5 Basic Steps

Most pet owners will choose to take their dog to a groomer every 6 to 8 weeks, but there may be times however, that you find you need to do this on your own. 

Whether you fully groom your dog yourself or you take them to a groomer, you will need to perform the first two basic grooming tasks often.  The remaining steps most groomers will perform, but you should know how to do properly should the need arise.  Below are the steps which work for me.

1.  Comb or brush your Lhasa Apso with a rounded tip metal pin comb or brush, to remove any tangles or mats from the coat. 

This is the single most ignored grooming practice, which causes matting to become an issue.  Whether you keep your Lhasa in a long coat or in a puppy cut you will need to comb often.  Pay special attention to areas which move; behind the front legs, behind ears, base of the tail and any areas you may notice your dog scratching or chewing (more on this and allergies coming soon). 

Develop a routine and a pattern so your dog will become accustomed to this.  I start with left rear leg, left side, left front leg, working around the dog.  Then move to the right front, right side, right rear, stand the dog and continue to the hind quarters, chest, neck, face and finish with the back and tail.  Create a pattern that works for you & your dog and make this an enjoyable experience.  Completing one side fully instead of going from side to side will allow your dog to lay down and relax as you work. 

Remember, for long hair coats you'll want to start at the bottom of the hair shaft working your way toward the skin, and to work in layers.  By parting the hair lengthwise and moving up the dog in small rows, while also combing from the bottom of hair shaft and moving up toward the skin, you will ensure you've fully combed or brushed your dog in a layered fashion.  This is a crude example of what is meant by layering and working through the hair from bottom of shaft toward skin however this would be done in more than just 3 passes.

Talk to your dog, tell them what a good boy/girl they are and remember to reward afterwards.  When we say "time to get pretty" our dogs know that relaxation and rewards are coming! 

It's good to have a set area to go to for this, but it can be done just as easily from the sofa while watching a movie, while relaxing or even in your lap, when you're in a pinch for time.  If done often this task should only take about 5-10 minutes. 

I like to use a butter comb to do this or you may use a pin brush.  When brushing your long haired Lhasa Apso it's best to not brush dry hair.  Mist the hair with a conditioner or product prior to brushing.  This keeps static to a minimum and reduces breakage.  I use Espana Silk Detangler spray for this.  See our Grooming Products & Tools page for information on the products we use and how to make your own!

2.  A slicker brush is used to remove debris and loose hairs that have become trapped in the undercoat.  

The slicker brush has fine wire bristles, packed tightly together.  Each wire is angled slightly as to not scratch the skin.  This brushing is not required at each brushing but should be done often.  Remove debris and loose hairs with the slicker before combing or brushing your dog's coat.  

Pay careful attention not to flip your wrist out at the end of the hair shaft when using on a long coat, as it may cause breakage or split ends.  Use a slicker with a steady, flat movement with the purpose of removing unwanted debris and hairs which have shed but became trapped in the undercoat.  

It is not wise to use a slicker on large mats until they have been broken apart or loosened with a comb or rake.  See our Grooming Products & Tools page for info. on the 2 specific tools we use for this. 

3.  Lhasa Apsos have those beautiful dropped ears which lay close to the cheek and can easily develop ear infections if the dense hair in their ears isn't removed.   

This hair holds moisture and debris and with the ears laying down, where air does not freely flow, can easily harbor bacteria and cause yeast infections.  Removing this is a very simple task which you can do at home or most groomers will do, as will your vet.  

Ear powder may be used to assist in removing hair from the ear after bath, by providing gripping qualities for pulling this hair by hand or instrument.  When using ear powder it is not necessary to use a generous amount.  A little goes a long way.  If you don't have ear powder you can also dust your fingertips with baking soda to get a good grip. 

Grab a small amount of hair, up to five strands at a time, and pull either with a hemostat, tweezers, or your pinched fingers to remove the small clump of fur.  This hair should release easily and does not hurt your dog.  In fact it may tickle or they may hear the hair releasing and at first be alarmed, making it seem as if it hurt, but this is not painful and over time should become a quick and easy task your dog freely allows.  Plucking is a quick, decisive act and should not be a slow, pulling motion.  

Use a clean cotton ball afterwards to wipe out the ear.  This will remove the loose excess hairs and keep them from getting into the ear canal.  You may use trimmers or blunt tip scissors for the hair not directly in the ear but keep the plucking to the ear itself and not the flap.  Here is an example of before & after, depicting where you should focus. See our Grooming Products & Tools page for info. on the powder we use for this.

4.  Bathe every other week for a long coat or every 4 to 6 weeks for a puppy cut.  

Start by making a quick check to ensure there is no matting.  Wetting a mat will cause it to become nearly impossible to remove and may result in your needing to shave your dog.  

