The Coat Change…and matting


This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

Any groomer who has been grooming for any length of time has seen it.  It is the cute, fluffy  puppy that the owners bought—usually on impulse—because it is cute and fluffy.  I always ask the new owners if the person who sold or gave them this dog showed them how to brush it.  I tell them the coat is very fine now, but when the dog gets to be about  six months old, more or less, they are going to wake up one morning and the dog will be matted.  It’s a given.  They often want me to give the dog a haircut just because they think the dog needs one.

Why  will the dog mat?  COAT CHANGE: the fine puppy coat will start to become stronger, thicker adult coat.  The puppy coat is very dry,and the cuticle of the hair will be open….and that’s how it starts. The static electricity of living, the cuticle of the hair being open, ‘locking’ into other hair cuticles and closing…. With many Afghan Hounds, you could see the adult coat at the roots of the puppy coat:  the puppy fuzz at the ends of a stronger, thicker shaft adult silk coat.  With some dogs, they suddenly lose a lot of hair—almost like a skin disease, and the new coat grows in.   It happens when the dog reaches sexual maturity (so, if the dog was neutered before reaching sexual maturity, you really don’t know what you are going to end up with—-but usually a blend of puppy  and adult coat).

What causes the matting?  Again….dirt, moisture,  and static electricity.  I cover this in my blog on  getting to a ‘specials’ (show ) coat,  People who want their dogs to have dramatic coats are willing to work through this.  unfortunately,  most pet owners try bargaining, anger, and denial before they reach acceptance.

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Some breeds, like Bedlington Terriers , Maltese, and Afghan Hounds, have very thin skin.  It is really  easy to cut or tear the skin if mats are too close or tight.  Years ago, I had a large number of Old English Sheepdog clients who rarely ever made it out of the coat change. The breeders in my area would keep the pups in coat as long as they could, and when the coat started changing, shaved the dogs down and didn’t show the dogs until they were over  two-years-old (it takes that long to grow a coat back to it’s full length in a large breed).

 

So, how do we deal with this?  When puppy owners come in for first grooms, I usually do a sanitary trim and ‘neaten’ the coat, but I also show them how to brush the dog with a slicker, metal comb, and  my curved rake.  I tell them to enjoy the coat while they can, because the dog will change coats and mat overnight. I tell them the mats will start behind and under the ears, under the chin, between the front legs and in the armpits (another  excellent reason to avoid harnesses…which will cause friction against the  hair and static), around the tail, and at the wrists (hocks and pasterns) and spread from these areas.  I tell them if they just brush over the top and don’t get down to the skin—or wash the dog without brushing it, I will definitely have to shave  the dog. Brush layer by layer….from the skin out….  and I show them what I mean.  I advise against using a thinning shears at this stage, because the short hairs weave into the long hairs (also the reason you get  matted ears when you just  neaten the tips), but to  put the dog on a schedule and if they do nothing else, brush and comb through these specific trouble spots…and if the hair flies around  or they need to wash their hands after brushing the dog…the dog needs a bath.  I advise DILUTING the dog shampoo in a shampoo or dishwashing liquid bottle, and brushing the shampoo through the hair—particularly the trouble spots.

I also tell my clients to develop a system, and start brushing the dog in the same place every time. I  do the back of the back leg and work my way up…I do all ‘four sides’ of the dog’s leg, then the body from the belly/chest up, the front leg, then the other side, and the head last.  About 50% of my clients do this, and have also purchased portable grooming tables or taught their dogs to lie down for brushing.  The rest get what I can possibly do to make the dog look good and not hurt the dog…

More and more, however, people are getting Cotons  or designer dogs like ‘Cavashons’  (Cavalier/Bishon mix),  ‘Shipoos’ (shih Tzu/Poodle mix) or Teddy Bears (a Bichon/Shih Tzu mix),  which have mixes of coat textures.  Good luck to us all.  I’ve had dogs mat up immediately after brushing due to the dryness of the coat and static electricity.  The owners  complain if I clip the dog too short, but won’t do what needs to be done, and sometimes keeping the coat mat free is impossible.  This is not YOUR fault…it is the breeder’s fault.  It is a matter of integrity.

When I started grooming as a teenager, I briefly worked for a hobby breeder, Fredric Mark Alderman, who owned Dynasty Afghan Hounds.  He did not sell an Afghan Hound to a novice owner until they had spent a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you had no idea how long it would take, how much equipment you’d need, or how often it would need to be done.   If, at the end of the day, you decided an Afghan Hound was not for you, no harm, no foul.  His dogs were not going to end up resold, abandoned, or in puppy mills.  From him, I learned it is the responsibility of the breeder to show pet buyers basic coat care.  For some reason (due to the negative marketing by some of the well-intentioned pet rescuers), people think that if they buy a dog from someone who just bred their pet—they didn’t  enrich an evil breeder. I  was  ‘raised’ by fanciers, who led me to believe the owner of the mommy dog—whether that owner  had 1 breedable bitch or 100, was  the BREEDER  and responsible for  screening  puppy buyers and  showing them how to maintain the dog’s coat at home.  They should be held responsible for the dogs they breed, or they are as bad as any  pet store or puppy mill…and I feel the same way about rescues and shelters that don’t address coat care.  I offer to  work with rescue volunteers  placing dog that need  professional grooming.

I realize many of us did not come into the profession  because we  were  fanciers.  I learned techniques and styling from  fanciers, and use what I leaned to  make those  ‘hybrid’ (mixed breed)  ‘designer dogs’ look as good as possible considering their owners  want what they want without putting in the effort.  In doing research, I found 2 national ‘Australian Labradoodle Clubs’ (neither posting coat care information on their websites: http://alaa-labradoodles.com/BreedStandard.html , http://www.australianlabradoodleclub.us/ no breed standard or care information),  A Goldendoodle national registry: http://www.goldendoodleassociation.com/standard.aspx, No Cavashon club ( well, can you call a commercial website for commercial breeders a club?), and in looking for information on Teddy Bears , I came across the maltipoo website, which mostly addresses behavior issues and had NOTHING about grooming. That said…..The Poodle Club of America says NOTHING about grooming at all on their website, and suggests contacting regional clubs for more info on the breed.  The American Shih Tzu club has  several pages on grooming:http://www.americanshihtzuclub.org/grooming_companion.  The American Maltese Association  does address grooming, but it is very general information and might not be that helpful:http://www.americanmaltese.org/service/general-maltese-information ;  the Bichon Frise Club of America has a very good site, with photos of grooming tools.

 

 

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One Response to “The Coat Change…and matting”

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