Posts Tagged ‘dog grooming’

Does a Dog Really Need Coat Conditioner?

April 14, 2017

Jennie, a Soft-coatd Wheaten Terrier, needed more than a bath.

I was  going to address this topic from a different perspective, but I’ve had this debate with a couple of dog groomers whom I respect. They insist on using coat conditioner/creme rinse on all dogs.  I do not…and here’s why:

  1.  Coat ‘conditioner’—what is it?  it is  a product to seal moisture into the coat.  While it’s true some dogs desperately need this…it just makes the dog harder to dry;
  2. Why would a  smooth coated dog  like a Lab or Pit Bull need conditioner?   By the time the cuticle  separates due to being too dry, the hair has shed out.   If your shampoo is mild enough—and these days  all shampoos have ‘conditioners’ or ‘softeners’ in their formulas,  you are just going to  rinse it all off. What most of these dogs actually need is a skin conditioner—which can be applied and left on after the bath;
  3.   If you are going to say that it’s to seal the cuticle of the coat—& that is what I want a conditioner to do—–I  usually put on a leave-in conditioner—or a coat polish…during my drying process. Saves time, saves the product.

Too many of us fall for the marketing.   Advertisers are still promoting copious  shampoo lather. Lather is SALT—sodium:  it dries your skin and hair, and can make you itchy. Same for the dog.  Lather is not good. I want my shampoo to lather up just enough so I know I have it on the dog, and I can see the dog needs rinsing…and that’s the problem with conditioner:  it’s difficult to rinse out.  You leave  it on a dark dog—and you see film.  The dog is not only not clean, it will attract more dirt. That makes no sense.

If you doubt your shampoo has conditioner, do this:  get either Murphy Oil   soap or Dr. Bronner’s. Both are Castile soaps. They are soaps—no conditioner.  You will feel the difference not just on your hands, but on the dog, Using these product  once in a while will not hurt the dog.  Dr. Barbara Royal, the holistic veterinarian, sometimes suggests these soaps for dogs that have an extreme reaction to sodium. These are great for  after the beach, or a field trial quick bath—but so is Listerine!

All that said, conditioner is necessary to seal the cuticle of the hair and  calm the skin.  I work  in a kennel where some dog owners are  eccentric. Whenever their dog comes in for daycare,  at the end of the day, they want the dog bathed.  I use an extremely mild shampoo.  It is not a great ‘cleaner’—but it will get the stink off and not irritate the dog’s skin if used every day.  What is the ‘conditioner’ in the shampoo?  I have no idea—some sort of fatty acids, or cetyl alcohol. Just enough to not irritate the dog’s skin, but leave the hair soft.

What dogs do need conditioners? dogs with very dry coats.  However,  even if the coat is dry, and you want to seal the coat cuticle, you don’t want to SOFTEN the coat, or that will actually make it worse. That’s why you want to know that the product you are using will do what you want it to do. That involves experimentation.  I know this, because I groom Coton de Tulear… all in specials coat.

You can not imagine a coat more dry than that of a Coton (except, of course, the  designer Shih Tzu mixes bred for the  consumer market).  They are very  affected by static. The cuticle opens up if the dog runs on carpet…or merely turns around. This is especially true when the dogs are puppies going through a coat change.  the breeder and I,  with the expert advice of her (AKC professional) handler, have  used several different products.  sometimes, the dogs are  bathed more often than once a week.  The owners have taken up the carpets  and put in wood floors, and their furniture is leather.  Nothing helps…and these dogs have the ideal coat texture for  Cotons.  What  chance does a pet owner have to keep a Coton in coat? Virtually none. the breeders suggest  having the dogs trimmed down like Bichons.

Also, a  few words about deshedding treatments….  I am bringing this up because  they way they are formulated if used according to manufacturers ‘ instructions—-can be great deep conditioning treatments.  The reason for this is that they are formulated with  Vitamin E, and meant to be left on the dog’s skin for  five to 10 minutes, and make the skin more supple.  Then, you leave the conditioner on for  a few minutes as well.  By making the skin more supple,  it causes the hair about to shed out, to loosen.  It will not make a dog loose coat if the dog is not losing coat, but it will coat  every hair and  you can see the results.

