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Grooming The PWD

General:

The Portuguese Water Dog has a coat that continues to grow throughout its life. This means that it doesn't naturally shed. You will need to groom the dog for 10-15 minutes twice a week. Be sure to groom your puppy regularly as soon as it comes home. Puppy coats have large amounts of oil and rarely mat but this early training will pay long-term dividends. Dogs that begin regular grooming at an early age adapt to it easily, and learn to enjoy the experience. Dogs who are not groomed as a puppy later find grooming to be a frightening and very stressful experience that they learn to hate. One of the additional benefits of grooming is the time spent interacting and bonding with your dog. Again if you wait until the puppy is six months old before you begin brushing it, it will be difficult to control the puppy. If the adolescent puppy has become matted the grooming session will be a nightmare.
Puppy Coat Change:
Between nine and twelve months both wavy and curly-coated dogs will begin to lose their puppy coat as they develop their adult coats. Almost daily brushing will be required during this period to remove the dead puppy hair from the coat. Matting can occur almost overnight. If matting is severe the only remedy is to shave down the dog. This coat change seems to occur more gradually in curlies and has a pattern with adult coat progressing from front to back with the hocks changing last. Wavy coats change much quicker and may become matted quickly. Another concern is if your dog has significant amount of white hair. The white areas mat much quicker as the white hair is thinner and the mats are like "cotton candy". IT WE PLAN TO SHOW A PUPPY IN THE 6-9 PUPPY CLASS WE SHAVE THE PUPPY'S BODY COAT DOWN AT 12 WEEKS TO SPEED UP COAT CHANGE.

Grooming Tools:

Only a few grooming tools are necessary for maintenance grooming between trips to the groomer. You will need a stainless steel greyhound comb, a slicker brush, a pin brush and nail clippers. If you are going to trim your dog yourself a pair of quality stainless steel straight scissors (8 1/2 to 9 inch), a two-speed dog clipper and a grooming table with an adjustable grooming arm are necessary. These purchases may seem costly but remember that the average professional groomer in the Bay Area charges between $60 and $90 to groom a PWD. When you multiply this by the eight or nine times your dog will needed to be groomed each year. You find the annual grooming expense for a PWD to be between $500-$750. Most of our puppy owners ultimately learn to do their own grooming. We recommend purchasing basic grooming tools only initially as a puppy can be groomed with just a comb, brush, pair of scissors and nail clippers. However if you do have powered clippers the puppy should be exposed to the sound when young so they become used to them, as you will need to use clippers as the dog grows.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ATTEMPT TO USE HUMAN HAIR CLIPPERS AS THEY ARE GROSSLY UNDERPOWERED AND THE BLADES HEAT UP QUICKLY AND CAN BURN YOUR DOG.

Recommended Grooming Products:

Cowboy Magic Detangler: The best product available for dematting. It is an equine product made for detangling the mane and tails of horses and works very well on PWDs. It can be found in most pet warehouse stores in the horse section. You take a nickel-sized amount of the gel and massage it directly into a mat and wait an hour or so then comb and tease out the mat. The active ingredients are silk protein amino acids and simethicone as a lubricant.
Pink Plus Spray: This spray is an ethnic beauty product and is available in most human hair care stores. It is basically an oil spray and can be sprayed directly on the PWD coat or onto a slicker brush to lessen the trauma to hair tips when brushing. If you prefer, one of the coat conditioners below can be used.
Ice on Ice Finish Spray and Coat Conditioner: This spray produced by Chris Christensen Systems is a protective coating for hair. It contains a sunscreen and helps to prevent the tip browning seen in dogs with significant sun exposure. Best of all it is water-soluble and does not have that oily feel that many finishing sprays have. The concentrate can be diluted in a gallon of water and used as a coat conditioner after shampooing. Because it coats the individual hairs it is excellent on the rear legs of male dogs in retriever clip. It actually repels urine!
Coat Handler Shampoo and Conditioners: We became familiar with these products when we were showing poodles in the 1980s. The maintenance shampoo can be used even daily if you need to and is hypoallergenic. The conditioner contains no lanolin, silicones or oils and does seem to help if you are having matting problems. It is available from Tigers in Fremont and at most dog shows. While almost any dog shampoo will do in a pinch we feel those formulated for coated breeds such as poodles, bichons, etc work better long-term.
Professional Animal Clippers: Spend the money upfront and buy good professional animal clippers if you plan to trim your own dog. They are well worth it in the long run. Oster, Andis, Conair/Pro and Wahl are brands to look for. Frequently you can find a good price on a package with several blades. The Kim Laube Company in Oxnard, CA makes the Cadillac of clippers. The Laube clippers offer high speeds while being incredibly light and come with a five-year warranty while most clippers have only a one-year warranty. The best place to purchase professional clippers is from grooming supply catalogs or internet grooming sites such as Pet Edge (Petedge.com), JB Wholesale (Jbpet.com), Ryanspet.com, and Groomersdepot.com. Good clippers should last a long time if they are cleaned and oiled regularly. They will also last longer if you don't clip your dog when it is too dirty. We prefer ceramic blades as they will stay cool longer and will be better tolerated by the dog. You should purchase at least a 40, 10, 8 1/2, and a 7F. I also use a 3F for the body on a pet trims at home. A set of Laube snap-on combs is also necessary. REMEMBER SNAP ON COMBS GO OVER A #30 0R #40 BLADE. IF YOU TRY TO USE THEM OVER A #10 BLADE IT WILL REQUIRE MUCH MORE EFFORT.
Adjustable Grooming Table and Grooming Arm: If you are just getting started you can use any flat table surface with a large rubber bath mat on it to groom your dog. Some owners make their own platform out of plywood, glue a rubber mat to the top, and then place the platform on top of a crate to groom. However a good folding grooming table with adjustable height legs will save your back. You want to be able to see well and also have control of your dog. A clamp-on grooming arm with a noose is necessary to control your dog. ALWAYS HAVE A QUICK RELEASE CLIP ON THE NOOSE IN CASE THE DOG JUMPS OR FALLS OFF THE GROOMING TABLE SO THEY DO NOT HANG THEMSELVES.

Trims:

Lion Trim
In Portugal the fisherman would shave down their dogs once a year at the beginning of spring (basically when the sheep were sheared). The hindquarters were closely shaved and the hair was left longer over the body and head. (According to some authorities the hair was left long on the upper torso to keep the vital organs i.e. heart, lung and kidneys warm. However the "lion dog" cut has been depicted in paintings since Roman times and is a traditional trim in many countries around the Mediterranean.) By the fall the coat would have grown back enough to keep the dog warm in winter. An additional benefit of the lion clip today is that it is easier to maintain because there is less coat to groom.

Working Retriever Trim
The working retriever clip was popularized by Deyanne Miller as she tried to repopulate the breed in the United States. She was afraid that she would have difficulty placing puppies if they were in the lion clip. The PWDCA grooming guide specifies that the coat should be one inch all over but this rarely is the case at dog shows. Many owners and handlers keep the legs, head, chest and neck hair longer than an inch, blending these areas in to the shorter body by scissoring. This blending of long and short hair creates a more pleasing outline.
Our own preference has been to show our curly dogs in the retriever clip and our wavy dogs in the lion clip. They just look better to our eye that way. REMEMBER THAT CURLY COATED DOGS WHEN GROOMED ARE LIKE TOPIARY WHILE A PERFECTLY GROOMED WAVY COAT AFTER 30 MINUTES MAY LOOK UNKEMPT.

If you plan to groom your own dog plan on attending the PWDCNC annual grooming seminar. Also you may want to purchase one of the videos on grooming the PWD so that you can refer to it. Judy Siebert's general grooming video and Bill McFadden's video on show trims are excellent and there are several new ones that we have not reviewed. Jack Girton's articles in the old Seafarer magazine have been reprinted and are useful. Vivian Pace's laminated flip card showing snap on comb grooming is very helpful. Both are available from 4myPWDs.com

Ears:

