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Did you now that there are over 30 different dog breeds that either are always white, or have a tendency to be white? I honestly had no idea till this week! As usual, this story starts at the dog park. Gather around kids, and let old Ash tell you about Freya, the American Eskimo I met this week.
Heading to the dog park when the weather is this cold is usually a quiet affair. Most dog owners are choosing to get their dog’s exercise as close to home and warmth as possible, so we don’t see many friends these days. But when we went a few days ago, we saw a gorgeous American Eskimo playing fetch with her owner, a young man who attends the nearby college. Her name was Freya, and his was Sam, and they were the only two as crazy as Janice, Leroy, and I were that day. After Janice and Leroy decided to be friendly, I asked Sam about Freya. It’s not often I meet this particular breed.
How do owners handle keeping their dogs pristine white? Is there a secret, or do the dogs do it themselves? This article is for you, Sam – hopefully it helps you crack the code to keeping Freya looking good!
I found it really interesting how many breeds there are that have a tendency to have white coats. They include:
Whew! That is a lot of breeds and I’m not even sure I got them all. Naturally there are other dogs that have silver coats that border on white at times, like German Shepherds, and there are other dogs that have white as part of their coat, like Dalmatians. But this list is of breeds that have truly white coats according to the AKC standards. Now, one of the things that I will say I have noticed about white dogs, especially older white dogs, is that they can start to get a bit yellow from time to time. Those tear stains are really the biggest concern for many pet owners, because white fur will stain over time – so let’s start with those.
Tear stains refer to those discolored hairs right under or around the eyes. They usually appear brown or dark pink. In most cases, this is just the result of natural eye discharge, which is necessary to keep dog’s eyes healthy. (Dogs don’t cry “real” tears.) However, in some cases, this can be a sign of an eye infection, or of another health concern. If you see this area looking particularly red, for example, you’ll want to get to a vet. This can be a sign of a yeast infection in the eye.
Whatever the reason, you don’t want to just leave this build up around the eye. Typically the discharge is discharged from the body for a reason – usually because it contains debris or bacteria that the body doesn’t want. Leaving it to hang out around the eye means that it could end up back in the eye, which can cause problems. In addition to being unsightly, it’s not very healthy. Wiping away the crust and “eye boogers” with a tissue whenever you see it is a good idea, but it won’t take care of the inevitable discoloration. So here’s how you can get rid of the stains:
If you can stay on top of the tears with a tear stain wipe, you’ll be less likely to see those heavy stains in the first place. It’s a good idea to get your puppy used to the sensation of having their eyes wiped with these gentle wipes, and you can carry a little pot of them around with you for easy removal of tears.
If you are working with an older dog that has built up stains around the face, you’ll want to start with a brush rather than a wipe. Use a specially made tear stain brush in the area to break up the stain and then use tear stain remover (either a wipe or a squirt formula with a paper towel) to gently scrub away at the stain. It may take a while to notice a difference, but don’t agitated your dog too much. As long as they can see and don’t have crusty buildup around the eyes, just perform this grooming once a day.
Now that you know how to handle the biggest complaint that white dog owners typically have, let’s move on to the rest of the body. The best thing you can do is to find a whitening dog shampoo to use when you bathe your dog. These typically have a blue color, and might make your dog look a little blueish in the water. But don’t worry! Once they dry, they’ll be a nice, bright white. The blue works to counteract the yellowing that you can often see in white dog fur. There are tons of brands out there that offer a whitening shampoo, but Perfect Coat White Pearl Shampoo has great ratings from owners of white dogs, and it’s on sale! Can’t beat that combo. Head to your nearest pet store if you prefer and find a shampoo that specifically says it’s for whitening.
You may want to give your dog a weekly bath if you are very concerned with keeping their coats white all the time. Another thing you can do is give them a daily wipe down with a towel. This just helps to knock off any dirt or debris before it starts to stain their fur, and makes it a little easier to clean them when it’s bath time.
If you prefer, you can use products from your own kitchen to make homemade dog whiteners. Many dog owners swear that sprinkling corn starch over a white dog’s coat and rubbing it into their coat with your fingers, can help to remove light stains. You can apply the corn starch with a toothbrush and a gentle bit of scrubbing if there’s a slightly darker stain on your white dog’s body somewhere.
Another thing you can try is a baking soda paste. Make a thick paste of baking soda and water, and spread over heavier stains. Again, a toothbrush can gently scrub this into the stain, and then you just wipe it away with a wet cloth. Just be sure to brush your dog after this treatment; dried baking soda paste can mat their fur in a painful way. This treatment is almost like a natural bleach if you’re able to let it sit for a while.
Finally, many dog owners wear by baby wipes. You can get baby wipes that are made for sensitive skin with no fragrances, and use that around a dog’s mouth or eyes, where stains tend to build up. If you don’t want to use eye stain wipes, or you’re just out and have no time to run to the store, this is a good substitute.
Brushing your white dog is a big part of keeping them bright and pretty, though it’s something that many dog owners overlook in favor of baths and product use. Here’s the thing though: dog coats produce a natural oil that is designed to clean the coat of staining debris and buildup. By brushing the coat, you help knock loose any debris, get rid of dull, dead hairs, and also spread that oil around so that the hair gets naturally cleaned.
A good brush every day will be beneficial, but at least one good brush every three days should be standard for a white dog. It does depend on the type of dog as to what type of brush you need. For example, a dog rake is good for dogs with double coats, because it helps break up mats in the undercoat. This type of brush, with longer prongs, would be what you’d need for your Pomeranians and your American Eskimo Dogs. If your dog has a medium-length or shorter coat, a curry comb is more along the lines of what you need. The rubber prongs of the Furminator curry comb actually helps to stimulate those natural oils, which make your white dog cleaner. Finally, if your dog has very short hair, or they tend to be afraid of grooming tools, you could use a grooming brush glove. They’ll feel like you are petting your dog, and still provide some help getting the fur clean.
While you are brushing your dog, you may want to have a conditioner handy if they have long hair. Something you can spritz in there will help break up tangles so you don’t pull painfully. There’s definitely a right way to go about brushing. You should start by getting rid of tangles, gently and carefully. Then go back and brush more vigorously with an eye towards getting rid of debris and dead hair.
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There’s one more thing that you can do to help your white dog stay white, and that’s to work on controlling their environment. For example, have you noticed that your dog gets a colored stain on their underside that you can’t quite place? It could be a trace amount of fabric dye from their dog bed cover. Give that cover a few washes to remove any excess dye before your dog sleeps on it again.
Another thing you can do is to ensure that your dog is drinking filtered water. I know that sounds really precious, but many white dogs that have stains around the mouth, look that way because of tap water. We have a lot of chemicals in our tap water, and that can cause hair loss and stains around the mouth. Just think of it as getting a water filter for yourself, and you just happen to give the dog water from the same tap, if the idea of getting a filter for your dog bothers you.
To sum it all up:
Be sure to stay on top of daily wiping of the face and eye area especially. Use a tear stain remover wipe and a tear stain brush if the stains get noticeable. Brush the body off with a towel every day to remove debris, and make it a routine to brush the hair properly, often. Use a brightening shampoo to keep their fur glowing, or make your own homemade whitener. And take a look at your environment to find out what you can change that could be causing stains on their coats.
That’s it! It’s really not as hard as you’d think to keep your white dog looking beautiful, and once you get into a routine, you’ll never even notice the extra time spent on grooming. You and your dog will get plenty of time together, and that’s always a beautiful thing.