Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Monday, August 29, 2011

English Bull Terriers: Proof that God, and perhaps the English, have a sense of humor

White Bull Terrier

I know that as long as I live with Gracie, I'll never be able to say, "Well, now I've seen it all." Bull Terriers have a personality that means they're always finding new ways of interacting with the world. Both their comical expressions and their penchant for antics show me that God at least, must have a sense of humor.

For those of you not yet familiar with the breed, Bull Terriers were deliberately bred by an Englishman, James Hinks, to be a gentleman's companion. Either Mr. Hinks failed to communicate this adequately to the breed, or he actually believed a gentleman required a companion with a strong sense of humor. Bull Terriers are notorious goofballs, commonly compared to clowns and three year olds in dog suits. Bull Terriers don't seem to care about Sir Issac Newton's observation, "For every action their is an opposite and equal reaction."

Hinks originally bred for the white Bully. And note here - properly speaking, this is the "Bully" and a Staffordshire terrier is a "Staffy" -- people who are not particularly familiar with either often confuse the two. The Bull Terrier is sillier than the Staffordshire.

Bull Terriers are either White, or Colored; colors include brindle, red and white, and tri-colored (black, red, white.) Brindle is the most common color but there are many coat variations that occur even amongst brindle Bullies.

Brindle Bull Terriers

Bull Terriers generally love children. Gracie adores my nephews; when they were all younger we had to watch them closely as they would all get too excited playing together and eventually someone would get knocked over. Although not a very large dog - Gracie is just 39 pounds of muscle and bone - this is a very powerful breed. Power and excitement mean that Bullies are often too much dog for very young children, unless there is constant supervision and separation when the excitement level gets too high. A mature Bull Terrier however, is a fantastic companion for kids, as they will tolerate all kinds of playing yet protect the child with their life.

"Why you should never
leave a child alone with a Bull Terrier"

I love this photo, that has been making the rounds for awhile now; this is a White Bull Terrier who is getting a little temporary tattoo work from a friend. Like I said, the breed will put up with a lot of kinds of play. I don't recommend leaving any young child alone with a dog because freak accidents can always happen; I am just as confident allowing Gracie to play with my nephews as any dog I've ever lived with and trained. I know she is more devoted to them than some past canine family members.

This breed however, as I always say, seriously not for everyone.
People who like a quiet, predictable routine will find that a Bull Terrier likes to mix things up too often.
This is also a breed that seems to be wanting to try everything once.

Tri-colored Bull Terrier

The other morning for example I was cleaning in the kitchen when I heard something in the next door dining room. I walked in, in time to catch Gracie standing on the table. She'd never thought to try this before and we had a little talk about how this was a big "NO" and not to be tried again. But hey - how does a girl know until she tries? That's her attitude about most things.

My Dad isn't one of Gracie's biggest fans -- but how did he really know he didn't love her until she leaned up and licked his ear?
How did she know rubber couldn't be digested until she swallowed it?
How did she know she couldn't run off the end of her leash until she tried to?
How did she know the big Wolfhound at the kennel wasn't a playing type of dog until she offered to play?
And isn't the whole wide world a potential best friend?
(Except for my brother, who she really, really doesn't like - probably due to his very deep, booming voice which causes her to bark every time she hears it.)

Wow - 4 Bullies sitting still at once!

Then there are the behaviors that are routine.
Great devotion, often displayed by allowing as little body space between dog and person as possible. Laying on top of or next to people is a cherished activity.
Zooming. Sometimes around a room, sometimes in and out of a room, sometimes at great force into the furniture.
Smiling. This is a very happy breed.

Red and White Bull Terrier

Bull Terriers can be very good with other animals; like all terriers, they do best if they are raised with other animals and trained to respect other animals. Gracie has learned to live with cats and a pet rabbit; her sister who was not raised with other animals had a strong prey drive and wanted to kill the rabbit. She is now living in a happy home as an only animal.


White Bull Terriers may have black markings on their heads
For those who like adventure, training, a little unpredictable activity every day, a little bit of a challenge sometimes, someone to supervise your every activity, a playmate who also likes to curl up and sleep with you, ride in the car with you, walk, run, jog with you - this might be a breed worth considering. IF you are a somewhat flexible person. I can't imagine an inflexible person being happy with a Bull Terrier and vice verse.

