Adopting a Dog

If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, consider adopting your new best friend from an animal shelter or humane society. You’ll not only get a good feeling from helping a homeless pet, you’ll get an outstanding companion. The staff at these organizations carefully check the animals for sound health and good temperament. In addition, some shelter animals have had the benefit of training to develop good manners while they waited for a new home.

Through no fault of their own, a lot of great dogs wind up in animal shelters hoping for a second chance at happiness. People relinquish their pets to shelters when they are no longer able to care for them. Sometimes this is because the owner was unprepared for the responsibility that comes with caring for a dog. Often, however, caring owners struggling with life-changes or trying to cope with family tragedy realize their pet would be better off with someone else. They bring them to the shelter because they know the animal will be well cared for and placed in an excellent home.

You can find just about any age, size and breed of dog at an animal shelter. Often, people underestimate how difficult it is to care for a litter of puppies, and turn them over to the shelter to raise and adopt out. In other cases, young dogs are relinquished because their previous owners didn’t have the time to provide regular exercise for the pup. So, if you have your mind set on a puppy, a shelter is a good place to look. However, if you would like a more mature dog that is likely already housebroken, you’ll find these kinds of canines at a humane society or animal center.

Upon arrival, shelter staff carefully evaluates each animal for physical and behavioral soundness. They make note of quirks, and work with specialists to eliminate negative behaviors. Most shelters have adoption counselors who interview potential adopters to understand their needs and lifestyle so they can make the perfect match.

Bringing your newly adopted dog home is exciting for you, but may be a little overwhelming for her. Keep her on a leash as you take her from room to room, giving her plenty of opportunity to sniff. You may want the first stop on your tour to be the backyard or wherever you want her to relieve herself. The excitement of a car ride and coming to a new place can give her the need to empty her bowels or bladder.

Dogs are creatures of habit, so the sooner you establish a firm routine, the more comfortable your new dog will become. Always feed her in the same spot and at about the same time each morning. You’ll find she grows to anticipate “what comes next.” For example, if you always feed her after you bring in the newspaper, you’ll notice she becomes very excited when you open the door to step outside. Dogs catch on quickly.

Anal Glands – Cleaning

How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands

Laura from New Jersey wrote:

I’ve been grooming on my own for 4 years and trained under a groomer who never cleaned anal glands. I’ve been asked by customers if I would and I’ve always repeated what she told her customers, “That should only be done by a veterinarian.”
I know that this can be a hot topic for some vets and groomers, but I’ve been told that many groomers clean glands routinely.
What is your take on the subject? Is this a service groomers should offer? After grooming for so long, I’m embarrassed to admit that I do not know how. Should I ask my veterinarian to teach me?

Hi Laura,

I do believe that groomers (and some owners) should know how to express anal glands. Whether or not you offer this service should be your decision. I personally do not express glands routinely, but only when needed. (Click here to understand more about anal glands)

There are 2 ways to express anal glands, internally and externally. Leave the internal procedure to your veterinarian. This is dangerous and painful.

External cleansing of the gland is easy. Check the anal area as follows, before the bath.
(I always look when clipping the anal area with a #10 blade)

    1.Have someone hold the dog’s head or restrain with a loop on your grooming table or tub.
    2.With the dog standing, lift upward on the base of the tail firmly.
    3.Examine the anal area. Below the rectum at 5 and 7 o’clock are the 2 glands. Feel this area with the tips of you index finger and thumb. If they are swollen, they can be expelled.
    4.Place a paper towel, tissue or baby wipe covering the area to catch the secretion.
    5.Gently press below this swelling, inward and upward toward the rectum. You should see anal fluid excrete from the rectum. You can increase pressure until nothing comes out.

This fluid can be white, tan, brown, black or bloody. It can be watery, granular, like pudding or dough. Guaranteed it will smell horrible. Also be warned that it can ooze out slowly or expel explosively on you and your surroundings.

Signs that the dog needs to see a veterinarian:

    1.Blood in the secretion
    2.A hole in the skin from one of the glands. This is an abscessed anal gland that has ruptured.

In the second case, don’t groom the dog, call the owner and refer them to a vet immediately.

When should you expel the gland?

    1.The customer says the dog’s been scooting (dragging is rear)
    2.When you notice very swollen glands.

When asked by a client to routinely express the gland, I reply that I will check it. Routine cleansing is not effective and can actual cause problems. (Also see explanation below)

When I’ve found it necessary to express the glands, I tell the client to expect the dog to lick or scoot for a day or so. If the irritation lasts longer, it may need a second cleaning.