Taking Care of a Dog for Extra Income

August 5, 2016
Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

There are several companies that do this now.   It could be a good way to make money.  They advertise nationally, and are always looking for dog care givers.

Before you jump in, let me tell you some  stories…

  1.  Friend who traveled for work left his dog with a family many times.  This was years ago, before cell phones. Finally, the dog got out.  At least he had a collar with a rabies tag. The police picked the dog up, and tried calling my friend, but he was out of town, so  wasn’t listening to his  answering machine (this was before voice mail).  He got home, called the people who  were supposed to have his dog, and they told him the dog got out. They had his  contact info, and never  bothered to call him.  This dog was 1 day away from being euthanized;
  2. An acquaintance was doing this for a living, Didn’t ‘believe in crating’.  Took a dog out for a walk, left a large Shepherd type dog sleeping.  A  small dog went up to the sleeping dog & barked at the Shepherd. the Shepherd bit the small dog, who lost an eye;
  3. Friend was doing this in her home.  During the interview with the client, she sort of noticed that  the client REWARDED both Pugs with a treat every time they barked at him.  He left, and  she had these barking dogs all weekend. They never shut up;
  4.  Acquaintance who actually bred the dog, knew she was nervous, but had her loose in the house while boarding her for the owner.    Breeder’s husband came in and the dog ran out the door as he was coming in. They never found the dog.
  5. I agreed to take care of a client’s  dog.  I didn’t think she’d be much trouble, until I realized she would not urinate or defecate in the yard. She had to be walked.  This would not have been  problem, except that she was large, strong, and after every bunny and squirrel…and barked at strangers.

If you  don’t have any pets and work from home, and have a secured fenced area to let dogs out, or don’t mind walking a dog or two—and are strong enough to handle any size dog, none of this matters.  If you DO have other pets, don’t have a secured yard, and aren’t used to being  in control of a dog, this might be more than you signed on for.

It’s good to get the veterinarian’s contact info (as well as ‘next-of-kin’ for the dog’s owners), info  if they have pet insurance, a big deposit if they don’t.  You may be able to  find sample contracts on line—but you want details spelled out.  You’ve got to have home owners, and liability insurance (many policies won’t cover damage or loss of life). Most care givers ask owners to bring their own food supply (in fact, many boarding kennels do this now).  You absolutely have to have your pets—& the boarder, meet on NEUTRAL TERRITORY and walk in together…at least the  greeting.  You will have  ‘4 more feet of dog’.  It’s not going to be a party.

****

I am thinking of moving the  dog blogs all to another  blog:  “Married to the Hair.”  I’ve about said everything I’ve been wanting to say about dogs, and I’ve been blogging very steadily for four years.  Time  to consider other  ways to express myself.

I got a Long haired dog…now what?

July 22, 2016

I am very  concerned about the number of people who  impulsively get a non-shed dog with no clue  as to how they  are going to take care of it, or even if they can afford  to own it!

I see people post on Craigslist that they are looking for a Shih Tzu (or another small long haired dog…or even a Bulldog), but they don’t have a fortune to spend.

I want to own a Scottish Deerhound, but you could not buy a pup for under $5000, and adults never go into rescue.  There’s a lot of stuff I want but can’t afford.   I guess Americans  feel that because they want something, they should have it, and others should accommodate their wants.

Thus, I spend a lot of time  showing people how to brush their  dogs. I show them the proper  brushing technique. I explain why dogs get matted. I show them my tools (various brushes & combs).  I explain on how to to make the task easier, and explain that, at least for small dogs, it should not take more than  5 minutes a week.  Even if they  grow the coat as  long as it will get naturally, it should not take 10 minutes.  The Afghans  take me about 1/2 hour.  However….now that I know what I am doing, I have them  come in every  two to three weeks, and it usually takes me  90 minutes to bathe & brush out the dog.

