Regular grooming and inspection at least once a week are necessary for your Pyr — from puppyhood throughout his life.
If you’ve looked at a big, beautiful Pyr and thought what a chore it must be to keep that white coat looking lovely, rest assured it is not that difficult. The Great Pyrenees is one of the easiest of all breeds to maintain properly because he has been endowed with a coat which is self-cleaning, tangle and mat resistant. It may sound like one of the new miracle fabrics. It’s not. It is an old miracle. That coat really does shed dirt, really does clean itself!
The Pyrenees coat is deceptive. The texture of the outer hair is coarse. Underneath is another coat, soft and wooly
The once-a-week grooming/inspection session will suffice in most cases to keep the dog looking in top form. It won’t hurt to run a wire card brush across the coat every other day to pick up any loose hairs, but too frequent brushing may break off hair ends.
The weekly grooming and inspection will provide an opportunity for you to check the dog’s ears, eyes, mouth, body and feet for possible problems, of which you should have none if you are consistent in your grooming.
Start With Head
For this weekly session start your examination at the dog’s head. If the eyes are tearing unduly (and on white dogs this red/brown stain is unattractive) they may need attention. Check the ears. If a black discharge and foul smell are found, ear canker/ear mites may be starting. Any such discovery, when treated early, can forestall serious trouble. Healthy ears may be cleaned with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. Long hairs (eyebrows) over the eyes should be trimmed. This prevents them from growing into the eye.
Toe nails must at all times be kept short enough to clear the ground, a good foot can be ruined by overly-long nails as the pressure of the nails on the ground causes the toes to splay out. Nails may be trimmed with nail cutters or a high speed grinder. If you make the nail trimming a weekly ritual, you’ll have no problems. Should the nails grow out, it then takes special care to get them back to where they should be. Always check the dewclaws (single in front, double behind) and keep them trimmed. These tend to curl as they grow and can grow into the dog’s leg and become painful.
Your inspection complete, you’re ready to groom. Starting at the head and working down to the tail, brush out all the dead hairs with a brush. Pay special attention to the thick ruff round the neck, the rump and the pantaloons on the rear legs and the feathers on the front legs. If mats and tangles have formed (and they shouldn’t with routine grooming) you may cut these out. Just be careful that the scissors doesn’t cut the skin, as it is easy to do when working with mats, which get in close to the skin. A comb really isn’t necessary in this weekly session, other than to loosen clumps or mats of undercoat which may be out of reach of the short pin or wire brush.
An Occasional Bath
When your dog is shedding his coat (and this varies with the individual, some shedding once a year, others seeming to shed all the time) it may help to get a “rake” with teeth 1″ to 11/2″ long to pull out the loosened undercoat. This also may be the time a bath will help, as a warm bath does wonders to “blow” a coat and lift it out quickly. While we’re talking about bathing, chances are your pet will need few baths. If he’s healthy and well-groomed regularly, he will look and smell great and be welcome in your home
No matter how carefully you wash, brush, trim, etc. that final bloom of good health must come from inside (see page on feeding).
Coat conditioning and grooming are continual and the responsibility lies squarely on the owners shoulders. If you keep him healthy and comfortable he can live with himself. If you keep him neat and sweet smelling, you can live with him. It’s that simple.
Readying your Pyr for the show ring is another matter. Show grooming is time consuming, Frustrating — and satisfying.
First decide whether it is to be a wet bath or a dry one. The determining factor is how tight the hair. If a pin brush run backwards through the coat is not clogged with hair and a little pinch of hair on the fore leg does not come out in your fingers when tugged gently, it is probably safe to wet wash. If you have guessed wrong — the coat goes down the drain. Before wetting the coat, brush out the loose hair. Loose hair mats like felt when washed.
There are many excellent ones. Make sure it is made for dogs not people. There are shampoos for white coats, ones for parasite problems and ones for a coat in poor condition.
To six inches of water add one cup of La France granular laundry bluing. This helps the water get through a thick coat and takes care of the whitening problems. In goes the Pyr, wet well, add shampoo, and wash away, paying close attention to the elbows and belly hair. When lathered well all over except around the eyes and muzzle, smooth the hair tight to the body, stand back and take a moment to find out what your Pyr really looks like without the full white picture frame. With a soapy cloth, carefully wash around the eyes and muzzle. Then rinse and rinse and rinse again. Remove from the tub and encourage to shake. Do not scrub at a show coat — blot. If it is not approaching shedding time and you have a dryer, use it. If not, let your wet mop dry about half way, then with your Pyr prone, pin brush. Brush up against the hair, layer by layer, until dog is a dry, fluffy, shapeless mound. Put Pyr on feet and lightly brush with the hair to give a soft outline. So much for the water bath.