Because PWDs have pendulous ears they should have their ears checked at least weekly when they are being groomed. The ears will usually not become a problem as long as they are kept clean. You should check your dog's ears for waxy buildup, excessive matting of hair in the external ear, redness or inflammation around the ear, retention of dirt, or foreign material in the ear canal. Burrs trapped in the hair under the ear can cause a great deal of discomfort to your dog. You should also smell your dog's ears. The presence of a sour, foul odor indicates a problem. Mites, fleas and ticks like the dark, moist and inaccessible area of the ear. Ear mites are readily recognizable as a brown, granular substance down in the ear canal.
Simple ear care is should be started early in the puppy's life. Hold the ear leather (flap) up and gently clean the visible surface of the ear with a cotton ball slightly moistened with mineral oil. There are some things that you should never do.
•DO NOT use soap and water.
•DO NOT poke or probe the internal ear canal, or the delicate tissues of the ear Vigorous attempts to clean the ear may cause more problems than they prevent.
•DO NOT use cotton tipped swabs. These may push dirt or foreign materials further down the ear canal, creating a more serious problem.
Regular ear cleaning also prevents buildup of excessive wax inside the ear canal. If your dog starts scratching at his ear or shaking his head, you should examine the ear immediately as this can be a sign of a foreign body, ear mites or an ear infection. Swimmer's ear (external otitis) occurs infrequently in this breed even in dogs training in the water. However preventive measures after swimming or bathing can reduce this low incidence to zero. Most microorganisms prefer an environment that is alkaline; therefore, most commercial ear preparations have an acid base. A simple solution of 2 parts white vinegar mixed with 1 part isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) in a squeeze bottle is an effective cleaning solution. We are not fans of plucking ear hair because this may cause trauma to the delicate skin in and adjacent to the ear canal. We recommend just keeping the hair scissored short and remove any mats as they occur.

Nails:

Few dogs enjoy nail cutting. However most can be trained to allow their nails to be cut without a major struggle. Start out with a sharp nail clipper. There are two types of nail clippers–the single-bladed "guillotine" type clipper and the "plier" type with two blades. We prefer the plier type because it is easier to see where you are cutting. The plier type cuts faster with less effort. They are inexpensive and can be replaced when they become dull. No matter which type you use make sure they're always sharp. The sharper they are, the less they pinch the nail during the cut. REMEMBER YOU WANT TO CUT THE NAIL AT 45º ANGLE. WHEN WE BRED POODLES WE USED A ROTARY NAIL GRINDER SIMILAR TO A DREMEL ROTARY TOOL TO GRIND THE NAIL. HOWEVER THE VIBRATION AND HIGH PITCHED NOISE PRODUCED ARE NOT APPRECIATED BY THE PWD.
Have the dog on a grooming table with good lighting. Have someone to assist you by giving your dog treats while you are cutting your nails. THIS IS A TWO- PERSON JOB AT LEAST UNTIL YOUR PUPPY/DOG IS TRAINED AND ACCEPTS NAIL CUTTING. Always start with the rear feet – lift the foot turning the paw backward so the pads are facing up. Spread the toes apart and nip off just the tips while praising the dog. Finish trimming the remaining nails on that foot. You should treat and praise with each cut. You are not just trimming the nails you are training your dog to understand that nail cutting may be uncomfortable but it does not hurt. If the dog resists stop after doing one foot do some brushing and start on the other rear foot. Front feet are done next in a similar manner. Pick up the foot at the ankle and again turn the foot so the pads are facing up. Cut each nail as you did on the rear feet.
It is important to understand the anatomy of your dog's toenails before attempting cutting them. Each nail has a nerve and blood vessels inside them. This live portion of the nail is called the "quick". If the quick is cut it causes pain and bleeding. However if you only cut the "dead" section of the nail, you will not hurt the dog or cause any bleeding.
If your dog's toenails are white or light colored, the quick is easy to identify. The quick is pink while the dead part of the nail is white. However most PWDs have black toenails making it impossible to see where the quick begins. By holding the foot with the pads facing up, as described above, it's easy to see what color your dog's nails are. Along the bottom of the nail, you will see a groove. The groove starts at the tip of the toenail, where it is very sharp, deep and distinct. The groove continues toward the base of the toe, becoming wider and shallower until it blends in with the rest of the nail and seems to disappear. The part of the toenail with the deep, distinct groove is the dead area and you may remove it safely.
Until you feel confident in identifying the quick, cut just the very tips of the nails. You will get better with practice and by cutting them often (weekly). You will also become more comfortable doing it. The quick tends to retreat back up the nail when they are cut frequently. Some references recommend nibbling away at the tip by cutting off thin slices until you see a black dot appearing at the center of the nail when looking at the cut nail head on. However this technique repetitively traumatizes the nail and the dog. No matter what technique you use accidents will happen and you may draw blood. Nails can bleed heavily and you should have a styptic product available. Kwik-Stop is a clotting powder that is specifically designed to stop bleeding almost instantly. It does sting a little when applied. It's normal for the dog to be a little offended when you've hurt him. Offer your dog an apology and a treat. Most dogs will be reluctant to allow you to cut another nail near the injured one so go to another foot and trim the nails on the other foot before going back to the first. Since nail trimming is a problem area for many PWD owners we have produced a separate guide to help you (Dacher Nail Trimming Guide).

