Blow dryer

Q. Can I use a blow-dryer on my dog after I wash him?

A. Yes, with a couple of cautions. First and foremost, you need to keep the nozzle a few inches away from your dog's fur and the air flow in constant motion, to prevent heat from concentrating on any one spot and burning your pet. You do this naturally when drying your own hair, because you can feel when it’s too hot. But your pet can’t warn you when it’s getting too hot; he can only cry out when he’s hurting. So be extra careful. Also, be sure to set your dryer to the lowest possible heat setting when using it on your dog.

Work up to using the dryer on your pet to get him used to the sound and the sensation of air blowing on him. Do this in stages: Show him the dryer while it's turned off with treats and praise, turn it on away from him with treats and praise, move it closer and give treats and praise, and so on. That way he learns not to fear the dryer, and you can build on this to make grooming a pleasant bonding experience for you both.

You may want to invest in a dryer meant for dogs rather than using your own hair dryer, especially if you’re bathing your dog regularly (which I heartily recommend, both to keep your pet huggably soft and clean-smelling, and to prevent some skin problems). Dog-specific dryers don’t generate heat but rather shoot air at high speed to blast water from the coat, leaving the dog slightly damp (he'll dry quickly on his own) but free of loose hair, for less shedding later. This is especially good for dogs with thick double coats, such as Collies, Samoyeds and other long-haired breeds and mixes, because their downy undercoat is easily matted, and forced-air dryers help to prevent that by getting the air all the way to the skin and pushing loose undercoat out.

These dryers are what professional groomers use, and entry-level models meant for home use are available for less than $100. If you have a long-haired dog and bathe him frequently, a dog-specific dryer may well be a good investment in keeping him clean and happy — and you too.