Husky grooming tips, or, Surviving spring without drowning in fluff!

Gratuitous puppy pic - gorgeous little Dash won't need much grooming for a while yet. 

Gratuitous puppy pic - gorgeous little Dash won't need much grooming for a while yet. 

Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes are known for their beautiful fluffy coats. They have a thick layer of very soft, usually white undercoat, and then a longer, coarser layer of black guard hairs. The coats keep them warm in winter, cool in summer, rarely smell "doggy", self clean and get EVERYWHERE. Theoretically, they will "blow" or moult their entire undercoat twice a year, but there is always a small amount of hair loss. For some dogs, the coat blow is hormonal and related to breeding cycles. Some dogs don't start blowing til they're nearly two years old. For our dogs, all being desexed adults, it is linked to temperature changes - the first cold snap or the first hot day sends me running for the vacuum cleaner... Every day for the next few weeks. Four dogs produce a LOT of undercoat. Sometimes it feels like I've spent months vacuuming frantically and brushing constantly, finally getting it all under control, and most of the hair stops appearing. A couple of weeks of fluff free living, then, bang! It starts all over again!

Here are my tips for surviving coat blow season:

1. A bath at the start of a blow loosens up the undercoat. Check out local hydrobaths for an economical way to get a dog bath without destroying your own bathroom.

No, Bolo, I'm not crazy enough to try and wash you in the shower... Without ear plugs... 

No, Bolo, I'm not crazy enough to try and wash you in the shower... Without ear plugs... 

2. Some folks like using a blower - basically a giant hair dryer. Personally, I hate cleaning up the mess, so I'm not a fan, but they are effective at moving a lot of fluff very quickly... And spreading it all over your yard... And your neighbours' places... And their neighbours... Oh well, the local birds will love the nesting material.

3. Finding a brushing tool that you like. There are dozens on the market. My favourite is a rake. It gets through many layers of fluff and doesn't damage the guard hairs.

My favourite rake has a double row of teeth. 

My favourite rake has a double row of teeth. 

4. Use both hands to spread the coat. I usually start near the tail. I hold the rake in the hand closer to the tail, use my other hand to smooth the coat towards the head. As I move that hand towards the head, I rake a small section at a time back towards the tail. This technique allows me to get the rake right into the undercoat, which comes free easily during coat blow. 

Using the rake to grab a small section of undercoat at a time and brush it towards the tail. 

Using the rake to grab a small section of undercoat at a time and brush it towards the tail. 

5. Get to know your dog and what they like or dislike about grooming. Czar will tolerate me grooming him for reasonable amounts of time. Bolo just wants me to do his tummy. Ishka will cry out for her daddy when J is in the house, and tolerates it quietly when he's not home.  Poor old Frankie needs a break every few minutes - he darts into his crate, but comes back to sit happily after a breather. (Thankyou to the bastard who treated Frankie so badly as a puppy, abuse is the gift that keeps on giving.)

Where did Frankie go? Oh did I say brush? 

Where did Frankie go? Oh did I say brush? 

6. Consider getting a vacuum upgrade. When I moved in with J and the dogs, a new vacuum with a pet hair removing power head was our big commitment purchase. (Who says diamonds are forever?) The box of 100 vacuum cleaner bags is nearly empty... Hint hint, honey!

7. Never NEVER EVER shave a double coated dog. (Except for medical reasons.) Because dogs don't have sweat glands on their body, they can't cool their skin. They need that coat to insulate them from our Australian sun. If a dog has to be shaved, for instance for surgery or ultrasound, monitor the re growth carefully to ensure the new coat doesn't get matted as it grows. 

8. Impress your friends and family with images of your new dog - the one you made out of your old dog's discarded coat!