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Tips for Training Dogs and Puppies

Whether you have a puppy or an older rescue dog, your pet likely needs some training. Figuring out where to start with training can be stressful, but it’s both important and rewarding to properly guide your pet to perform desirable behaviors. This blog touches on some common training techniques and scenarios to help you begin your training journey. 

Positive Reinforcement Training 

Positive reinforcement training is undoubtedly more effective than negative reinforcement training (also known as “corrective” reinforcement training). This is because positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding your pet for good behavior and establishing an association between good behavior and positive consequences.

Rewards, especially in the beginning stages of training, usually mean treats – though there are other ways you can “reward” your pet for positive behavior. Giving them pets, attention and positive verbal praise with a pleasant, happy tone are other examples of ways you may be rewarding your pet, whether you realize it or not. 

It’s important to be consistent with rewards and not to accidentally reward unwanted behavior. If you want your pet to stop jumping up for attention, for example, don’t reward your dog with pets and attention when they perform the undesirable action. It’s neither fun nor easy, but it’s important to fight the urge and instead train them that the reward of attention doesn’t happen until they have settled down (the behavior you want them to execute).

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Negative Reinforcement Training

Negative or corrective training also has its place. This is when training is performed by punishing a pet for bad behavior.

Some types of corrective training include the use of shock collars (typically for barking or walking), prong or choke collars, spraying with water bottles as punishment, forcing pets’ noses in messes to show them “what they did wrong”, and many others. Some of these are for safety purposes while others simply do nothing but confuse your dog. 

The intention of this blog is not to discourage all forms of corrective training but instead to offer other options to try first. Some dogs need some sort of correction before they will offer positive action. 

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Training Adult Dogs vs Puppies

The old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has been proven to be untrue. It is very possible to teach an old dog, and the best way to do it is with positive reinforcement training. 

If you rescue a dog, you likely don’t understand much of its background. It’s impossible to know what kind of reaction they’ve received for certain actions, and it can be a challenging task to correct or change their learned behaviors. If you’re finding it difficult to train a senior dog, your best option may be to find an animal behaviorist near you or one available via Zoom to help.

Puppies are luckily much easier to work with. Depending on the breed, most dogs want to please their owners. Just being happy, clapping and saying, “Yay!” is enough for many puppies. Have you ever noticed your puppy getting really excited if you do? It’s because they just want to make you happy!

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Dog Training and Consistency

It’s incredibly important that all members of your household work together in training efforts. Everyone should be consistent regarding which actions lead to praise or punishment, and each should strive to reliably utilize the same techniques. 

Using a similar tone of voice when giving a command is helpful, for example. Ensuring that every member of the house discourages a pet from getting onto the couch, is another example. If one person allows the behavior but others do not, this leads to confusion.

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General Dog Training Tips

Keep your training sessions short. Dogs retain information best in short spurts, so keeping dog training sessions to five minutes or less is most effective so your pet doesn’t lose interest or attention.

In the beginning stages, encourage and reward your pet’s progress toward good behavior. Encouraging baby steps and little wins helps your dog associate positivity with their behavior and can help them to complete the task. You don’t expect a baby to get up and walk perfectly the first time they try, right? The same concept can apply to dogs.

Utilize hand signals. Dogs respond better to visual signals than verbal commands, so utilizing both verbal and nonverbal communication when training dogs commands like “roll over” and “sit” can help a dog better understand the command being asked of them.

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Tips for Potty Training Your Dog

The best way to potty train a dog is to have them outside often and for long periods of time. It can be exhausting to supervise, but every time you catch them in the act, you should praise them and offer a treat. After only a handful of times, they’ll start to understand and associate going outside with treats.

Dogs sometimes associate treats with being outside before they associate them with going potty. It’s ok to let your dog out every time they ask, as it’s good for them to go outside and play anyway. If you continue to praise them every time they potty outside, it won’t take long for them to associate going potty as the positive behavior. Remember, your dog wants to please you, so make it fun for them!

On the flip side: when your pet does have an accident in the house, you must catch them in the act in order for them to know or understand why you are upset. Rubbing a dog’s nose in their mess after they’ve done it does nothing other than confuse them. 

Some correction is ok if caught in the act. A stern “NO” and putting them directly outside is all that is needed. Remember, a puppy is like a toddler. They don’t have the ability to remember for long periods of time. 

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Leash Training

There are many schools of thought on leash training. There are many different types of collars, harnesses and other corrective devices such as shock collars that are intended for leash training. 

Leash training can be a positive experience, but it can also be very extremely stressful, especially if you have a large dog. Pack lots of training treats! You can use a training pouch or fanny pack to make them more easily accessible. The Wilderdog Utility Pack is one of many great options for walking. 

  • Begin by walking with your handle loaded with treats.
  • Start walking. While your pet is next to you, say “yes” and offer a treat.
  • Don’t forget to talk to your pet while you’re walking. 
  • If your pet starts to pull, stop and wait for your pet to return its attention to you. Once it has returned its attention to you, start walking and offering treats again.
  • As you continue, your pet will associate the treats with walking next to you. 

If you are just starting out, taking a training course at your local training facility is best. It is great for socialization and consistency for your pet. It can also help you understand the different types of collars and leashes available to assist with training. 

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Crate Training

Training your dog to be content in a crate or kennel is extremely important, as dogs need a “safe space”. There is more than one reason to train your puppy or dog to use a kennel, but the most important one is safety. In the event your pet gets injured or needs surgery, you want your pet to feel safe in their crate during the healing process, not stressed out during the traumatic time.

Your pet will also likely be kenneled at your local grooming salon and/or veterinary office. Again, these are places where you want your fur baby to feel as comfortable as possible. Some tips for kennel training your pup are as follows:

  • Always leave the kennel open.
  • If you witness your pet enter the kennel, offer a treat and say “good dog!”
  • Throw pieces of kibble or treats in the kennel, and every time your puppy goes in say “good job!”
  • Feed your pet in their kennel.

It is natural for puppies and older dogs to be fearful of crates at first. Just remember, over time most pets love their kennel and need that “safe space” as a retreat.

An important note: It’s recommended not to purposely punish your dog by putting them in a kennel. This action teaches your pet to fear their kennel and no longer works toward encouraging them to associate the kennel with safety, security or happiness.

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There are several ways to train a dog, and no one way is “the right way”. Find what works for you and your pet. The best way to do that is by getting assistance from a professional pet trainer or animal behaviorist. Your local dog groomer can help with suggestions and maybe even point you in the direction of a reputable trainer. 

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Dry, Cracking Dog Nose – Causes and Prevention

There is an old wives’ tale that says, “A healthy dog should have a cold, wet nose.” While a dog with a cold, wet nose can be healthy, their nose does not need to be wet or cold to be healthy. The time to be concerned is when a dog’s nose – or paws – become so dried out that they begin to crack.

This blog examines reasons why a dog’s nose may be wet or dry, along with tips on how to prevent a dog from developing an overly dry, cracked nose. It’s important to keep tabs on your pet’s condition so you can catch issues before they cause pain for your pet.

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Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?

As weird as it sounds, dogs’ noses help regulate their temperature. Dogs do not sweat like humans do – they sweat through their nose and paws. 

The mucus on a dog’s nose also helps them retain smells. It is normal for a dog to lick its nose frequently to clear it of old scents and prepare to verify new scents.

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Why is My Dog’s Nose Dry?

Luckily, a dry dog nose is not always a concern. Below are some common reasons why a dry nose may occur. Understanding the cause will help you determine whether care or treatment is necessary for your pet.

After Sleeping

If you notice that your dog’s nose is dry in the morning or shortly after a nap, there is likely no problem. Dogs frequently lick their noses throughout the day to keep them wet, so it stands to reason that they would be dried out after sleeping.

Your pet is still producing mucus while it sleeps, though they are generally not licking themselves and spreading moisture across every part of the nose. Most often dog noses return to normal moisture levels within ten minutes of being awake.

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Just like humans, it is common for dogs to get slightly dehydrated after physical exercise or rough play. Be sure to supply your dog with plenty of fresh water after exercise or play time and you should see an improvement in their mood and nose moisture.