Dry cleaning is a labor of love. Hard to believe but it is possible to take a tan colored Pyr and get him as clean as one that has been wet washed.
Fill a spray bottle two thirds full of Blue Ribbon Kote-Glo and one third full of Roux, Ultra White Minx (rinse for human hair). There are several different dry materials that can be used in various combinations:
- Johnson Baby Powder — Kind to coat but expensive.
- Corn Starch — Water soluble, hard to remove in humid weather.
- Calcium Carbonate (painter’s whiting) — Gives body to a soft coat but is very drying
- Boric Acid Powder — Use with caution, poison. Great for pink drool stains on the chest. Acts as mild bleach. Takes time.
- Baking Soda — Use in conjunction with first three. Cuts dust and makes removal easier.
Armed with spray bottle of Kote-Glo and White Minx, shaker can (flour sifter works well) of dry material and unsuspecting canine resting on his side, begin. Starting at the belly, one hand holding the hair, second hand wielding the pin brush and operating the spray bottle, work upwards. Brush, dampen, sprinkle. Every three or four inches work powder in well with hands. Do body, neck, and skull (cover eyes). If tail is not too dirty include, otherwise clean as legs. Legs, soak with contents of spray bottle and work into a foam, towel off. Keep changing to a clean spot on the towel or you just rub the dirt back in. When legs are just damp, with a teasing or vegetable brush, pack hair with powder — put lots of powder on top of brush and rub against the hair with short strokes and allow to dry. The powder holds the hair at right angles to the leg. When powder is removed the legs have a nice soft cylindrical look. Then work Kote-Glo and White Minx into a foam on a sponge or washcloth, apply to muzzle and around eyes. Towel off.
If possible do the dry cleaning the day before the show, as a great deal of the powder will fall out during the night making your final grooming much easier. To remove the powder, use a vacuum cleaner on the body and a bristle type Afghan brush on the legs and tail. Point to remember; Chapter 16, Section 9B, A.K.C. rules prohibit taking a dog into the ring with powder or other foreign substance in the coat.
Whiskers and eyebrows should be removed. Eyebrows must be kept short lest they grow into the eye.
Ears, especially on puppies, can be very unkempt. With coarse, double bladed, thinning shears work against the hair from the leather out. Remove the excess hair a little at a time. The last stragglers may be removed by a quick downward jerk with the thumb and forefinger. Be sure the ears match when finished.
Toenails must at all times be kept short enough to clear the ground.
Fore feet and legs
Feet first— with a pair of barber’s scissors, trim excess hair from bottom of foot and around the edge so you have a smooth line where the foot meets the floor. With pin brush backbrush the hair on the sides and top of foot, shape with your thinning shears. Comb the feather below the carpus (pastern) straight out, with scissors trim straight down from carpus to the bottom of the heel pad. If your Pyr is well up on his pasterns, and you want to accentuate the fact, clean out hair from the side of the heel pad in a wide V. To establish the line, hold foot slightly bent at wrist. Lay scissors along the heel pad, pointed to front of the wrist joint. Observe. This is the line to cut. To establish other side of V, cut along upper edge of heel pad.
Hind Feet— Same as (rent with the exception of the V cut to show pastern, rather with scissors pointing down, trim rear toes close.
Metatarsus— It is also called the hock. Comb the hair straight out, smooth down lightly. With your barber’s scissors mold the hair. Don’t cut too much. Cut down with the hair. Cutting across leaves ridges. The bone and hair should appear to be solid mass. Trim neatly across the bottom or blend to heel pad as in front, around the dewclaws, and you are finished.
For those who are going to become involved in showing, watch the professional handlers. For scissors work the Poodle people; for educated fingers and cob work, the Terrier people; and for super pin brush layering, the Old English Sheepdog groomers.
Parting thought — in your zeal to keep your show dog a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, do not lose sight of the fact that he is a living, breathing, feeling creature known as canine. Not a stuffed toy nor an animated snowdrift – he needs to run, play and get dirty.
A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America