Pet Smarts: Do-It-Yourself Pet Care

The smiles slowly faded. We turned to one another. Our brows knitted, our panic rising. Without saying a word, we were saying to each other: “Um, what do we do now?”

Pets are a lot like babies—though they do have superior potty habits. We bring them home, all cute and cuddly, and place them in our homes with rarely a thought to their everyday care. Why would we? We’ve seen them all our lives, read and heard about them, and figure that taking care of a pet is just an instinctual part of our being. And then … “When do I feed them? And how much?” “A bath? How often?” “Why won’t Muffin stop chewing on that table leg, especially after I repeatedly asked her, in plain English?”

In this episode of Petsguide, in this time of our country and economy, we thought it a good idea to get back to basics. How to wash a dog. How to brush their teeth. How to take care of this and that. As you’ve come to expect, we talk to experts, but also know that there are experts throughout the magazine who can help you with all of the things we’re talking about and many more. We couldn’t cover everything or talk to everyone, of course, but we think you’ll find the information helpful, even do-it-yourself-ful (trademark pending.)

So have a look and take what you need. Oh, and say hi to Muffin for us.

HOW TO… give your pet a bath

As Lindell Zieg, who runs Celebrity Paw Spa and the OC Academy of Pet Styling, says grooming your pet provides “special time together that can bring gorgeous results and a well-trained pet that enjoys being touched and pampered.” Just like with humans, it’s important to remember that good grooming is not only aesthetic but has a very real and important effect on a pet’s health and outlook.

“It’s not just beautification,” Zieg said, “but is necessary for health and hygienic reasons.”

So, to begin with, you’re going to want to deal with your pet’s hair. But do you comb or do you brush? The answer is: yes.

“Combing gets down to separate the undercoat and brushing loosens and removes dead top coat,” said Zieg, who said that you should always remember to comb and brush your pet before bathing. Now, when it comes to bathing, Zieg graciously agreed to walk us through it. To wit …

“First, thoroughly wet coat with water and then massage the shampoo down to the skin. Be careful to avoid getting soap and water in eyes and ear canals. Pets may need two or more washes to ensure cleanliness. For long and thick coat types a conditioner may be applied as directed as a final step to the bathing process. Be sure to rinse your pet well leaving no soap residue behind. Clean ears with pet ear wash then wipe them out with a cotton ball removing debris and leaving a clean, dry ear canal. Towel dry most of the water off your pet then blow-dry the rest. Brush and comb pet again after fully dried.”

Even if you choose to wash your dog yourself, Zieg strongly recommends taking your pet to the groomer every four to six weeks. There they can get procedures that are a bit dicey, such as nail trimming, taking care of while also receiving a hairstyle that best serves you and your pet’s lifestyle.

HOW TO… remove pet hair from furniture


Lightly dampen the palm of your hand. Wipe the pet hair off in a downward motion. The hair will ball up and stick to your damp hand. Barely dampen a clean, regular kitchen sponge (or sponge mop if you’re removing pet hair from a low-pile carpet, in which case the floor should be thoroughly vacuumed first). Rub the fabric, upholstery, or carpet with the sponge. The fur should roll up into clumps that you can pick off by hand. Put on a latex glove. Rub the surface with it on. The pet hair should stick to your glove. This also works with rubber gloves or cloth gardening gloves with a rubber coating on the palm. A rubber bristle push broom can work in the same way on floors. Dampen the glove or rubber section of the glove for increased effectiveness.

Inflate a balloon and rub it across the surface that has pet hair on it. The static on the balloon’s surface will attract the hair (works on yours, too) which you can collect and then re-use the balloon to get more hair.

Apply fabric softener. A fabric softener sheet that normally goes in the dryer can be used to pick up pet hair. You can also mist the surface with a mixture of fabric softener and water to “prep” the area before removing the pet hair using any of the other methods.

HOW TO… give your pet a pill

One of the most frustrating things with a pet is the inability to give them medicine they vitally need. We’ll tell you of a few methods/tricks you can use, but the truth is, you should start preparing your pet to take pills when they aren’t sick.

See, the most common way to get a pet to take a pill is to hide it in a treat. So, if from a young age, you teach your pet to relish special treats that they only get on special occasions, it will make it easier to get them to take the pill/treat concoction. The best treats to use are moist ones such as cheese, cream cheese, tuna or hot dog chunks, treats that will allow you to easily hide smashed pills and popped gel caps.

Now, there are some differences between giving a pill to a dog or cat.

So if you have a dog …

You’ll want to put the pill in a treat, but be sure and give the dog a couple of pill-free treats first before you throw in the one with the pill. Now, some dogs are pretty sharp so that even having been fed pill-free treats, they’ll sense the medicine in the key treat and eat around it. If that happens you’ll have to employ more direct methods.

Take your dog firmly, open his mouth and drop the pills as far back in their mouth as you can. Now clamp your dog’s mouth shut and hold until you see or feel them swallow. It shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds. Here’s a tip: if your dog licks his nose, it usually means he’s swallowed the pill.

If you have a cat, feeding a pill-infused treat may be best done by putting it in a bit of cream cheese and letting your cat lick it off your finger. You might just put it in their food dish. Since cats usually eat less than dogs, you may have to put the pill in several treats and spread the dosage out.

HOW TO… make your pet a special treat

(courtesy Rick Ketcham, OC Doggie Dinners)

A big thank you to Rick Ketcham, who runs OC Doggie Dinners, for providing this recipe for a yummy treat. And yes, I said yummy.