The younger the dog, the more mucus it will produce. As your dog ages, it produces less mucus, therefore causing a drier nose. It is not uncommon for senior dogs to get dry, cracked noses. 

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Changes in Weather

In summer, a dog’s body heat may escalate to the point of drying out their nose. To help combat them from overheating, ensure your pet has access to shade and is sheltered from direct sunlight during the day.

Winter months bring low humidity, and dogs are likely to warm themselves by a heater or other heat source, causing noses to become more dry. For this reason, many dog owners utilize humidifiers indoors to help replenish moisture in the air.

“Winter nose” and “snow nose” is when a dog’s nose changes color in winter months – typically lightening in color from a dark color to a light brown or pink. This condition is generally purely cosmetic and not a cause for concern.

Paws are especially sensitive to weather changes. They can be burned by hot pavement in the summer and easily get scraped up by ice and snow in the winter. Keep in mind, if pavement is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is also too hot for your dog. 

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Breed of Dog

A dog’s breed has a huge impact on the health of their nose. Brachycephalic dogs like Bulldogs and Shih Tzus have a hard time licking their nose because of the structure of their anatomy. It is not uncommon for these breeds to get noses that crack. Applying a pet safe nose balm multiple times a day is best for these types of breeds. 

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Sunburns aren’t fun for anyone, and dogs can burn just as easily as we can. You should be especially cautious if your pet has a pink- or liver-colored nose, as these burn much faster and easier than dogs with darker noses.

There are a number of products available to keep the sun off your dog’s nose. Doggy sun sticks can be applied to your dog’s nose, ears, muzzle and other areas that have pink skin. Burns can be soothed and treated topically with aloe vera, witch hazel or coconut oil.

As mentioned earlier, it’s also a good practice to ensure your pet has access to shade and isn’t left in harsh, direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

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Allergies are both difficult to diagnose and treat. If there is suspicion of allergies, there will typically be other issues on your pet’s body. Work directly with your vet to help find the best treatment options for your pet. 

If the symptoms continue and are severe, you may need to seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dermatologist in your area. The closest one to most Smoochie Pooch locations is at the Small Animal Hospital at Purdue in Lafayette, IN. 

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Autoimmune Diseases

There are several autoimmune diseases that can affect the nose, with Lupus and Pemphigus being the most common. In these cases, a dog’s nose surface may change and develop dryness, cracking and bleeding. Other possible symptoms of an autoimmune disease include lesions covering the entire body or around the muzzle and even a completely smooth nose. 

A veterinarian would be necessary to diagnose these diseases and recommend treatment options. Typically, immunosuppressive drugs are needed to help treat autoimmune diseases.

Canine Distemper

Distemper, caused by the canine distemper virus, is a viral, highly contagious disease that affects multiple organs and can be fatal in dogs and other animals. Take note if your pet develops thick, yellow discharge from their eyes and nose. Other signs include fever, coughing, vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms. 

Luckily this disease is preventable with regular vaccines. Unfortunately, it is also incurable once a pet has the disease. Treatments for canine distemper aim to reduce the intensity of an animal’s symptoms but are not effective at eliminating the disease.

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A fever often signals a viral, bacterial or fungal infection is present in your dog. Signs may include red eyes, lethargy, warm ears and nose, shivering, lack of appetite, coughing or vomiting. If you suspect your dog has a fever, take their temperature using an ear or rectal thermometer.

Never let your dog’s temperature exceed 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible to ensure your pet’s fever doesn’t worsen.

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Dogs with hyperkeratosis have a thick outer layer of skin caused by an excess of keratin production. This condition can result from calluses, eczema, genetic disorders, inflammation and other causes. It especially affects the paw and nose, causing the skin to harden and crack. A dog’s hair can also become brittle and break or change pigmentation.

Severe Dehydration

Dehydration is detrimental to a dog’s health. Signs of severe dehydration consist of lethargy, excessive panting, vomiting and lack of skin elasticity. 

Offer your pet water but ensure they don’t drink too quickly. Drinking too much too fast could cause them to vomit more. Once your pet has had a chance to drink some water, transport them to the vet as soon as possible. 

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Hyperthyroidism in Dogs

A dry nose is one of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism. Other signs may include hair loss, weight gain and lethargy. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from this, contact your veterinarian. Thyroid medications are available to treat this common condition.

Prevention and Treatment for Dry or Cracked Dog Noses

Many people forget that dogs have sensitive skin just like humans do. When our hands get dry or cracked, we tend to the affected areas with lotion. What are you adding to your pet’s routine to ensure they don’t dry out?

The easiest way to prevent your pet from getting a dry or cracked nose is by being proactive. If your pet is older or you know it is an “at risk” dog, applying a nose balm daily is the best thing you can do. A great option for nose balms is Snout Soother.

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If your pet has a dry nose, you can use an over-the-counter product to keep it moisturized. Applying a warm, moist towel may help. Other home remedies include coconut oil, petroleum jelly, shea butter and olive oil. Be cautious not to use any products with Zinc or titanium oxide, as they can be toxic for dogs. Do not use Vaseline either, as it can also be toxic and cause diarrhea and an upset stomach.

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Keep your pet hydrated by always making sure they have access to cool, clean water. If your pet is kenneled while you are gone, consider attaching a no-drip water bottle to the outside of your dog’s kennel to ensure they have access to water throughout the day.

Seek Advice from a Professional 

If your dog is experiencing more than just a dry nose and displays other concerning symptoms, seek the advice of your local veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist for guidance. 

Your local pet groomer should also be able to help guide you with suggestions of products that are safe to use at home to moisten your dog’s nose, and pet safe balms and ointments can be found at your local pet grooming salon or pet store. 

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Debunking Old School Dog Myths

There are so many myths regarding pets, and it can be difficult to know what is factual and what is misinformation. In this blog, we will cover and debunk some commonly misunderstood dog myths involving pet care.

My Dog is Too Young for Grooming

This is a dog myth that we hear many times a week. We recommend bringing your puppy in for their first grooming session when they are around eight weeks old. However, we do not recommend giving a puppy a haircut until they are at least six months old

Getting your puppy groomed early and often is the best way to set your pup up for success. Read this blog to learn more about why we suggest bringing in your puppy for grooming at eight weeks old, along with tips for how to prepare them and reduce their anxiety before their first appointment.

Want to learn more about grooming frequency for adult dogs? Check out this blog for our recommendations based on your dog’s breed.

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Grooming Doodles

Many Doodle breeders advise owners to not get their dogs groomed until they are 6 months or even a year old. If you wait this long, your dog will be terrified of the local grooming salon. Getting your puppy groomed early and often is the best way to set your pup up for success. 

“You’ll ruin a Doodle’s coat if you groom them too early” – this is a complete myth. Your dog’s coat will not be damaged. Do not be surprised if the hair that grows back after shaving a puppy coat is less soft and fluffy as before, however. This is completely normal, and is a result of your Doodle puppy transitioning away from their puppy coat.

The divide between Doodle owners and pet groomers: Many Doodle owners want groomers to stop making their dogs look like poodles, and groomers want Doodle owners to understand that their dogs need to be brushed and groomed more frequently than most other dog breeds. 

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A Wet Nose Means Your Dog is Healthy

A dog’s nose doesn’t necessarily need to be wet to be healthy. Dogs with dry noses can be healthy as well, while sick dogs can also have wet noses. Your dog’s nose temperature and moistness can be indicators of their activity level, environment and other factors, not necessarily indicators of your dog’s health. 

When checking your pet’s nose, ensure it is not cracked. A dry, cracked nose can be painful and could also indicate other issues. Read this blog for more on dry, cracked noses.

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Garlic Prevents Dog Fleas

The simple answer to this is no, garlic will not prevent your dog from getting fleas. Unfortunately the only way to effectively prevent your pet from becoming infested with fleas is to use a systemic flea preventative from your veterinarian. 

It is true that in large quantities garlic can repel fleas. Mint is also a great repellent, as fleas hate the scent. There are also several shampoos that have a mint or eucalyptus base that can assist in repelling fleas.  

