Grooming Maremmas

People ask me all the time about how hard it is or how much time I spend keeping my big white dogs clean.  The short answer is it’s not because I don’t.  The coats on these dogs are self cleaning. A healthy Maremma with a correct coat will shed dirt IF YOU LEAVE THEM ALONE. I don’t brush or bathe them, when they are muddy all they need to do is get dry and the dirt flakes right off. The exception being when they are getting ready to blow their coat.

The dirty fur (below the dots) is holding dirt because it is in the shedding process. That’s the part where the undercoat is being released from the skin and getting ready to fall away.  

Al shedding

When I see the dirt cling I start watching for loose fluff. I always pet and scratch the dogs when I’m around them. It gives me a chance to say hello, check body condition, and make them feel good.  When I’m evaluating their coat I rub my finger into the undercoat, much like a hairdresser massages your scalp during the shampoo process.  If my hands come away extra fuzzy, it’s time. If I am just a little woolly, I wait.  If a whole sheet of fluff follows my fingers out from under the guard hairs, I grab the rake!

I use an Oster Long Hair Dog Rake (my term for it, but I think it’s close the actual name). The important part to remember is brush gently.  Remember what it was like when you were 5 and your mom brushed the tangles out of your hair? Do you want to be THAT mom (or dad)? Be a nice gentle mom, take your time, baby steps.

I only brush with a light stroke. No need to pull the hair out. Drag the rake over the area that is shedding 2 or 3 times.  Each stroke should penetrate a little deeper as the hairs get organized.  The light fluffies that are ready to fall out will come easily. Al blows his coat along his top line first. Rocco started on his shoulders, Mia is not blowing yet and won’t until the pups are a little older.  Then she will typically go from the belly up. Her nipples are already bare, a function of motherhood.

IMG_0287Al will typically let me brush him for about 2 minutes and then he wants to go. So I work fast but very gently. If the hair doesn’t want to come out I’m not gonna force it. Yes he looks lopsided and a little disheveled for a week while we work our way along his body.  So what. The sheep don’t care what he looks like as long as he prevents intruders. I enjoy my brief bouts of brushing as I don’t get sore from prolonged bending.  Win-win

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