers, and so on. But, you can do quite a lot at home in between professional grooming to keep your Bouvier beautiful and comfortable all the time. Recommended equipment is in italics; you can expect to pay approximately $10 for each item.

Even though you will be periodically using a professional groomer, working with your Bouvier on his coat and body at home will prepare him for what is expected of him on the grooming table and when he is being handled and worked on at the grooming shop. It will be a much more pleasant experience for all, quicker for the dog, and less expensive for you!

An added bonus of regular light grooming at home is that it gives you the "hands-on" opportunity to notice any potential problem areas (like reddish skin patches, rashes, pimples, lumps, ear infections) before they become dangerous and costly to treat.

First make sure your dog is calmly lying on his side on the floor before you begin (unless this is a new puppy - then I say, do the best you can - ha, ha). Sometimes, for an older puppy or dog, attaching a leash to the collar and tying the leash to a chair or table leg will give you a measure of control and free both your hands for working on the dog.

How To Properly Brush, no, COMB Your Bouv
You can do part of the dog every couple of days (easier on new pups), or a complete session once a week. Whether you have the dog stand or lie down while you brush, brush the hair in the direction it grows, using long relaxing strokes. Using a steel comb, (I prefer the kind with two different tine spacing, about 7-1/2 inches long and no handle), begin at the base of each leg and work up, one handful of hair at a time. Lift the hair above your work area, then comb down and to the skin a little at a time. Be sure you are not just combing over the top of other hair, comb right down to the skin. Brushes tend to give you the illusion that you have the dog done, but more often than not, with a brush, you are not getting down to the undercoat which is where the mats begin. I prefer NO brushing, just combing (except for the slicker brush mentioned later).

Why are mats bad? Depending on where and how severe they are, mats can harbor dirt, debris, parasites, moisture, conceal hot spots (severe skin infection which can spread), inhibit new coat growth, and cause a great deal of discomfort and even pain.

If you do this at least once a week, your steel comb should be sufficient for the job. If you have missed a weekly session or longer, or if the coat is extremely thick, you may need to first work with a rake and/or slicker brush before you are able to get a comb right down to the skin.

When you encounter a mat, move up to the wide end of your comb and use the very end tines to pull through the mat like a knife.Then try to comb through it, holding the hair nearest the skin with thumb and forefinger to minimize the tug on hair roots.If you just try to tug at it with your comb, not only will you cause the animal MAJOR discomfort, you may pull out a huge amount of coat.

Two other methods for getting through mats (short of cutting them out and leaving large chunks in the coat) is to use a mat splitter, or work them apart with your fingers, a little at a time, prior to combing that area.

If these methods do not work, you CAN carefully trim the mat out with electric clippers. Scissors are not usually recommended because of the GREAT RISK of cutting your dog. Skin can be very easily nicked and even sliced open because it is looser than the mat. I know of dogs that have required stitches to close cuts caused by someone overzealous in cutting out bad mats. Only a professional groomer should remove matting that is so close to the skin. But, remember, with regular "to the skin " combing, your dog will always be mat-free!

Look for mats in the forearm pits, behind and under the ears, in the beard under the lower jaw, around the lips, high up between the scrotum and inner thigh on a male, on the belly between the nipples on a female. Pet Bouviers (& even some show dogs) can be shaved with a #15 or 30 blade on the tummy and it really won't be noticeable. Many all-breed groomers do this routinely. Meanwhile, the dog will be mat-free in that area and much more comfortable.

How & When To Trim Nails and Pads
Adult nails should be trimmed at least once a month, more frequently for a puppy. This ensures that the dog is walking properly on its pads and not bearing weight on the nails. This may transfer weight improperly all the way up the legs and through the joints. Whether you use side-cut or guillotine-type nail clippers, you may also want a metal file to smooth the claws after trimming.

Trim back to the quick (this is a vein) in the underside crevice of the nail. If the end of the nail is white or light in color, it is probably safe to cut that white tip off. Do look under the nail to locate the vein. If the nail is all one color, cut back to just ahead of the groove on the underside, where you can see the end of the quick. If a nail is trimmed too close and bleeds, apply styptic powder, cornstarch, or ice and a 10-minute compress.