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Dogs Only See in Black and White

It is an old wives’ tale that dogs only see in black and white. Dogs can see in color. They see mostly in the blue spectrum, but can see other colors as well.

While human eyes have three types of cones, dogs only have two types of cones. This prevents them from seeing the full spectrum of colors most humans see. Instead, a dog’s vision is similar to a person who is red-green color blind – they can discern blue and yellow, though red items will appear gray or brown.

Other interesting facts about canine eyes: dogs have better night vision due to their larger lens, corneal surface and reflective membrane. A dog’s vision is also a bit blurry, and they see in less detail than humans. For more on the science behind canine vision, view this article by the American Kennel Club.

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Dogs Need all Hair in their Ears Completely Plucked Out

Long-coated dogs grow hair inside of their ear canal. Some veterinarians and pet groomers believe that all hair should be plucked from the canal to prevent ear infections, while some believe it’s better to leave hair in the ears to keep moisture out and prevent ear infections.

Either way, the goal is to prevent ear infections. The best option is to pluck about half of the hair and gently clean with a pet safe ear cleaner. Your dog groomer can also shave some of the hair out of the ears to avoid any unnecessary pain. 

Not sure whether your dog’s ear hair should be plucked? Ask your veterinarian or local dog groomer for advice based on your pet’s specific breed and condition.

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A Wagging Tail Means a Dog is Happy

It’s always fun to come home to that sweet pup wagging its tail and giving smooches. However, while a wagging tail can indicate your pet is happy, it can also mean it’s uneasy.

Not all dogs are easy going and confident. Some, for example, are nervous around small children. If a dog has never been around children it can be easy to misread its body language. If you see a wagging tail, look at other signs of stress. 

Possible signs to look for include drooling, pinned back ears, yawning and blinking. The pet may also lift a paw off the ground or turn their head or body away. Always pay attention closely to an animal’s body language and exercise caution when first introducing it to children. 

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Water is a Good Tool for Correction

Dog trainers used to utilize spray bottles filled with water to prevent pets from undesirable behaviors like jumping or barking. The problem with this, other than the fact that it is negative reinforcement, is that it directly translates to grooming.

If your pet associates water with negativity, it may likely learn to hate anything to do with it. When bathing these dogs, they can become extremely fearful or even aggressive.

Looking for other tools to use for correcting your dog’s behaviors? Try out some of the tips in this blog about dog training.

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Rub a Dog’s Nose in Urine to Punish them for Having Accidents

If you rub your puppy’s nose in its pee and yell at it, you will only succeed in confusing your dog. As a result, your pet may learn to fear you or even hide when they feel the urge to relieve themselves.

The best way to potty train your puppy or older dog is to take them outside often. Puppies need more frequent visits outdoors, potentially even as often as every two hours, and especially after waking up, eating or drinking.

Picking a particular location outside for potty training is also a good idea, as well as rewarding your pet for going potty where you want them to. They will soon correlate the two. 

In general, all dogs want to please their owners. If your pet understands that you are happy with their behavior, they are more likely to continue the behavior.

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You Should Help Your Dog Express Their Anal Glands Frequently

In the wild, a dog’s anal glands are expressed naturally by the dog, usually when it is scared, but also when the animal eliminates. The secretions leave a foul odor that predators would rather steer clear of. Today, some dogs need help with this but not all.

Large dogs, because of their anatomy, typically will express their anal glands naturally when they go potty. Small dogs – and occasionally large dogs – need theirs expressed. A groomer or veterinarian can help with this. Vets perform the process internally while groomers do it externally.

How often should I have my dog’s anal glands expressed? This depends on your dog. Some need them done every 4-6 weeks, and some can go months in between. If your pet is scooting on the floor or licking and chewing at its rear, it may be a good indication that the anal glands need to be checked. 

If you’re unsure about the signs or need help regarding anal gland expression frequency for your pet, your local dog groomer can help provide guidance.

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Vets Just Want My Money… My Dogs Teeth Aren’t Even Dirty

While veterinarians do “make money” on dental procedures and other services they provide, it’s unfair to assume that’s their motivation for suggesting dental care for your pet. Veterinarians get into the business to help pets, not to make money. 

Canine dental disease is a real thing and it can lead to other medical problems with your pet. Not to mention – if your pet has sore teeth and gums, it could become very ill in a short period of time due to lack of eating or drinking. 

If your vet recommends dental care for your pet, please consider getting their teeth cleaned professionally. There are many things we can’t see just by looking at our pets’ teeth that the vet may be able to see. 

Our advice at Smoochie Pooch is to take steps for your dog’s teeth and mouth health before problems arise. Save the expensive veterinarian bill by regular teeth brushing and other tips for your dog’s mouth health.

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Have questions regarding any of the myths in this blog? Ask your local Smoochie Pooch pet groomer – they’ll be happy to help!

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Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

As professional pet groomers, we see a lot of dogs with ear infections. They are usually not treatable without the help of a veterinarian, but there are some over-the-counter treatments and at-home remedies that can be attempted if the infection is caught early enough. In this blog, we will talk about signs and symptoms of ear infections, prevention methods and what to do if you think your dog has an ear infection. 

Signs of an Ear Infection

Signs of an ear infection can be as follows:

  • Redness or irritation of the ear canal or ear leather
  • Excessive dirt 
  • Oozing 
  • Excessive grease production
  • Odor
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Scabbing or crusting
  • Head shaking
  • Excessive heat

A healthy dog ear is clean and free of debris with no smell or foul odor, though it’s normal to find a small amount of dirt and bacteria in and around the ear. Some dogs show no physical signs of an ear infection. They may start shaking or scratching incessantly at their ears before any discharge is observed in the ear.

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What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

A dog’s ear canal is shaped like an L, while humans have a straighter ear canal. The L shape is notorious for holding liquid at the base of the canal, making dogs more prone to ear infections. 

Ear infections usually consist of yeast and/or bacteria. Once moisture accumulates in the ear canal, it creates the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria to grow. 

There are many underlying conditions and causes for ear infections in puppies and dogs. Some causes for ear infections are:

  • Excessive moisture from swimming 
  • Allergies
    • Food allergies lead to roughly 80% of all ear infections
    • Environmental allergies
  • Foreign object inside ear (grass and foxtails are common)
  • Ear mites
  • Wax buildup
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Trauma to the ear
  • Cancer
  • Polyps in the ears (fleshy growths)

All of these problems, including others, can make a dog’s ear susceptible to infections.  

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Will My Dog’s Ear Infection Go Away on its Own?

Typically an ear infection will not go away on its own. Some form of treatment is usually required to restore your dog’s health and comfort. Without treatment, a dog’s ear infection can escalate and cause other problems.

Dog Ear Hematomas

If left untreated for too long, your dog could develop ear hematomas, also known as aural hematomas. This is when swollen, blood-filled pockets develop inside a dog’s ear flap. Hematomas are caused by a buildup of fluid that forms at the ear tip, and the swelling that ensues can be intense. They’re extremely painful and can rupture if left untreated, causing severe discomfort for your pet (and a huge mess for you). 

There is typically a lot of blood and fluid involved when a hematoma ruptures. If you feel anything “squishy” at the tips of your pet’s ears, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Can You Treat Ear Infections at Home?

Answering this question is difficult. It implies that you are diagnosing an ear infection without the assistance of a veterinarian. The only way to truly diagnose an ear infection is by having a vet examine the ear canal to see if there is any swelling, irritation or foreign body present. 

If you suspect a mild ear infection case in your pet, you can try a remedy at home. Zymox Ear Solution works well. This solution also has some cortisone in it to help with itching. If there is no improvement within 7-10 days, seek veterinarian care.

ear solution for dog ear infection

If your pet’s ear infection shows blaring signs of infection, medical attention is advised. 

Ways to Help Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs

The following are preventative measures you can take to decrease the likelihood of your pet developing ear infections.

Prevent Water From Entering Your Dog’s Ear Canal

Putting cotton in your dog’s ears during baths and swim time will limit the amount of water that gets into the ear canal. Be sure to remove the cotton balls after water activity is done. 