I also welcome other people's experiences, stories, and pictures of Bull Terriers they've met or lived with. If you're having trouble posting, or if you have a picture you would like to share, send it to me at

Gracie multi-taksing again:
chewing carpet corners while playing with "approved" toys

Katie, Rehomed through Bully Rescue

Bull Terrier rescue has been fantastic in my experience. They work hard at both assessing the individual dog and giving the dog a head start on training, before sending them into a new home. Each state basically has their own Bull Terrier rescue representative; contact me if you have trouble finding contact information for your nearest breed rescue representative.
Smiling Brindle Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier approx. 1915

One of General Patton's Bull Terriers, circa 1945

Willie, after Patton's death

Modern Bull Terrier

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Training: Professional; Formal; Informal; None....

Ideal Dog: Also Brings Tea and Crumpets to Book Group

I liked a trained dog.
Okay, I haven't actually managed to train a dog to clean up after itself with a pooper scooper...that's just an idea that will make someone rich if they ever actually manage it. As you may be able to tell from the picture above, it would help if dogs had thumbs - thumbs make using a scoop and rake much easier.

We've talked about training before, in particular the importance of basic obedience has been mentioned.
I've recently noticed however, on a posting site I sometimes visit, that there is a huge range of what people consider a desirable/necessary level of training in the canines they live with.
I'd like to discuss that today, along with ask for your input on the level of training you consider ideal.

Obedience Class: holding "sit and stay" command

The above picture of a line of dogs holding a sit and stay are not a random group of canines that happened to be in a park one day. This is an example of a professional obedience class. I once took part in this level of formal training - I actually took my Shar Pei through a Shutzhund Obedience class. The dogs in the picture are taking part in a more commonly available AKC obedience class, which will allow them to take part in AKC sponsored obedience competitions, and earn titles as companion dogs. I've taken part in AKC and CKC (Canadian version) obedience classes.

It takes a certain amount of dedication on the part of the human partner to participate in such classes. Aside from the money paid to the head trainer, there is usually driving to and from the class, and practicing outside of class time which the human has to arrange. None of the dogs I have lived with have ever offered to pay for their own formal education or have taken the lead in scheduling training time.

Saint Bernard in Agility Trial

One does not have to pay a professional in order to train a dog.
Many people who end up doing agility training with their dog(s) build agility courses in their back yards and practice with friends who share this interest. I know that where I currently live a group of Border Collie owners used to get together and have their own agility practices just for fun. Of course, if you like more of a challenge, work with Saint Bernards rather than Border Collies...it takes a little longer to convince a Saint that he can  leap through the center of a hoop suspended in air.

And once you have some practice in training dogs, you may decide to be a little more informal, and train your dog yourself, at home and through outings to dog friendly places. Be sure you have practice and/or read a lot if this is your approach, just to make sure you aren't encouraging some unwanted behaviors.

A Lab that isn't Lil

I've noticed that I am somewhere between a slacker dog trainer and an automatic dog trainer these days; which group I fall into often depends on the moment and how self critical I'm being. When I compare myself to the human equivalent, I'm like the parent who has raised fifteen kids who realized about thirteen kids ago that eating a little dirt never really hurt anyone, and about eight kids ago that a little sibling squabbling better prepares them for the real world.

There are so many things I do now without thinking about it, like taking a dog out every hour until it is house trained, setting up schedules and routines for feeding, playing, leaving etc. My expectations are also probably more realistic then they were twenty or thirty years ago. I expect that some dogs will automatically take to walking on a leash, while others will just as automatically act like they are about to be taken on at least a reenactment of the Bataan Death March.

"We're doingwhat now!"

I can make some breed generalizations from experience: Labs, Rottweilers, and Shepherds like to work with people; Shar Pei are independent workers; Bull Terriers - hire them for comic relief during work breaks. I've also found that I can long term train and deal with just about any dog and their behavior quirks but that I'm also at a point in my life when I sometimes now see a problem dog and think, "I'm getting too old for that...."

I've also noticed that there is a huge range in what people consider acceptable behavior in their canine companions; as someone with a lot of experience and strong opinions, I will say some of this range is acceptable and some of it is not.

