GROOMING YOUR KOMONDOR
By Rob Benoit (Robbie was my "dog partner" for many years before he passed due to cancer. I will always miss him!))
Congratulations on getting your new Braefiddich puppy! You just got your puppy home, and the questions that you hadn't thought about earlier are just beginning. Since a great many of them are no doubt about grooming, let's take a close look at what you are about to get into.
There has has always been plenty of discussion about corded versus clipped. Debate will forever rage about who is right, and both sides of the argument make good points. Having had both coats, it is fair to say I like them both, but prefer cords, even short ones. At Braefiddich, the pasture dogs are kept clipped out of convenience. By sheer force of numbers and pasture conditions, it would be a grooming nightmare to try to keep up! My show dogs are, of course, kept corded as well as any Braefiddich (or other client) dogs being shown. Maintenance on the corded dogs takes five to ten minutes per day, with bathing frequency dictated by show schedule, or general dirtiness of the dog, usually between once a week and once a month.
A clipped Kom is very easy to maintain, and even easier to wash (and dry)! The dogs look very nice in a curly coat several inches long, and can be kept within this length by twice a year clipping. Clipping can be done by you or a competent groomer. However, if you prefer a corded dog it is easily accomplished. Cords cut way down on shedding, as the cords are formed of hair that in any other breed would have been shed. Once they are formed shedding virtually stops and resulting coat is very easily dealt with.
(Our puppy, Alais, will begin to cord soon. We will be posting pictures as she progresses to make this process easier to see and understand. CORDING)
Beginning cords is a fairly easy task. In the young dog, cords start to form as lumps of hair. You will begin to notice the hair clumping together on the feet and legs. This is desirable and should not be brushed out! The next place to begin cording is normally the rump. As with the legs, the hair will begin to clump and frequently tends to mat all together. Again, do not brush out the coat, rather take the mats and separate them into the desired thickness, about the thickness of your thumb. This can be accomplished by pulling it apart with the fingers, or with the aid of a matsplitter. Separate the cords completely down to the skin. Don't worry about the bits of fuzz you may tear off, or that fall out on their own. It happens and it does grow back! As the cords are formed, the dog will only require a few minutes of time to pull apart any cords that are tending to mat together.
To begin grooming, here is a list of the things you will need, and the reasons you need them.
Ear Cleaning Solution
Mild Baking Soda Toothpaste
Shampoo...Manufacturers would love for all of us to rush out and buy their stuff because it's "the best" and you want the best for your dog, don't you? Feeling guilty yet? I have gone that route in the past, and can say without flinching , if it makes you feel better, do it. But be prepared to rival the national debt buying grooming supplies. In the past I have used them all, cheap and expensive, to varying degrees of success. It has come down to this, the trick is in the rinse. Whatever you put on, you must rinse out completely.
I have used many shampoos, including "Gain" laundry detergent on Oscar, my show Kom. Cleans beautifully, rinses out well and it is dirt cheap. Well diluted blue Dawn dishwashing liquid works pretty good, but you have to rinse like crazy to get it out. However, it is good for feet. As with any household detergent, dilute down to a minimum to use it (1:20 until you get the hang of it). A drop or two of laundry blueing in the mix will keep the yellowing at bay. Horse whitening shampoos also work well. Of course, dog shampoos do as well!
I don't waste time trying to get Oscar wet down before shampooing anymore. It takes too long to get him wet! Shampoo carries the water into the cords much more efficiently. One more reason to dilute your shampoo. I just pour the mix on and start scrubbing. Because his cords are long, I just grab two handfuls and scrub them together briskly. Wringing the soap out, I rinse and scrub some more, adding shampoo as I need it. On his head, I tilt his nose way up, and pour shampoo back over his head, keeping it out of his eyes. If you get shampoo in the eyes, rinse it out immediately. On the muzzle, his head is kept tilted down, to keep the shampoo from running into his nose. Once the entire dog has been scrubbed, start rinsing and don't stop until no more soap is running off. Now ring out some cords. Still see soap? Wring and rinse some more. Continue until you see no more soap upon wringing.
Conditioner is important in that it helps get rid of sticks, twigs, grass, nettles, etc. The way it does this is that because the soap has stripped any oil off the twigs and such. Conditioner readily attaches itself in the oil's absence. This causes those bits to swell and become slippery, and so when you rinse most of it will come out quite easily with the hose. Remember wringing and rinsing? Do it all again. (Think of it as an exercise machine with hair!)
You now have a clean wet Komondor. If the dog still looks grey, don't worry. Drying him will whiten him up just fine. Drying is the part that is time consuming. There are a few options. Lets discuss the practical and the professional. When drying a Kom, the easiest was for most people is to put the dog in a wire crate and aim a regular box fan on all sides (4 fans total) for several hours. Bear in mind, you should try to wring out the cords as best you can first. A recently hit upon aid is the CLEAN shopvac!!! You can use one to suck an amazing amount of water out of the cords. Applying heated air to the dog while confined can burn or overheat him, so fans are a very good option for the pet owner. If you are ambitious, you can call around to various grooming shops or attend a show and talk to vendors and purchase a "K9 dryer" (for around $300-400). This blows approximately 7 horsepower of air and will facilitate faster drying times.
Trim the hair around the foot pads, so the pads are clearly exposed and have a neat appearance. Laying the dog on his side works best, and a steady hand is required. As with scissoring any dog, always look at the dog side of the scissors and not the outside! Any hairdresser will be glad to show you how to hold the scissors properly if you ask.
Nails are to be kept short and smooth. This is easiest with a small Dremel tool. Walmart or any home improvement store sells them inexpensively. Cordless rechargeable models models last for years. Grinding the nails back is better than clipping them, because you will never cut the quick, split the nail or injure your dog. It takes a bit of practice and conditioning the dog, but it is worth it.
Ears are to be cleaned regularly. Many good cleaners are to be found at pet supply stores. Hair will grow in the ear canals of Komondors and must be removed. Pull the hair out of the ear canal with the hemostats, a bit at a time, gently!
It is good to accustom a young dog to regular teeth cleanings. Hence the toothbrush and toothpaste! Mild baking soda toothpaste will not require rinsing, which is difficult to get them to do anyway! Of course, now there is beef flavored toothpaste available at the pet stores.
If you have any further questions, or need assistance, please to not hesitate to call Braefiddich.