I looked up videos on YouTube.

What I don’t like about this  1 is that he starts at the top.  This is fine if you are brushing a dog wet, but I think it could be a bit confusing.

What I don’t like about this 1 is that she uses a pin brush.  Good luck. it will just bounce over the matts, and  the pin matts will not be touched. Also, it’s really hard to see the line brushing part.

I currently work for a hobby breeder who raises Cotons. This video would not be bad, but again, it’s difficult to see what she is actually doing.

Neat,huh?  I have no idea what this contraption is. I have never seen  it.  This won’t help at all!

God bless this groomer—but there is no reason  to do this.  Your dog comes in matted every week? I am shaving your dog. There is no humane way to  ‘dematt’ this dog without pulling the hair and hurting it.

The groomer is using an Oster Rake.  I use 1. It’s very good.  In fact, the Top Performance  rakes that PetEdge sells are cheaper & just as good.  But Jun, the groomer, is not showing  us how to line brush the dog & prevent it from becoming a holy mess in the first place!~

So, I am trying to find a videographer to help me make a video of  how you actually line brush a dog, what tools you use, and why you do it the way I am showing you.

 

Career Goals? or Maybe Bucket List

July 1, 2016
Fahs and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

Dash and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

A prospective  employer asked, after I had told him I had titled  dogs in obedience, rally, lure coursing and conformation, had published in the  pet industry,and  won and placed in grooming contests…what my career goals are.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived overseas…in  Africa.   I, with  a few others, got  household recycling instituted in Chicago.  I’ve sold my art.  I would like to continue to compete in rally and obedience…and lure coursing if I acquire a young enough dog. Frankly, I’ve met my career goals.  I keep thinking of selling the house (due to property taxes) and buying a small kennel. Again, it is a ‘quality of life’ issue.

I currently work  for a business where the people are nice, for the  most part, but the set up for grooming is less than ideal.  I can live with that, but there are some irritants that cause me to keep my eyes open for a better situation.  The commute, while not terrible, is long.  One of the employees  does little things  to sabotage my work and make my day longer. They  continue to  put stressed out boarding dogs in my work area, and we have a very high ‘no-show’ rate  for grooming.  I don’t really have an ally or advocate at work.

I love  the job tasks of grooming dogs, but I am getting too old to put up with  confusion and pettiness.

I don’t know if this is a career goal, but if I had a husband to  keep me  in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed, I’d go to the American Whippet Club and Saluki Club of America  specialties every year.  So many great dog activities, and fellow dog lovers.

I’d travel more.  I haven’t really been to Europe yet (except for stop overs),  or Costa Rico  or Panama, and I still have a lot to see in southeast Asia.

I’d volunteer more with  few groups I support.  I’d continue to work with dogs.  I’d get together with friends more.  There’s not much different I would do.

“Keeping Our Boat Afloat”—or the end of the Purebred Dog Fancy

June 24, 2016
My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

Two Northern Illinois Kennel Clubs are  sponsoring a  round table discussion about how to keep the sport of  showing dogs (I believe this would include performance) active and viable.  The session will be held Saturday, July16, after Best in Show  at Blackhawk KC.

I will not attend, because I don’t have  a dog to show. Actually, I have  one dog in Rally (and one of the clubs has no performance events), but I am glad others are as concerned as I am.

Purebred dogs are in trouble. Even discounting the physiological problems of the  brachycephalic dogs,  many breeds do not have viable gene pools.

I was going to start this rant another way, but two occurences shocked me into having to address perceptions.

I compete in Rally, with  a purebred dog.  I noticed that mixed breed dogs are listed in the catalogs as “ALL AMERICAN DOG”.  Does that mean that the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Coonhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are NOT “ALL AMERICAN DOGS”?  Why aren’t mixed breed dog listed as either ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’? What genius thought up this slap in the face to the fancy?