Little dog bites get infected too

It is not acceptable, for example, if the dog in your life is likely to bite me, even if it is small, or knock me down by jumping on me or banging into me. I also think there is a difference between having a dog loose in a dog friendly walking area, and having a dog run at me as I walk down a street or sidewalk, especially if the dog is charging with an aggressive posture rather than making a friendly approach.

Also realize, that big dogs and breeds with unfavorable reputations are going to intimidate some people just because they are big or their breed has a bad rep; they make a better impression for themselves and their breed when they are well trained and polite.

Good Canine Citizens

I think like all other aspects of the social contract that is part of living amongst other people, we have an obligation to maintain a level of civility between the canine companions we are responsible for and the world they take part in.

Maybe that means in your own home it is okay to let your dog eat at the table with you, if that's how you want to live. When you are eating out at a cafe and your dog accompanies you, he shouldn't eat off anyone else's plate.

A society also requires though, that we tolerate a range of viewpoints. So if you let your dog lick your mouth and that makes me cringe, I get to cringe inwardly but I shouldn't give you a lecture about where that dog's mouth has been. And if it makes you uncomfortable that I let my dog bounce off the sofa in the living room because I find it amusing - of course you are excused from visiting us - but don't bother constantly repeating "I don't know how you can live with that." I can, 'nuff said.

In other words, let's all try and be more tolerant of the acceptable range of dog behavior that takes place in other people's lives. If it isn't threatening or endangering the dog or a person, or another living being, or affecting another person's property, then let's accept that we're at different points in the amount of training we find necessary. Yet let's also remember, as with so many actions, what is acceptable at home is not necessarily acceptable in public, especially for your canine companion.


This is also a good point at which to remind everyone that one big advantage of adopting an older dog is that they are usually already trained, and have outgrown a lot of the puppy foolishness. The more I'm around puppies the more I love my middle-aged and senior canine friends.

I end today welcoming your opinions of what level of training you aim for; also, I'm sharing a picture that's been around the web for a while and does a nice job of showing an example of effectively trained dogs. There are over a dozen Shepherds eyeing up that very self assured cat.

(Caption reads: "Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" Psalm 23)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I think my puppy has attention deficit disorder....

Lil - watch dogging it

She looks like she is capable of such attentiveness.
If you watch her for really short periods of time.
Really short.

I realized today that Lil's attention doesn't seem to be getting any more capable of focus as she "matures" chronologically. For example, when she was a younger puppy and had trouble holding a sit for a minute I thought, "well, she'll get better as she gets older."

Today I was once again working on "sit" with Lil and while getting the sit comes immediatly, holding that sit is SO hard for her. Lil just has trouble focusing.

Then I decided I wanted to try and get a picture of Lil and Grace together to show how big Lil is getting. And I knew that getting a picture of the two of them together would be almost impossible so I put them both on leads, and attached them to the front porch. That's when I noticed that Lil has a shorter attention span than ... a terrier. And that's when I realized maybe she isn't going to "mature" as soon as most Labs I've known.

Gracie and Lil watching

Gracie was watching the neighborhood and checking out the street.
For the first minute Lil was able to be attentive like Grace.

Lil, loosing interest in watching
Okay, maybe it was more like, for the first twenty-five seconds.
Then her mind started to wander.

"What was I doing...?"

As Gracie kept watching, Lil seemed to loose track of what they were doing.
Then she seemed to loose focus on everything but Gracie.

Lil, hoping Gracie will find something more interesting for them to do...

Finally, Lil did lay down - and waited for Gracie to move. In fact, that seems to be the only real focus Lil is capable of - waiting for Gracie to find something for the two of them to get into.
This is not the kind of "attention" I was hoping for her to develop.

"Are we going!"

Its great to have two young dogs who can play with each other.
I'm wondering how things are going to work out though, if the terrier proves to be the focused one of the duo.

Not that this is all bad. As I write this Gracie is focused on barking out the front window at the neighbors while Lil is moving from chew toy to chew toy in the living room.

"Now what!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The dogs in your life: companions, pets, fur kids, or....

Dachunds in clothes

How do you talk about the canine companions in your life? Are they your fur-kids?
Do you dress them up -- for fun or fashion or Halloween?

