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A shear dilemma regarding the grooming of farm dogs

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

I was asked last week if it is too early to shear your dog. Since the dog in question runs on a farm and has collected burrs and mats, I can see the owner’s concern.

A dirty, matted dog needs grooming and shearing is quicker and less painful to the dog than trying to pick the mats and burrs out. Since the weather forecast for the next several nights is hovering in the 30s, the dog must be protected once it is sheared. Shearing is stressful especially if the dog is not accustomed to regular grooming.

The amount of stress depends on the dog: its size, age and whether it is an indoor/outdoor dog. At this time of year, any size dog should be kept indoors at night if it is sheared until the weather moderates.

A strictly outdoor large dog needs a draft-free shelter that is packed with enough clean, dry straw that it can dig out a nest. The straw holds that dog’s body heat and helps keep the animal warm.

The draft-free shelter should be built so that the dog has to go around a baffle to get to its bed. The baffle protects the animals from the wind. Many people put a rug or blanket cross the doorway to a doghouse to protect their pet from drafts. Again, it depends on the individual animal.

Age is also important. Any dog over six years of age needs to be protected from chilling if it has been sheared at this time. Arthritis is frequently a problem with older dogs, and anyone suffering from this disease can sympathize with a dog that has been sheared but has no warm, cuddly bed to sleep in. It is recommended that even an outdoor dog, if old or stiff, be confined indoors at first during the cold, windy nights and provided with an appropriate sized box or tub filled with clean, old towels or clean, dry straw for a bed.

Mats and burrs are harmful to the skin of dogs. Burrs stick to the hair and unless the animal is able to chew each one loose, a burr keeps wrapping more and more hair around itself, pulling on the roots and traumatizing the skin. Some burrs will even scratch the skin and one or two varieties will actually penetrate the skin causing sores.

Mats also grow, starting out as just a few hairs twisted together and ending up in a felt-like pad that covers the body hiding fleas, hot spots and sores. When a groomed dog gets wet, a good shake will start the drying process and the body heat filtering out through the individual hairs finishes drying the dog. A matted dog does not have this protection. There is no way to shake the water off a heavily matted dog, so the animal stays wet. Anyone who has sat out in the rain to watch a football game knows how cold it seems when the wind blows against a wet jacket or coat.