Place your dog in the sink or tub and wet the coat completely with warm water.  Start by wetting from the tail and back sides working your way toward the neck and lastly the head.  You may cup the head in one hand while gently covering the ear openings with a thumb and middle finger on each side.  You will need to wet the entire face and it's OK to get water in the eyes, but your dog may not appreciate getting his nose wet.  Come from the sides to wet the cheek and chin area and continue to the chest.  Once the dog is fully wet from back to front it's time to shampoo. 

With a small amount of shampoo in your hands, rub your hands over the coat distributing lightly.  Do this a couple times and begin to gently wash the dog using your hands.  When washing a double coated breed you want to not make circular motions, which cause matting.  Stroke in one direction to make life easier for both of you.  

After fully soaping the dog, rinse the coat fully in the opposite direction that you wet your dog.  Start rinsing the cheeks, head, neck and chest, then continue working your way toward the back of the dog.  Soap left in a dog's coat will also cause matting.  Think about a dirty cotton ball and trying to rinse the dirt out.  One pass of the water is not going to penetrate to the middle of that cotton ball, just as it will not for your double coated dog.  Rinse very well and listen or feel for the squeaky clean sound/feel of no soap remaining, before conditioning your dog.  

Leaving a tiny bit of conditioner in the hair is not a bad thing, so don't worry so much about how thorough you rinsed after conditioning as you did wish shampooing.  Rather than distributing it over the coat with my hands, I like to put the conditioner in a squirt bottle (not spray) with warm water and shake vigorously to create a nice emulsion, for applying over the dog's coat.  Condition the dog in much the same way as you did the shampoo, rinsing afterward and gently squeezing out excess water before using a towel.  

Dry the dog with a towel by pressing gently and rubbing in one direction.  Do not scrub back and forth while using a towel as you may would on your own hair.  Once done let them shake, and wait a few minutes before fully drying.  You may choose to sit the dog near a fan for a few minutes before you finish drying your dog.  You must completely dry the undercoat after every bath!  Do not let the undercoat air dry on it's own unless you want matting.  Using a hair dryer on low setting or an in home grooming dryer, please ensure you completely dry your dog after every bath!  See our Grooming Products & Tools page for info. on the specific items we use for this.

5.  Ensure the nails remain clipped and the hair between pads is trimmed down.  

If you start young and clip the nails before each bath, you'll find that your dog will become accustomed to the sensation and not pull back or become alarmed.  Often times it's the sound of the clip that causes the dog to startle.  Using a quiet scissor while they're young and the nails are soft, will help in training your dog to have his toes touched.  

Groomers include nail trimming in grooming services or you can stop by your groomer or vet for this service alone.  You can just as easily perform this at home with very little difficulty.  I like to have the dog lay down and bend the paw back naturally and hold it firmly in one hand while clipping with the other.  Some prefer the dog to stand to keep them focused on balancing on 3 legs.  It's easy to shave the hair between and around pads at this time also.  

Clip nails at a 45° degree angle from the floor or base of the pad.  Cut just beyond the quick or fleshy area within the nail.  If any nail is see-through this will make the job of finding out how far back to cut much easier for all nails.  Since the others will be similar, even those dark black ones you can't see through.  In well lit areas it should be easy to see the quick in a clear or white nail but even if all nails are black you can easily figure out where to cut by understanding a 45° degree angle.  
Here is an image of a correct cut line showing the 45° degree angle.  Notice the direction of the cut.  The point is toward the bottom and lands flush with the ground or base of the pad.  The point ends just under and slightly beyond the quick end. 

Of course there are other options and more severe angles, as well as dogs in need of much more than a regular trim.  This example is meant as an example of how to upkeep nails trimmed regularly.

Use a straight cutting clipper or scissor in which you can clearly see where your cut is landing and you'll do fine.  If you do notice any bleeding and do not have styptic powder on hand you can substitute corn starch, flour or alum and have him rest afterwards for a bit.  If you did clip the quick some it should stop within minutes; if not, call your vet.  

When trimming the hair from pads, separate the pads with your finger and gently trim the hair from between and sides of each pad, making it easier for your dog to grip the floor as well as ensuring no mats are formed here.  Dogs that chew on or lick their feet can cause matting of this hair if not maintained.  Small rocks or debris not removed from feet can cause matting of this hair also.  This is a great time to check the business end and trim the hair around the anus shorter also.  See our Grooming Products & Tools page for info. on the specific items we use for this.

Above are recommended care steps for the double coat of a Lhasa Apso.  Check back soon for at home styling/cutting grooming tips!