I often respond to posts  on Craigslist from people looking for specific breeds (I also flag sellers…no animal sales or breeding are allowed on Craigslist—it is to rehome older pets, but this is a great example of ‘the law of the commons’ and people having no integrity).  A girl was looking for an Australian Shepherd.  I responded that, since no animal sales or breeding are allowed on CL, that she should contact  the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and be put in touch with hobby breeders.  I also told her that, since ethical hobby breeders take their dogs back (and no puppy sales are allowed on CL), that the only responses she’d get would be from commercial breeders or scammers. She responded to ME that U didn’t know what I was talking about, that she had done plenty of research, and would not buy from a breeder because they only breed for money.  I  responded that she was mistaken, that hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed and  do genetic testing, and where did she think purebred dogs come from, if not breeders?  She told me she knew what she was doing & to mind my own business.

So…my fellow dog purebred dog fanciers….so much for the AKC marketing, “Buy from a breeder,” as this has clearly backfired.  The  conventional wisdom is that we inbreed dogs for looks, and don’t care about soundness (yet, the designer dog breeders and their “F1 crosses” seems to make a lot of sense to those buyers who believe that crossing  two breeds eliminates genetic defects).

I have been ‘active’ in the fancy, on and off, since the late 1960s.  My  first  ‘show dog’ was an Afghan, or, rather, I should say he had a great pedigree, but  he wasn’t really show quality, and, as my parents weren’t really interested, nobody mentored me.  I went to the New York School of Dog Grooming, rather than college, because I knew I wanted to work with dogs.  I was taught by Don Doessel, who actually got Louis  and Seme Auslander started in Miniature Schnauzer.  I was later mentored by a dog groomer who learned to groom Bedlingtons from  Charlie Praeger, and Airedales from Mareth Kipp.  I have worked on and off for Dale Miller (Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers), and  for Jocelyn Slatin (Jamboree Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers).  I was a member of the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago in the 1970s, and really promoted the idea of rescue and breeders taking responsibility for all the dogs they breed, but I was ridiculed, so I dropped my membership.  It was all for the best.  Having Afghan Hounds, I realized there were very few good pet homes for long haired dogs, and I wasn’t going to be wealthy enough to have enough property or time to support a breeding habit.  & who wanted to associate with people who felt that once they sold a dog, their responsibility ended?  I know that  the ‘culture’ varies from breed to breed….but this is how puppy mills get dogs of your breeding:  buyer can’t  keep dog, you don’t take dog back, commercial breeder (Hunte Corp?) gets dog, & the rest is history….

It  just got to the point that I knew, if I wanted to retire with any level or  economic security, I could not afford to campaign a dog.  Where did I get my wacky ideas? From the breeders I worked for. In fact, Fred Alderman, of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: If  you had never owned an Afghan  and wanted one of his dog, you had to spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to sell you a dog & later hear you didn’t know how much time it would take, or the equipment you would need, or how often it needed to be done.  If—after a day of grooming, you didn’t want an Afghan…no harm, no foul.  Yet, how many   ‘ethical hobby breeders’ even  tell a pet buyer what kind of brush to buy?  Or say anything about obedience training being a must?

I’ve helped a few breeders grade puppies, and judged a couple of matches, but the AKC  has no use for me. They’d  rather support a puppy mill breeder as a judge than a non-breeder who knows the standards and can interpret them.  Why?  You know why:  the  whole thing is about registering puppies.

&–what is a puppy mill?  There is a lot of disagreement on this, but—-to me—it is the breeder  breeding dogs without a thought to bettering the breed.  It doesn’t matter if they have one bitch or  1,000.  If you are not breeding for the betterment of the breed, you are part of the pet surplus problem.

I ultimately did  go to college, and I ended up with a master’s in public policy.  BFD.  I’ve also titled dogs in conformation (a Saluki whom the breeder didn’t think was show quality finished in  fewer than 10 shows), obedience (an Afghan  and a Whippet both nationally ranked), rally, and  lure coursing.  I, too, am THE FANCY.

