These little buggers are horrible when it comes to dog hair! It is important to get them out as quickly as possible because the little burr pieces can and WILL burrow into skin and that can lead to an infection. Both green and brown (dried ones) are dangerous, but the dried ones are more prickly as they tend to be more flexible when green.
Many people think you must shave off a coat if it gets burrs in it, but there are several ways to remove them easily and painlessly from the coat.
You must protect yourself from injury as well, so in the presence of many sandspurs, I suggest a good pair of leather gardening gloves to keep the burrs out of your skin. One or two is easy, but pets rarely come in with that few. Most of the time, they will be imbedded in the hair first, and the longer they are there, the closer they get to the skin. Also, in long hair, if they stay in place for several days, they can do unrepairable damage to the hair shaft. If that happens, shaving may be the best thing to do, but if caught early on, removal is easy, but time consuming.
There are several ways to remove the burrs easily.
I never work on dirty dogs unless there are sandspurs or cockaburs involved! I would rather work on the dog dirty than wet in this case, and this case ONLY. The water makes the spurs swell, making them tighter in the hair than they were to begin with.
Brushes are useless and only manage to push the burrs in further. A wide tooth poodle comb however allows you to work them out easily. This is made even easier by applying a thick, heavy conditioner, like Nature's Specialties Aloe Remo or Kolesteral before combing. This can be done on a dirty dog as long as you are planning on washing afterwards.
I usually use a pair of pliers. YES pliers. Using the pliers to crush the sandspurs will make them easier to remove because it will break the spines of the burrs. When you break the burr up, it will literally fall out of the hair.
I use pliers, then add the conditioner, using as much as it takes to work into the coat, comb, and the sandspurs and cockaburs come right out. Always work from the outside of the burrs in towards the skin. If you start at the skin, you will be pulling through more hair and they can actually get more tangled as a result.
NOW if there are hundreds of the little buggers to deal with, then it might be easier on the pet to shave them off. Usually, if there is a place in the yard or walking area the pet frequents that has them growing, they will simply get more if you leave hair, but if the plants have been eradicated, or it was a trip to the lake or beach that caused the problem, removing them is not a waste of time.
I charge as I would for dematting to remove burrs if there are a lot, but if it takes just a few minutes, I don't. I do tell my clients to watch their dog as the little pieces that stick in your skin can cause infection, and they can be itchy as well. I raise roses and I get scratched and pricked all the time and sandspurs are similar to rose thorns in makeup.
Beggar's Lice are another type of burr, but thankfully they do not have huge spikes, rather they have many many tiny burs on them that stick to hair, clothes, or virtually anything that rubs against the plant. Almost like a magnet, they are attracted to anything but they love dog hair!
They are actually easy to remove, but many people, including owners, prefer to cut the hair off rather than work them out.
These come out easily with a fine tooth comb. It matters not whether you wash the pet first with these types of burrs, but conditioner helps in the removal. They will stay in place during HV drying and will stay in the coat until you pull them out. I work in the same manner as the bigger burrs, from outside in.
These guys are harder to eliminate in the environment, but at least they are less damaging to skin and coats than sandspurs!
On working dogs, like hunters and planatation guide dogs, I like to leave a little bit of hair, about the length of a 5F blade whenever possible, to allow the skin some protection against burrs while in the field. It is a length that while long enough to prevent injury to the skin, the burrs cannot stick in the coat because it is short. I always try to NOT shave out pads on these guys because that will make the pads more vulnerable to the stickers on the burrs. I know you may think that is counterituitive, but hair will trap the burr and prevent it from getting into the skin that would be present in a shaved pad. Most hunters know to check their dogs feet when they are done in the woods.
Same with ears. A bit of hair left on the inside and outside of the ear makes it hard for damage to occur. A shaved ear and ear canal will allow the burrs to come into close contact and even work their way down into the ear. The hair acts as a buffer and prevents damage in most cases. A good hunter will go over their dog after hunting and remove any burrs found. I work with a lot of hunters and this technique works great for all of them.
Foxtails are another problem, and most people suggest shaving dogs pads and the like to prevent them from entering the dogs skin where they can cause terrible infections, but I have no personal experience with these. This is a good article with pictures for those of you who do have these in your area: Foxtails
While we cannot prevent the little and big burrs from attacking our clients and our personal pets, you now have the skills to remove them easily!
Happy de-sandspurring dogs!