If there is mud to be found, Westie’s will find it! It’s a good thing they clean up so nicely.
There are two basic ways to groom a Westie. For a show coat, you must hand strip the dog. This means pulling out the hairs by hand. The most practical way to do this is a little every day. When the hair grows back in, it tends to come in hard and straight. This process helps give the show dogs that ‘perfect’ look with full, round heads. (Of course there is a lot of grooming done on the day of the show to get them looking just perfect). The advantage of this process for a pet owner is that the hard coat tends to clean up very easily. You seldom have to bathe a Westie who is stripped because the dirt tends to just ‘fall’ right off of them. Usually you can put the dirty Westie into their crate with a towel and they will come out looking clean in a half hour or so. Many also feel that this process allows the skin to breathe better and might actually help avoid the itchy skin that many Westies tend to get.
Most pet owners are not going to go through the work of hand stripping. Pet dogs are usually taken to the groomer about every 4-8 weeks, depending on the hair growth, where they are bathed, clipped and their toe nails are cut. If you are going to do this with your Westie, it is best to start when they are very young. When the puppy has had its shots, around 14 weeks, make an appointment for a puppy cut. This will let the puppy experience grooming while they are in a strong learning period. A good groomer will make this a pleasant experience for the puppy. The puppy will learn that it is an okay thing to do and will usually accept grooming as a routine thing. When the puppy has experienced this a couple of times, you can then switch to a ‘Westie Cut’ which will take a little longer. But by then the puppy should be able to handle the longer appointment.
When you go to the groomer to interview them before the first Westie cut, please take in photos of what a Westie should look like. You might even print out some of the instructions in the links below. It would be a good idea to ask for a photo of a Westie they have groomed to be sure it looks like a Westie. Explain that you do NOT want to get back a Schnauzer or a Scottie. Make sure they undestand the Westie has a round head, a carrot tail and a skirt that is blended and does not have obvious lines. If they do not like your questions and do not want the instructions, find another groomer. Also, you should feel free to ask about their process. Do they use a drying cage? If so, is it an open crate or is it enclosed? The open crate is safer. When the dog is on the grooming table with the noose around its neck, is it constantly tended? Is it a type of noose that will break away if the dog should jump? Do they express the anal glands? If you don’t want this done, you will want to let them know and remind them each time. If you cannot find a good groomer in your area, you might contact your local Westie Club to see if any members have their dog groomed in your neighborhood. The Michigan Club has a “Services” page which includes groomers. Many owners learn to do their own grooming because they aren’t happy with the grooming they see from the professionals. It is a good bonding experience and, while you may make mistakes while learning, it is only hair and will grow out!
If you go to a groomer, you might have to leave your dog for several hours. There are many factors that go into this. If they are busy, they may have only so much hot water and some dogs have to wait for their bath. If someone calls in sick, they may have more dogs per groomer than normal. They tend to be much busier on certain days of the week. If you want your dog back sooner, you might ask when making the appointment, what days are the slowest and what time can you bring your dog in for a faster turnaround. But why not just consider the grooming day as your chance for a ‘Free’ day where you can go shopping or do other things while you have a ‘babysitter’! Make lemonade out of that lemon!!!
Most Westies will have stained beards at some point in their life. To some extent, this will relate to the coat type. A softer, curly coat is more likely to stain than a hard, coarse coat. A city dog is likely to be cleaner than a country dog since constant digging in the dirt with the nose tends to stain over time. Stains can also be caused by excessive licking. In this case, the feet will often be stained also. But there are things you can do to reduce and maybe even eliminate the stains. Here are some suggestions….
- Use stainless steel or ceramic water bowls; even better, hang a water bottle and don’t use bowls at all. Constant water on the beard will stain it.
- Check the ingredients in your food. If it had red food dye or even other colors of food dye, it is likely to stain. Beets and other red-type ingredients are more likely to cause stain. Choose a food that doesn’t use “red” ingredients
- Fresh mulch will sometimes leach color into the beard and stain. Find a mulch that has no artificial colors (avoid cocoa shell mulch for poisoning reasons also.)
- During your daily grooming, wet a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide and wipe the beard thoroughly each day. This won’t really bleach it but sometimes helps keep it white
- Some people bleach their dog’s beard. We don’t recommend this be done regularly and it must be done with great care. If the dog licks the mixture during the process, it will likely make him sick. A mixture used by some breeders is 1 part peroxide (the kind to bleach hair) and 1 part white milk of magnezia. Add corn starch to thicken. Dab on and leave on for several minutes. Again, if you do this be very careful to keep it out of the dog’s eyes and to prevent the dog from licking it while it is on them.
- If the dog gets the face dirty during play, wash it off right away instead of letting it sit and stain.
- Many people feel that a daily Ester C 250 mgs will help keep the beard white
- For temporary whiteness such as when you want to take a photo, groomer chalk can help. But it won’t really cover up dark stains.
Many Westies have allergies and skin issues. It is a good practice to check your little one’s skin each time you brush or comb. Also, ask your groomer to report any skin changes she sees. You will catch problems while they are still small if you make this a regular practice.
THE DREADED SKUNK
What to do if your dog gets “skunked”