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The cold, blustery and less than ideal winter months don't mean a slow down in the hectic world of dog shows and competitions. There are many winter exhibitions, dog shows and even international level competitions that continue on even in the cold weather. Of course most of these types of events are indoors, but there are winter competitions such as some of the field trial events, tracking and even sled dog competitions that go on regardless of the weather.
Most dog owners, however, will continue to compete with their dogs in the indoor events. Winter showing poses its own unique set of challenges as the low humidity in the air, different coats of the dogs and even the cold temperatures outside and the warm temperatures inside produce difficulties. With a bit of planning a novice or experienced dog handler and groomer can compensate for the winter atmospheric changes that can affect the dog's coat and overall appearance. Often these simple and easy grooming and showing tips will make the difference between a first place showing and going home without a ribbon.
Dry SkinOne of the most common problems with showing your dog over the winter months is how the skin and coat both dry out. Dry skin will not typically be obvious in the show, however on dark coated short haired dogs flecks of skin will appear as dandruff on the coat as the dog moves about the ring, leading to a very poor impression on the judge. Light and white colored breeds as well as long haired breeds tend to show this dander a bit less, however, it is still there. Along with the dander often comes scratching which can be incredibly damaging to the dog's appearance in the ring. No judge wants to see a dog standing there scratching while they are being judged, nor does the handler want to have to be finding ways to distract a dog from trying to alleviate the itch and discomfort of dry skin.
There are several different options for dry skin, most which include limiting the exposure of the dog to excessively dry air as well as providing additional supplement that are high in fatty acids. The Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are some of the newest supplements and can really help both dry skin and dry coat. In addition keep in mind that your dog needs to have lots of fresh, clean water in a free access form to help prevent dehydration in warmer indoor environments. Sprays applied to the skin and coat can also work, but they do have more positive results on some breeds than others. Typically shorter coated breeds have a better overall result with these topical hydrating applications.
Adding a humidifier to your kennel area or house is often the best way to help with both dry skin and dry coat. Winter air, especially once it goes through a furnace system has very low humidity and will actually draw moisture from other surfaces including your skin and your dog's skin. Keeping the humidity in the house at reasonable levels will help prevent this process from happening. You may also want to avoid having your dog's bedding and sleep area, food area or play area anywhere near a direct heat source such as a vent or radiator.
Dry CoatOne of the worst culprits of drying out the coat is washing the dog too frequently in the winter. Since washing, no matter what type of shampoo that you use, will strip the natural oils out of the coat, full bathing should be kept as infrequent as possible. There are great dry shampoos that can be used between full baths to pull dirt and fine materials out of the coat without causing drying. They can also help to freshen up a dog and get rid of that slightly doggy smell you definitely don't want.
If you do have to wash your dog for some reason, try to do it a few days before the show to allow the natural oils to get back into the coat.
While it may be acceptable to bath just a day ahead in the summer, a bit longer in the winter with routine grooming will help to give that luster and sheen. Bathing products need to be gentle, designed specifically for a dog's coat pH and should contain moisturizers. This it true for both conditioner and shampoo as well as any leave in treatments you may be using.
Regular grooming helps to massage the skin and stimulate both natural oil production in the hair follicles as well as spread the natural oils down the complete hair shaft. Whenever possible let the dog dry naturally in a warm room rather than using a blow drier that will further remove oils and moisture from the coat and can irritate already dry and sensitive skin.
Clipping or trimming the coat may be an option, just make sure you are very aware of both the breed standard as well as the judges preference when it comes to clipping, stripping or trimming your dog prior to an event. A great many breeds cannot be clipped for show, even in winter months.
TearingIf there is dander in the coat or if the dog is in very dry air conditions, tearing in some breeds may be a problem. While it is not related to allergies or eye problems, it is a result of the added dust, fine particles and debris in the air both in the show area as well as in your house or the dog's kennel. Dogs with more pronounced eyes often have more tearing in the winter months than in the spring, summer or fall. Eye moisturizing drops can be used to help remove any dirt or dander, plus routine cleaning of the hair around the eyes will help limit the chance of any type of secondary infection or red or dry eye appearance on the day of the show.
Tear stains can be removed using a variety of commercial products. There are options for making homemade tear stain treatments, however these are not always safe for the dog if mixed in the incorrect proportions. For the small amount these products cost it is much safer to use a tested, proven commercial product.
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