Ketcham knows all about pleasing the pallets of pets, his company makes pet food with fresh ingredients and no preservatives. Those who use his meals see their pets more active, their coats shinier within a few months. The food is also wheat- and corn-free since those are the most common allergies in pets. OC Doggie Dinners delivers in Orange County, you can find them at

And now …

Peanut Butter Bones
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups rice flour
1 cup potato flour
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
– Gradually beat in oil and water into peanut butter until well-mixed.
– In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine flours.
– Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and blend well to form a dough.
– Roll out the dough to approx. 1/4″ thickness and cut into shapes, or slice them into squares if you don’t have cookie cutters.
– Place on lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between biscuits. Bake for 20 minutes until browned. Turn off oven, but leave the biscuits inside to “crisp.” Store the remaining biscuits in an airtight container in refrigerator.

HOW TO… brush your pet’s teeth

Many people, perhaps confused about that business about a pet’s mouth being cleaner than a human’s— especially if that human is on a reality show—figure that a pet doesn’t need regular dental cleaning. But pet’s eat and, like us, their teeth hold onto food which can in turn cause bacteria and decay, which in turn can cause serious infections and medical problems.

“Infection and bacteria in the mouth can lead to problems with organs that have the highest blood flow. We’re talking critical organs such as the brain and heart,” said Ken Kurtz who runs Animal Dental Care, based out of Newport Beach.

Kurtz’s company does cleanings in about 300 local veterinarians offices. The key is that they do so without anesthesia which always poses a risk to a pet’s well-being. In fact, Kurtz started the business after a pet died while getting its teeth cleaned under anesthesia. Kurtz has developed a technique to hold a pet while cleaning its teeth, a technique he says that is comfortable for the pet and allows his technicians to do a thorough cleaning. But he also says he can teach the same hold to pet owners so they can practice daily dental cleanings with their pets.

“Well, ideally you should brush your pet’s teeth every day,” he said. “I mean, we tell people they should bring the pet to us every six months for a deep clean, but the pet shouldn’t have to wait six months just to get their teeth brushed.”

Kurtz says he prefers a soft bristle human tooth brush and recommends brushing your pet’s teeth from one to two minutes with a pet-safe toothpaste.

HOW TO… clean your pet’s ear

Use a pet-specific ear wash (available at most pet stores and veterinary clinics).

Soak a cotton pad with the wash.

Hold the earflap (“pinna”) up and gently wipe away dirt, wax and debris from the nooks and crannies.

IMPORTANT: only clean what you can see. Never insert anything into the ear canal. Your pet will shake out excess moisture or you can use an ear-drying agent.

Offer a treat to your brave, clean-eared pal.

HOW TO… clean pet vomit off the carpet

Time is of the essence. Yeah, it’s gross and yeah, nobody wants to do it, but the fact is the longer vomit, with its stomach acids inside, is allowed to stay on a carpet, the greater the chance it will discolor it.

Now, do not try to scrub or wipe the puke up, that’ll only serve to push it deeper into the rug fibers. What you want to do is get a spoon, or a very flat butter knife, and scoop the stuff up, perhaps onto a paper towel.

Once you’ve gotten as much as you can up, douse the area with baking soda to absorb what’s left. Wait for that to dry completely and then vacuum it up thoroughly. But wait, you’re not done. Mix up a concoction of a half a cup of salt and two quarts of water. Blot that onto the spot with a sponge, rinsing the sponge thoroughly between blottings. After blotting, apply a carpet spot remover. Finally, rinse with cool water, blot with a towel, and allow the area to dry completely.

Now go take a two-hour shower.

HOW TO… remove a tick


When you find a tick, use tweezers to pick up the body and pull s-l-o-w-l-y and gently, and the mouthparts will release.

You should see a small crater in your dog’s skin; if you see what looks like black lines, you’ve left the head of the tick in. At this point, if your dog is mellow enough, you should try and pick it out. Otherwise, you may need to take your pet into the vet, as the head parts will lead to an infection.

Ticks carry a lot of rickettsial diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling a tick.

Now, go take a three-hour shower.

HOW TO… train a dog

Patty Beach, who runs Star Dog Training, see’s it all the time: dogs that habitually do the wrong thing.

She’s seen the effect it has on a family, kids who won’t go out into a yard because they’re afraid of the pet, people who can’t leave the house with any confidence that their possessions, or food supply, will be intact when they return.

She’s seen it and she knows who to blame: you.

“Basically, the biggest problem is that a lot of people think dogs are people,” Beach said. “And, actually, dogs assume that people are dogs. Dogs are very elementary, people think they are these complex characters when, in fact, dogs go right to basics. They are naturally pack animals so, for them, there must be a leader. If you’re not going take that role, they will.”

Beach is the trainer featured in the 2007 release “Dog Training Made Easy.” It’s a DVD that in, about 30 minutes, goes through all the basics of training that will make you, and your dog, very happy. Basics such as sitting, staying, leash pulling and barking.

Now, space doesn’t allow us to go all through the basics of training, but Beach did fill us in on some overriding principles.

• Dogs understand tone of voice; they are sensitive creatures and they can read your mood through your presence.

• You can teach old dogs new tricks. The key is to teach them what is appropriate with the right approach for that age.

• The size of the dog does not necessarily correspond to its willfulness. Many times it can be smaller breeds that pose more of a challenge.

Beach says she and producer Ray Ramirez made the DVD so that it could be watched again and again.

“I think it would be hard to remember everything on the DVD,” she said. “So I think it’s a good idea to watch it, go practice with your dog and then come back and watch again.”

“Dog Training Made Easy” is available at many pet stores and through