Change in Diet

Food allergies can cause itchy skin and ears which can then lead to secondary infections. If a food allergy is suspected, try an elimination diet. Beef, chicken, corn, wheat and dairy are some of the most common allergies. Elimination diets are hard to do because it takes three months to really see a difference. During this time, no other foods or treats can be given or it can skew the results. 

Regular Dog Grooming

Regular dog grooming appointments and ear plucking is advised. Long-haired dogs grow hair inside of their ear canal that sometimes needs to be removed. Plucking of ear hair should only be done by your local groomer or vet. 

Please refer to our previous blogs to learn how often your dog or puppy should be groomed.

Regular Ear Cleaning

When cleaning a dog’s ears, apply ear cleaner to a cotton swab and gently wipe the inside of the ear leather. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean ears as they kill healthy ear bacteria. Always use a pH balanced ear cleaner specifically made for dogs. 

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Should I Pluck My Dog’s Ears?

Long- or wire-haired dogs grow hair inside of their ear canal. This hair can clump and cause a blockage, trapping in moisture and creating a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast to grow.

A large buildup can also keep water out of the ear. This is why water-loving dogs like Poodles are much less likely to get an infection when they still have their ear hair. 

Whether to pluck ears is a highly debated topic amongst different veterinarians and groomers. There are many groomers and vets who think all of the hair must be removed, and there are several who think none should be removed. At Smoochie Pooch, we base it off of each individual dog on a case-by-case basis. 

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The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies. If there are no signs of ear infections there should be no issues with leaving hair in the ears. If you do decide to have your dog’s ears plucked, remember that it should only be done by a professional pet groomer or veterinarian as mentioned earlier.

How Are Dog Ear Infections Treated?

After an official diagnosis from a vet has been given, treatment can begin. Your veterinarian will clean the ear thoroughly with a medicated ear wash. After the ear is cleaned, medication will be applied.

veterinarian examining dog ears for ear infections

Typically, a prescribed ear drop medication will be sent home with you to apply daily. Depending on the severity of the infection, your pet may also need antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory. Most non chronic ear infections resolve within one to two weeks. 

Have questions about ear infections or whether plucking ear hair is right for your pet? The pet groomers at Smoochie Pooch are always happy to help answer your questions the best they can.

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Feeding Your Dog Chicken – Why To Be Careful

Dogs love chicken. It’s everywhere: in dog food, treats, supplements – even some toys come chicken-flavored. While it can be a good source of protein for your pet, we’ll go over reasons to utilize caution when feeding your dog chicken.

Dogs and Chicken Allergies

We recommend feeding your dog a variety of high protein pet food instead of the same food product solely. Exclusively feeding chicken products can trigger allergic reactions and sensitivities in your dog. Dogs with itchy, red paw pads and yeasty ears can have these symptoms intensified by continuing to feed them chicken. 

When consuming large amounts of chicken or chicken products, your dog’s body begins building an intolerance to the protein. This intolerance is what triggers your dog’s sensitivities and allergies. This can be exhibited in hot spots, yeasty ears, obsessive licking of the paws, vomiting or diarrhea. 

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Dog Sensitivities Can Develop Suddenly

Just like humans, your dog’s body changes as he or she gets older which can result in sensitivities developing to things that never bothered them before. Monitoring your dog’s reaction to what they are eating and encountering every day will help you notice any differences in their habits. This makes it easier to report any significant changes to your dog’s veterinarian. 

Dog Food Comprised of Malnourished Chickens

Let’s face it: most chickens raised for dog food aren’t free range or eating healthy diets. Many are malnourished and not humanely or ethically sourced. After they are processed for pet food, there aren’t many nutrients remaining for your pets to consume, causing food companies to add synthetic vitamins and minerals back in. 

Without the proper nutrients, your pet can have vitamin deficiencies, and you’ll then have to supplement in other ways. 

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Read the Ingredient Label on Dog Food

Be thorough when reading the ingredient panels on treats, foods, supplements, chews and even flavored toys. Bags of commercial chicken feed are full of grains, meals and other fillers with little-to-no nutritional value, making it a diet of miscellaneous ingredients with very little meat.

Be mindful of ingredients labeled as “poultry,” since it does not specify which type of poultry is being used. Many consumers often mistake poultry as a synonym for chicken, though it is a blanket term to mean animals in the bird family. Poultry meals may consist of chickens, doves, ducks, geese, grouse, guinea fowl, partridges, pea fowl, pheasants, pigeons, quail, swans and turkeys.

Chicken-Related Foods to Avoid

If your dog suffers from chicken allergies, they’ll need a nutritious, balanced dog food that does not include chicken meat, chicken meal, chicken fat, chicken broth, chicken eggs or chicken by-products. You may search for an over-the-counter diet or seek the advice of a veterinarian for a prescription diet. 

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Chicken-Free Dog Food Options

Several brands of dog food are starting to manufacture chicken-free diets. Zignature is an excellent option for dogs with allergies and sensitivities as they are essentially a bland diet. 

Acana’s Singles line, which focuses on a single protein, eliminates chicken in all formats. Several fresh and raw diets have chicken-free options and will use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs for added protein and balance. 


Single-ingredient treats are the easiest way to eliminate poultry. Northwest Naturals Rewards create single-ingredient, freeze dried treats your pet will devour! Zignature Ziggy Bars are also excellent for dogs who love a crunchy, tasty treat.

You may even have treat options at home your pup will devour such as apples, bananas, baby carrots and green beans. 

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Chicken-Free Diets for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

Oftentimes, a bland diet of chicken and rice is recommended when experiencing digestion issues. A great substitute for this is canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potatoes, boiled ground turkey or beef, and rice. These ingredients are easy on dogs with upset stomachs.

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Canned pumpkin is a great addition to any diet for added fiber and the occasional upset stomach. There are several ways to feed pumpkin to benefit your pup’s gut. 

Grandma Lucy’s Digestion Pumpkin Pouch is designed to support your dog’s gut in a natural way. Weruva Pumpkin comes in a single use pouch to easily squeeze onto food or a lick mat (which is an awesome tool for anxious pups!). 

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Goat milk or kefir

Another option would be to serve goat milk or kefir to help aid in digestion and any inflammation, including allergy flares. Since some milks are fermented, the benefits to your dog’s overall health are amazing! You can find fresh, unpasteurized milks from a local farmer, or in the refrigerated section at your local pet store.

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Other Chicken Dog Food Considerations

Raw Chicken

Some pet owners feed their dogs a raw food diet. Dogs are descended from wolves and a raw diet is seen as a more natural approach to their food. This pure protein doesn’t have any added carbohydrates or sugars. It is high in calcium, vitamin B6 and selenium. However, raw chicken is not as nutrient dense as other raw proteins. It would need to be in a rotation with other meats. 

Though raw chicken is a natural protein, there are some things to remember before serving it to your pet. First, make sure your dog is heathy. Some existing health issues are not compatible with a raw diet. Second, always use safety when handling raw chicken as humans are at risk for different bacterial diseases. Third, start off slow with your pet to not suddenly overwhelm their digestive tract, especially if they have never consumed raw meat before.

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Don’t Give Your Dog Chicken Bones

Dogs love bones. Bones given to dogs should come from a pet store and not your kitchen, however. Chicken bones are a choking hazard and can potentially damage a dog’s intestines. Because chicken bones break and splinter easily, they can lead to severe health conditions or even death. 

If you give chicken to your dog, make sure to take it off the bone first. It’s important to always dispose of chicken bones in the garbage and keep it in a place your dog cannot access.

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Giving Fried or Breaded Chicken to Dogs

Pet owners are advised against feeding fried chicken to their pets, as they contain excess oil and fat which are bad for your dog and can contribute to obesity.

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Be Wary of Spices

Take caution when feeding seasoned chicken to dogs. Onions and onion powder are incredibly toxic to dogs. Nutmeg, cocoa powder, garlic and black pepper are also among spices you should avoid. 

Spicy foods can cause stomach problems, diarrhea, gas and pain for your dog. They can also cause your dog to vomit and be excessively thirsty.

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Cutting out chicken is not the cure for your dog’s health issues, but it can substantially help when it is eliminated in all formats. Your dog’s body will start to heal itself from the inside out, making your pup healthier and happier! Noticing irritated paw pads, yeasty ears and hot spots are usually an exhibited sign that something is going on internally and needs to be addressed. 

