Caring for Your Canine’s Teeth, Toes, Ears, Face, and Ahem, Other Areas

Caring for Your Canine’s Teeth, Toes, Ears, Face, and Ahem, Other Areas

In This Chapter

  • Keeping the toenails trimmed
  • Cleaning the ears
  • Expressing anal sacs
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth
  • Keeping eyes healthy

After you discover the basics of dog grooming — brushing, combing, and bathing — you have to tackle some tougher jobs, like brushing your dog’s teeth, cleaning his ears and face, trimming his toenails, and yes, some less glamorous and even gross tasks. Don’t panic! All dogs need these essential grooming tasks done regularly. In this chapter, I show you how you can do them without a struggle.

Toe (Nail) Tapping

Many dogs’ toenails have a habit of rapidly growing long. Unless your dog runs around on hard surfaces that help keep toenails short, you have to clip them. But clipping a canine’s claws can be an agonizing chore, especially if your dog has had a bad experience with the nail clippers.

Making toenail trimming a pleasant experience

Despite your best intentions and skill level, your dog may never be comfortable having her nails trimmed. Even now, I have dogs who fuss as though I’m pulling their toenails out with a pair of pliers, even though I’ve never caused them any pain when I’ve trimmed their nails. Knowing that you have a few options helps. If you can’t do all your dog’s nails at once, never fear — you can clip them one paw at a time, with other activities or a resting period in between. The trick is to be diligent so that you’re trimming your dog’s nails before they’re overgrown. And if all else fails, there’s no shame in having a professional groomer or veterinarian trim them.
Some tricks you can try when trimming your dog’s toenails include

Getting your dog used to your handling her feet: Getting your dog used to having her paws handled is of utmost importance (see Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics). Most dogs simply detest having their feet handled, so the sooner you get your dog used to enduring it, the better (and easier) giving your dog a weekly manicure can be.

Asking for help getting started: If your dog’s nails are too long the first time you think about trimming them yourself, ask your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how to trim them to the right length. After that, you can trim them every week or so.

Trimming one paw at a time: This technique is a good one for fussy dogs. You can trim one paw at a time, giving your dog a rest before moving on to another paw.

Providing a treat: Giving your dog a yummy treat after trimming her toenails also helps, and so do big hugs, a boisterous “Good dog!” and a healthy scratch behind the ears.

Trying a nail grinder instead of clippers: Some dogs who can’t tolerate nail trimmers sometimes can deal with a nail grinder. If you’re experiencing major problems clipping toenails, a nail grinder (which looks like a rotary tool) may work.

Trimming your dog’s nails once a week: Ideally, you need to trim your dog’s nails once a week. Weekly nail trimming not only helps keep them in good shape and prevents problems like broken nails but also gets your dog used to having a routine manicure.


If you hear your dog’s nails clicking as they touch a hard surface (floor or sidewalk), it’s time for a nail trim.

Gathering the tools you need

Before wielding any sharp instruments like nail clippers, make sure that you gather all the tools you need for the toenail-trimming session (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming). Having everything you need within reach can make the nail-trimming session go more smoothly, may ease much of the tension associated with it, and can make all the difference between a pleasant experience and one that isn’t so pleasant.
Here’s what you need to trim your dog’s toenails:

Nail cutters for dogs: You can use either the guillotine or scissors styles.

Styptic powder or a nail cauterizing tool: You need one or the other of these products in case you cut the quick (blood supply in the nail) and your dog’s toenail begins to bleed. Find out more about this problem in the following section.

A slightly damp washcloth: Use a washcloth to clean up any styptic powder or other messes you may make.

A nail file or nail grinder: The file or grinder is used to smooth off rough edges of the nail.

Cotton swabs: If you need to apply styptic powder, you also need a cotton swab to apply it.

A batch of those yummy treats: Rewarding your best bud for a toenail-trimming job well done helps ease your dog through this procedure.

Just a little off the tip: Trimming basics

A dog’s toenail is made up of the nail and the quick. The quick is the pink (when it’s visible) part of your dog’s toenails; it’s similar to the pink part of your own fingernails and toenails. It provides the blood supply to the nail. When trimming your dog’s nails, you must avoid cutting into the quick, because it bleeds quite a bit and it’s quite sensitive (see Figure 6-1).