Why is the fancy in trouble?

  1.  There is no longer a middle class.    When I started  showing dogs, as a teenager, ‘land rents ‘ were much lower.  Housing, for middle class people, was 20—25% of their take home pay.  Now, 35% is considered average.  Don’t get me started on  health care or energy costs.  You need an expendable income to be ‘in dogs’, so  how many people can afford to keep even  four breedable bitches?  & you notice, their children are not  becoming breeders;
  2. There is a huge disconnect between  fanciers and veterinarians.  Yes, some fanciers are veterinarians, but, as a dog groomer, I have worked for several animal hospitals where not  one veterinarian was a fancier. They  disrespected the fact that  many  dogs had grain sensitivities—and it is now a major segment of the pet industry.   that was us!  Us dog lovers, talking to each other at  conformation classes and shows!  We developed grain-free & specialty  dog foods—not veterinarians! They  don’t  suggest pet owners  check for  discoverable  genetic problems  before breeding their dogs, and they are the reason  people switched from dog collars to harnesses and flexis (god forbid they’d suggest—-training).  One practice I worked for  actively partnered with puppy mill outlets.  So—-why  do fanciers continue to  support veterinarians who don’t understand or respect them?
  3.   Our marketing is for shit.  Due to our integrity, we’ve supported research into genetic defects.  This is not purebred dogs—this is DOMESTIC dogs.  Yet, veterinarians will not disabuse  pet owners of the idea that  designer dogs are not HYBRIDS.  Now, for every purebred Poodle I groom, I groom over 100 designer dogs:  Doodles, Shipoos, Maltapoos, Cavashons, Bernadoodles…and Pomskys.  Pomskys!  Why not a Keeshond or Norwegian Elkhound?  & people are paying more for the mixed breeds than they would a purebred.  I  was attending   a specialty show of a breed, and at the same location. I walked into another  specialty  of another breed, just  to watch…and several people asked me what I was doing there or if I was lost!  This  was a breed I had considered owning, no more!  Also, th public doesn’t understand that most of our dogs are house pets!
  4.  We have allowed naive  ‘humane activists’ to  own and define the rhetoric. Open admissions shelters would not have to be high-kill if the ‘No-kill’ were honest.  & when you buy dogs from commercial breeders, it is not rescue.  I consider myself a humane activist, but I do not support rescues that disrespect hobby breeders.  Our dogs are not the ones that end up in animal shelters….but the only way to  prove this is to push for—on a state level–mandatory chipping of dogs & cats with the breeder’s contact info.    This could easily be done by contacting anyone who posts puppies or kittens for sale on Craigslist, EBay, or any media.  & it can be done by encouraging people to become volunteer humane inspectors.  When  the do-gooders who support  shelter pets  shout, “Adopt, don’t shop!”  they are letting all the backyard breeders off the hook—and they are the ones causing the pet surplus.  You can find them on Craigslist any day.
  5.   We do a poor job of policing ourselves.  We  all know of hobby breeders whose yards are a mess, who  don’t sell pups with contracts or  explain what grooming tools or methods are needed for the puppies they sell…and who won’t take a dog they bred back.  Remember, the Obamas got  their  two Porties who had been returned to their breeders.  When they got Porties, for once, we didn’t see a flood of Porties hitting the market. Why?  the PWD  breeders saw what happened to  other breeds, and closely hold them….and  follow through. They also explain this to pet buyers.  The culture varies from breed to breed.  I am a Saluki and Whippet fancier, and  all  our breeders (who are not mentally deranged) take their dogs back—no matter how old.  Yet, I’ve been told, that for every Shiba Inu or  Basenji that is AKC registered, statistically, one goes into rescue.

So, what can we do to save the fancy?

