Hand Washablemaltese dog
by the late Marjorie Martin of Columbus, OH

One Saturday evening, I came home from a dog show to a frantic Maltese customer with dog in hand. It seems that the lady was going on a short-notice trip and wanted to take her dog along. Of course it had to be groomed. The lady was upset because I hadn't been available to do it and because she was in a serious doit-yourself grooming consequence. "I put lots of shampoo on her, scrubbed her good, rinsed her thoroughly, dried her with the hair dryer and then, look, an impossible mess of snarls!" For sure. Maltese washing woes are common. Indeed, washing-in unnecessary hair problems seems to be a part of the Maltese initiation rites. Hopefully, some of these tangles can be avoided by sharing a few how-to ideas. Under ideal conditions, a Maltese may need few baths, and his coat could thrive on natural conditioners.

However, in reality, Maltese need many baths. Devoted owners, judges and buyers prefer Maltese to look and smell freshly washed. If a Maltese gets into dirt and snarls, it may need an unscheduled bath to save his coat. Sometimes a Maltese needs an immediate second bath to correct bathing errs, such as when the shampoo was not totally rinsed. The goal is to keep the Maltese naturally white and silky. Thus, harsh products or those which eventually leave their own color on the hair as well as tangling procedures must be avoided. The experience should be as safe, pleasant and positive as possible.

I offer the following step-by-step suggestions from my own Maltese washing experiences, but not necessarily as the first, last or only method. Other experienced Maltesers may wash their dogs quite differently with beautiful results and, of course, adjustments are necessary for variables such as coat texture and water-some water may cause discoloration. So proceed with caution.

  1. Remove all bows, wraps, collar, whatever the dog has on. Congratulate the dog for his wisdom in getting his hair done now. Put a bit of eye ointment in each eye. Mist the hair with Ring 5 Coat Gloss, and loosen tangles gently with fingers. The book says brush before bathing, but brushing dry combined with dirt equals damage to Maltese hair. Even burrs and grass stickers are easier removed when wet.
  2. In a utility sink (single faucet, single control) set two, eight-to-ten ounce plastic glasses-slim, textured glasses are easiest to hold. Pour about one-fourth cup of Ring 5 Bright White Shampoo in one glass (or the least that will do thejob). Pour about half as much Lambert Kay Tangle Free Rinse in the other. Fill both glasses with hot water, stir with an iced-tea spoon, and finger-check to be sure that it feels just a little warm-dog temperature (102 degrees). Set both glasses aside.
  3. Adjust the tap water-it should be astrong but not driving flow-to dog temperature. Maltese, and maybe Maltese hair, do better with baths that do not include hot/cold shocks.
  4. Stand the Maltese to be washed in the utility sink, holding his chest with your left hand (if right-handed), his forelegs secure between your fingers. Praise his bravery. Hold your right hand over his eyes, move him under the faucet, wetting his head first. Let the tap water fall on his neck and cup your right hand on each side to manuever the water under his ears onto chin, throat, and chest areas. Move the dog forward so the tap water falls on his back, and manuever the water under his legs and over his tafl with cupped right hand. Make sure the entire dog is wet.
  5. Keep holding him with your left hand. With your right hand, pour the warm, diluted shampoo from the glass over the back of his head, neck, sides and rear. Now with your right hand, ease the shampoo-without ruffling his hair-to his forehead, cheeks and chin, avoiding his eyes. Kiss the end of the nose. Spread the shampoo down and around each leg, over his throat and belly, and the length of the tail. Gently massage the whole dog-no scrubbing or rubbing-in snarls.
  6. Now, as the dog was wet in Step 4, rinse away the shampoo. Go over the dog several times to make certain no shampoo is left under his ears, in legpits or anywhere to cause skin and hair damage. Keep the water going on the dog in the direction that his hair naturally falls to avoid tangling. It's all done with the dog upright on all fours or hind two. Tell him how much better he's behaving than the last bather.
  7. Keep holding-give him no chance to jump out of the sink onto the leg-breaking floor. With your right hand, pour the warm, diluted rinse over the dog and spread to all ends like the shampoo was in Step 5. Run your right hand tightly from his nose to his tail, down front and rear, across his underside and over his legs to squeeze out excess water. Tell him he has a fantastic physique deep chest, muscles, a real hunk. Tangle Free is left on to condition skin and coat and to make brushouts easier, although it does slightly diminish the coat's appearance. (You may want to rinse part of the Tangle Free out or use less next time.)
  8. Lay a big towel, folded in half, over the dog, with his head under one corner. Still gripping his chest with your left hand, lift him up, and with r ri t hand, fold the right towel corner over his belly. Hold the dog with your right hand while your left hand brings the bottom corner, also, up over his belly. Then with your right hand, wrap the left corner over the other two and on around the dog so that he is tightly wrapped like a baby. Tell him he's precious and tuck the top corner of the towel tightly around his head so just his nose shows.
  9. Hold the towel-wrapped dog close for a few minutes to allow excess water to be absorbed in the towel.

That's about it for washing Maltese housepets; also studs, broods and retirees in short coats. With this routine, Maltese can be done every week, or more as needed, and maintain healthy skin and lovely, white hair. Other situations require a few little changes.

For growing or maintaining Maltese show coats, a little Alpha Kerri (or generic) bath oil added to the Tangle Free, and both left on, may be advantageous in case of dry skin and/or coat which may be caused from frequent bathing or low humidity. Use a teaspoonful of the oil, more or less, so the hair (when dried) looks slightly oily. The Tangle Free/oil mixture seems less likely to make the hair sticky if it is mixed with very hot then cold water to make it dog temperature. Products must be applied evenly-unoiled hair on a mostly oiled dog may cause more tangles. When washing Maltese to be shown to judges or customers, all Tangle Free and oil are carefully rinsed out so the coat is completely clean and looking its greatest. After showing, the dog can be put back "in oil." Thus, one way or another, the Maltese can be washed with little or no damage to his skin and coat. This may read like a lot, but actually takes only ten or fifteen minutes and, besides hair, may save time and tempers.

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