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Shedding Survival Guide

By: Janet Elliott

This article is intended to provide some useful information for new Siberian owners who may not have had experience with a shedding husky before. Hopefully there will be some tips that others will also find useful.  


Spring is a good time to talk about grooming as most of our beautiful Siberians are blowing coat. This is the time of year when we husky owners become more bonded to our vacuum cleaners than we are to our children and spouse.


The Siberian Husky Coat

Nordic breeds have a double coat, a soft undercoat and an outer coat known as guard hairs. The double coat insulates them from heat and cold, which is why they should never be shaved, even in the hottest climates. Twice a year the new guard coat coming in and pushes the undercoat out resulting in profuse shedding or  blowing coat .  


The addition of supplements containing omega three fatty acids along with other health benefits, helps reduce shedding and improve coat condition. Linseed oil or fish oil capsules can be purchased at Wal-Mart for under $10.00/ 120 capsules.


Why Groom?

Besides cutting down on the household  dust bunnies there are many good reasons to schedule regular grooming sessions with your dog. As well as a good  bonding time, it helps your dog become accustomed to being handled all over. This will make your dog more comfortable during visits to the vet.  Grooming also helps stimulate the natural oils in your dog s coat. Grooming is an opportunity for regular inspection for any parasites, lumps, skin problems, ear problems etc. that can become serious if undetected for long periods.


Grooming Equipment

Prior to bathing you should brush out as much of the loose hair as possible with a shed blade and or a coat rake (see below). Other tools to assemble for grooming can include a metal comb, rubber curry brush, spray bottle filled with water and a little conditioner  and pin brush. One manufacturer, http://www.theuntangler.com, makes a good line of combs and rakes that have rotating teeth that remove tangles easily. A blower/dryer is an invaluable tool and well worth the investment. A grooming table, although not necessary, is a great back saver. Keep grooming sessions short and fun for your dog  until he/she is comfortable with the process. I have found that a little peanut butter smeared on the top of the arm of the grooming table helps develop a good attitude towards grooming.


Brushing/Raking

The shed blade can be used to remove big clumps of loose hair. Then start at the head brushing against the lay of the coat, lay your hand below the coat rake and pull a little hair at a time up from under your hand and continue working toward the back of the dog.   While brushing spray a fine mist of water mixed with a little conditioner to help loosen tangles and prevent breakage. Some of the main and tail detangler products for horses work great on the dogs. A seam ripper can be a useful tool in getting burrs out of the coat.

  

Removing Ticks

If you should discover a tick on your dog there are several methods that can be used for removal. One is to use forceps, don t squeeze, to gently lift the tick up and out, taking care not to leave the head in the dog. Another good method that eliminates a chance of leaving part of the tick in the dog is to cover the tick completely with Vaseline and pull him off with the forceps when he comes up to breathe. After the tick is removed wash the area with alcohol swab or antibacterial soap.


Bathing

Too frequent bathing will dry your dog s coat of natural oils but bathing with warm water during shedding periods will help loosen up the undercoat. After brushing, bathe the dog in warm water using a good quality dog shampoo. Human shampoo is too harsh although, in a pinch, you can use baby shampoo. Choose a shampoo that is appropriate for your dog s coat. There are a wide variety of shampoos available including ones for dry itchy skin, sensitive skin, antibacterial, tea tree oil shampoos, and whitening shampoo for white or light colored dogs. Wet the dog thoroughly and don t be stingy on the shampoo. Using a rubber curry brush is a huge help in loosening up hair and dirt. The most important step is rinsing, rinsing and rinsing again. Then towel dry as much as possible and finish with the dryer.  Shampoo left on the coat or not thoroughly drying your dog can lead to hot spots. Conditioners with sunscreen are available for dogs with coats that are prone to sunburn.  This helps red dogs keep a richer color and helps prevent black dogs from getting that red tinge to the guard hairs.   


Hot Spots

Hot spots can become very serious. They start out as small breaks in the upper dermal layers. The bacteria begins to spread both sideways and deeper into underlying layers of skin. Left untreated, it grows from the size of a pinpoint to the size of a quarter in less than couple of hours and without intervention, up to two inches in diameter in less than 12 hours. The first thing to do when you notice a hot spot is to disinfect with hydrogen peroxide.  A spray containing gentian violet is an effective treatment. Some people use  Desenex Foot Spray to kill bacteria and keep the area dry. The most successful treatment I have found is  coating the area with tee tree oil. Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti fungal properties. You can buy Tea Tree oil shampoo at your pet store or buy the pure oil at Wal-Mart, KMart, and Targets. Dogs don t like the taste so it stops the  chewing. A hot spot treated with Tea Tree oil usually clears up and has new hair growth in about 10 days or less.


Nail Trimming

Nail trimming will go a lot easier if you handle your dog s feet often. Nail clippers come in a few styles. Plier styles often comes with a safety to prevent cutting to deeply. I prefer a guillotine style with surgical steel blades. Be sure to keep some  quick stop or something similar to stop bleeding if you do cut to far. Many people prefer to use a cordless Dremel tool to file the nails. This method works great but, some dogs don t like the noise. Reward the dog with treats after each foot or if he is very upset by the procedure reward after each nail and only do a few at a time until he is more comfortable with the process. Peanut butter or another person standing by with treats can be a big help.


Ears

Ear cleaning can be done with a cotton ball soaked with mineral oil, which is also good for eliminating mites. A good homemade ear wash solution is:

Mix and pour into a squeeze bottle.


Skunked?

If your dog has been skunked this is the best solution I know of to eliminate the odor.

 Bathe pet in solution and use a tap water rinse. Do not bottle it or try to save it.


Disclaimer: The intent of this article is to provide basic grooming suggestions to the husky owner. Grooming for show is much more intense and technical.  If you plan on showing you should consult a breeder or handler for grooming tips.