Can you groom your cavapoo at home?

First-time cavapoo owners may notice their puppy’s fur coat getting a little shaggy by the time it reaches 6 months old. The cavapoo’s coat differs from that of, say, a smooth-coated dog like a Labrador, which is easy to maintain.

An inaugural trip to the groomers may be on the cards. However, at $50 a visit, trips to the groomers don’t come cheap so you might consider whether you can groom your cavapoo at home?

There are many aspects to dog grooming that can easily be done at home by owners. Brushing, washing, nail trimming and dental care are all tasks for which professional help needn’t be sought. However, cavapoos do need their hair clipping every 6 to 8 weeks, and this is a task best left to a professional groomer.

Regular brushing

The cavapoo has become a popular breed among people who love dogs but are allergic to their fur. First-generation cavapoos bred from a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and a miniature poodle will inherit half of their genes from each breed. However, cavapoos may also be bred by backcrossing (the mating of a cavapoo with a purebred), and the breeder will usually favour a poodle as the purebred so that the puppies have a good chance of inheriting hair that is rarely shed (shed hairs tend to retreat into the coat, so that poodles are almost, but not completely, hypoallergenic). Poodles have a history of retrieving waterfowl, and so they needed dense, curly coats.

However, poodle hair will certainly grow! In any case, your dog’s coat may resemble that of a Cavalier, in which case it will be straighter and appear longer. Either coat is likely to develop tangles without daily brushing. Even in a municipal park, Fido may pick up the odd sycamore key in his coat. He is bound to acquire much more in a country setting: burrs, seeds, twigs. The fur around the anal area may also become matted with faeces.

Accustom your pup to being groomed as, within seven to nine months, he will have his adult coat. He is unlikely to stand still at first, and may even be nervous of the strange tools that suddenly appear. Tasty treats and the chance to make friends with his brush and comb, together with very short sessions of grooming, should help. If he is unusually anxious, try a hound glove, which has rubber spikes and provides a dog with a pleasurable massage. It will not be enough in time to come, but he will probably enjoy the sensation, and you can slip the brush in unobtrusively as part of his grooming time.

A double-sided brush with bristles on one side and round-headed metal pins on the other is a good tool. Artificial bristle can create static electricity, so many owners favour real bristle.  The brush will give the coat its well-maintained appearance but the metal pins help to eliminate tangles. Only when the coat has been brushed and is free of tangles will a fine-tooth comb finish the look without causing your dog pain.

Ah, tangles! My collies are country dogs who attract a peculiarly nasty little green, pyramid-shaped seeds by the dozens on their long coats and feathering. Tangles and matts after one walk can prove impossible to tease out, and any attempt to pull at them with a comb will result in hurting your dog’s skin. Use a metal or wooden comb to separate the tangle from the skin and cut it.  The comb will act as a guard so that the scissors do not come into contact with the skin.

Washing

Think about where you will be washing your dog.  In summer, this may be outside. I have an excellent arrangement: an outdoor tap connected to the indoor sink in the utility room.  The water runs at care home temperatures.  However, in cold weather, I prefer to wash them in the bathroom.  A baby’s bath will be adequate for a smaller dog like a cavapoo.  Remember, though, that he will be frightened if the surface is slippery.  Use a rubber mat or even an old towel so that his feet feel secure.  It is also a good idea to buy a special dog hose for the shower as they end in a brush that does not release the water in a sharp spray or alarm the dog with the hissing noise showerheads usually make. My boy is especially sensitive and highly strung, but he seems to enjoy being massaged with this special head.  Lay aside plenty of towels (these days, if a towel develops a hole, I cheer because I can use it for dogs without feeling guilty) and protect yourself with a waterproof apron.  You’ll be amazed at the water your dog can shake all over you, despite your best efforts to dry him afterwards. Close the doors of all rooms with upholstery and wallpaper. Your dog will be on a mission to share the love. A good run in the sunshine will do him good, but he is unlikely to appreciate the scent of his shampoo and will head to the nearest mud to restore his street credit, so confine him to clean grass.

Use a reputable make of dog shampoo. Some baby shampoos are suitable, but beware as many are designed to combat cradle-cap and are not as mild as people think. Avoid harsh, cheap rubbish and ask the vet’s advice, especially if your dog has problem skin. Brush him before his bath so that the plughole is not clogged with hair and also afterwards as a cavapoo’s fur can become frizzy as it dries.

