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Grooming For Puppies

The Bouvier des Flandres is one of those non-shedding dogs. What that means is that their hair doesn't fall out on a seasonal schedule like so many other breeds. The Bouvier coat needs to be physically combed out regularly. In the fluffy puppy coat it is not obvious to see the undercoat and the overcoat that will be part of the adult's coat. The little guy combs out in two minutes, so you might ask, "What is the big deal?"

Be forewarned that it is very necessary to get that tiny pup used to being on the grooming table, maybe as often as twice weekly. He needs to be asked to 'stand', and with a hand under his belly, a short combing is given. The session may last two to three minutes at the beginning, gradually getting longer as the pup gets used to the process. Give lots of praise when the pup stands as he has been told to do. When he sits, lift him back up with your hand under his belly and repeat the command stand. Give no praise to a pup that is struggling or being bad. Be firm about getting him to stand, even if it is only for a moment in the case of a struggling dog. Try to end the session on a positive note, stopping when things are going well. This may require you to stop before you are finished. Come back to the job a little later if necessary.

You may be tempted to allow the pup to lie down while you comb him. Don't. That pup will become a big dog some day soon, a big hairy dog. Down on your knees on the floor is only good for a sore back. You cannot get him to move because he is so relaxed he wants to go to sleep. You tug and heave and the dog snores. No. Get that pup onto a table you can easily get around, that has a non-skid mat on the surface. Then get him used to standing while he is being groomed. You will be at your ease, able to clearly see what you are doing. When the first haircut times comes, the whole process will be entirely more pleasant with a pup who is used to standing. Since we usually do the first haircut at around 4-5 months of age, teaching you how to proceed as we go along, we cannot emphasize how exhausting the cut is on an untrained dog , versus the sweet pleasure of grooming a calm dog. That first haircut is not a family event, please could the master come by him or herself. Dogs know when they have an audience.

We try to set you up with appropriate tools to work with. A stiff, long-toothed comb, a dematting rake, quality scissors and nail clippers. Then we will show you how to use them.

It's cute to see the rolly, polly pup, but when you start to see his tail, and his back, and his neck and throat area, and then his flat, wide scull, there's no going back. The teddy bear becomes a Bouvier with shape and proportion. It is one of the most exciting moments for us to see the dog under the hair.

The hairdo makes the hair shortest at the bum and neck. Both are areas that could get matted and dirty otherwise. Keeping the hair short between the pads of the feet also helps keep mats from forming there (they can make the dog lame) and cuts down on the dirt tracked into your home. The short cut across the back is practical for easy combing out and shows off the dogs topline and tailset. The short hair on the top of the head shows off the wide, flat scull. There should be no reason for a Bouvier needing to be shaved down all over. The hair protects the dog from the sun and the weather. The Bouvier's beard and bangs are his signature look. They are kept long, with only a bit of trimming around the eyes and possibly some thinning of the beard. Let us do this together. It's a bit tricky and the hair on the face is longer to grow back than elsewhere. Nails also need to be cut regularly. There will be many fewer scratches on the humans if they are kept short.

We'll try to give you the principles of doing the haircut so that you feel comfortable attempting it yourself. Grooming time is a pleasant and intimate time for the dog and his master. It is a great time to connect with your dog. You have a chance to examine your dog all over, and can catch any problems promptly. (Mats can cause the skin underneath them to turn into great weeping sores.) Usually when we have a dog on the grooming table, there's another one vying for position under it, in the hope of being the next one to get combed out. We love the one on one time with each of our dogs.

Nobleair puppies going off to their new homes bring with them a very complete booklet concerning their care. A detailed article on grooming, complete with diagrams, is included.