Hair grows between the pads on the feet to insulate the foot in all kinds of weather. Your groomer will always check for mats in this area and remove them without eliminating all the insulation. The hair can also grow long extending beyond the pads and can cause your dog to have improper footing or even to slip on certain floor surfaces.If you have this problem, you can snip the excess hair off with scissors, level with the pad. Do not attempt to go deeper with scissors. This is not necessary between groomings and is a job for clippers.

When & How To Begin Teeth Cleaning
Get a puppy used to having his/her teeth cleaned by simply rubbing the teeth with a washcloth once a week. Check adult teeth monthly for gum line tartar.If tartar is present, brush the teeth once or twice a week with baking soda on a washcloth, gauze pad, or toothbrush.Doggie toothpaste (beef flavored) and toothbrushes are alternatives available from most pet supply sources.

If tartar DOES build up, it can be removed by your veterinarian, but usually under general anesthesia.

Chewing on rawhide, cow or pig ears, hoofs, and treated knuckle bones are great tooth tartar inhibitors. I have never found it necessary to have a Bouviers' teeth professionally cleaned and I attribute it to the toy baskets full of approved chew things, as well as good balanced dog food (no grocery store stuff!) and occasionally, dog biscuits and raw veggies like carrots and broccoli.

What About Those Ears?
Once a month (more frequently if there is an odor or scratching) pluck excess hair from the ears. Sprinkling a little ear powder in the ear will allow you to grip and pull the hairs out easily. When the ear is clean of hair, SLIGHTLY moisten a cotton ball with peroxide or alcohol and wipe all the inner crevices you can reach with your finger. You can also use Q-tips on their ears. A dog's ear canal does not go straight in to the eardrum like a human's.It is a 90 degree angle, so don't be afraid of swabbing all the nooks and crannies in a Bouv's ear. Bouviers, in general, do not have the excessive ear hair some other breeds do, but if yours does, you may also want to use forceps to reach and pluck some of the hair. This is what groomers use on many of the smaller breeds.

If your dog is continuously scratching an ear or shaking his head a lot, or appears to have poor balance; if the ear has frequent odor, or if what you wipe out is crusty blackish-red, check with your vet -- he may have an ear infection requiring antibiotics or other medication.An untreated ear infection can develop into a more serious systemic infection.

About Bathing
Coats vary in texture and dryness/oiliness, so the kind of shampoo you use will depend on your reason for shampooing.In addition to general, good quality, tearless shampoos, there are those with moisturizers, medications, texturizers, insecticides & flea repellents, and color enhancers. Avoid heavily scented shampoos! For a pet Bouv, a shampoo with moisturizing quality is good. It will help prevent dry skin, tangles, and give the coat a lustrous look and clean feel. This eliminates the need for any creme rinse. (However, this is undesirable in a dog which is showing.)

In general, the Bouvier does not require bathing any more frequently that grooming visits (every 2-4 months, depending on the individual dog's coat growth), although beards and feet sometimes need washing in between. If you dog acquires an odor, rolls in something, invites fleas on board, etc., you may need to bathe more often or with a specific corrective shampoo.

Never bathe a dog that has not been combed out. Getting those mats wet will make them like cement and may result in them having to be cut out.(This rule also holds true for SWIMMING in the lake!).

Always rinse thoroughly. Unrinsed shampoo can make the hair gummy which will attract and hold dirt and odors more easily. Hidden unrinsed shampoo can cause dry, itchy skin which can be mistaken for flee allergy or something else and start you down a road of veterinary treatment for any number of suspected causes. JUST RINSE RINSE RINSE.
Never use people shampoos, the ph balance is wrong for a dog's skin and could cause dryness, gumminess, or coat breakage.

Too frequent bathing can cause dry itchy skin and possible coat loss. It can soften the coat too much and promote tangling. Most shampoos are concentrates. You can dilute almost any dog shampoo. I save dish detergent bottles and make up sever with diluted shampoo. This not only makes the product easier to rinse out, it also saves money!

Do not use a flea shampoo on any dog that has been given a topical or internal flea or tick preventive. Toxins can become concentrated and cause severe problems.

Miscellaneous Grooming Areas
EYE GOOBERS. Yes several times a day you can pick these off your dog and they will keep coming back. This seems to be part of the joy of owning a Bouvier.If left to accumulate, these dried eye discharges can cause painful mats below the eyes, so go ahead and remove them with your fingers whenever you think about it. Should there be excessive tearing, that is, the area below the eye always seems wet and/or the eye red and watery, SEE YOUR VET.There are some serious eye diseases out there.

