Your hearing, guide, or service dog’s coat is a reflection of her health. Generally speaking, healthy canines have full, shiny, soft, smooth, healthy-looking hair. On the other side of that coin, unhealthy dogs usually have thinner, duller, coarser fur, and it may have an unpleasant odor. Of course, overall health isn’t the only factor in how a dog’s coat looks and feels. An assistance dog’s coat can take some extra abuse from how often she’s out and about and working hard.
The below tips on caring for a dog’s coat help keep your service, hearing, or guide dog looking, feeling, and smelling great. And it’s not just a matter of cosmetics; along with your right to full public access with your canine helper comes the responsibility to ensure that she’s clean, fresh-smelling, and appreciably well cared for.
How to Care for Your Assistance Dog’s Coat
- Find a great veterinarian. The health of your assistance dog’s coat starts with reliable medical and nutrition advice and regular checkups.
- Find a great dog groomer too. Professional groomers are very helpful, especially if you have limitations that make it difficult to groom your assistance dog yourself, and they can provide good care advice tailored to your dog’s coat type, breed, activities, and so on.
- Brush your dog’s coat at least once per week—or twice per week for long-haired breeds—and a little more often during spring and fall shedding seasons. This helps prevent tangles and mats, removes loose hair and dead skin cells, removes dirt and debris, stimulates the skin, and distributes beneficial natural oils over the coat. Get brush and comb style recommendations from your groomer or vet.
- Don’t neglect your service, hearing, or guide dog’s undercoat if she has one. It must be brushed regularly too, or it will develop matting that can become uncomfortable or even painful, and that accumulates dirt and debris.
- Bathe your assistance dog as needed. Frequency varies a lot by individual, but working dogs are prone to getting dirtier more often than pets. Use warm water and a gentle, moisturizing canine shampoo to avoid drying out her skin and hair. It’s not a good idea to use human baby shampoo, even though this is a fairly common misconception Ask your groomer or vet for a product recommendation.
- Feed your dog a well-balanced diet of high-quality food. She needs lots of protein and healthy fats and some fruit and/or veggies, but strictly limit or omit grains from her diet.
- Check with your vet about giving your hearing, guide, or service dog a fatty acid supplement, as this can be beneficial to skin and coat health. Some foods are fortified with fish or other oils for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, or supplements can be added to food.
- Consult your vet if you notice thinning hair or bald spots developing on your service, guide, or hearing dog. There are a number of common causes of hair loss in dogs, and prompt intervention is important to protecting her health and coat, and keeping her on task.