Keep tabs on what your pet is ingesting and report any significant changes to your vet at your dog’s next appointment. Small changes can easily trigger a larger reaction if not addressed in a timely manner. It is important to consult your veterinarian before any major changes to your pet’s diet, especially if they are on a vet-prescribed diet for other ailments. 

We recommend switching up your dog’s protein, even if your pet seems fine after eating chicken. Giving a variety helps prevent your dog from producing an intolerance to the protein.

If you’re the type to give your dog human food on occasion, be careful not to give your dog raw, seasoned or fried chicken. And keep chicken bones away from your pet.

If you have questions about your pet’s diet, ask one of us at Smoochie Pooch for guidance or seek out the advice of your veterinarian.

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Dogs & Swimming: Preventing Matting & Tangles

Most dogs love to swim, especially on a hot summer day to cool off. Unfortunately, swimming dogs are more prone to matted hair or tangled fur and have an increased likelihood of contracting skin issues like hot spots and dermatitis.

When a dog stays wet for an extended period of time, the moisture causes their hair to curl and then dry while it’s still wrapped around itself. This moisture, along with warm temperatures, is also a breeding ground for bacteria harmful to your dog’s skin.

The good news is that proper care after swimming can help prevent your pet from matting and carrying harmful bacteria. While some dog breeds are more at risk than others, all dogs should receive grooming after getting wet. This blog provides helpful tricks for dog grooming care at home to prevent matting and tangling in wet dogs and keep them clean.

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Which Breeds are at Greater Risk for Matting?

All dogs love swimming but double-coated breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors are more prone to issues after activity in water. Their coat retains moisture once wet, and it can take a very long time to dry. The moisture can make matting worse and can also create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Curly-coated breeds like Labradoodles and Bichon Frises mat and tangle very easily. Brushing frequently is imperative for dogs with curly-coated hair in order to maintain their cute and fluffy appearance. Add water play to the mix, and it’s crucial to brush their coat!

When curly-coated dogs rub on furniture, the floor or other surfaces after getting wet, static electricity builds. Between the rubbing and the static, their hair can tangle almost instantly.

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Rinse or Bathe Your Dog after Exposure to Water

This pet grooming tip may seem strange considering they’re already wet, but chemicals from chlorine as well as sand, debris and bacteria from lakes or rivers can cause skin irritation and leave unpleasant smells attached to their fur.

Rinsing your dog after a swim is recommended, but it’s much better to bathe your pet if you’re able. If you bathe your dog at home, be sure to rinse all of the product out of the coat. Products left in the coat can cause skin to become irritated and itchy.

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Tips for Bathing Your Dog at Home After Swimming

Invest in a high-quality leave-in conditioner for your dog’s coat. A detangling leave-in conditioning spray will make brushing easier, especially for dogs with long hair that tangles easily. 

You can spray the leave-in conditioner on their damp coat before they fully dry, or wait and lightly spray it over their dry fur and brush it through. Quadruped Pet Care: All In One Leave-In Conditioner is a great product for this.


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Always read the directions on any product you decide to use on your dog. Many shampoos and conditioners used by professional groomers come in a concentrated form, so they need to be diluted before using. To dilute these products we suggest using a mixing bottle or spray bottle. Simply add the recommended amount of water and then product, and mix thoroughly.

Dog groomers at Smoochie Pooch never use premixed products for bathing; each time a pet is bathed, product is mixed specifically for their needs. To fully mix and achieve a sudsy texture, our professional pet stylists froth the mix much like a barista froths milk for a latte.

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Brushing Dogs to Prevent Matting After Swimming

While it’s recommended to maintain a regular grooming schedule with professional groomers, pet care shouldn’t stop there. For dogs that love their time in the water, we highly recommend brushing at home to help maintain your pet’s skin and coat in between grooming appointments. 

Periodically brushing is the best way to prevent tangles and matting from occurring, so it’s a good practice to thoroughly brush your pet each time they play in water. There are also some drying aids that you can spray on your pet that help them dry more quickly and prevent “wet dog” smell. 

Brush through clean, damp hair with a brush or metal comb all the way to the skin. Then after it dries fully, brush again with the brush or comb, ensuring it gets all the way down to the skin. Grooming your dog at home may not be an option, but brushing always is!

If your pet isn’t brushed well, mats will continue to trap more fur and move their way closer to your dog’s skin, increasing the severity of the mat. You’ll likely notice mats first in areas around the collar or harness area, under their chin, their armpits, their feet and on the back of their hind legs.

If your pet does get matted, it could take multiple professional grooming sessions to remove the matting without causing pain or harm to your pet.   

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Using the Right Brush for Your Dog

It’s important to utilize the right brush for your dog’s coat. For example: slicker brushes, undercoat rakes and metal combs are recommended for thick, double-coated breeds like Huskies, Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards. Westies and Scotties have coarse, short coats and may be better off with a metal comb and Andis undercoat rake. 

You can learn more about our recommendations for brushes based on different dog breeds and coat types in this blog.

Have questions about brushing your pet? Ask the professional groomers at Smoochie Pooch – they’ll be happy to give you tips about brushes and the proper way to brush your dog’s specific coat. 

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Regular Dog Grooming

Most pet owners aren’t dog grooming experts. That’s where we come in! 

With regular grooming appointments at Smoochie Pooch, your pet’s coat will be pampered and maintained on a regular basis with proper bathing, brushing and trimming specific to the dog’s breed. This regular grooming regimen significantly helps pet owners maintain their pet’s coat in between appointments, and makes it much easier to manage wet dogs after a swim. 

Whether you visit one of our multiple grooming salon locations or make an appointment with our mobile grooming pet spa in Northwest Indiana, you can count on our team to keep your dog’s coat healthy and clean. To find out more about our dog grooming services, contact us today!

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Hot Spots: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Understanding your pet’s ailments and symptoms can be confusing and intimidating. It’s important for pet owners to learn about conditions their pet may develop along with causes, prevention and treatments available. With proper care, you can help prevent your pet from the pain and irritation of hot spots, along with saving yourself time and money investing in veterinary care if unpleasant hot spots arise. 

This blog provides helpful information and advice to help dog owners learn proper steps to ward off pesky hot spots and treat them if they emerge.

dog hot spots - beginning stages

The beginning stages of hot spots developing on dog paws.

What is a Hot Spot?

Hot spots, also known as summer sores or acute moist dermatitis, are fairly common and present as red, oozing, wet sores. They can be extremely painful and itchy and are typically hot to the touch. 

They most often result from a dog causing self harm by excessive chewing, licking or scratching at the skin. If a dog penetrates their skin, bacteria can set up an infection and manifest as sores on their body. ​​If your dog continues scratching, bacteria under its nails is introduced to the sore allowing the sore to grow and become more irritating for your pet. 

Hot spots can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, but are most commonly found on the neck, face and legs. They can grow rapidly but can also be treated and healed quickly. If left untreated, hot spots may lead to widespread infection and skin ulcers.

dog hot spot redness on neck

Conditions that Lead to Dog Hot Spots

Bacteria thrive in moist environments, so infections are more likely to occur in hot summer months with humid weather or after your dog goes for a swim or is exposed to rain. A lack of grooming and matted fur can also cause hot spots to occur.

Hot spots often develop due to an underlying condition that leads to licking and scratching. Such conditions include allergies, parasites, poor nutrition and anal gland impaction. Boredom and anxiety can also lead to licking and scratching. 

The more a pet scratches an area, the more bacteria is introduced. Licking is especially problematic, as it creates a moist warm environment for bacteria to grow.

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​​Most Susceptible Breeds

Any breed can be affected by hot spots, but they most often affect dogs with dense undercoats such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards and Collies.

If you have a dog with a thick undercoat, we recommend getting them groomed by a professional groomer at minimum every 4-6 weeks throughout the summer months. This will ensure that the dead undercoat can be fully released and the skin underneath can breathe. 

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Hot Spot Prevention

Make sure to clean your dog thoroughly and remove excess dirt and moisture from your dog’s skin and coat after swimming or exposure to rain.