LIP GUNK. Some Bouviers have quite a few folds of skin in the lower part of their mouths. These seem to increase with age. Depending on what your dog snacks on, some residue may linger (even after those vigorous drinks and head shakes) in ultra deep folds near the outsides of the mouth. The lip folds can be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball. Check for this once in a while, especially if there is bad breath. It just may be the beard that needs a quick wash. Occasionally ulcers can form deep in these folds (a.k.a. Lipfold Dermatitis) which must be veterinarian treated.

I hope these suggestions will make your pet more comfortable and make his next grooming appointments hassle-free!

Copyright 2001. Arden Shaw This article may be reproduced and shared among Bouvier owners and friends as long as it is used in its entirety. 

- by Lil Mees

The basic care of a Bouvier, demands a good brushing at least once a week, with a metal brush and a medium comb. The nails need cutting, the teeth have to be cleaned with a dentists tool and brushed with baking soda on a wet cloth or a tooth-brush. The ears have to be cleaned with a ball of cotton wool, dipped in a special cleaning liquid for the ears.

Before you start to even out the fur the dog has to be brushed and combed thoroughly.

1. The hair on the outside of the ears has to be cut very short and right to the leather on the amputated part. You can use scissors or a clipper with a blade #10. Remove all the hairs inside the ear using tweezers, especially the very long ones inside the canal. The fur on the lower part of the ear can be cut with scissors till just above the jaw.

2. On the top of the head, from the occupit to the eyebrows and down to the temples, it must be cut to a 1/2 inch long with thinning shears or a blade #7.

3. Trim down the eyebrows till 1 inch long with a stripping knife and thinning shears. Avoid cutting them too straight. The hair between the eyes should not be removed or cut (like in the Terrier), but rather fall down over the muzzle, only trimmed around the nostrils.

4. Brush and comb the beard thoroughly, only even it out in length. With a stripping knife you thin out the cheeks. Avoid giving the dog a "hamster-look" and comb out the fur into a thick beard.

5. Starting at the jaw cut the fur on the throat very short, leaving it longer going down, to 1 1/2 inch long at the sternum (the start of the chest). On the lower part of the chest, (where the front legs meet the body) the length of the fur should be about 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Along each side of the neck it should be rounded out, to about 2 inches long.

6. With a stripping knife even out the fur from the occupit to the neck and cut the hair of the neck in a straight line down to the back.

7. Even out the hair of the back to a length of 2 to 2 1/2 inches right down to the tail.

8. Even out the hair on the shoulders down to the front legs.

9. The hair on the front legs should be thoroughly combed out. If you lightly even out the hair of the legs, preferably with a strippig knife, it will give the effect of a straight line, especially along the back of the legs. Often you need to cut more fur on the front and the sides to get the desired effect. Use round-tip scissors to cut the hair between the toes and thinning shears to make round feet.

10. The fur on the tail has to be cut quite short, especially along each side and underneath. You may use straight scissors, a stripping knife or a blade #10 fot the tail and a blade #4 for the hindquarters.

11. Even out the hair, rounding out the hindquarters, from the short hair on the tail leaving it gradually thicker going down to the hocks.

12. Cut and even out the hair down to the middle of the thigh leaving it progressively longer and thicker going down to the feet.

13. With a stripping knife slightly even out the hair from the middle of the thigh down to the hock.

14. Straighten out and clip the back of the hocks with scissors. Cut the hair between the toes and around the feet.

15. Even out the fur on the body, cutting it short on the back and leaving it progressively thicker along the sides.

16. Cut the fur underneath in such a manner that there is a slight tuck-up and even it out.

If the dog has a very thick fur you might need to thin it out, by taking out the underfur. The best way to control the situation is, once a month:

1. Brush the body thoroughly with a metal brush and a pin-brush.

2. Repeat against the direction of the fur.

3. Comb with a fine toothed comb, against the direction of the fur.

4. Finish by brushing with the metal brush in the regular direction.

The other option is to once year strip the dog down with a stripping knife, which is a very tedious job and for the dog very painful.