Border Collie play Frisbee

Are your dogs playmates, friends who hang out and take part in activities that you both enjoy?
Do you enter events together? Do you enjoy a challenge - or a performance?

Golden Retriever working Service Dog

Is your dog your work partner? Do they accommodate your mobility, helping you negotiate the environment? Do they help you to function in the world?

Labrador on Couch

Or is your dog a hangout partner, a couch potato who also walks with you, lays by your feet - or by your side - and goes with you whenever/wherever possible?

Friend, surrogate child, playmate; dogs fill different niches in people's lives.

I understand that there are differences in how we think about the canines in our lives. For example on slightly different ends of the spectrum we have at one end people who think of dogs as belongings; things. On the other end, people who believe that they care as deeply about the dogs who live with them as other people care about their children. I would have to call myself a moderate on that scale; not on either end.

I have noticed though, that like so many areas where people find themselves polar opposites in viewpoints, there isn't a lot of tolerance for opposite views. One of the other sites related to dogs that I check in on has had a few little ugly exchanges the last few days. One person called their dog  "pet" which offended one of the people who calls the dog in their life a "furchild."  Rather than focusing on the fact that all participants obviously care for the canines in their lives - physically and emotionally - little word fights broke out over being not sensitive enough or too sensitive.

There are some things that I think those of us, readers and writers, involved with this blog share. We care about canines; our own and more generally about the welfare of dogs. In our own ways we find ways to help dogs when they need help and we're able. Maybe we don't talk about them the same way. Maybe some of us think of them as companions, others as pets, others as furry, four legged children. What I like about this space though is that people are respectful of each other when contributing.
Thank you for that!
And thank you for taking the time to contribute to this space, as readers and sometimes as writers.

If you would like to share how you think about the canines in your life I'd like to hear from you. I think our differences is part of what makes the world a more interesting place.

Lil's sister Ruby, future field trial Labrador

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breed Profile: Saint Bernard

St. Bernard puppies

Saint Bernard puppies are pretty gosh darn cute.
And there are many positives traints that make them rewarding to live with. They are loyal, good with children, and naturally protective.

Saint Bernards have been prominately featured in movies for over a decade; as a result they have enjoyed increasing popularity with people who are attracted to their looks but don't necessarily know much about the breed. Unfortunatley, this means they have also become more common in shelters.

Taz, available in Negaunee, MI Shelter
Taz is an example of yet another purebred  Saint that has ended up in a shelter; he is available for adoption in Negaunee, MI.
Using Petfinder, or one of the breed specific rescue sites will also help you connect with a Saint in need of a home:

What to know about St. Bernards when considering adding one to your life:

It is hard to remember when looking at those cute, chubby puppies, but these are dogs that get big. Very, very big, at 25-28 inches and 130-180 pounds. They also tend to drool. And shed. They need to be brushed, even if you get the short haired variety rather than the long haired variety.

I don't think though, that the size or the drool or the hair is the most common reason that Saints end up given up by owners. Saints are often portrayed in popular media as easy going, goofy dogs that don't require much from owners except food and water. And this simply isn't true.

Saints Working Agility

Like all big dogs, in order to bring out the best in a Saint, it needs to be trained and socilized from a young age. These dogs were bred to be independent, working dogs. They can be a little stubborn. They can be aggresive -- as any untrained, unsocilized dog can be -- if not properly handled from a young age.

Any large dog that is independent and bred to work needs exercise, training, and activity. I think that this is what people don't realize when adding a cute little Bernard puppy to their life...it requires an intelligent owner who will work with him, train him, socilize him, teach him boundaries and help him find activities to take part in.

Working Draft Saint Bernards

If you are someone who is active, who enjoys training, you might enjoy working with a Saint. If you have considered becomming active in draft pulling, or draft competitions, then Saints are certainly worth taking a look at.

Saints like to have a job; remember, they were bred to work. They seem to have a natural affinity for watching over children and protecting. This can be a challenging breed but they are fun to work with. Very loving and devoted to their family, this is a breed that is happy to be with people.

