Grooming is a good way to keep your dog in good health and strengthen the bond between you, and also an essential part of puppy training. Regular grooming is also an opportunity to give your dog a thorough physical examination. This way you can spot little problems before they become big ones. It should be done once or twice a week depending on your dog’s coat texture and exercise environment, though may need to be done every day when your dog is moulting. Different coat types require different brushing techniques and to ensure the whole coat is brushed, the spitz coat is brushed “the wrong way” i.e. from the back forwards brushing a section at a time and ensuring you brush right from the roots of the hair. Your puppy should be brushed with a very soft brush to get them used to it, I have a very tiny soft ‘slicker’ brush that they start off with (be very careful of slickers as they can scrape the skin and cause "slicker burn") and small fine-toothed comb, and when older a pin brush with longer pins (I like the KW pin brush available from HUB International) can be used. When casting, a ‘rake’ is invaluable for removing the loose undercoat.
Sometimes though, a bath will be required (but do be careful if bathing a moulting spitz – that loose hair can matt up when wet and become a nightmare and require several hours to groom out). It is best to start practising for this when the coat is not dirty with warm water only at a few months old to ensure that the puppy is used to the experience in advance of its necessity. There are a lot of shampoos available now so choose one that best suits your particular dog’s coat (remember, your spitz should have a harsh coat so conditioner isn't usually used. Shampoos made for terrier type coats can be used as these help with texture). Avoid the eyes and inside the ears or you may end up wetter than the dog when he shakes himself and sprays water everywhere. It can prove very difficult to completely soak an adult spitz coat so a good high pressure water supply (or power shower) is needed. Also ensure that all shampoo is rinsed out properly and for best results, you can then dry the dog with a purpose made dog blaster (powerful hair dryer that doesn’t get too hot) or carefully use a hair dryer (make sure to use a cool setting and check frequently that you’re not burning him). A thorough brush through after he has dried and then finish off with combing through as well will ensure there are no mats, knots or tangles. Another bonus of using a blaster is that it cuts down significantly on the grooming as you can work the blaster from side to side parting all of the hair while drying it. It is also very good at removing loose hair and dust from a dry coat and a blast before bathing a moulting spitz will help prevent the coat being an unmanageable mat once its wet (though it may look as though you’re in the middle of a snow storm when the loose hair is flying everywhere). Some spitz coats can be particularly prone to knotting behind the ears, behind the elbows or between the back legs so always pay particular attention to these areas and groom frequently if needed. If the coat texture is particularly bad you may need to resort to using a detangler spray.
The spitz is not a trimmed breed, the coat provides insulation against both hot and cold weather, but the feet may be trimmed (the hair between the pads and toes, and the hair down the back of the hock on the back feet) and you may also trim around the anus if this is needed for hygiene reasons.
If you have need to use a dog groomer, always remind them that this breed is not trimmed – you don’t want to return to collect your pride and joy only to find that his coat has gone in the bin and he now looks nothing like the breed he is supposed to be. You should also still groom your dog between groomer visits or a badly matted dog may leave them with no choice other than to clip everything off.
If your dog isn’t exercised on a hard surface, the nails may also need cutting. For a neater finish, a nail grinder or Dremel type tool can be used but remember that these can get hot so always keep this in mind and just use them in short bursts on each nail. We usually have our puppies dew claws removed as babies as we have found that they can be easily caught and ripped off if left on which causes much more pain and distress in an adult dog.
Some creams and whites can be prone to tear staining on the face below the eyes which can flare up during teething or in bitches when they are in season. This is caused by bacteria living on the damp patches of hair and results in a pink or brownish tinge to the affected area and once it has appeared, it can be very difficult to get rid of. There are many products on the market which claim to remove these but for any of these to be effective, they must be used daily and the eyes kept clean and the problem area dried off. Once dried, you can apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the area to help the excess tears run off without them becoming soaked into the hair.
Don’t forget to have a quick check inside the ears as well to make sure they’re clean and free from any wax or debris. (Head-shaking or excessive ear-scratching can indicate either a foreign body or ear mites and can very quickly escalate into a big problem if left untreated.)
If you choose to neuter your dog, please keep in mind that this can frequently alter the coat texture and it can become very thick but soft and woolly and difficult to manage so it is essential to groom very regularly.
This will also usually affect the growth pattern of the hair so that the coat doesn't moult at the same time it usually would (males will usually moult once a year for the summer and females usually moult depending on hormones so will be affected by the timing of their seasons).
Coat staining in white dogs!
We have found that some foods can cause the white spitz to gain a yellowish tinge to the coat so if your previously white dog develops this problem that no amount of bathing will remove, you may have to change to another dog food. Some foods can also contribute to tear staining as well.