If your dog has white nails, you’ll be able to see the quick. However, many dogs have black or dark-colored nails, and no matter what tricks you’ve heard about, seeing the quick in them is impossible. You have to snip carefully and look at the nail. If the nail feels spongy while you’re trying to cut it, stop immediately!

Figure 6-1: Be sure to trim the nail below the quick.


If you cut the quick (often called quicking), you’ll have an unhappy dog and a bloody mess. The quick bleeds a great deal, so if you cut it, you need either a nail cauterizer or styptic powder (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming) to stop the bleeding. Pack the nail with the styptic powder or use the cauterizer on the nail. Quicking hurts a lot, and most dogs remember the experience long afterward.

To trim your dog’s nails, you must
1. Hold the foot steady.

However, be sure and hold your dog’s foot gently.

2. Snip off a small bit of the end of each toenail.

Place a tiny bit of the nail in the nail clipper and snip.

Most people prefer to have their dog lying down or sitting when they cut the toenails. Use whatever method’s most comfortable for you and your dog.

If you use a nail grinder rather than clippers, the same method more or less applies. Hold your dog’s foot, turn on the grinder, and grind a little off each nail.

The best time to trim nails is, of course, when they need to be trimmed; however, some people like to do the trimming before a bath so that if they do happen to quick the dog, they can wash off the blood. I simply do nail trimming as a weekly routine.

Doing the dew

Some canine breed standards require dewclaws for animals that are intended for the show ring. Rear double dewclaws are the standard for Great Pyrenees, for example. Other standards say that rear dewclaws need to be removed. Check the breed standard on the AKC
Web site at
Before removing dewclaws on a puppy, you need to check with the breed standard to find out whether removal is allowable, if you plan to enter your puppy in the show ring. In working dogs, dewclaws need to be removed by the breeder or vet when the puppy is 3 to 5 days old to prevent injuries that can occur when dewclaws are torn. Removal of dewclaws any time after that requires surgery and anesthesia at the vet’s office.
If you plan to remove the dewclaws from a litter, have your vet show you how. If dewclaw removal isn’t done right, you can end up with malformed dewclaws or worse — an injured or crippled puppy!


Don’t forget the dewclaws. Some dogs have dewclaws; others don’t. If your dog has dewclaws, pay special attention when trimming them. They tend to grow long because they don’t normally touch the ground. If you fail to cut them, they will eventually grow back into your dog’s foot, which is quite painful.

The dewclaws are a dog’s thumbs. But unlike your opposable thumbs, they’re not really useful. They’re located a little bit higher on the inside of the leg above the foot. Most dogs have dewclaws in the front; some also have them in the rear.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

All dogs have sensitive ears, and some of them can develop ear problems frequently. Others never seem to have any problems whatsoever. Breeds that have a predilection for ear infections and injuries tend to be sporting dogs and hounds because of their dropped (hanging or drooping) ears. Dropped ears make an ideal place for bacteria to grow and mites to hide.
Regardless of whether your dog has pricked up or dropped ears (see Chapter Inside and Out: What Affects a Dog’s Coat and Grooming for more about ear types), you have to keep them clean and sweet smelling. If an odor is present around your dog’s ears, they may be infected.

Technical Stuff

Dog owners (usually Poodle owners) often pluck the hair inside their dog’s ears. They use ear powder to dry the ear and yank the hair out. Ouch! I don’t like this procedure, and I’m sure dogs don’t either. But if your dog has hair growing in his ears and has a lot of infections, plucking may be something you have to do. Ask your vet.

Making ear cleaning a pleasurable experience

Dogs hate to have things stuck in their ears, so you’re not likely to win the battle of making this an enjoyable experience. Nevertheless, you can try to make it as comfortable as possible by:

Getting your dog used to your gently handling his ears: Get him used to your touching his ears (a gentle ear scratch), holding his ears, flipping up the ear flaps (if he has hanging or dropped ears), and looking into his ears.

Cleaning your dog’s ears when he’s a bit tired: The less your dog fights with you, the less he’s going to have his ears pulled.

