Why I groom the way I do..


I have worked with a lot of groomers at a lot of different shops, and have been grooming since the late 1960’s.  Since the last century.  I  tell people I learned to groom dogs  when there were  only poodles, and no Force dryers.

I also learned from people who showed dogs and had an eye for a dog.  They tried to teach  their students methods to get the dogs to look like show dogs without the ‘fuss’.  Clipping many breeds is ‘cheating’, but no matter.  So many breeds  became popular and lost popularity  in these many decades. There were no Bichons or Shih Tzu. there were a few Lhasa Apsos, but  people soon learned that not every dog that looks cute, is cute.  I didn’t groom Soft-coated Wheatens until the mid 1970’s, when I worked for foundation breeder Jocelyn Slatin.  We  made up trims for the  non-show dogs.

In any case, I learned to cut off as much hair as you could before bathing a dog, because…why clean and dry hair you intend to cut off?  Now, with more powerful dryers, it  is not such an issue, and I know many grooomers do not want to take a blade or a scissor to a dirty dog.  since I learned  the way I learned,  I cut off hair  before bathing.

I learned to clean ears and cut toenails before  bathing the dog.  The people who taught me told me that if I made a toenail bleed, I could  then wash off the blood and the quick stop, and since I  was taking care of details, it just made sense to clean the dog’s ears before  his toenails were clipped as many dogs would  scratch you if they had an ear infection.  Ear infections were very common when  so many  dog foods contained grain, and we didn’t understand  food allergies or sensitivities.    I was also taught t o do the grooming in the same order every time so I didn’t forget  a task.  That was very good advice, you get distracted, and you forget a whole foot!

The early  concentrated shampoos did not dilute that much.  At the time, nobody knew how shampoo  cleaned unless they had a background in chemistry.  We’d sort of ‘eyeball’ a dilution rate and waste a lot, it was cheap enough, so it didn’t matter.  After learning how shampoo softens water, and that it works by agitation, and because I could never get cocker spaniels dry —because I never could get them clean, I started brushing the shampoo through the hair–especially the ears..  I noticed immediately that my dogs were not only cleaner, they dried faster.  I was removing  surface area as I  brushed the shampoo through the dogs’ hair.  I was also increasing agitation.  Many groomers just keep massaging the shampoo through the coat, and many use a ‘hydrosurge’ or other shampoo delivery system.  If that works for them, that’s fine.  However, I was grooming so many drape coated dogs  I had to develop a system that worked for me.

What about deshedding treatments?  Before they existed,  just brushing the dog in the tub, then using a flea comb or a stripping knife (topping the coat) worked very well for me.  I understand the theory of the deshedding treatments is that the shampoos  include more emollients, which soften the skin and cause the  follicles to release the hair that would be about to shed.  I do use them when people ask for them, but I remind them  that there is no magic;  you  really need to brush the dog with a slicker brush once a week. and  deshedding has to be done very 6—8 weeks.  In fact, id does not good to  brush a dog every day, as you won’t get the dog into a shed cycle.  I can’t imagine when that myth started.  Probably when there were no  proper slicker brushes.

I stopped using creme rinse.  Creme rinse is a humectant, made to attract moisture to the dog’s skin.   Some people think if it as a conditioner, due to marketing, that’s a great idea, but it makes the dog difficult to dry, and it will attract dirt.  I started using a silicone coat polish in the  mid 1970’s.  Now you can get THE Stuff, or Ice on Ice, and  it makes the dog shiny, repels dirt and prevents matting.  I know  many groomers don’t like this, and they’d rather use creme rinse…but why are you using creme rinse on a pit Bull or Labrador Retriever?    That makes no sense.

I still brush long haired dogs dry with a low velocity fluff dryer. I know you can use a force—but if 1 hand is holding the nozzle  & the other hand is holding the brush, and the dog won’t stand still, how good a job will you do, &  if you don’t  brush, you won’t get the same finish.

I continue to  be disappointed  by the number of people who  get a dog because they liked the way it looked, or because they ‘rescued’ the dog, and  are shocked by the expense  of owning a dog. This is the age of the internet. There are no excuses for this type of ignorance, and  it is the responsibility of the person giving you the dog, whether it be the breeder, a broker for a puppy mill (that would be the very cute pet shop ripping you off) or the shelter or rescue, to give you information on food, housebreaking, basic obedience training, and grooming.  How can you say you love dogs when you  aren’t making sure the person who wants a dog understands the commitment?  How ethical is that?  And, if you found the dog & didn’t attempt to find the owner (via a local shelter,  veterinarians, or the police)—still no excuses. There’s plenty of information out there.

If you don’t take care of your dog, no matte what your excuse (we’ve heard them all), I am going to do my best to  treat your dog humanely and make your dog comfortable. You might not like the way it looks, but it is only hair. It will grow back.

Finally, I just have to comment if you  carry your dog in (no leash), or bring your dog in on a harness or prong collar.  You are not  humanely communicating with your dog. Your dog gets cues from you  via the  feeling of the collar on its neck.  You do not have to choke or pinch your dog to get control, and when you allow your dog to pull you, you actually make your dog be in charge of you.  Please take the time to  teach your dog to walk calmly on a leash.  Teach the dog to follow a biscuit, you, or the clicker with praise. Please please please.

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