For those who enjoy a big, loving dog, who don't mind some grooming, and who enjoy working with an eager pupil, the Saint Bernard is definatly a breed worth considering. They deserve to be seen more often in obdience circles.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seperation Anxiety and Crating

I recently spoke to someone with a problem. His adopted Beagle, just over a year old, has a serious case of separation anxiety. Mr. Beagle has already destroyed a plastic crate and a wire crate; his people are now considering a very expensive steel crate to contain him while they are at work. While this will keep the pup in one spot, of course the dog will still have separation anxiety, which his people would very much like to help him work through so he can be more comfortable in their absence.

I will also add, that in this particular case the people are very aware that another dog would help this little pack dog feel more comfortable; their living situation is such that another dog is simply not possible at this time.

Separation anxiety is a common issue for dogs, particularly adopted dogs that have already been left by at least one family, perhaps more than one. When dealing with separation anxiety I find that one of the most helpful things we can do for our dogs is create a more positive association with being crated - and seeing the crate as a safe den - when people are away. Here are some suggestions for turning the crate from the enemy into a safe zone.

Creating Positive Associations with Crating and People Leaving

Step One:
Create a positive association with entering the crate:

Buy a really big bag of very small dog treats.
Work on teaching the dog a phrase like "kennel"-- walk the dog into the crate say, "kennel" as you close the crate door, give a treat.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We do not want to reinforce panic. If the dog is already panicking when going into the crate, once the gate is closed and before giving the treat just stand next to the crate and wait for the dog to calm down. When they realize you are not leaving them there they should slowly calm down. Once the dog calms, repeat the phrase "kennel" and give the treat.

NOTE: we are not yet training the dog to stay in the crate, we're training them to enter the crate on a positive note. Therefore, once the dog is calmly in the crate -- which may mean you pull up a chair and sit right next to them for a while --and you must not speak to them or interact, just be there--once the dog is calmly in the crate, and has heard the command "kennel" and had they're biscuit, you wait a minute and let them back out.

Repeat this exercise a number of times in one day until you can get the dog into the crate without the panic. You want to reach the point where when you say "kennel" the dog walks into the crate without any further prompting - just walks in and waits for their reward.

Step Two:
Create a positive association with being in the crate:

Note: two of the reasons dogs often develop negative associations with being crated is that 1)the only time they use the crate is when the people are away or, 2)because they spend too much time in the crate. Ironically, because we worry about 2) we tend to create 1)...using crates only when we're gone. To break negative associations with being crated it is necessary to intentionally create positive associations AND to make sure our dog gets plenty of exercise.

Feeding: Start to give your dog their meals in the crate. Use their word "kennel." Once they are in, place the food bowl in the kennel with them. Close the door so that the dog remains in the kennel to eat.

IF you do not have the crate in an area where you will naturally be preparing your own meal, or cleaning up afterwards, you may need to again stand or sit near the crate so that the dog is calm enough to eat. Do not speak to the dog, or talk to them about eating. Just be a quiet presence. Give the dog twenty minutes; if they are not willing to eat by then, remove the food and let them out. DO NOT offer the food outside the crate.

NOTE: it is VERY important that you have already done some work on creating a positive association with the crate by having worked on the "kennel" command; the idea is not to build on stress but to build on positive associations.

Step Three:
Create a safe association with being in the crate:

This is a hard one.
Stop letting the dog sleep on your bed.
If room allows - and try and make this work - find a way to fit the dog's crate into your bedroom.
Follow the "kennel" routine, putting the dog in the crate as part of your night routine as you prepare for bed.
Be prepared to let the dog whine, bark, cry, and complain.
DO NOT respond in any way, do not speak to them, do not yell at them, do not comfort them. Allow them to calm down on their own when they realize that no one is going anywhere and this is their new den spot at night. I suggest beginning this routine on a night when you have the following morning off, because chances are you may not sleep well.
Use headphones if you have to.
It is really important to not give in and let the dog out.

NOTE: you want to make sure the dog has had LOTS of exercise before bed. Take them for a walk, play fetch, take them to a friend's house to play hard with another dog - make sure they are tired!

ALSO: If it is physically impossible to fit the crate into the bedroom - and I would move a dresser to make this happen- then try and place the crate near enough your room so that the dog can hear you at night. Dogs with separation anxiety are worried about being away from the pack at night. It helps reduce their anxiety when they can hear and smell the other pack members, i.e. their people. Later on, when a dog has stopped seeing their crate as the enemy, it is possible to remove the crate a little distance - but you will again want to initially do this on a non-work night.