  1.  Everyone has to be on the same page.  You have to have all your puppies on contract to be   co-owned until neutered or titled, and you  better be sure you have  the funds to  enforce a legal contract.  & if you can’t  find good homes, and know you can be selling to renters, or  people who really don’t have the time or funds to take care of a dog (or who you know plan to give your puppies as gifts), YOU are the problem.
  2.   Dog show entry fees are outrageously expensive. There was a time that I’d enter  both conformation and obedience.  Not any more.  &—the biggest insult—that Rally is considered an ‘overlay’ event with a totally different entry fee—is offensive.  Because other clubs do  it is  a terrible reason—and this is what is preventing people from  showing their dogs (even if they did have some extra cash).
  3.   Your club must sponsor events to get the public involved.  Ask a local pet shop manager if you can set up a table on weekends and do  information on various breeds and activities.  This is  how you can inform regular folks  about  what  ethical breeders do.  See the following suggestion—-pet  fanciers of your breeds  are the best marketing.
  4.   Show some respect for people like me—who are not breeders—but fanciers and pet buyers!  The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is now made up almost entirely of pet owners not showing dogs!  That’s right!  Sure, some people still race, and lure course, but of our paid up members,  I’ve been told only  one is a breeder.  Yet, we know  we have to support  hobby breeders.  In fact, the American Whippet Club events  always  attract a lot of pet owners.  We have  agility, obedience, rally, classes for spayed/neutered dogs, a parade of rescues as well as champions, and  do major  fund raising for our national networked rescue efforts.
  5. Your matches should be sweepstakes.  In fact, what’s up with an entry fee being $27, but someone offering $10 for Winner’s dog or bitch? What kind of sense does that make?   Here’s an idea:  encourage  exhibitors to bring items for a bazaar.  For every class win, give a  ticket, for Winners  and Best of Breed, etc, give more tickets, and allow people to choose their own prizes to commemorate the win!
  6. It’s time to demand that  dogs be genetically tested before they are bred. To not test, and then state you have never had a problem, is disingenuous.
  7.  The AKC needs to be confronted on how they spend out money. Who cares if those puppy mill dogs go to another registry? So what? They are not a part of our gene pools!  To stop printing the Gazette, and go in favor of licensing products (harnesses—really?  Only sled dogs and guide dogs should wear harnesses!)  Yet,  not  branding of martingales—the best collar for most pet dogs…what’s up with that? Do they even know anything about safe dog handling? It’s really a slap in the face to us all.  The AKC would not even need to change anything. All they would have to do  is do what it says on their  registration papers:  no 3rd party selling.  I can’t think of any greater disrespect to the fancy than this.  I saw in a dog magazine that someone thought the AKC should get all  money collected for entrance fees & dole it out to us. Really? The foxes guarding the henhouse haven’t done enough damage?  I have to wonder if these old white men are all just field trial people who don’t have a personal relationship with any dog!  But what are our delegates doing in New York?
  8. . I suggest every fancier get a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” which is a great treatment of how ideas become conventional wisdom.

Where do I get Good Dog Grooming Instructions?

June 10, 2016
Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Purebred Bedlington.

I am on a number of Facebook feeds aimed at  dog groomers.  Novice groomers, who have either been trained by vocational schools or by the major pet chains, are always  posting that they have a (name a breed) coming in, and they have never groomed one. What should they do?  My gut reaction is to tell the dog owner they never have groomed their breed.  Then, what often happens is that the groomer does a horrible job because she  either doesn’t have the sense to look up  information on-line and/or her scissoring really IS generic. It makes all of us groomers look like we have no integrity, and integrity is so important.