Cleaning your dog’s ears once a week: The longer you wait to perform a grooming task like this one, the longer it takes and the worse the experience is likely to be for the dog and for you.

Giving your dog treats for behaving while you clean his ears: Give him a goody even if he’s good only long enough for you to touch his ears.

Never pulling on your dog’s ears or jabbing anything deep into them: It’s painful, and if you do it, your dog will never let you near his ears again. Ears aren’t doggie handles, no matter what a former president may have done with his dog’s ears.

Gathering the tools you need

Before you get started, gather all the tools you need for the ear-cleaning session. (For more about grooming tools, see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming.) Doing so makes the ear-cleaning session go more smoothly. Having all your implements in one place makes all the difference between a pleasant experience and one that isn’t so pleasant.
Here’s what you need to clean your dog’s ears:

Mild otic (ear-cleaning) solution for dogs: Don’t use anything with insecticides. Otic solution is available at groomer’s supply houses.

Sterile gauze or sponges: Use the gauze or sponges for removing the otic solution or cleaner.

Surgical forceps or clamps: No, you’re not doing surgery. You wrap the clamp or forceps with the gauze and then wipe the gauze inside the ears to clean out any dirt and otic solution.

Cleaning your dog’s ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears is a fairly uncomplicated job. The main ideas you need to keep in mind are proceeding slowly and exercising care not to enter the ear canal (which would be hard to do anyway because of the way the ear canal is situated in a dog’s head).
Follow these steps when cleaning your pup’s ears:
1. Gently hold your dog’s head so that the open ear is exposed.

Sitting down beside your dog usually works.

2. Squeeze some otic solution into your dog’s ear (follow the label directions).

Gently massage the outside of the ear canal to enable the solution to do its work

3. Using a sterile gauze pad or sponge, gently wipe out the excess solution.

You can wrap the gauze or sponge completely around the forceps or the clamp (mentioned in the preceding section) to wipe around the ear.

Don’t leave any excess solution behind; it can lead to an ear infection. And don’t use insecticides or mite treatments, because they can cause irritation. If you notice any red dirt, anything that looks like coffee grounds, or a waxy buildup and you suspect ear mites (see Chapter Grooming Emergencies: Knowing Doggie First Aid), see your vet for the appropriate treatment.

4. While your dog’s ears are exposed, gently trim any excess hair from around the openings.

Recognizing an ear problem

Ear infections sometimes may be difficult to clear up. Doing so takes commitment and determination. Watch your dog for the following signs of potential ear problems that may need to be addressed by a veterinarian:
  • Blisters or abrasions on the ears
  • Crusty or red ears
  • Excessive waxy buildup
  • Foul-smelling odor coming from the ears
  • Red or black waxy buildup
  • Scratching at or pawing his ears or shaking his head
  • Yelping when you touch his ears

Unclogging Anal Sacs

Has your dog suddenly taken to using your nice, new Berber carpet as a roll of toilet paper? If so, you may be in for a real treat. You may have the distinct pleasure of helping your dog remove the fluid from his anal sacs (and you thought dog grooming wouldn’t be any fun!).
Anal sacs, or a dog’s anal glands, are located around or on either side of the dog’s anus. These sacs carry some smelly fluid and occasionally need to be expressed, or emptied. Many dogs express them by themselves every time they poop, but occasionally these sacs fill with fluid, and your dog may need some help from you to release the fluid. Some dogs need their anal sacs expressed a lot; others don’t. Expressing the anal sacs too often can lead to impacted anal glands, and failing to care for them may lead to infection. Whether you need to express the anal sacs is really a matter of what your dog is feeling.
You can tell when your dog needs to have his anal sacs expressed. When you see him sliding his backside across the cut pile, or when he chews or licks at his rear end or tail, you know it’s time.


Ask your vet before attempting to express your dog’s anal sacs for the first time, because although the procedure is harmless in most cases, in some dogs you can cause impacted anal glands and in really bizarre instances can rupture the sacs.

Making anal sac expression a pleasurableexperience (Yeah, sure)

I’m skipping the “Making it pleasurable” section for this particular task (for obvious reasons) other than to say that it won’t be pleasant for either you or your dog until it’s done. It’s just something you have to do. I recommend expressing your dog’s anal sacs when you’re bathing him. That way, you can wash away the smelly liquid and you don’t really care whether it misses the paper towel you’re using.

