Brushing is the first step
The first rule of grooming is that both you and your dog should enjoy the experience! Most Westies enjoy being groomed – but remember, you set the tone, be patient, be kind, be gentle. You should brush your Westie frequently to help remove dead hair and dirt. I find with my dogs that often all they need is a good brushing to keep them clean. Another thing about regular brushing is that you get the opportunity to look at your dog’s skin. You should be checking for flea dirt, ticks and any evidence of redness or lumps in the skin.
Even if you get your dog professionally groomed you should be prepared to brush them on a regular basis. I always start the brushing session with the back – my dogs like to have their backs brushed. Then when I am ready to get underway I move to the head. I brush all of the hair on their heads forward from their ears toward their nose. Then I brush the other way. The forward brushing is the most acceptable to my dogs so I use that to brush out the dirt and tangles and when I brush back it’s just to tidy up around the muzzle and eyes. Be careful around the eyes as you don’t want to bush across the eyes as it may hurt the dog.
Any time the dog starts to act as though they’d rather not be brushed I start brushing along the back or down the back of the neck which they love. Once they are in a good frame of mind again I move on. After the head I brush down the front of the neck and down the chest. Make sure you brush into the dog’s “armpits” as that is often where mats occur.
Mats most commonly form behind the ears, between the back legs, along the back of the haunches, in the groin area, underneath the front legs and under the collar. Mats come from small tangles getting snarled together, then shedded hair and debris get caught in the snarl. As the mat gets bigger it involves are larger area of hair gets tangled in and it pulls on the dog’s delicate, thin skin. Eventually the skin is pulled constantly and every time the dog gets wet the mat tightens even more and becomes even more painful. In extreme cases mats can cause skin troubles with irritation to the skin which can result in ulceration. So pay attention to any areas on your dog where mats tend to start.
Then I brush along the skirt or furnishings all the way underneath the dog. Generally I brush from the front of the dog towards the back. If you want to make sure the underside of the dog is well brushed you can hold the furnishing in one hand and brush with the other or encourage your dog to let you hold up his front legs and brush the belly hair with your free hand.
I have seen some dogs who will lie on their backs while their bellies are being brushed, unfortunately for me, my dogs will have none of that!
Lastly I brush out the back legs making sure I don’t brush the delicate areas, but I do brush out the groin area thoroughly. Try not to run the brush over the soft skin in that area too much, but get the tangles and dead hair out.
Always be aware of how your dog is feeling and if they are getting impatient it’s time for a treat or doing something they like (like brushing the back and neck).
Now you have completed brushing…(whew!)