Specialty GroomingWe used to show dogs, and we learned a few tricks to make dogs look their best. We only showed Alaskan Malamutes and handled a few Great Pyrennees Mountain Dogs so we didn't hear tricks and tips from owners of all kinds of dogs. But, some of these may apply to your dog.
Whiter Than WhiteThere are two different ways that we heard over the years to make the white parts of a dog's coat extra white and nice.
We heard that some owners, handlers and groomers actually used bluing on the white coats. Bluing is what we normally think of for laundry - you know, add a little blue to dingy whites to make them whiter.
The trick that we saw in action was to use cornstarch. The cornstarch was rubbed into the white coat and spread all around with the hands. Then you'd brush the powder through the coat and rub and rub with your hands until any loose powder came off. This really whitens up a white coat. If this method were to be used for the show ring and any white powder got onto the judge's hands or clothing, who knows what could happen. Would your dog be disqualified? Would your dog lose points? But, it is surely great for just showing your dog off or for portraits.
Special ShampoosSeveral stores carry a line of special shampoos for bringing out the best in a dog's coat color: White on White, Black on Black, or Gold on Gold. Or you can get sample kits to try several products, which are also perfect for traveling or taking to dog shows. Their Ice on Ice spray creates a protective barrier locking in moisture, repelling rain, dirt, dust and urine. It fortifies and protects the coat cuticle on the outside while counteracting damage from the inside creating liveliness, a healthy texture and a high sheen. And, they have a Peace & Kindness spray for topical use on: Cuts, Scrapes, Infections, Fungus, Itchy Areas, Hot Spots, Abscesses, Burns, Parasitic Infections (viral & fungal), and Dermatitis. It is tasteless, odorless, non-stinging and non-burning to sensitive tissues. Will not discolor coats or leave behind any residue. (This is only for occasional use.) These are all from the Chris Christensen line, and they have other lines of shampoos for skin conditions, calming, and other special needs - including waterless shampoo.
Stand Out in a CrowdAn Alaskan Malamute's coat shouldn't lay flat like a Collie's, even if it is almost as long on some Malamutes. The Malamute coat should stand out, looking thick and dense. It should also not be soft like a Silky Terrier but should be coarser.
The first thing to remember with one of the breeds with coarser hair is to not give him a bath on the morning of the show. The hair should have at least overnight to get back to normal after the bath softens it. Any dog's coat should be given time to regain its natural feel. You should also not use a conditioner on a dog with coarser hair since it would make the coat feel too soft. Since you want to show your dog at his cleanest, you need to keep the dog inside the house to keep him clean and taking him outside to "go" instead of letting him go out on his own. He may not be able to resist the desire to roll around in the mud.
Next, we never brushed the Malamute coat down in the direction from nose to tail or nose to feet. We brushed the hair up in the opposite direction. It's the same as your own hair: if you comb wet hair slick to your head and let it dry that way, it will look limp and thin when it dries. Instead, you comb your hair up while drying it to keep it from flattening out. If you are careful to not burn the dog and the dog is not too afraid of the noise, you can use a hair dryer to dry your dog's coat. You blow the hair in the opposite direction that it grows at the same time that you brush.
BEST FOOT FORWARDThe Alaskan Malamute's paws are likened to a cat's, so they should look compact and tidy. The neat appearance is obtained with sharp hair scissors. Scissors with blunt rounded tips are the safest.
First, hairs should be trimmed away on the underside of the paw - between the toes and pad areas. Long stray hairs can be trimmed around the base of the foot while the dog is standing. This is done only to get rid of the messy look; don't trim above the floor level. Trimming the underside of you dog's paws also helps to keep them free of snow clods and foxtails.
Also, while the dog is standing, brush the back of the hocks straight up and out then trim that hair straight down the hock. This is also just to neaten up the look so don't cut it too short.
Naturally, the dog's nails should be nice and trim. Above the ground level is especially good if the show is held on a surface that is at all slick. Lots of dogs won't even walk on a slick surface if their nails are long because they could end up skating instead! The dogs that will walk on a slick surface with longer nails will walk with a stilted gait instead of naturally. There are several kinds of nail trimmers available.
WHAT A FACE!During most of a dog's life, he uses his whiskers. But, they get trimmed for the show ring (and you keep him safely out of harm's way). This gives the dog's head and face a smooth look. More importantly, it gives the judge a nice smooth feel in the ring. Trim the whiskers around the muzzle, above the eyes, and on the sides of their cheeks. The whiskers should be trimmed down to below the level of the dog's coat. Being careful not to trim the face hairs at all, each whisker should be cut separately with the tips of the scissors. Scissors with blunt rounded ends will help you be sure not to poke the dog's skin.
See Tip of the Month for tips on tear staining.
TRUE BEAUTYThe one thing that makes any dog look its best is good training. The trained dog can stand or sit proudly and calmly at your side. The untrained dog is probably yanking and yanking trying to go sniff everything in sight, head down to the ground, possibly even making choking noises or panting. (Not pretty!) The beauty of a dog that is well trained can be shown off more with the thinnest collar and lead. Our Malamute once saw a rabbit run by. Before we knew what was happening, she snapped apart a collar with the very thickest steel links they make and ran after the rabbit. (Alaskan Malamutes are extremely strong, and the "top dog" pulled a Toyota car.) The thickest collar made and all of our strength was not what normally kept her under control, it was her training. If we had seen the rabbit before she did, we would have only had to tell her to stay.
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