Gathering the tools you need

For those of you with, say, Fear Factor constitutions, if you have a thumb and forefinger, you have all the tools you need. For normal folks and those with really weak constitutions, in addition to your two phalanges (smart word for finger bones), I recommend using

Paper towels: Having plenty of paper towels for any type of cleanup always helps. Heck, you may even want to try a diaper wipe or other moistened cleansing wipe.

A clothespin, heavy-duty rubber gloves, welder’s apron, rubber boots, and tongs: With these tools you can glove up, cover up, and thus avoid the gag reflex the way Michael Keaton does while changing diapers in Mr. Mom.

Expressing yourself

Expressing anal sacs is relatively simple work. You simply
1. Fold several paper towels together (about like the huge wad you normally need to take care of a spider or bug).

Doing so provides an absorbent pad to catch the liquid.

2. Lift your dog’s tail and place the paper towels over his back side (and wonder when commercial television will pick up on this type of ad).

Note the position of his anus in relation to the paper towels.

3. Press gently on the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions in relation to his anus (see Figure 6-2).

Keep your face out of the way! (You’re welcome!)

Throw away the paper towels.

4. Wash and rinse your dog’s rear end really well.

A clean doggie rump is a healthy doggie rump.

 Figure 6-2: Apply pressure at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions to express your dog’s anal sacs.


If your dog shows discomfort back by his butt and his anal sacs aren’t producing any fluid, he may have an impacted anal sac, which requires veterinary intervention.

Pearly Whites — Tooth Brushing

Dogs don’t get cavities the way humans do, but they do get plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which can cause foul breath and tooth problems. Trips to the doggie dentist can end up being costly, and your dog will have to be put under anesthesia, because no dog ever “opens wide” for any dentist or vet.


Brushing your dog’s teeth obviously is important, but how often you do it depends on your dog and your motivation factor. Poor doggie dental care, however, can lead to dental infections that can travel to your pooch’s heart, causing major problems and even death. How’s that for motivation to brush your dog’s teeth?

Making brushing dog teeth a pleasurable experience

Now that you’re working with the end of your dog that has the teeth, your concerns lie not only with your dog’s dental health in mind but also with the safety of your fingers and hands. Working anywhere near your dog’s mouth puts you at risk of an occasional frustrated nip or two. Here are some hints and steps you can take to make brushing your dog’s teeth a little less tedious:

Brush frequently. Ultimately, you need to brush your dog’s teeth every day, but realistically, you’re better than most pet owners if you can brush them once or twice a week. Frequent brushing gets your dog used to the brushing routine and to the idea of having her mouth handled by you.

Choose the best time. A great time for brushing is right after your dog has exercised and is a little tired. At least, that time’s preferable to when she’s willing to fight with you over handling her mouth.

Train your dog to allow you to touch her mouth. You can get her to tolerate having her mouth handled by following the instructions in Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics.

Get her ready to have her teeth brushed by

  1. Flipping up her lips (see how to do so in Chapter Mastering Brushing and Bathing Basics and Figure 6-3).
  2. Wetting the edge of a clean washcloth so you can rub your dog’s gums and teeth; hold a corner of the wet portion of the washcloth with your index finger and use a gentle, circular motion.
  3. Talking to your dog in calm, soothing tones.
  4. If your dog grows impatient, do Steps 1 through 3 for only a few seconds, and then stop and give her a treat.
  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 again tomorrow, gradually lengthening the amount of time you spend doing them.
Eventually, you’ll be able to build up the amount of time your dog allows you to touch her mouth to where you’re giving your dog a nice tooth and gum massage without any fuss.

Gathering the tools you need

Before you get started, gather all the tools you need for the tooth-brushing session (check out Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming for more about these tools). Doing so makes the tooth-brushing session go more smoothly. Having all your implements in one place also makes all the difference between a pleasant experience and one that isn’t so pleasant. Here’s what you need:

Toothpaste for dogs: Don’t ever use human toothpaste! Doggie toothpaste is flavored with malt, chicken, or some other yummy flavor that dogs can’t resist. It makes the experience a little more enjoyable. (Imagine your dentist offering to clean your teeth with chocolate? Mmm. I’d wait in line for that dentist, wouldn’t you?)

