March 1, 2024

After nearly 54 years of showing and breeding dogs, I realize that I have a myriad of DIY household tricks that really should be shared. Here are ten of my favorites. Any comments or questions? Let me know!

Havanese are notorious shredders. Papers, toys and crate mats are vulnerable to the shredding pleasures of Havanese. Crate mat demise really drove me crazy until I discovered pillow shams at my local thrift shops. Don’t throw out those seemingly destroyed mats. Place torn mats in lovely pillow shams that either fold over at the ends or have ties to close them. Very often the shams themselves are quilted and add extra softness! They are washable, with or without the crate mat inside. Avoid the ones with zippers as zippers can get chewed and can be dangerous. I have extended the life of “ruined” crate mats by years! Expect to pay between $2-$4 dollars for them.

In the event that your beautiful Havanese has to be anesthetized for any reason – hip x-rays, dental cleaning or surgery – and your veterinarian plans to shave a leg for the I.V., discuss your feelings about that. Often your vet will agree not to shave. However, the staff in attendance may not be aware of your discussion with the veterinarian and will routinely shave the leg. Every dog we bring in for such a procedure arrives with a tee-shirt or little jacket with the following words inked on, “DO NOT SHAVE.” It works 99% of the time with the doctor’s concurrence and serves as a not so subtle reminder to the staff. We buy toddler tee shirts from thrift stores or inexpensive dog jackets/sweaters from local “dollar” stores.

None of us could survive without a proper grooming table but only in recent years have we discovered the joy of using a turntable top on top of a regular grooming table. The turntable (available from specialty grooming sites) enables us to easily turn the dog without adjusting the dog or dryers.

That leads me to the merits of adjustable height barstools for grooming. Due to a horrific shoulder injury, I need to be high up to groom. My husband likes being lower to the table. A barstool with a hydraulic lift mechanism, with footrail but no arms is perfect for fast adjustments.

Training your dog to free stack on the ground or on an exam table can be frustrating. Many people resort to purchasing expensive, but beautifully constructed, wooden blocks in fancy wooden carry boxes. We solved that problem and (expense) by going to our local hardware store and buying bricks and rubber or carpet mats. You can use the bricks whole or broken in half. Glue the matting on top of the bricks and there you have perfect, heavy blocks that you can use to position your dog’s feet for stacking training. (Want them higher than the height of one brick? Glue two together! But one is usually sufficient.)

Many people have loved the neat use of lick-it bottles attached to crates or ex-pens. But what do you do if you want one in the middle of a room? Go to a store that sells kitchen items and purchase a vertical, metal paper towel holder (usually available in brass or wrought iron). The water bottle attachment fits securely to the paper towel holder and the stand is heavy enough to support the weight of the bottle. You can move it any place you want! No need to go to a wood-working class to create a stand when you can buy one for $6-$8.

Most everyone who shows dogs in conformation or performance events has a ‘ringside’ grooming bag to house all those little last minute items may be needed before going into the ring. I hate fumbling around in any of those bags looking for something and finding that I may be holding up my class in the process. Solution: get a clear plastic zippered make-up bag available on-line in several sizes, with or without handles. In a second you can see the item you need and you’re not searching blind to find it. These bags are inexpensive and easily replaced if they get soiled or torn.

Buy a small blank notebook to keep near your grooming tub to remind yourself which of your many shampoos and conditioners you like for which of your dogs. Each Havanese coat, in my opinion, is different and you may find different products work better on different dogs. Can’t remember which is which? Jot down your preferred products in a little nearby notebook to solve the dilemma for you.

We really believe in the merits of handling classes for us and for our dogs. Each dog needs his or her own handling technique, command words, collar, lead, etc. Use a little notebook to jot down such things like “Nitwit needs a resco collar, go slowly away from the judge and faster coming back. Likes liver not chicken bait.” Etc. etc. Every dog gets a separate page. Study the book before going into the show ring, just as an actor studies the script before walking on stage.
Finally, take good notes on each ring experience. Get to know what judges like. Do they seem to prefer a particular size? Color? Sex? Know your history under each judge. Keep track by judge. Judges do change over time, so don’t be locked in completely. Develop a “DNS” (Do Not Show) list of judges, to whom (for whatever reason you deem appropriate) you will never show a particular dog again. We try to give judges 2-3 opportunities before they get cemented on that list for a particular dog. There are a few judges, for reasons I won’t share, who will never, ever see any of our dogs for any reason. But those are few and far between.

Hopefully, you have found some of these ideas helpful. In another column I will discuss specific household items to help in your grooming process.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author, not of the Havanese Club of America.

Alice L. Lawrence