Practical (Basic) Grooming
The question of grooming often comes up in regards to pets, not just dogs, however in this case I will focus on our Great Pyrenees to keep it brief. Many people have come to me and asked one of two questions:
How much do your dogs shed?
How often do you have to brush your dogs?
The answers to these questions are to me obvious, but that comes from experience. My dogs shed constantly, as a long, double-coated breed. However, in my opinion, this daily normal loss of random hairs is reasonable -- not as bad as the constant shedding of a short-coated breed such as a Labrador (ever come away with a mitten of fur from a Lab?). Admittedly, twice a year, there is a snow flurry of undercoat in our house. It is a bit ridiculous. Everyone blows their undercoat completely (sometimes with a bit of assistance), but not everyone at the same time. That would be tidy. Please note that when one owns one or two Pyrenees, this event is not as catastrophic as it is at our house (minimum of four dogs in residence, usually more). This leads to the solution to the second inquiry: I brush them often, weekly a minimum. Now, please note this is not because they will be neglected if I do no, but instead because I like to have a well-groomed dog, and I like grooming them (most of the time). Less obsessive people may brush their Great Pyrenees monthly, or bimonthly. This is perfectly acceptable, although leads to a more involved, tiring groom when you do get to it. The order of operations for brushing is the use of a slicker brush initially, working horizontally through the layers of hair from the bottom up. This reorients wayward strands, and begins to loosen undercoat. Have a comb handy to clean out the tines of the slicker brush (saves your fingers!). Follow up with a pin brush in the same manner. Lastly, use a comb to get the last dregs of unwanted fur. I recommend attacking this task in sections of the dog's body (thorax left side, thorax right side, chest/ruff area, pantaloons left and right, tail last). Always check in the soft fluffy fur around the ears for tangles. It is important to keep your Pyrenees groomed, since if the coat is on the fluffier side they are prone to matts - and all are prone to matts in the long hair between their toes! It is important to trim (tidy) the hair between toes to not only reduce slippage and snow retention, but to ensure that the hair does not get dense and long enough to matt, causing discomfort and abnormal toe positions. Be sure to trim the hair on the bottom the the feet to improve traction. This should also include an inspection of nail length (including the notorious double-dewclaws!). Nails should be no longer than as to be on level of the paw pads. This is imperative for older/senior dogs as it affects so much of their posture and movement. Nails should not click when walking on solid surfaces. I recommend regular clipping with sturdy nail clippers or use of a Dremel micro (or similar model) - this may take some training, which can be discussed another day.
Left is the after shot, right is the before.
During this process you may wish to keep a bottle of Argan Oil handy to help loosen knots (spray the Argan oil onto the knots, work it in with your fingers then let it soak for a few minutes) before attempting to coerce them out. Argan oil or a light mist of water also reduces static.
I hope this helps some of you who feel a bit overwhelmed with the task of upkeep on a Pyr. Please let me know if there is anything I should add!