Clipping

Your cavapoo’s hair will need clipping every eight to ten weeks.  Unless you are proficient or have the time to master the skill, book him in with a good groomer.  In thirty-five years, I  have owned only one dog – a bearded collie-cross – that needed a haircut, and a kind friend who was a trained hairdresser to humans (!) used to clip his coat fairly short in summer and to a medium length in winter.  We kept the fur on his face short as long hair had contributed to eye trouble in his previous home.  A lovely, amiable teddy bear face emerged – under a layered punk rocker hairstyle that suited him very well.  I should otherwise have had to take him to a groomer as my hairdressing skills are non-existent.

The styles available for a cavapoo range from a puppy cut, in which the hair is cut fairly short all over, to a teddy bear style, where the hair is left slightly longer but facial hair is trimmed to create a rounded look. The fur around the paws may be trimmed short or styled to circle it, as in a lamb. It may come as a surprise that you should not cut the fur extremely short in summer as the fur has a protective function (owners of huskies have told me that the exceptionally thick, bushy fur actually insulates their dogs on a hot day). Do not expose the skin to be burned in the sun.

Ask your vet and dog-owning friends for recommendations and ask plenty of questions, of yourself and of the groomer.  The following are most important:-

  • Are the premises clean and hygienic?  If your dog has to wait his turn, is there an area where he will be free, or must he wait in a crate?
  • What chemicals will be used on your dog?
  • Will he be properly supervised if the groomer uses a hairdryer?  It is designed to switch itself off at the first sign of overheating, or after running for some time?
  • Watch the groomer at work with another dog.  Is the groomer kind and gentle, or impatient and rough?
  • Is the grooming area screened, or open for all to see?  Nothing should be happening out of sight.  For me, this would be the priority.  I should want to remain with my dog.
  • If you have not remained with your dog and he shows terror at the thought of going again, is burned or injured, or does not emerge with the haircut you asked for, this is the wrong groomer for you both.

Nails, Teeth and Ears

A groomer will trim your dog’s nails and clean the ears, but these are aspects of dog care that you might prefer to address yourself.

Trimming your dog’s nails is a procedure that worries people as they do not want to cause accidental injury. An animal nurse at the vets will often do this, especially if your dog is nervous and you cannot safely trim his claws.  However, if you are happy to try, invest in guillotine-type clippers that do not crush the nail. White claws are easier to trim as you can see where the live nail-bed finishes, but black claws present more of a problem. Trim the very end of the hook on both colours of claw. Remember to trim dewclaws if they have not been removed. Do not be tempted to cut any more as there is a real risk that you will cut to the quick and cause your dog pain, after which nail-clipping will be a problem. Ever since a vet cut my Siamese cat’s claws years ago and drew blood, I have preferred to trim my pets’ claws at home.

A dog’s teeth can be brushed or massaged with a rubber cleaner which slips over a finger like a large thimble. Accustom him to the tool you are going to use and remember that it will feel strange in his mouth. Work slowly. I use dental chews, some of which are spongy, and marrowbones from the butcher. (Take advice on bones and avoid them whilst your pup has his first set of gnashers. Even when his burglar teeth arrive, make sure that he cannot break them on bones or hard chews.) Resist the temptation to feed him dog chocolates.  hey are not part of his natural diet. Most dogs enjoy a raw carrot, and a teething pup will also enjoy a carrot, cloth or rubber cone that has been frozen as they all ease the discomfort of cutting teeth.

There is a saying about human ears: don’t insert anything smaller than your elbow! Long-eared dogs are prone to have ill-smelling ears as the long hair prevents fresh air from entering. Gently clean the outer ear with a clean cloth or sterile lint. Check for evil odours and for a smelly brown discharge around the outer ear as this is evidence of an ear infection. The causes are numerous. Consult a vet for the correct ointment or medication and avoid over-the-counter eardrops as they are often harsh. Besides, it is better to know if possible why the ear is infected.

Other Benefits of Grooming Time

Your dog should come to appreciate the attention and love you give him during his grooming sessions and they should strengthen your friendship. Grooming (and, indeed, petting) also gives you the chance to run your hands over him. Are there any lumps that give you cause for concern? Perhaps he has torn a pad or sustained a cut and you have not noticed. After a country walk, has a tick attached itself? Remove it at once with a tick fork or take him to the vet.  Is there fine, dark grit – evidence of a flea infestation – in his fur? Does he wince when you touch a limb because he is becoming arthritic and needs a supplement or even painkillers?

A little aside

Dogs have dignity and do react with shame and distress if they sense that they have been made to look silly.  Most dogs will be delighted with your praise and admiration after a bath or a good haircut, even if they dislike the procedure.  Grooming is your way to a healthy, lovely-looking dog that adores you.