Ensure your pet is on a flea and tick preventative, as parasites – especially fleas – can trigger hot spots quickly. 

Keep your pet groomed and clean, especially during warm weather months. Take your dog to a professional groomer to trim down their coat, and brush regularly to avoid matted fur. Matting decreases the skin’s ability to breathe, creating a hot, moist environment and breeding ground for hot spots.

Proper nutrition for your dog or cat is also important. A well-balanced diet and supplements that improve the health of the skin and coat are imperative. It’s best to do whatever you can do to keep your pet as clean and healthy as possible; a healthy animal on the inside is a healthy animal on the outside. 

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How to Treat a Hot Spot

Small hot spots can typically be treated at home, however finding the underlying cause is important to prevent further occurrences. To determine the cause, a trip to the vet may be necessary, especially if the spot is extremely large and obviously painful. 

Urgent vet care may be required if the spot is:

  • Drastically increasing in size
  • Bleeding continuously
  • Any colored discharge appears

If any of these have occurred, transport to a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further infection. A topical treatment and/or oral medications may be prescribed to speed up the recovery process. 

Your vet may also clip the hair away from the area to ensure air can circulate freely around the area to speed up the healing process. They may also prescribe the use  of antiseptic spray, specialized shampoo or mild, water-based astringent to be used at home. Occasionally, pets need an antibiotic as well if the infection has spread. 

Home Remedies for Hot Spots

If the hot spot seems minor, there are some things you can do at home to help.

Trim around the affected areas so the skin may breath and dry out. Do not use scissors; clippers with a clean clipper blade are a necessity. If you are not comfortable with this, your local groomer can help.

Prevent your pet from licking or scratching the area by placing a collar around their neck. An E-collar, or “cone of shame” can help. If your dog will not leave the area alone, this may be the only way to prevent it from licking. 

dog in e-collar to prevent scratching, licking, chewing

Another, perhaps more comfortable option would be to try an inflatable collar. They’re designed for dogs with an injury or recent surgery. If you want to try an inflatable collar, observe your pet carefully to ensure it cannot reach the areas that need to heal. 

inflatable dog collar to prevent scratching and licking

Clean the area with a mild antiseptic spray, antibacterial shampoo or antiseptic wipes. Human medications, such as antibiotic creams and hydrocortisone creams should not be used as they tend to make the dog lick more. You want them to stop licking, not lick more.

After consulting with your veterinarian, apply recommended hot spot spray that is safe to be ingested as your dog will likely lick the area. Monitor the area for improvement or worsening of the symptoms. If symptoms worsen, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.  

How can my Groomer Help?

Regular grooming plays a huge role in the health of your pet’s skin. Ensuring the areas of irritation are cleaned and maintained properly can avoid issues in the future. If your pet does develop a hot spot, most groomers have products or services that can help get them under control. 

At Smoochie Pooch, we offer tailored skin restoration programs to assist in the healing process. Our ozone bubble baths offer another layer of healing and protection with healing properties, such as anti inflammatory, anti viral, and antibacterial. Contact your local Smoochie Pooch salon to learn more about our skin restoration program or schedule your consultation today. 

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Dog Collars, Leashes and Harnesses

Dog collars and dog leashes are vital to dog owners. They allow pups to safely stay with their owners, display ID and vaccination tags, and even help with training.

When selecting a collar or leash-collar combo, you may want to take your pet’s size, strength, coat and obedience level into consideration, along with the intended use for the collar. 

Are you in need of a collar simply to display an ID tag? Is it intended for walking an orderly dog or do you want a solution to help train an unruly, jumpy dog that likes to pull while on a leash? Does your pet often slip out of their collar? Will the collar get wet frequently and require constant cleaning?

This blog breaks down various pros and cons to different collar and leash options as well as provides collar safety tips regarding proper fitting and hygiene practices.

Different Types of Collars and Leashes

  • Nylon Collar
  • BioThane® Collar
  • Rolled Leather Collar
  • Prong Collar or Pinch Collar
  • Martingale Collar
  • Standard Nylon or Leather Leash
  • Slip Lead or Slip Collar
  • Flexi Lead or Retractable Leash
  • Gentle Leader or Head Halter
  • Body Harness
  • Break-away Collar
  • Flea and Tick Collar

Nylon Collars

Nylon collars often have a plastic or metal buckle that either snaps together or has a flat buckle like a belt. They often have cute designs and are great for hanging tags, such as identification tags and rabies tags on them. 

These collars are great for when pets are just hanging around the house or for walking if they are well behaved and not likely to try to slip out of their collar. Nylon collars do not tend to assist in trying to manage poorly behaved animals, so if you have a pet where more control is needed, it may not be the proper collar for your pet. 

While many collar types come in a variety of colors, nylon collars have perhaps the largest selection of patterns, colors and widths of all the collar types available. 

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BioThane® Collars

BioThane collars are similar in style to nylon collars as they utilize a belt-style buckle. The main difference between the two is the material – BioThane collars are extremely durable and waterproof due to the polyester webbing having a special TPU or PVC coating. 

They’re extremely strong and lightweight. Since BioThane isn’t compromised when it gets wet, collars made from this material are easily washed or wiped clean with soap and water. They’re particularly great for active pets who like to get dirty playing, swimming or hunting.

BioThane collars are also odor-proof, stain-resistant and non-toxic. They’re also softer, less expensive and more flexible than many of their counterparts. They’re becoming more prevalent, and more options are becoming available on the market.

Rolled Leather Collars

Rolled leather collars are lightweight and great for all breeds, though they’re especially helpful for pets with long hair. Due to their thin, rolled design, they will not create friction like a nylon collar will. The friction contributes to the flattening and matting of the fur around the collar area and also causes coat damage and breakage. 

The rolled leather is nice because it has a smaller point of contact on the fur, causing less skin irritation as well as less tangled hair and less damage. 

They also give your dog an elegant, stylish look and are available in a wide range of colors. When comparing rolled leather dog collars, take the comfort, durability and quality of the leather into consideration before purchasing.

Larger dogs can stretch rolled leather collars, so this type of collar is not always recommended for larger working dogs.

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Prong Collars

Prong collars, also known as pinch collars, can be a great tool if used properly. They are meant to be utilized as a corrective device for reactive dogs through both positive punishment and negative reinforcement. This type of collar encourages your pet to decrease poor behavior by irritating and annoying your pet.

The individual prongs are angled in and blunt at the ends, never sharp. When the dog pulls, pressure is evenly distributed around the neck to get the dog’s attention. It should sit just below the jaw, and so long as it is fitted properly, it should not hurt the dog.

While great for initial training purposes, there is a lot of controversy around prong collars due to their unintended risks and consequences. Over time dogs may become increasingly fearful, avoidant or even desensitized to the physical associations they attribute to the collar. 

The key lies in training. We recommend using prong collars with the supervision of a dog trainer or pet professional to help train your pet to respond to cues and walk by your side without pulling. 

Prong collars are especially effective for handlers who have strength or mobility issues as well as for large, strong pets. A 150 pound Newfoundland, for example, may need a prong collar to help get their attention.

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Martingale Collars

Martingale collars (often referred to as no-slip or limited-slip collars) look like flat collars, but part of the collar is a smaller loop of fabric or chain with a D-ring attached. The collar constricts when the dog pulls on the leash – the smaller loop tightens and pulls the larger loop tighter.

This collar is similar to what is commonly referred to as a choke collar, but it will only go as far as the adjustment will allow. It helps prevent damage to the throat that can happen with a traditional choke chain. 

Martingale collars are perfect for dogs that tend to back out of their collars. They provide more control than typical flat collars and are designed to keep dogs safely on-leash without choking them

Martingale-type collars are great for dogs with heads narrower than their necks. This is why they’re often referred to as “greyhound collars”. While commonly used on greyhounds and other dogs with small heads, they can prove indispensable for dogs of all types.

They are not recommended as a solution for dogs who pull nonstop, as they’ll constantly have a tight collar. You may also want to consider removing martingale collars when not on walks. The loose design and dangling ring can lead to a higher chance of your pet getting caught on objects.