Toothbrush for dogs: A finger toothbrush that’s made for pets is best (see Chapter Training Your Dog for Grooming). You can use a human toothbrush, but it isn’t as good as a finger brush.

Both of these items are available at the pet supply store or through mail-order catalogs.

Twice a day and between meals: Thelowdown on brushing a dog’s teeth

After your dog’s used to getting a gum massage with a wet washcloth, the next step is getting her used to the finger brush and pet toothpaste. You can start brushing your dog’s teeth by using a technique similar to the way you use the washcloth in the section “Making brushing dog teeth a pleasurable experience.”


At the risk of repeating this information, never use human toothpaste on a dog. Human toothpaste contains fluoride, which in large quantities is poisonous to dogs. Dogs can’t rinse and spit, so they pretty much swallow everything you put on their teeth. Follow these steps to properly brush your dog’s teeth:

1. Squeeze some doggie toothpaste onto the brush and allow your dog to lick it off.

Most dogs like the flavor, but some don’t. Don’t worry about it one way or the other.

2. Flip up your dog’s lips and gently rub the toothbrush and toothpaste against your dog’s teeth and gums for a few seconds (see Figure 6-3).
3. Give your dog a treat, even if she allows you to work on her teeth for only a few seconds.
4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 again tomorrow, gradually lengthening the amount of time spent brushing.
If you gradually increase the amount of time you spend working on this four-step process, you’ll eventually build up enough time to give your dog’s teeth a thorough brushing.
Figure 6-3: Flip up your dog’s lips as you gently brush her teeth, an important grooming task.


Some people like to purchase a dental scalar, a device they use to scrape away plaque from their dogs’ teeth. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can injure your dog’s gums, not to mention make one unhappy pooch. That form of teeth-cleaning is better left to your vet, especially when your dog has a lot of tartar and buildup and big teeth!

If your dog has loads of tartar buildup, get your dog to a vet first to have her teeth cleaned.

Spotting a dental problem

Watch your dog for these signs of potential tooth or gum problems that need to be addressed by a veterinarian:
  • A lump above or below a particular tooth
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Sudden, unexpected chewing on inappropriate items
  • A grayish or darkened tooth

The Eyes Have It: Keeping Your Dog’s Eyes Shiny and Bright

Dogs’ eyes, for the most part, are pretty much self-maintaining, but occasionally you do run into problems with their eyes and the areas surrounding them.

Technical Stuff

As dogs have various head types (see Chapter Inside and Out: What Affects a Dog’s Coat and Grooming), dogs likewise have various eye shapes and sizes. Some dogs, especially those with brachycephalic (short, pushed-in) heads — Pugs and Pekinese — tend to have large, protruding eyes that are more susceptible to accidental injury. Other dogs have almond-shaped eyes — Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and still others have rounded eyes.


Exploring ways to keep your dog’s teeth white

If your dog doesn’t handle brushing well, you can use one of several methods for keeping
your dog’s teeth clean. Most of these methods have something to do with feeding him the right kind of food and giving him appropriate kinds of chews. Here are some of the items you can use to clean those pearly whites:

Dental toys intended to reduce plaque and tartar: Some of these toys actually are made so that doggie toothpaste can be squeezed into them, so they sometimes take the place of brushing. Busy Buddy, Kong toys, and Nylabone all have products intended to clean teeth.

Certain premium dog foods: Some premium dog foods have additives that make their products more dental friendly by making them more abrasive. Hill’s and Iams each market a dental dog food, and so do many other brands.

Tartar-control biscuits: Many pet food manufacturers have come up with tartar-control biscuits and snacks.

Appropriate kinds of dog chews: Some chews, such as Greenies and Pedigree’s Dentabone, are made to help reduce plaque and tartar.

Large bones: Giving your dog a big marrow bone or knucklebone from a cow often helps clean canine teeth. Some veterinarians recommend boiling them for safety or freezing them raw to make them harder. Bones are controversial, because they harbor bacteria and can cause blockages when chewed or swallowed. Never give a dog small sharp bones that can splinter.

