Dog Grooming in Winter: 6 Must-Know Tips
Grooming is important for all dogs, no matter what time of year. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should skimp on the grooming.
“In the winter, it can be more important to make sure their coat is doing its job to maintain their body temperature,” says Tori Paxton, salon manager and expert groomer at Paws & Anchor in New Jersey.
Yes, big fluffy dogs need all that fur to stay warm while rolling around in the snow. But when the snow melts and if their coats haven't been properly maintained, the moisture left behind in their fur can cause a slew of problems. Mats and tangles trap moisture in fur and skin, which can lead to problems like hot spots and bacterial infections.
Here are six dog grooming tips to help keep your dog healthy, warm, and comfortable this winter.
1. Paw Care is a Must
Unless you and your dog never step one foot outside in winter, your pup’s paws will need extra TLC once the temperatures dip below freezing.
First, you need to protect her paws from the salt, sand and ice melts that litter the streets and sidewalks. The easiest protection you can provide is a set of dog booties, but not all dogs are happy to wear them.
If your dog is braving the cold with naked paws, give them a wash in warm water whenever you come in from outside. Salt and sand can make their way between the toes and irritate the skin (or burn, in the case of salt).
Are the bottoms of your dog’s paws dry or chapped? Apply a paw balm. You can also rub on some balm before your walks, which provides a layer of protection when outside. You’ll still need to wash her paws off after you get back to remove anything that’s embedded in the balm.
Also, keep your dog’s paw hair trimmed to prevent snow, ice, salt and sand from sticking to it and causing tangles or irritating her paw pads.
2. Trim Nails More Often
Ever noticed your own nails are more brittle and prone to breaking during the winter? The same is true for your pup. Cold temperatures, snow, and low humidity are the perfect storm for brittle nails. And when nails are brittle, they break. Broken nails can cause bleeding, but even if there’s no blood, they can still be painful for your pooch.
Keeping your dog’s nails short all winter long is the best way to keep them from breaking.
You may notice you need to trim them more often. Because dogs are usually less active in the winter, their nails don’t wear down as much on their own. As a result, they seem to grow faster.
Staying on top of that growth is important, Paxton says. “If their nails get too long, it upsets the structure of their foot, affects the way they walk, and can cause early-onset arthritis. Nails can also curl into the paw pad and cut them and potentially cause an infection.”
3. Keep Your Dog’s Coat Long…
Finding the right balance for your dog’s coat is a must in winter. Trims are essential to keep your dog’s fur healthy, but you also don’t want to go too short.
Long-haired dogs need all that fluff to stay warm. That summer shave might look good on your Poodle, but unless she’ll be wearing a sweater, it’s not going to protect her from the cold in the middle of winter.
“Their coat is designed to protect them from the elements so you do want to keep them longer,” Paxton says. “But if they tend to wear sweaters, it [shaved cuts] can be better because it’s less maintenance for you to do at home.”
You never want to shave double or triple coated dogs, like Huskies, Malamutes, and Pomeranians, Paxton adds. Their outer coats help them regulate their temperature. Their inner coats provide insulation.
You should, however, keep their inner coats groomed and maintained. “If the inner coat gets to be too much it can get compacted and then it’s not doing the dog any favors. It can get so much that if water gets in there, it’ll get trapped and that can actually cause hypothermia.”
4. ... But Don't Skimp on the Brushing
Keeping your dog’s coat long does not mean cutting out the brushing. In fact, regular brushing is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. If anything, Paxton says, you should be grooming your dog more often in the winter. Leaving shed fur behind is a sure-fire way to ensure your dog’s hair winds up tangled and matted.
“Especially with longer hair dogs, I would recommend getting them groomed more often to maintain their coat,” Paxton says. “Mats prevent airflow and moisture can get trapped in there creating bacteria.”
Brushing is also important if your dog likes to roll around in the snow and ice. Thorough brushing after snowy romps helps get any debris out. And, prevents mats from developing.
5. Use a Conditioner
Dry air is a killer in the winter, sucking the moisture out of every last place it can, including your dog’s skin and fur. And that can lead to dandruff, irritated and itchy skin, and fur that doesn’t keep your dog as warm as it should.
“A lot of dogs have skin issues in the winter because it gets so dry,” Paxton says. “Regular bathing will help get rid of anything that’s an irritant. Then, after the shampoo, which strips off all the oils, you want to condition to replace those oils and alleviate any itchiness or hot spots.”
If you’ve always used conditioner during a bath, great. If not, winter is the perfect time to add an ultra-moisturizing conditioner to your dog’s bathing routine.
There are also leave-in conditioners that provide an even deeper moisturizing treatment. Short-furred dogs like Pitbulls and English Bulldogs are particularly prone to dry skin, Paxton says.
Well-conditioned fur also keeps away those nasty wintertime static shocks.
6. Give Your Pup’s Nose Some TLC
Though a dog’s nose isn’t normally a part of most grooming rituals, in the winter it needs some extra care. All that dry air, wreaking havoc on your pooch’s skin and nails? It’s doing the same thing to her nose. A dry, cracked nose is uncomfortable for your dog and can even impact her sense of smell.
Use a nose balm (or a combo paw and nose balm) to help keep your dog’s nose soft and moist all winter long.