Cold winters don’t stop your dog’s daily walks—and that means cold, wet fur and paws in your future. A little extra grooming is in order to keep your pup healthy and happy all season long!
You might think that less time rolling around in the grass and mud in the winter means you can skip your dog’s regular baths, but it doesn’t mean you should stop bathing your dog altogether. Dirt and ice-melting salt can accumulate in your dog’s coat, and if you’re one for winter cuddles (like us), keeping their fur smelling fresh certainly isn’t a bad thing. Bathing and conditioning is especially important for dogs with long or curly hair that are prone to matting.
To make cold weather baths a little more pleasant, use warm water (not hot!) to lather them up and rinse them off. (If they’re especially dirty, you can shampoo them twice.) After washing their hair, apply conditioner. You can comb it through longer fur with a wide-tooth comb to detangle it while you wash. Conditioner is beneficial for short-haired dogs too, moisturizing your dog’s skin and fur in one go. Winter dry skin isn’t just a people problem!
After bathing, make sure to dry your dog thoroughly, especially before their next walk outside—going in the cold with wet fur can chill your dog to the bone very quickly! Dry them by patting and squeezing with a towel (avoid rubbing to prevent tangles) or by using a hair dryer on the cool or warm setting. Feel free to wrap them up in a cozy blanket or dry towel as they finish air drying.
Brushing your dog’s fur is essential—especially with those thick winter coats! It removes dirt and shedding hair and helps to detangle hair. If you have a long-haired dog, you know just how important that is—tangled hair can be painful, and it just gets worse when that fur gets thoroughly matted.
That’s why brushing should be part of your regular grooming schedule! Most dogs benefit from being brushed at least once or twice a week, but it depends on your dog’s hair type and activity level.
Short-haired dogs can go longer between brushings if they don’t shed much, while dogs with curly hair prone to matting (we’re looking at you, golden doodles) might need to be brushed every couple of days to keep their fur in tip-top condition. Use the right brush or comb for your dog’s fur type and stay consistent and you’ll have an irresistibly pettable dog.
If you discover any particularly stubborn tangles when you’re trying to brush your dog, take it slowly and gently. Detangling matted hair can be stressful for your dog and you, so be patient (and keep some treats on hand as a bribe).
We recommend starting by giving your dog a bath with shampoo and plenty of conditioner to clean and begin to loosen any mats. Once they’re clean and dry, begin gently teasing the tangled hair strands apart with a metal comb (sometimes called a greyhound comb). A good detangling spray can be a lifesaver for loosening the knots and making the experience less painful for your dog!
Start at the ends and move closer and closer to their skin as you detangle the mat. Once you can comb their hair through smoothly, congratulations! You’ve vanquished a dreaded mat.
If you can’t thoroughly detangle the mat, it’s okay! Sometimes mats go too far and require professional attention. Take your dog into a groomer to see if they can detangle it or if it will need to be snipped or shaved out. Dog groomers know how to tackle tangles in the least stressful way for dogs—and in a way that won’t leave them walking around with a goofy bald spot for months.
A slicker brush is also a useful tool to keep on hand for removing those big chunks of snow that can get stuck in long fur. Simply brush the snow away (and add a spritz of grooming spray to the brush if needed) to help your dog look more like a dog and less like a snowman. If you have to tackle persistent ice chunks that won’t brush out, a soak in warm water or a blast from a hair dryer on the warm setting will make quick work of them.
We pay a lot of attention to dogs’ fur (as we should because it’s gorgeous), but you can’t forget paw care!
Those toe beans take a beating in the winter between freezing snow and ice and the caustic salt used to melt ice on roads and sidewalks. All that nasty stuff can build up in the nooks and crannies between your dog’s toes, causing irritation if left unattended. If your dog tries to lick that gunk out themselves, eating all that chemically treated salt can irritate their stomachs—a thoroughly unpleasant double whammy.
Wipe your dog’s paws off with a towel or wet wipe (and get between all those toes!) or give their paws a rinse with warm water whenever you come inside from an icy walk to avoid irritation and melt any clinging snow. Applying a little balm to their dry paw pads isn’t a bad idea either to prevent painful cracked skin. (Pro tip: apply a little waxy balm to their paws before walks to help stop snow from sticking to them!)
As a preventative measure, keep any long toe fluff trimmed to prevent snow and salt from clinging to it. You might want to consider getting booties (and other winter gear) for your dog if they’re experiencing persistent paw irritation.
Also, don’t forget those nails! You might have to trim or file them more frequently in the winter because they’re not getting to naturally wear down those talons by running on the rough ground.
Everyone deserves a little extra TLC during the winter—especially your pup. Grooming your dog is time the two of you get to spend together, and while not every dog loves getting a bath, they do love the treats and cuddles that come afterward!