Anal Glands:

The anal glands (also called anal sacs) are two glands that secrete a pungent fluid that travels through tiny ducts that open into the anus. Typically, this fluid is released during defecation. The secretions allow the dog to mark his territory and allows dog to identify each other. The scent produced by these glands is what dogs are sniffing in their greeting behavior. These glands are located on either side of the anus, just under the skin, at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions. A dog's anal glands need to be expressed or emptied regularly. Most dogs express their own anal glands when they eliminate (defecate). However occasionally the ducts of the gland may become obstructed and the sac will become infected. Common symptoms of anal gland obstruction include "scooting" – dragging the rear end across the floor or ground, a foul odor noted from the rear of the dog, pain on examination of the area below the anus, and licking or biting at the rectal area. Mechanically expressing the glands may correct the condition. Hold up the dog's tail pulling it gently toward the dog's head. Hold a paper towel in your other hand. Place your thumb externally over one gland and your fingers over the opposite gland. Press down over each gland and then massage and push posterior. Each sac should empty onto the paper towel. The emptying of anal glands causes many people to gag due to the pungent aroma of the secretions. If you cannot express the anal gland externally then you will need veterinary help to empty the glands with transrectal pressure.

Fleas:

Fleas are dangerous pests. They continue sucking blood even when full, because their larva feed on the blood that they pass in their stool. Flea saliva is a strong allergen in almost all breeds of dogs. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a seasonal allergy, worse during peak flea populations in the summer and fall. FAD is also called fleabite hypersensitivity. Dogs that have flea allergies will bite at the base of their tail, itch and scratch almost constantly. They may chew their paws and legs. The bite of a one flea will cause hours of intense itching. Dogs with FAD have a characteristic thinning of hair above the base of the tail. This is called a "hotspot" and other spots may occur where the dog chews. Fleas also carry tapeworms that can be transferred to a dog. If you see white rice-like granules in your dog's stool the dog has tapeworms.
The best treatment is prevention. Shampoos, dips, insect growth regulators and topical insecticides both natural and chemical applied to the dog are only a part of the solution. A flea control program in both the inside and outside environment is necessary to eradicate fleas and prevent reintroduction of fleas on the dog. Carpeting, car interiors and the dog's bedding are common problem areas that reintroduce fleas. We have always tried to avoid using chemical control i.e. insecticides as they are all potentially toxic to both humans and canines. We have never used systemic flea prevention prescriptions until the last two years. These summers have been warmer and our flea problem has worsened. Our veterinarian recommended FRONTLINE®-Plus which has been very effective and we have seen no medical problem with our dogs but we do not treat dogs if we are planning on breeding them. FRONTLINE® is stored in the skin follicles for thirty days and is slowly released. This makes it effectively waterproof and protects a dog even after swimming or a bath.

Guidelines:

• Don't wait until you feel a knot in the coat before you groom. The dog should be brushed before it looks like it needs it.
• Never bathe a dog who is matted it will only make the mats worse. Remember how wool is turned into felt–wool is agitated in hot water and pressed to form felt. The key is that sheep hair (wool) has tiny scales just as dog hair. Friction and heat cause the scales to tack to each other forming a non-woven cloth felt. This process is very similar to bathing a matted dog.
• A clean coat mats less than a dirty coat
• Never clipper or scissor a dirty coat
• Trim nails before bathing
• Rinse your dogs coat with fresh water if the dog has been swimming in the pool or ocean
• Always check your dog's coat particularly legs and feet if you have been walking off lead
• Make certain that you do not leave shampoo residue in your dog's coat.

Diet:

Diet is frequently overlooked in coat care. An appropriate diet is important in maintaining general coat health. Remember that the diet of this breed in their native Portugal consisted of fresh cod when available and salt cod when the weather did not allow fishing. This was the main protein source in the fishing ports of the Algarve. In the spring lamb and mutton supplemented the fish. The major carbohydrate sources were rice and potatoes. We supplement our dogs' dry kibble several times a week with chunk light tuna packed in oil, herring, sardines in olive oil or tomato sauce, and if you can stand the smell canned mackerel. They love mackerel and we have even had them roll in it but the smell is definitely strong and definitely fishy. We never add fish to a puppy's diet as the oils can cause diarrhea. When you have an adult PWD with coat problems and you begin adding fish or fish oil supplements always start slowly.
PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ABOUT GROOMING OR GROOMING PRODUCTS.

Created May 2006
Modified December 20, 2011