Standard Nylon or Leather Leashes

These leashes come in various lengths. Typically 4’ – 6’ are the most common lengths. They are great for walks, training or visiting stores. 

Nylon leashes are lightweight, easy to handle and affordable. They come in a wide variety of designs and colors and can be easily washed. The biggest downfall of nylon leashes is their lifespan, however. They absorb moisture and are susceptible to wear and tear. 

Leather is more comfortable to hold, especially on long walks, and can be less agitating on your dog’s skin if they’re known to pull. Leather also softens over time without sacrificing durability and is designed for long term use outdoors or exposed to wet conditions if properly maintained.

On the flip side, leather may require some breaking-in. You may want to consider regularly oiling and cleaning a leather leash to maintain its condition.

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Flexi Leads and Retractable Leashes

Flexi leads are good for letting your dog smell and look around while out for a hike or stroll and can be useful for tracking with scent work or training. They’re also great for giving your pet extra freedom to explore and find a place to go potty. Most also contain an instant-stop brake for ease of control.

They are best used on well-trained dogs in areas that are not densely populated. The downside of flexi leads is they can let your dog get into trouble. If on a flexi, make sure you have eyes on your pup at all times. 

It’s important to check the product details for retractable leashes if you have a large dog. Some heavy-duty retractable leads are only suited for dogs up to 110 lbs, so make sure your pet is within their leash’s weight restrictions.

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Slip Leads or Slip Collars

Slip leads act as a collar and leash combination and are designed with a sliding or “slip” loop without a traditional buckle. Just slide it over your pet’s head and position the slip ring at the back, or scruff, of their neck.

Slip collars work much like a choker chain. They’re great aversion training tools, as a tug of the leash will quickly, effectively and comfortably tighten the collar. It should be loose and comfortable when your pet is at rest. 

If you’re buying a slip lead for the first time, you may want to search for slip leads made of softer materials like nylon or polypropylene webbing or rope, as they contain more cushion. Once a dog is trained, a leather slip lead may prove to be more effective. 

This type of leash and collar combination can be handy if you’re in a hurry or need to run into a store quickly. It’s great for dogs who slip out of collars, especially when they’re somewhere they might be uncomfortable, like the vet. 

TIP: I always have a slip lead or two in my car, as I tend to find dogs on the side of the road that need rescued.

Gentle Leaders or Head Halters

The PetSafe Gentle Leader is a head halter and is designed like a horse halter. This type of leash/collar combo gives you the ability to direct your dog’s attention and move their muzzle without putting unnecessary stress on their neck. Gentle Leaders can help stop poorly mannered pets from lunging and jumping. They are also effective at stopping your dog from pulling.

Dogs typically don’t like the feeling at first. It takes some time to get them used to it, but head halters can be a great tool in assisting with training. 

Body Harnesses

A standard body harness helps to avoid contact with the throat and has a clip over the back or on the chest. It’s a safe choice when letting dogs run free on a long line while hiking or walking, as it decreases the risk of your pet getting stuck and pulling on its neck. It is also less likely for the leash to get stuck under the legs and is more difficult to slip out of than other collar options.

Body harnesses are an excellent choice for brachycephalic breeds like Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus and St. Bernards. These breeds are prone to collapsing tracheas and breathing problems, so it’s ideal to avoid devices that contact their throat region.

While great for many breeds, body harnesses are not always an excellent choice for Poodles or other breeds prone to matting. Pets with curlier, more cottony hair are more likely to mat. It’s always a good practice to immediately brush your pet where their harness rubbed against them – particularly their underarms and chest – to ensure you avoid matting.

Both step-in and adjustable dog harnesses are available. A step-in dog harness allows your dog to step into it with both front paws before you fasten the back of the harness. An adjustable harness fits securely and requires you to accurately measure your dog’s chest. Unfortunately, smaller dogs tend to slip out of adjustable harnesses.

Smoochie Pooch dog harness, dog harness options, cat harness, dog groomer

Other Cat or Dog Collars 

Each year, pets are injured or die of collar strangulation accidents. Break-away collars are designed in a way that releases the safety buckle when under pressure. These collars can be reused after the buckle is released.

Flea and tick collars are an effective option for preventing the infestation of pests on dogs and cats. They will not prevent or cure current infestations. These collars are not meant to replace regular collars, but are instead to be worn in addition to regular collars. Check the collar’s product packaging for information regarding the recommended length of use. 

Collar Safety – The Proper Fit for a Collar

To know what size collar your dog needs, measure the size of their neck. Use a string or flexible tape measure to measure the circumference where the collar will be worn. A 16” measurement on your pup means you need a 16” collar (or a collar comfortably within the size range).

Make sure you can fit your thumb between the collar and the dog’s neck. The collar is too loose if you can fit a whole hand between the collar and neck. A dog collar is too tight if you cannot wedge a single finger.

Also, note that collars will fit differently depending on a dog’s position. A collar may fit perfectly while in the standing position but may be snug when the pet reclines. Keep this in mind and keep an eye on your pet when trying out a new collar to ensure they’re safe and comfortable.

If you’re in the market for a new dog collar or cat collar, chat with your local dog groomer and view the selection available at your local Smoochie Pooch boutique. Since your pet will already be along for the ride, it’s a great way to test out a collar or leash before purchasing. And you’ll have our helpful staff available to answer questions and give you guidance if needed.

smoochie pooch professional dog groomers and pet boutique dog leashes and collars

Collar Hygiene

It’s a great idea to remove and clean your pet’s collar when it becomes dirty to avoid skin problems and trapping moisture under their collar. If your dog swims in ponds and lakes, they’ll also be exposed to bacteria, so it’s very important to clean their collar (and your pet!). 

If your pet often gets dirty or wet, you may want to take a collar’s ease of washing into consideration when making a selection or purchase.

Pet Identification

Adding ID tags to collars and harnesses is a great way to keep identification on your pet at all times. Many stores provide easy-to-use kiosks for dog tags so pets can display their name and pet owner contact info in case of emergencies. 

Many pet owners remove tagged collars at night or while their pet is indoors at home. Dogs are also known to chew off or break free from their collars on occasion, so for these reasons we recommend ensuring your pet is microchipped so your pet may still be identified in case of an emergency.

Keeping an Extra Pet Leash on Hand

Dogs chew, so it’s a good practice to have an extra in case they destroy their leash. You may also want to consider keeping an extra collar/leash in your trunk in case you find a pet on the side of the road and need to transport it to a local animal shelter. Better yet, keep it in your pet first aid kit inside your car so you always know where it is.

dog leash, dog chewing on leash, dog with leash in mouth

Elli Bultemeier, PTI, NCMG

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Pet Dental Care and Dog Tooth Brushing – Tips and Tricks

Part of being a responsible pet owner means taking care of your pet’s dental hygiene, and it’s one of the most commonly overlooked health concerns by pet parents. If your pet receives no dental care in the first three years of life, it’s the equivalent of a human not seeing the dentist for 20 years!

This blog provides information about your pet’s teeth structure, breaks down the dangers of ignoring your pet’s dental health, and provides important tips and tricks to keep your pet healthy, avoid dental disease, and avoid expensive emergency trips to the vet for dog dental care.

Pets Have Two Sets of Teeth

Dogs and cats have two sets of teeth just like people. First they have their deciduous teeth, or baby teeth. Although they are normally lost by the time they’re 6-8 months old, they are important because they affect the eruption route and final resting position of the permanent, adult teeth. 

All dogs, regardless of size and breed, should have 42 permanent canine teeth, also known as secondary teeth. All cats have 30 permanent teeth. 

dog and cat baby teeth adult teeth canine teeth

The Multiple Layers of Animal Teeth

Like humans, a pet’s teeth have multiple layers.

The innermost part of the tooth is the pulp cavity, which contains blood vessels, nerve fibers, immune cells and collagen. This is where teeth receive nutrients and blood supply. If the pulp is not taken care of, teeth become infected and can ultimately die.

Dentin is the next layer, and makes up most of the tooth. It contains fluid and nerve fiber, and it’s continuously produced throughout an animal’s life. Chronic wear, cavities and fractures can lead to dentin exposure, leading to fluid shifts, nerve exposure, inflammation, sensitivity and pain.