Good luck and good grooming.

Our Policy

We have reviewed this policy with two highly respected veterinarians, who gave us their 100% seal of approval.

When you groom a dog, you need to examine every inch of skin and fur including the anal area, removing excessive hair and clean away any debris. Also look for signs of problems with the anal gland, and if a problem exists, (indicated by swelling, soreness, oozing and odor) you may choose to express the gland. If it appears infected, refer the owner to his or her veterinarian. If there is not a problem,  leave it alone.

Routinely cleaning a healthy anal gland has no benefit and can actually cause harm by disturbing the natural balance of the secretions or by causing irritation.

ANAL GLANDS – Understanding them

Each Anal Gland constantly produces a secretion with a pungent odor unique to your dog. Along with urine, the anal secretion is in fact, your dog’s “odor signature” to other dogs.

Dogs, being scent orientated, identify each other by their sense of smell. Dogs will “mark their territory” with urine, which usually does not change much in odor. Because the stool’s odor varies with diet, the anal gland secretes a small amount of fluid on the stool with each normal bowel movement, marking it with the dog’s “odor signature.”

The Anal Gland is an active working gland located just below and slightly outside the anus. In most dogs, the anal gland is self-cleaning, and does not require routine cleaning.

Dog care information anal glands absessed anal gland ruptured anal gland understanding How to express a dog's anal glands veterinary emergency diarrhea and soft stools Acidophilus secretion normal bowel movement DietOccasionally the glands can get clogged or blocked, causing the dog to lick at its anus or drag its rear across the floor or ground. Sometimes these actions will empty the anal gland. If the gland remains clogged, it can become infected very quickly, abscess, and can even rupture. An absessed anal gland or ruptured anal gland is a veterinary emergency.

Diet plays an important role in maintaining a healthy anal gland. Since it is the pressure applied by a normal, solid bowel movement that expresses the gland, diarrhea and soft stools may not apply enough pressure to completely empty it. If your dog has a repeating problem, you need to adjust its diet to eliminate diarrhea and soft stools. Finding a dog food that your dog can digest easily, and then staying with that food, will insure firm stools, reducing problems with the anal gland.

If your dog’s gland is overactive or you can not control the problem, then you can learn how to express the anal gland at home. Checking your dog’s anal gland is an important part of caring for your pet, is easy to learn and can save you hundreds of dollars in vet bills.

Routinely cleaning a healthy anal gland has no benefit and can actually cause harm by disturbing the natural balance of the secretions or by causing irritation. If your dog has a persistent problem, we recommend you talk to your veterinarian. If it is ruptured or appears infected seek immediate veterinary help.

Dog Fighting – A message from the President of the AKC Canine Health Foundation

As President of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, I would be remiss if I didn’t address an issue affecting the health of dogs and the shameful allegations brought against Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback, Michael Vick. As you have heard, Vick will be in a Federal courtroom in Virginia on July 26 being arraigned on charges that he sponsored a despicable and appalling dog fighting operation on his property.

My concern and sympathy of course goes to the dogs who were allegedly affected and so brutally murdered through the course of this “sport.” But, as a responsible breeder and a fancier, I am also concerned with the general public’s perception of the various breeds involved. According to “The Complete Dog Book,” a publication of the American Kennel Club, there are several breeds originally involved in the “sport” of dog fighting including the Bulldog. Originally bred to bait bulls, the purpose of the breed was sorely corrupted and soon degraded into the extremely cruel “sport” which was banned in England in 1835. Responsible nineteenth century breeders resurrected the breed and set themselves to the task of breeding for temperament and to eliminate the undesirable qualities and characteristics. The result of these dedicated breeders and those of today is the lovable, obedient, and docile dog which regularly garners large rounds of applause from audiences who attend dog shows around the country.

Although dog fighting is banned and a felony in the United States, I can assure you that this disgusting practice is still taking place. From the back alleys of major cities to the posh and stylish mansions of multi-millionaires, this repugnant “sport” is just outrageous and offensive, and it’s our duty as responsible breeders who are concerned about the health of our dogs to speak up and end this criminal activity. I urge you as responsible breeders and dog lovers to expose these atrocities, to work diligently to eliminate these heinous deeds and to join the millions who are appalled and bewildered by these cruel acts.