Step Four:
Reducing Stress over Separation

Note: While this is labeled step four, I will start to work on this step as soon as I've completed step one -- so it might be more accurate to call this step 1.b

Once the dog is crating on command, practice leaving for VERY short periods of time. Crate the dog when you step outside the entrance to your home; while you run to the store; while you go to the bathroom -- its all practice for being in the crate for short periods of time.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do NOT make a fuss over the dog when you return. If the dog is howling, crying, fighting the crate, wait for them to calm down.
Only let the dog out of the crate when they are calm.
Do not make a fuss over the dog.
Do not pet the dog and talk to him.
JUST let him out of the crate and then go about your business.
IF you need to take the dog outside to 'potty' when you let them out, then STILL wait for them to calm, quietly before opening the crate; then calmly clip their leash on - no petting, no talking - and take the dog out.

WHY - we reinforce anxiety when we make a big deal of 'reuniting' with our dogs. Basically, by making  a fuss over them when we walk in the door, we are giving them the message that they were right to be concerned with our absence.
 I know it feels good to have someone so happy to see you. But if YOU can act like your leaving is a positive thing - complete with giving a dog biscuit, AND that you're coming home is no big deal - you will make a tremendous difference in how your dog views this whole interaction.

Leaving stops being a bad thing; coming home stops being a reason for emotional responses. Coming home should be just another routine, to be expected, nothing to get excited about thing to always be expected.
In other words, by NOT being excited about coming home, we help our anxious dogs to realize that this will always be part of their world, not a big deal, and therefore not something to be anxious about - it just always happens.

Other tips for reducing anxiety:
Make sure the pup is getting plenty of exercise. A dog that is tired will welcome crate time as den-sleep time.
Take the dog to pup-friendly walk areas so they meet their needs for social interactions and/or arrange play dates with other dogs.
Use food toys/puzzles to feed your dog rather than a bowl; the more time a dog spends being interactive with their environment the more they welcome the down time of a den/crate.
(I use a food toy in the crate to feed Lil my Lab.)
If possible enter a training class; the bonding time and learning will help engage the brain, and strengthen the sense of team/pack that doesn't abandon each other.

Final Note: Make sure the crate is comfortable. The dog should be able to stand up and turn around. I like my dogs to be able to stretch out to sleep. Lil is a stretcher, Gracy however likes to burrow deep into a dog pillow-bed and curl up. Used blankets from resale shops and garage sales can be turned into doggy bedding if your dog is destroying bedding while working through their anxiety.

If others have ideas that have worked for them please share.
Also, questions and comments as always, are welcome.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coat Grooming: How often, for how long, and can I manage this?

Is the amount of grooming a dog will require something you think about when considering particular breeds? In real life, once you have a dog, how much time do you actually devote to grooming; do you occasionally bathe, brush semi-regularly, or just go full out once or twice a season?


Do you fancy yourself a dog beautician? I do not...yet I seem to regularly saddle myself with dogs that require grooming. No - I don't have a Borzoi - but I thought it would be nice to show something besides a Collie when talking about dogs that need to be brushed semi-regularly. A few devoted owners might even brush some of these breeds daily; daily brushing usually isn't necessary unless you live in a context that makes it necessary, i.e. your pup is getting into brush, grass, or other hair mussing situations on a regular basis.

Collies, Borzoi, Shetland Sheepdogs, long haired Shepherds, Chows, Afghans, Pomeranians, Shi Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese...obviously I'm just doing a handful of breeds off the top of my head. This category of coat care requires a selection of brushes for both removing underhair and dealing with top coats. You can find some excellent advice online about the different available brushes and what they do. Not being a fanatical groomer (I once read a how-to grooming article by a collie groomer who had something like 30 brushes) I have two basic brushes - please don't call the ASPCA on me - a rake and another brush for the top coat. I own more brushes than these, but these are the two I can't live without.

Cocker Spaniels

I'll also confess here - I have been known to cut a mat of hair out of a full coat, to thin a coat with regular scissors, and to lop off long hair just because it was too long. (I've done this to myself, not just my dog, so consider this your warning not to do what I do.)