Grooming Kind of Feeling, -Getting Ready

Okay today’s the day for the Bouvier’s haircut.  You’re in the right frame of mind, -relaxed with a good bit of time on your hands-, to patiently work away, carefully combing out a hairy dog.  Old clothes are a must, and forget the knits that paws and combs get caught in and ruin.  Something cool is best because it’s quite the workout.  Comfortable shoes will make you more resilient and protect your feet if scissors get knocked off the grooming table.

There are basic indispensable tools for grooming the Bouvier.  Although the initial purchase might entail spending $600 to $700, the investment will quickly bring you healthy returns.  At $80 to $100 a grooming at the salon you may find that within the first year of the dogs life, you would already have been ahead to purchase you own tools.  Quality tools will serve you for the lives of many dogs.  You will have control over the outcome of the process, can do a bit of a touchup in between the big jobs, do the cut at your own convenience, and have wonderful one on one time with your dog.  You will be able to closely examine your dog all over for any problem and nip it in the bud. 

The Necessary Tools Include:

1. Comb; stiff, long-toothed, 1 ½ inch teeth, to get through the undercoat to the skin;

2. Dematting Rake; razor -like serations on blades cut through matts, saving coat and effort;

3. 8 inch straight scissors; long blades for cutting a big surface;

4. Curved, blunt-nosed scissors; for delicate work around eyes, between foot pads, and
around feet;

5. Thinning shears; thin beards, give finished look all over;

6. Nail trimmers; keep nails cut;

7. Pin brush; long-toothed brush (forget the one with the knobs on the bristles) for fluffing up the hair;

8. Clippers;  an inexpensive set of adjustable clippers, either cordless with rechargeable battery or plug in, does a finished job on the skull and ears;  for them to work
properly blade lubricant/cleaner is essential;

9. Grooming table;  4 foot-long, non-skid rubber
work surface, folding legs for storage, grooming arm for second set of hands and control; sets the work tone of the moment, saves your back and knees, brings the dog up to eye level for clear viewing of the work to be done.

I insist, get the dog on the grooming table and make him stand while you work.  You cannot work properly on a flopped dog.  As you groom, you will be moving around and looking at every aspect of the dog as a whole.  Keep that in mind.  Lift and position the dog as many times as it takes for him to understand, each time repeating the command “Stand”.  He will understand what you want of him when you insist on it.  Those who have taught their tiny pups to stand for grooming will be proud to easily proceed through combing out their dog. 

Good lighting is a big asset for working on a black dog.  Choose a sunny day and set up near a window.  Extra lights to clear out the shadows make that dark blob into a reality you can begin to take a critical look at. Although we all
adore our dogs, good grooming requires standing back and noting the dog’s strong and weak points.  Be


Long-toothed comb & dematting rake


8.5" Straight shears, blunt-nosed curved scissors, thinning shears


Nail chippers, cordless chippers with adjustable blade, pin brush


Grooming table

honest.  Is he long in the body?  Too tall?  He’s got a great topline and tailset.  To make the best of what he’s got a good groomer hides the faults and highlights the qualities. 

If the dog has been sorely neglected and is matted you’ll need to greatly lower your expectations about the final product. (One woman proudly told us how she had removed all the dog’s hair in one piece, just like at a sheep shearing, and how jubilant the dog was afterwards!!) You may have to cut out a great deal to get the situation back under control.  Many groomers are stuck in this situation with Bouviers that for months have been only partially combed out.  The surface of the dog looks great, but underneath is a solid impenetrable matt.  They are left with no choice but to shave the dog. To avoid this situation the long-toothed stiff comb must regularly be put through the coat with strong, steady tugging, getting right down to the skin on every inch of the dog’s body.  A superficial combing out will catch up to you sooner than later. 

After the thorough combing out a nice bath, rinse, conditioner and rinse out will work wonders.  Clean hair cuts very nicely, and your tools (especially those used on the feet) will stay sharp much longer, saving you much time, energy and money.  Now get the dog dried out, briefly combed out again and you’re ready for the haircut. 

Prepared by Susan-Parker Blair for Nobleair Kennels


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