Cementum is composed of mineralized tissue and covers the dentin layer. This layer helps preserve and anchor the tooth in its socket.

Enamel is the outermost layer above the gum line. It’s a hard, white layer that protects the dentin. Once broken or eroded, it cannot regenerate.

canine teeth in adult dog

Periodontal Disease

A staggering 80% of cats and dogs over 6 years of age suffer from Periodontal Disease.

Bacteria, food and saliva combine to form plaque. If not removed by brushing or chewing, it reacts with minerals to form a hard, yellow substance called tartar. As the tartar builds up on the tooth and gums, the bacteria causes gum inflammation known as gingivitis. 

This bacteria can then invade around the tooth and into the soft tissue and bone leading to loose teeth, infections, gum erosion and extreme pain.

Observing Your Pet’s Mouth

It’s important to regularly check the inside of your cat or dog’s mouth. Frequently doing this allows you to learn your pet’s “normal” and identify problems and irregularities more quickly.

Start slowly. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dog that enjoys having their teeth examined, so you need to get them used to being touched just like any other exam. 

Warning: any pet that is in pain or may be moved into pain can and will bite. Use caution when inspecting your pet’s mouth, especially if you suspect an issue. 

inspecting your dog's mouth, examining your pet's teeth, dog teeth

Physical Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

The first sign of an unhealthy mouth is bad or foul breath. “Doggy breath” and “kitty breath” are not normal and are signs of poor oral hygiene that should be addressed by a veterinarian promptly.

Upon closer examination of your pet’s mouth, you may find red or swollen gums. Gums should be bubble gum pink or black/gray if that is normal for your pet. Check for a brink pink or red line forming at the base of the gums, as this could be an indication of the start of gingivitis. 

Check for yellow teeth and buildup along the gum line, yellow-brown tartar, bleeding gums and loose or missing teeth. Also ensure there are no lumps, bumps or warts present. 

Examine to ensure gums are clean, smooth and free of blood and irregularities. If you notice any blood, growths or masses in your pet’s mouth, contact your veterinarian.

Behavioral Signs of Periodontal Disease

Some behavioral indicators of periodontal disease include difficulty eating, spending extra time eating, loss of appetite and increased begging. These warning signs may indicate the disease has progressed to the point of severe discomfort or pain and your pet may even have an abscessed tooth. 

If your pet shows the above behaviors or acts less interested in food than normal, try to do a thorough investigation of their mouth. If a problem is observed, follow up with your vet as soon as possible. 

periodontal disease in dogs and cats - behavioral signs to look for

Dog Teeth Brushing

Teeth brushing is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. Brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis is important to maintain good oral health, prevent plaque buildup and “doggy breath”.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Make sure you dog is comfortable and that your pet is willing to let you touch their muzzle and teeth.

Let your dog inspect the toothpaste and toothbrush.

Help ease your pet into teeth brushing by using positive reinforcement. Try giving your pet treats throughout the process so they associate positive rewards for cooperating with the brushing session.

Approach your dog from the side and gently raise their lip to start brushing. Brush for a few seconds before praising them and giving them a rewarding treat.

Repeat this process as often as you’re able and as long as your dog is willing.

Smoochie Pooch Dog Groomer near me dog toothbrushing add-on with toothpaste specially formulated for dogs

Additional Tips for Brushing Dog Teeth

Don’t force your dog. They should be comfortable.

Get help from another person if needed.

Always wash your hands after brushing a dog’s teeth.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Early and Often

Be consistent with tooth brushing. It’s never too late to start, but beginning a teeth cleaning regimen early is best when your pet is still a puppy. Maintain a regular schedule for brushing, and your puppy or adult dog will tolerate it much better than if you clean their teeth infrequently.

Use The Right Products

Do not use human toothpaste. It’s toxic, will hurt your dog and will make them very sick. Purchase toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs. Desirable flavors like chicken or beef make the process more enjoyable and comfortable for your pet.

Use a toothbrush designed for dogs, as human toothbrushes can be too rough. They come in different sizes, so pick one that is appropriate and comfortable for your pet. 

Browse Smoochie Pooch’s pet boutique the next time you bring your pet in for grooming and ask us about our pet toothpaste, toothbrushes and other pet dental products.

Fresh breath doc tooth care products dog toothbrush dog enzymatic toothpaste

How Often and How Long Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?

Brushing your pet’s teeth should be a relatively quick process. Not all dogs need the same amount of time. Toy breeds have larger teeth crowded in a smaller mouth, so they may require more brushing.

You don’t need to brush the inside of your pet’s teeth – the outside is usually enough. Make sure you brush both sides on the front and bottom teeth.

Other Pet Dental Health Measures

Dental Care Diet

Wet food can be great for giving your pet a hydration boost, but soft or mushy foods have been shown to produce more calculus and plaque than dry food or “kibble”. Dry kibble food has a unique texture that removes plaque and tartar from the tooth surface as your pet chews. 

Many pet foods contain hidden sugars, often in the form of corn syrup, fructose or molasses. These sugars can increase tartar and calculus build up, so it’s important to examine the ingredient label on your pet’s food before purchasing.

There are pet foods and treats specifically designed and formulated to assist in reducing tartar and plaque build up. Both prescription and non prescription diets are available. 

dog and cat eating dry kibble food for plaque and tartar buildup

Dental Chews and Bones

Similar to brushing, dental chews and bones mechanically scrape the tooth’s surface, removing plaque and tartar. The longer your pet chews, the more it works. 

While dog chews and bones are great, keep in mind that this is not a complete solution for dental care. Unless your pet is utilizing both sides of their mouth against each surface of every tooth, this will only be partially effective. You should still utilize tooth brushing as a preventative measure if your pet allows it.

Plaque Busters and Whimzees Dental Treats are a couple of great options, as are uncooked lamb and goat bones. Tip: do not use cooked bones – they can splinter and require a costly trip to your vet

Smoochie Pooch Plaque Busters for dog dental care and hygiene

Mouth Rinses and Water Additives

There are great antibacterial water rinses available that can be squirted directly into your pet’s mouth or soaked onto a toothbrush, cloth or cotton tips and then applied and wiped onto teeth.

Water additives won’t reverse dental disease or health issues, but they can help to slow the growth of bacteria and help freshen the breath. Tropiclean makes several water additives, and some not only benefit dental health but also benefit digestive health as well.

Tropiclean makes several water additives to benefit dog digestive health and dog dental care

Dental Toys

Toys are great for occupying your pet and protecting their teeth. Dental toys work in much the same way as dental chews and bones. They are often flavored and generally last a little longer than an edible treat. Rubber dog toys such as Kong dental toys are great at helping break down tartar buildup over time. 

Yearly Dental Care at Your Vet’s Office

Scheduling a yearly vet visit for a professional cleaning and dog dental hygiene care is great for pets who don’t tolerate having their teeth brushed, as vets have the ability to use general anesthesia. During the process, your pet’s mouth will be cleaned and cleared of any tartar along the gum line.

This is also a good option for pets who don’t like eating food in dry kibble form. 

It can be very expensive to have a veterinarian clean your pet’s teeth. Taking action at home or at your professional grooming salon to prevent bacteria and plaque buildup should be your first steps if you want to minimize the cost of professional dental cleaning for your pet.

dog dental care dog hygiene dog tooth cleaning veterinarian

Adding Dog Dental Health Care to Your Dog Grooming Routine

Most professional pet groomers offer teeth brushing services. If you haven’t already, try adding a tooth brushing service to your grooming session. 

Smoochie Pooch pet stylists and groomers are trained to utilize flavorful, enzymatic toothpaste specially formulated for dogs along with a clean, sterile dog toothbrush for each brushing session. The more consistently your pet’s teeth are brushed, the better their dental health will be.  

We’re sorry, but we do not offer cat tooth brushing services at this time.

Ask your professional groomer what they think of your dog’s dental health. Groomers see many scenarios and can advise whether it may be time to seek advice from your vet.

Smoochie Pooch dog toothbrushing dental care dental hygiene dog groomer near me