It is our responsibility to let the general public know that for these precious canine companions it is all about nature vs. nurture – that these various breeds involved in the “sport” are not bred this way, but are baited and beaten into submission and forced to live this life. It’s our duty and obligation to take a stand – for the sake of all our dogs.


Wayne E. Ferguson

President, AKC Canine Health Foundation

The AKC Canine Health Foundation, founded in 1995 by the American
Kennel Club, is the largest nonprofit worldwide to fund health
research exclusively for canines. Our goal is to help dogs live longer, healthier lives. The AKC Canine Health Foundation is the leader in non-invasive genetic health research, stem cell research, and biotherapeutics benefiting both canines and humans. Through the generous financial support of the American Kennel Club and the Nestlé Purina PetCare Co., we’re proud to announce we have allocated more than $18 million in canine health research through 74 schools and research institutions worldwide.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

What to have on hand: You will need a nail trimmer designed for pets (DO NOT USE CLIPPERS DESIGNED FOR PEOPLE), and a nail file to trim the nails. You should also have a “blood-stop” or styptic product handy incase you trim a nail too short. You may also need a warm, wet cloth and a small scissors to clean the feet.

Inspect the nails and feet: Before clipping nails, make sure the entire foot is healthy and clean. Inspect the area between the toes, pads and at the base of the nails for dirt. debris and matted hair.
Matting between the toes and padding can pull on the skin and cause pain while you work with the feet. Removing any matting will add comfort to the foot. Remove any matting between the toes and pads with a small scissors, being very careful not to nick the skin or pads.
Clean any dirt from inbetween the toes and pads and at the base of the nail with a warm, wet cloth or cotton.

Where to cut: trimming dogs nailsWithin the center of each toenail is the blood and nerve supply for the nail called the “quick.” Cutting into this area will cause bleeding and pain. In white nails you can see the vein or “quick.” It looks like a pinkish area in the middle of the nail. You want to cut outside this area leaving a little room at the end of the nail.
In dark nails, the quick is not visible, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. Cut dark nails in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick.

Clipping your dog’s nails: Begin by spreading each of his toes. Using a sharp guillotine-type nail clipper, hold the clipper with the face plate and screw towar the dog’s toe as in the figure here. Cut off the tip of each nail on a 45-degree angle, just before the point where it begins to curve. If you cannot visualize the quick, trim very thin slices off the end of the nail until you see a black dot appear towards the center when you look at it head on. This is the start of the quick that you want to avoid.

Bleeding: If the tip of the nail begins to bleed, apply pressure for a few seconds using styptic powder.

Filing: Once the nails have been cut, you can smooth rough edges with a file, emery board or grinder. Do not file any nails that had bled.

Make sure to get every nail. Many dogs have an extra nail on the inside of the foot near the ankle called a dew claw. It is extremely important to trim the dew claw because it does not contact the floor and will not wear down. A few breeds also have a dew claw on the hind feet and some breeds such as the Great Pyrenees have 2 dewclaws on each hind foot.

Don’t forget to praise your dog and reward with a wonderful treat.

Nail Care

Like you, your dog’s nails grow continuously and require routine maintenance.

overgrown dog nails

(A few lucky dogs never need a trim because they wear them down by exercising on hard surfaces.)

If the nails are too long, they can cause the feet to splay (spread out) creating discomfort and possible deformation of the foot. Nails can actually curl under the foot and pierce the pads at the bottom of the feet and require a trip to the vet.

Severely overgrown nails can cause a variety of problems including broken nails which are painful and bleed profusely. Long nails can break or split, a very painful condition that can become infected. Overgrown overgrown nails on dognails become “needle” sharp inflicting injury on you and your pet and can get caught in carpeting and upholstery.

Trimming your dog’s nails is important for your dog’s overall health. Your dog’s nails should be examined every 3 to 4 weeks. A dog’s nails should barely touch the ground and should not click when walking on uncarpeted areas.

Click Here for instructions on How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Matted coats

If you followed a routine grooming schedule your pet’s grooming should be easy and stress free. If, on the other hand, your pet’s coat has been allowed to grow unattended there may be problems that you should be aware.

Matting starts at the skin and works its way toward the outer coat. matted dogThe only way to prevent matting is to thoroughly comb each section of coat from the skin out regularly. If you have been occasional brushing your pet, the top coat may appear healthy and fluffy but the coat next to the skin may be matted. If the pet has been bathed without these matted areas removed, the mats felt and become impossible to comb through. The only humane way to deal with this problem is to clip under the mats, and if the matting is against the skin, it may require a complete shave down.