Regardless of type, red eyes, lacerated eyes, and eyes that tear excessively are not normal, and dogs with these conditions need to visit the veterinarian as soon as possible. Excessive tearing, for example, may be caused by ear infection, tonsillitis, or infected teeth.

Making cleansing your dog’s eyes a pleasurable experience


A dog’s eyes are particularly sensitive, so you want to avoid bringing them into contact with soaps, chemicals, or anything that may cause irritation or abrasions. Unless directed by a veterinarian, avoid using eyedrops altogether. When you do use eyedrops, make sure they’re made specifically for a dog’s eyes.

When you clean around your dog’s eyes, you need to do so in the gentlest way possible. Because you have to be able to touch your dog around and close to his eyes, here are some ways to help your dog get used to it:

Try cleaning the accumulated gunk from your dog’s eyes. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball moistened only with water. You’ll be cleaning off gunk deposits that my mom called “sleep” (as in “rub the sleep from your eyes . . . “) and other deposits that accumulate.

Avoid directly touching your dog’s eyes. Do you like having your eyeballs touched? I think not.

Gently rub your pooch’s jowls and forehead, and give him a scratch or two behind the ears as you talk to him in a calm, gentle, and reassuring voice. Setting your dog at ease like this gives you better access for cleaning the areas around those sensitive orbs.

If you encounter excessive deposits (and I mean lots) of gunk, it’s time for a trip to the vet to have it checked out and to make sure nothing’s wrong. Dogs don’t cry, so if your dog’s eyes are watering all the time, that’s also another reason to visit the vet.

Don’t cry for me Argentina: Tear stains

Tear stains show up as brown gunky stuff that runs from the tear duct on the inside corner of the dog’s eye and go down the muzzle. Although they’re unsightly, not very pretty at all, with some dogs they’re natural, and there’s plenty you can do to get rid of them.


If your dog has tear stains, take him to a vet first to make sure there isn’t some other problem. Tear stains are natural for certain breeds but not for most.

Dogs who are prone to tear stains usually are white or have light-colored coats and usually are single-coated with long hair (see Figure 6-4a). Many dogs with brachycephalic heads (where their eyes protrude) are going to pick up more gunk (see Figure 6-4b). In fact, the problem has a name. Poodle eye, as the name suggests, is common among Poodles, but that doesn’t mean other dogs don’t have tear stains. You probably don’t notice it as much in other dogs because their fur is darker or seems to get rid of the gunk better.
In some breeds with serious congenital eye problems, the tear ducts can get clogged and require surgery. (See your vet if your dog shows any problems with his eyes or his tear ducts.)
Figure 6-4: Get rid of icky tear stains. Some dogs develop tear stains more than others.

Gathering the tools you need to clear up minor tear stains

A vet can help you get rid of Poodle eye (tear stains) — if that’s indeed what the problem is — with a course of tetracycline, which usually helps get rid of the staining but not the tears.

Grooming products you need to help you get rid of tear stains include

A soft cloth, makeup pad, or cotton ball: These materials, or others like them that don’t contain any soaps or chemicals, can be used to apply grooming products to rid your dog of tear stains.

A 10-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide with water, or other grooming products for getting rid of stains: These stain removers may or may not get the total stain out, depending how bad it is.

Always be extremely careful not to get any of these products in your dog’s eyes.

Face cream, powder, cornstarch, or other cover-up products: Yes, you have a choice of either getting rid of the tear-stained hair or covering it up.

Electric clipper with an appropriate clipper guard or guarded blade: Use this tool with extreme care if you choose to get rid of stained fur altogether.

Getting rid of your dog’s tear stains

As you may have already guessed, you can get rid of tear stains by either wiping them clean, covering them up, or clipping or plucking them off. You’ve probably also surmised that tear stains are the nemesis of show dogs and their owners. Here’s how to get rid of tear stains:

Wiping them off: If you choose to wipe off the tear stains, use the 10-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide or another stain-removal product for dogs. Gently swab the solution over the tear stain, but don’t get any of these products in your dog’s eyes. Make sure that you rinse the residues from your dog’s fur.

