by Anna Stromberg
Without a question, the way to achieve the best results for a beautiful coat on your Afghan Hound is to have your dog, healthy, happy, clean and well conditioned. The Afghan Hound coat goes through at least four different stages that are divided by age and sex. The older the dog gets, the easier the coat care becomes. As babies, they do not have much more than fuzz - this is the time when you are training your pup and yourself for a problem-free future. It is not that difficult, but it is a lot of work teaching the pup to lay down and stay still, to get used to having a bath and to accept the hair dryer without having a screaming fit.
Everything has to be introduced gradually, but its very important to do it. If you cheat because the dog is young and really does not need the everyday attention to the coat, you are going to have some serious problems in the future. You will end up losing control over your dog because of his or her fear of the water in the tub and the noise of the hairdryer. So if you do not want to end up wrestling a 50 to 60 pound distressed yearling full of mats, you will work hard and long with your pup. I have had to retrain many Afghans because their novice owner did not know how important it is to teach them the ropes as a puppy. I hope that I have stressed this enough so we can discuss how to groom your Afghan properly and easily.
With a baby, I mean the 8 to 16 week old cutie, the one that will be rolling in the dirt, mud and worse things, it is important not make a big fuss. Just put the baby in the tub and rinse it quickly, and then shampoo it with almost anything. Its more important that the puppy gets the feel for water and the fragrances than anything else. Count on the pup to scream and want to get out of the tub. Having a collar to grab onto is a good idea. Rinse the puppy as well as you can. If he or she is an instant star, you can rinse everything out and then put cream rinse on. If the pup is a maniac, just get done as quickly as you can. Thoroughly wash all the cream rinse out; I never leave anything on. Towel the pup in the tub and praise it and calm it down if necessary.
Lift the puppy out onto a grooming table and make sure it wont fall off. Never leave it unattended. If you have it attached to a grooming table with a leash, make sure that the leash is long enough that if your puppy jumps or falls off the table, it will not strangle itself. Start brushing it with a slicker or a pin brush. You really cant destroy the puppy coat with a slicker, so its OK to use at this point. Make sure you can touch and lift the feet and that the puppy will let you touch its stomach and groin. If its a male, be sure to regularly feel for testicles.
When first using a dryer on your puppy, do not point it at the dog, but turn it on and let him get used to the noise. I always recommend a dryer with a lot of output of air where you can regulate the heat. Put your hand in front of the nozzle and you should be able to keep it there without it getting too hot. Try to blow-dry the dog as much as you can and then let the dog air dry or cage dry until the dog is completely dry. When bathing your dog, you should cut his nails, brush his teeth and clean his ears. This hygienic routine should become part of your dog's grooming schedule. Snooding should be another standard rule to follow while your dog is eating. Getting the baby used to a snood while eating is as every bit as important as getting it used to the dryer. Long ears and silky topknot will be protected from chewing teeth and food leftovers with the use of a snood.
The next time you bathe your pup, it will be easier, I promise!
THE YOUNGSTER THE HAIR BEAR
Hopefully you now have a good behaving dog on the table that might even be laying down on its side while being brushed. Some people prefer the dog standing the whole time and others would rather have them lay down while battling mats and knots. It is up to you and your dog. The really heavy coat starts to come around 8 to 12 months of age in both bitches and dogs unless you have a patterned one that might not carry much of a coat. The difference is that it takes longer to dry the dog and as soon as it starts shedding the puppycoat is going to mat, and it will mat like crazy! Normally, bitches shed before dogs and as soon as they have come into season they will have a heavy coat drop. The good thing about it is that the girls normally get through it faster than the boys do.
During this period, you probably will have to put your Afghan on the grooming table and work on risky spots; behind the ears, elbows, sidecoat and mid thighs. This should be done daily to make sure the huge mats will not occur. Trust me, mats will pop up overnight and be a tangled, twisted mass. This is not the time when you cheat on grooming or think "Ill do that tomorrow" because the mats will be out of control "tomorrow." If the weather is bad during this period, I would suggest a serious brush through almost every day and baths every 4 to 5 days. Its tough, but worth it. You will be able to show the dog afterwards. If you dont do the daily checkups, you can count on holes behind elbows and other such attractive attire.
First use a clarifying shampoo, then a conditioning shampoo for the second wash, and finally a really good heavy conditioner. You have to make sure you have the coat super clean before you condition it. Wrap your dog in towels and let it sit 10 to15 minutes with the conditioner. (I even warm the towels in a tumble dryer first to get the full impact!) This is a good time to clean your dogs ears and teeth.
Take the towels off and use the other side of them later to dry the dog. It is very important to rinse out all the conditioner. After 10 to15 minutes, the wrapped-up hair has sucked up all the goodies it needs and you can rinse the excess off. If you dont, the leftovers will just sit on the hair cuticles and make the surface of them rough and dull, and the coat will appear wooly and full of static. The more gunk you leave on the coat, the faster the next bath will have to come. If you keep the coat clean and untangled, it will last longer.