I was  ‘lucky’ to start grooming dogs as a teenager, when  everyone involved in the grooming industry was a groomer showing dogs, or training for competition.  Competition means  setting goals and being judged by your peers.  Thus, there were plenty of  people to learn from.  Charlie Praeger, who originated the Groom-Rite brand (the first portable tables and stand dog  hair dryers) taught my boss how to broom Bedlington Terriers.  I  then went to work for a woman whose mother (Edith Tisch) raised Bedlingtons , and sent HER to Jack Funk to learn Bedlingtons.  This was a coincidence, and  from  that experience, I determined that Bedlingtons Terriers were probably not my breed.  However, I learned to groom Bedlingtons and met other terrier  exhibitors and learned the nuances of the other terrier breeds.  I  worked for Airedale and Soft -coated Wheaten Terrier breeder Jocelyn Slatin,  and, in the early 1970s,  many of our  grooming clients came from over 30 miles away because they didn’t want their Airedales  looking like Miniature Schnauzers.  One  of my clients gave me a ‘Terrier Type” (magazine) filled with photos of Scotties. another gave me a grooming chart for Wheatens.  I managed to collect a lot of grooming information from the parent clubs, and I observed exhibitors  preparing their dogs for competition at dog shows.  By watching breed judging I saw what exhibitors saw as their best.  After judging, I’d ask  exhibitors for tips on grooming their breeds.   There are  several  good grooming books available.  Everyone should have a copy of Melissa ver Plank’s , Notes From the Grooming Table, as it can be very helpful if you have a general  idea in your mind’s eye, but  just don’t know how to get there. I also have a copy of Eileen Geeson’s Ultimate Dog Grooming.  This is generally a good book, but we have so many better tools now than when she wrote the book, and  she  uses a pin brush where most of us would use a slicker.  The  best thing about this book is that is  gives information on a lot of rare breeds.

In the past several years, I’ve had my integrity questioned by  groomers with a lot less  experience than I have, and by dog owners and business owners who seem to think that if I don’t automatically assume  the  pet owner wants the dog as short as possible (i.e.: shaved), I am not giving  good value.  I find this particularly true regarding  Pomeranians and designer dogs.  Many of these people have  gone to a pet store chain for grooming and gotten back a shaved dog (even though the dog was not matted), and I’ve had to explain that if they want this, I will do it, but that I was taught to  do what is best for the dog.

What follows are some links from  parent club websites.  Actually,  all the information is rudimentary.  It’s best to be mentored by fanciers who really love their breeds.

Grooming

http://www.lagottous.com/Grooming (not much specific info here….but maybe for the best!)

http://www.bedlingtonamerica.com/grooming/index.htm

http://www.puliclub.org/GroomingGuide1993Bowley.pdf

A Very Sad State of Affairs in the Pet Industry

May 27, 2016

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I’ve been told I should not ‘name names’ as it is preventing me from getting jobs….but since I am near  retirement…well…if you are in the metro Chicago area and are looking to board your  dog, contact me, first. There are some good kennels, run by dog lovers who’ve bothered to learn about animal behavior (dog behavior, specifically), and train dogs.  Unfortunately, many   dog kennels are  owned or managed by people  who have had management experienced, have owned a pet dog, and know NOTHING about dog behavior or what causes stress or injury. They don’t care to learn, either.

I have a friend, a past co-worker, who  took a job at a facility  on the north side  of Chicago. in fact, the owners, two men who  own a pet dog, and got tired of what they were doing (and had the capital), offered me a grooming job right before I went on vacation…to start upon my return.  While I was gone, they fired a groomer who was about to leave on her own, and immediately hired another ‘groomer’…because they couldn’t wait for me.  Why not? Well, obviously, neither guy  knew how to brush or bathe a dog, so they needed someone’s labor to make money.

I was  a bit disappointed, but not too disappointed.  They really needed more equipment, and I knew they knew nothing about dogs. This always frightens me because they also hire people to work for them who know nothing about dogs.  Yes, that’s right.  These guys, the owners, don’t want to actually  be in the room with the dogs themselves, all day. No, they want to own a ‘dog business’.

So it happened they hired my friend, who does act with integrity, and  she  found that they allowed another employee to put an electronic shock collar  on a dog (maybe more than 1).  Now, if  a person has a pack of dogs, and introduces a new dog to the pack, and  there is a fight, the new dog is not allowed to enter the pack.    That is, people with integrity know this. The people who want to make money  who won’t refuse a dog, apparently shock it.