Clipping them off: If you decide to clip out the stain, do so very carefully with guarded clippers, or try plucking the stained fur. Note: Your dog must be extremely tolerant of clippers to remove tear-stained fur; otherwise, using the clippers can spell disaster.


Never use scissors around your dog’s eyes or face for any reason.

Covering them up: If you choose the face cream, powder, or cornstarch coverup route, you’ve chosen the safer but less permanent way. Here’s how those products work:

  • Cornstarch: Use it in a pinch, because it can whiten or lighten the stained area.
  • Face cream/powder: Dampen the area and then use a small bit of cream or mousse to apply the powder. (Make sure none gets in the eyes!) Then you can gently brush out the area. Some of the powder will stick, thus making your dog’s face more appealing.

Technically, a show dog is never supposed to have chalk or powder left over. The truth is that some stays in, but the handler must get most of it out so that it doesn’t appear that the chalk is still there.

Eyeing other eye issues

Some breeds are prone to eyelid conditions, such as entropion (eyelids that roll in) and ectropion (eyelids that roll out), in which the eyelids are malformed. These conditions aren’t just cosmetic, and they can be quite painful. In most cases, surgery is needed to correct them. Other types of eye and eyelid problems include cherry eye, distichiasis, and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Again, these are not conditions that you can correct by yourself, so be sure to seek out the advice of your vet.
As your dog grows older, he may develop eyelid tumors (such as papillomas) or clouding of the eye (or crystal eye) caused by cataracts. If your dog has any of these conditions, a trip to the vet is in order.

Knowing when your dog has an eye problem

Eyes are one area of your dog’s grooming that you don’t want to ignore, especially if your dog has an eye problem. It’s time to take your dog to the vet if your dog is squinting or pawing an eye or if your dog’s eye
  • Bulges or is out of its socket (that one is a no-brainer!)
  • Is red or tearing profusely
  • Is lacerated or exhibits another apparent abnormality
  • Appears opaque or cloudy
  • Bleeds or shows other signs of injury
  • Has foreign matter in it

Face Time

Your dog’s face is the first thing you and other people see, so keeping her face clean and looking great makes sense, right? Some of the problems many dogs have in maintaining that glow usually have to do with wrinkles (if they have them) and beards (if they have them).

Making cleaning your dog’s face a pleasurable experience

Get your dog used to your touching her face. Unless your dog is really comfortable with looking you right in the eyes, avoid making direct eye contact, because doing so exhibits a challenging behavior. Move slowly and carefully around her face, which is extremely sensitive.

Gathering the tools you need

Before you get started, gather all the tools you need for the face-washing session. Doing so makes washing your dog’s face go much more smoothly. Having all your implements in one place also makes the difference between a pleasant face-washing experience and one that isn’t so pleasant.
Here’s what you need to wash your dog’s face:

– A damp washcloth

– A mild soap, dog shampoo (the tearless variety works well), or groomer’s blue shampoo (a great cleansing product that you don’t have to rinse out)

– Cotton swab

Facing off

When cleaning your dog’s face, use a damp washcloth (wet but not dripping) and some mild soap. I like to use dog groomer’s blue soap (waterless shampoo) because you don’t have to rinse it off. When using any kind of soap, your main objective is keeping it away from your dog’s eyes, because it can sting. Gently go over your dog’s face with the washcloth until it’s clean. Be sure to wash the flews, or the hanging skin around the mouth.
If your dog has wrinkles, the crevices can harbor bacteria and can become infected. Clean wrinkles carefully. If your dog is small, like a Pug, you can use a cotton swab dipped in blue soap to go over the wrinkles.
Long hair and beards need to be brushed out first. If your dog naturally has long hair over her eyes (a fall), brush out the hair first and then use a ponytail-type band to bunch it and get it out of your dog’s face. Any stained hair that isn’t going to fall back in the eyes can be washed with soap and water. Trim any discolored hair unless it’s absolutely necessary for the show ring. If you can’t trim the hair, then try the hydrogen peroxide solution mentioned in the “Getting rid of your dog’s tear stains” section earlier in this chapter, or try to cover it with chalk.
by Margaret H.Bonham