To help prevent matting, see our article on How To Brush Your dog.

Many people take their pet to the groomer for a spring grooming expecting to return to find Fluffy in fully sculpted style worthy of the show ring. They are horrified to discover that Fluffy has been shaved and looks more like a Mexican Hairless than a beautiful Bichon. This creates a stressful situation for everyone. The owner may be angry and the groomer is frustrated. The pet becomes stressed because of the high emotions of the people around him and may feel embarrassed if the owner seems to ridicule or reject him.

Some tips to help ease that stress:

  • If you prefer your pet to be styled in a fuller, fluffy cut plan on staying a few minutes upon arrival and allow your groomer to examine the coat. She can point out problem areas before the grooming and tell you what you can expect from the grooming.
  • Understanding that the groomer does not have a magic wand that can just make months of damage disappear will give you a realistic picture of what would be most comfortable for your pet.
  • Discuss with your groomer what you would like and set a goal to achieve that, including regularly scheduled grooming and learning proper home maintenance.
  • Always cheerfully greet your pet when returning and if your pet did need a shave, counsel family member to never laugh or make fun of your pet.

Brushing your dog

Regular brushing at home not only helps reduce the cost of professional grooming but also has other advantages. Your pet’s coat and skin will be healthier, and regular close attention may alert you sooner to any developing physical problems your pet may have.

The “quality time” spent brushing your pet will enhance

the relationship you both have and promotes “bonding.” In the wild, grooming among pack members is an important social behavior. Your dog already knows this. You may not have realized it but every time your dog licks you or rubs its face against you, it is (in a sense) “grooming” YOU!

Poor equipment is ineffective and frustrating and can actually injure your pet. Throw out worn or broken brushes and combs with teeth that are bent or missing.

A gentle slicker brush helps break up tangled hair and will put a nice fluffy finish on the coat. A solid metal comb enables you to remove tangles, reaching the base of the coat where most matting starts.

Place the dog on a firm, non-slip surface above the floor (a tub mat placed on a washer or drier is perfect). Start by combing the dog with the coarse teeth of the comb. Pay special attention to the chest area between the front legs and under and behind the ears. Comb a second time with the medium teeth. Work mats, tangles and burrs by dividing small sections at a time. Finish by brushing the coat with a slicker brush.

Bathing – Easy and quick tips

The way I was trained to bath a dog was to pre-wet the dog then work in the shampoo a little at a time starting at the head working down toward the tail. This costs time and can use a lot of shampoo. Some areas get more shampoo than others and the shampoos can be difficult to rinse out. Soap residue in the coat can cause dandruff, itching and skin problems.

Here’s my trick: Mix a small amount of shampoo to a quart of water in a 1 quart squirt bottle.  Shake to mix and apply directly to the dry coat. Work the diluted shampoo into the coat with your hands (or a slicker brush for thicker coats.) When you have covered the entire dog, rinse with clean water.Â

Applying shampoo this way eliminates several basic problems.Â

    You never again wonder whether or not you cleansed the entire dog. If the area is still dry, it wasn’t bathed.
    The shampoo spreads evenly throughout the coat.
    The shampoo is much easier to rinse out.

This technique also saves you time by eliminating the extra step of pre-wetting the dog and they rinse much quicker.Â

An ounce of shampoo to a quart of water is a good starting point although you may want to add more or less depending on the dilution rate of the shampoo. You definitely want to dilute it 3 or 4 times lighter than the shampoos recommended dilution rate. (This will not work for medicated shampoos, which may need to be used straight, and flea and tick shampoos that have a definite dilution rate for effectiveness.) No matter what type of shampoo you use, also keep a diluted tearless shampoo bottle handy for the face.

Bathing – The right water temperature

Many people tend to bathe dogs with too warm of water. This can be uncomfortable for the dog and in some cases: dangerous. If the bath water is too warm, you can overheat the dog. Adding a hot dryer to this and you could cause a problem especially with large breeds and dogs that are overweight who have a difficult time cooling down.

For water to feel warm to your touch the temperature must be higher than your body temperature which is 98.6. Water that feels warm is over 100 degrees, much too warm for the dog’s bath.

Water that is between 70 and 80 degree is perfect. It should feel “room temperature” to you. Protect the dog from chilling after the bath by wrapping in a towel and using a warm (not hot) dryer.