Let’s face it, dogs stink. They roll in foul smelling things they find in pastures, mountain trails, and even their own back yard. The smellier, the more they seem to enjoy it. They also enjoy romping through the mud and thistles and can end up pretty messy by the end of the day. Despite these habits, people love their dogs. As of 2017 over 60 million U.S. households owned a dog and $69.5 billion was spent on these furry family members, according to an American Pet Products Association survey.
A large chunk of those expenditures, $6.16 billion, was on grooming and boarding services. Some people simply hose their dog off at home, but some take their dog to a spa. From de-shedding to a “pawdicure”, dog spas offer a range of services that leave the family pooch smelling and looking good.
Just ask Leslie Heppe, owner of The Paw Spa in Superior. On any given day, she can be found shampooing, blow drying and clipping nails on pooches large and small.
“A maltese is one of the most difficult breeds to groom” she said. Not because of their temperament, but because of their pure white coat. “They’re difficult to keep clean, especially in the mountains around here. Their fur also gets stained from the minerals in the water and they have a lot of discharge from their tear ducts, which makes their face hard to keep clean.”
Heppe has owned The Paw Spa for six years, after she retired from a variety of jobs in Superior including as a janitor at Superior School and a cook at the Senior Center. When the Mineral Independent caught up with Heppe, she was shampooing her daughter’s long-haired dachshund, Moose, in a large metal wash-tub.
The tub can be lowered to the ground to load larger dogs, before they get doused with shampoos and conditioners, held in large gallon bottles lining the wall. Shampoo made for people should not be used on dogs because they contain too many perfumes and harsh chemicals. In the spring and fall, some breeds tend to shed heavily as the seasons change. To de-shed them, she leaves the shampoo on for 15 minutes to let the hair follicles open up, then applies a conditioner.
Dogs should be shampooed about every four to six weeks, otherwise their coats get too dry, “unless you’re allergic to dog dander or they get really dirty.”
Which is the case with Moose, where Heppe’s daughter is allergic to his dancer and he requires more frequent trips to the spa, “in that case I use a mild shampoo that doesn’t strip out the oils as much.”
She also has an oatmeal based hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs with more sensitive skin. After a shampoo, she blows the dog out with a dryer and uses a special steel-toothed comb to help pull the undercoat out.
“With larger dogs, my entire back wall is just full of hair,” she said pointing to the back of her shop.
Moose is put on the table to be dried. He seems used to the routine but doesn’t look particularly happy. “I only do one dog per hour,” she said. “I know how long it’s going to take with each dog and I space out my appointments and so I can take my time.”
Sometimes with the bigger, national chain stores, dogs can be traumatized and in some cases, it can lead to death.
“They get paid by the dog and someone baths them and then those girls have 15 minutes to brush and clip them,” Heppe said. “Then the dog is put into a crate with a dryer blowing on them. It causes so much anxiety the dogs just can’t take it. Also, sometimes owners leave their dogs for hours before returning to pick them up. But owner should pick up their dogs as soon as possible to relieve that anxiety.” Sometimes dogs are even given a mild sedative in order to keep them calm.
Once Moose is dry, she’s allowed to roam around the shop, while Heppe starts on a small black shiatzu named Ellie. Ellie’s owners are elderly and would soon be heading down south for the winter and so she was getting her hair clipped short for the warmer temperatures.
“Because of Ellie’s calm demeanor, I can tell she’s been going to the groomers since she was a puppy,” said Heppe.
Ellie is an elderly dog and sits calmly while she gets her hair shaved and her face and ears trimmed. Heppe also clips her nails and trims the hair in between her padded toes.
“That part is important because dogs can get pine needles and other things between their toes. Then the dog will chew on them and get hair in between their teeth and that hair then rots and causes bad breath,” she said.
Clipping the nails is especially important with smaller dogs since longer nails can be rough on their joints. If the nails are too long, the dog will walk on its ankles wrong and the joints break down faster. Another part of the grooming process is wiping down the dog’s teeth with little square wipes. Owners can also brush their dog’s teeth with specially formulated dog toothpaste.
“I just love dogs, and I would like to expand and offer boarding services but there just isn’t time,” she said. Now at 62-years-old, she’s beginning to think about retirement, “I would like to bring on an apprentice. Maybe someone who would take over the business someday.”
At this point, Heppe has built up a good clientele and is open from 9 to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday. A full-groom for a dog ranges from $25 to $50 depending on weight. She also offers flea dips, nails, de-shedding services, and a short groom. Other services are also available upon request.
In order to keep the family pooch in top condition, brush at least twice a week, more if time allows. To reduce shedding, consider giving them supplements with Omega 3 fatty acids. Also, premium brand dog foods use better quality ingredients which can reduce shedding.
As colder weather begins to set in, remember to keep dogs and cats warm. They are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside especially in below-freezing weather. Some breeds like Huskies and other dogs bred for cold climates can be out if temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor dogs should have access to shelter like a dog house, shed or barn with warm bedding.