I used to tell myself that I wasn't allowed to own a Collie until I could afford to send her to the groomer regularly. In real life, I find having a longer coated breed is a combination of professional grooming and upkeep from the owner. This is a real consideration when owning a breed with long, mattable fur - are you willing to brush your dog out at least once a week, and send them to the groomer at least three or four times a year? (If you brush and bathe your dog more often, you don't need to use a professional groomer as often.)

Standard Poodles

Then there are the breeds that grow hair rather than fur; they don't shed more than you or I but like us they need haircuts. You can take your dog to a professional groomer or you have to buy some essential grooming equipment like clippers, very good scissors, brushes...and be prepared to do not only some upkeep on a weekly basis but some all out grooming/bathing/clipping/stripping about every six weeks. For me this was actually the group that both my rescue Cocker-Terrier mix, and all my terriers have fallen into. This group includes terriers, poodles, Giant Schnauzers, Bouviers, and mixes like the labradoodle or other dogs with a lot of poodle or terrier in them.

Kerry Blue Terriers

Then there are the short haired shedders. These dogs don't necessarily require a lot of brushing but their smell does tend to benefit from baths and they do leave hair around the house. How much varies by breed. At the top of my shedding list would have to be the Retrievers, followed by all the other hunting breeds, and a few short haired terriers like the Bull Terrier and the Stafordshire.

I personally found it a lot less hairy to live with a Collie than I am finding life with a Labrador. Labs basically walk through life leaving a wide path of short hair. They aren't the only dogs that leave hair behind, it just seems like they leave more of it more often. Even my sisters longer haired Shepherd, or Malamutes didn't seem to deposit more hair than a Lab. I tend to vacuum every day - okay several times a day - anyway but with a Lab it just seems that little bit harder to keep up. On the other hand, you don't really have to brush them. The hair falls off all by itself. This can be a trade off for some people - don't like to groom but don't mind sweeping or vacuuming - a Retriever might be the breed for you. Just not a Golden, cause then you're back to brushing.

Great Dane

Short haired shedders including Boxers, Mastiffs, and Great Danes, most Hounds, Pointers, and Retrievers, can benefit from a grooming glove. I have to admit though, I know a lot more owners of these breeds who don't bother with grooming gloves than who do. Some bathe more often, or use cloths - there is more than one way to meet grooming needs.

Vizla getting a bath

Which brings us to the really important point: Why Groom?

Grooming isn't just a matter of beauty, which people sometimes forget. Grooming is part of maintaining the health and comfort of a dog. For example, it is when bathing or brushing even a short haired dog that you will often first notice ticks, fleas, wounds, small bumps etc. Left untreated these can cause more serious trouble with time. Careful attention to the coat of a dog is often your best early warning when a tumor or cyst is developing.

For longer haired dogs, brushing is necessary to keep the hair from becoming uncomfortably knotted; knots pull on the skin and hurt. Mats and knots also keep fur/hair from doing its work - providing protection, heating, and helping to keep sun-burn off. Knotted hair is painful and non-protective.

Irish Setter hunting

Grooming: How Often

How often you need to groom is a combination of three factors:  your dog's lifestyle (walks on pavement, runs through brush, swims a lot, rolls in mud) the natural state of their coat (long, double coated, growing hair vs. shedding fur) and their comfort. In other words, you need to groom often enough so that your dog is comfortable and his or her hair or fur is able to do the job it was designed to do.
You need to groom often enough so that your pet's hair isn't matted, tangled, pulling uncomfortably; so that their skin isn't so dirty it is under threat of becoming infected or irritated; and probably often enough that their odor isn't an offense to those they live around.

Nitro the Lab going for a Swim
(Lil's Dad)

Grooming needs are based not just on breed, but on where you live, how you live, and what your dog's body/coat are exposed to. The point is, groom often enough so that your animal is always comfortable.

Of course, I would be very interested in hearing how others have adopted to their canines' grooming needs. How often? Did you get what you expected grooming wise with your current companion? Did you spend much time thinking about grooming before acquiring the dog(s) you live with? Advice for others?

Shar Pei

And by the way - coat grooming is just part of the grooming process; small eared dogs like Shar Pei need their ears cleaned very regularly, as did my rescue Scottish Terrier; nail clipping also generally falls under grooming and ought not to be neglected. I hesitate to even mention anual glands....