If your Afghan Hound is changing coat and there are still mats in the coat, the product "Showsheen" is very good to use. Its a non-oily and non-silicone based shining spray for show horses, available in tack and western stores everywhere. When you start to put oil and silicone on the coat you are killing the cuticles. Oil clogs up the pores on the hair and suffocates it almost immediately. Try to stay away from that and it will help you in the long run. I can use Showsheen on the youngsters when I brush them out during the week. Always lightly mist a dry coat with water before brushing.
The hair can take more of a beating while wet because it has more elasticity. This is the time you should be getting the mats out and detangling your dog. Start the drying process and make sure that the finished dog is completely dry to the skin, with no damp spots on the elbows, back knees, or the belly. Dampness will miraculously transform itself into mats by the next day. Surprise! Use a sturdy quality pin brush with long pins that have a rubber bottom and pins without balls on the ends. A slicker brush has to be used very carefully and one must be very cautious not to do any damage. I might use them on heavily coated feet to make sure there are no mats left. Go through the finished dog with a steel comb with long teeth and a cold airflow on your dryer. The cold air helps close up the hair cuticles and relaxes the hair a little. Make sure you check between the toes for mats and between the pads for objects such as burrs, twigs and grass. This will prevent the dogs from getting any sores. During this time, plucking out unnecessary hair with your fingers is important, but that is another whole discussion of caring for and grooming the Afghan Hound.
THE ADULT AFGHAN:
Getting through the difficult times with your young Afghan Hound is such a relief and satisfaction that you will not notice the weekly grooming of your now fully coated and hopefully silky coated beautiful companion. The coat will just continue to grow and get longer and more beautiful, and now you are so good with dealing with it. Normally it is the drying time that increases, but not necessarily. A mature dog that has no major stress factors in its life; such as, serious infection, anesthesia, surgery, hormonal changes such as whelping a litter or a false pregnancy, will have an easy coat to maintain. You will probably just have to deal with poor weather conditions.
If a situation as mentioned above occurs, you will immediately notice a change in the dogs coat. Shedding might occur and then you are back at the yearling stage. Check the coat daily and make sure any illness gets treated promptly and properly. When bitches come in season they can start dropping coat approximately 10 to 12 weeks afterwards. Some bitches drop more, others less and sometimes it goes by unnoticed. Infections and injuries treated with antibiotics or any type of cortisone-type medication can cause a coat drop and it can be a difficult time if the dog is not feeling well enough to deal with coat care.
Wrapping the coat of the adult Afghan Hound is a good way to band the side coats up on the males to protect the groin hair from damaging urine. To wrap the hair, you start from the groin and wrap the side coat forward and the leg coat downwards.
Take a two inch piece of hair and band it up and then connect it to the next two inch piece to get a "French braid" effect along the chest. For the legs, take two to three inches of hair from the front and then connect it to the next piece of hair.
I normally do not do more than three bands on each side, but dogs with ample coat may require more.
The ponytail cannot be too tight to the skin, or it will prevent the dog from moving out. I will band the end ponytail to the tip.
The head is banded differently. It is important not to get close to the ear leather, because you will stop the circulation in the ear. Always run a comb between the ear leather and the top wrap. Be sure to see the teeth of the comb from the opposite side.
The topknot is banded separately from the ears. I band the ears all the way out to the tip. For each of the bands I put in, I make sure it is tight around the hair but not too tight to the skin. The bulk of the topknot may require a few bands, and be careful not to band too tight at the base - if the corners of the eyes are being pulled or tilting upward, it's too tight!
When age starts to creep up on your Afghan Hound, you may feel it necessary to clip back some parts of the coat to reduce the rigors of grooming. Again this is up to you, if the dog is alert and healthy, a full bath of a completely coated dog is fine. However, if you feel it necessary you can always clip the belly and the inside of the dogs legs. No one likes to see a naked Afghan, but sometimes it is necessary. Dont be afraid to do it if you absolutely have to, but have someone help you, because in most cases the dog is either badly injured or gravely ill.
DIET AND EXERCISE:
A good diet and exercise is every bit as important as caring for the coat with good tools and good products. A poorly nutritioned dog will never carry a good coat, and poorly conditioned flabby body will never have the metabolism to get good nutrition out to the hair tips. Everything goes hand in hand. A dog that feels good will look good. If you have a picky eater, a little cottage cheese or chicken and noodles will boost the appetite. Dont get the dog into the habit that he or she only eats the treats. A dog that eats its portion with a good appetite will not need any extras.
Exercising the Afghan Hound should be done on a regular daily basis. They should free run in an enclosed area, have long walks and jog either next to you or along side a bike. Never crate your dog just to grow coat. The above is a good mixture to have a nice mellow dog, whether in the house or in the kennel.
Good Luck with your Afghans and their care!
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