Not all day care facilities do this.  Many use a water spray bottle (or pistol) to spray a dog  looking funny at another dog.  But face it:  the odds of a fight breaking out when you have more than 3 ‘unrelated’ (meaning living in the same household) dogs together is high.  Of course,an intact dog increases the odds, but  neutering is not a panacea.

So, my friend quit, and it looks like I dodged a bullet.  However, since, again, the  people I work for   just  three days a week don’t have enough work  for me to make a living, I have to keep looking for more work.  What I am finding is a lot of businesses  owned by people who want to own a pet business….and don’t want direct contact with dogs. they don’t want

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.

to be in a room all day with dogs.
They have never trained a dog and proudly let everyone know how spoiled their own dogs are.  They do not invest in  equipment, and want you to overcome the laws of physics, and they also  don’t want you to form a relationship with THEIR clients.

You shouldn’t choose a pet car business just because the location is convenient, but I guess anyone who thinks their dog gets exercise  just because they pay for ‘dog daycare’ is kidding themselves.  Most dogs go home tired from stress, not from  actual exercise.

I have an acquaintance who is trying to change this:  she offers  training of kennel personnel, and seminars, but this will not solve the problem of people in the pet industry  making money  off pets, but  not caring enough to work directly with them.

Careful! He Bites!

April 29, 2016

If you are a dog groomer, you’ve heard these words.  Thankfully, most dog owners are honest.  Some, however,  try to sugar coat  the message:  “He can be nippy…”

We’re talking pet dogs here.  Most dogs don’t just bite: they bite for a reason. Usually, it’s because the dog is in pain or is afraid of something.  If I can figure out why the dog bites, I can avoid irritating the dog, and we are all safer.  Who are the BITERS?   Generally, they are not Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, or Germans Shepherds…. mostly, they are small dogs.  Oh, sure, after over 40 years of putting  myself in harms way, I’ve been confronted by some  really untrustworthy Rottweilers, even  scared Germans Shepherd Dogs.  Mostly, though, the biters are small.  Usually they are terriers, but not always.    Most have come from backyard or commercial breeders, not hobby breeders.  Some have been hurt, but most are spoiled:  they have been rewarded for bad behavior.  For some reason, many pet owner are in denial about how dangerous a biting dog can be.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Most  domestic dogs have a bite inhibition.  Most dogs. Some have  neurological aberrations, but this is rare.  I had a very smart client who had large dogs, and she got a Yorkie. She said, “Never allow a small dog to do something you wouldn’t allow a large dog to do.”  She was right. It is not cute that the little darling pipsqueak acts ferocious. It’s dangerous.  Worse, because they do LOOK CUTE, some innocent idiot who really thinks that all dogs who look cute,are cute…is going to get bitten.

There are many things I know about dog body language and  display behavior.  Dogs do not like to be patted on the head (they’d mostly prefer to be patted on the side).  How many people  think their dog was abused because he cringes when you reach over his head?  That’s instinct…and some of these people refuse to believe a dog does not like to be patted on the head.  Dogs don’t like to be hugged, for the most part.

Most dogs don’t like to be carried. When their feet are not on a solid surface, they feel very insecure. And…they certainly don’t want to be on their backs—exposed and vulnerable—yet how many of our clients carry their dogs that way—and then attempt to hand them to you?  That’s another thing.  Dogs don’t like to be handed off—-especially not by their owner  to someone who might have made them do something they did not want to do (like behave themselves!).

I try to get all my clients to bring their dogs  to me on collars and leashes (& please–no Flexis).  I can  generally tell when a dog is fearful, and unsure.  I have to gain his confidence by showing him that I respect him, his space, and  what bothers him.  Many  hate being picked up.  In this case, I either lower the table so the dog can jump on, or I  make the leash taut to be able to pick the dog up without him being able to turn and bite me.  Many feels secure in a crate and don’t  want to come out. Yes, we know—it can be dangerous to leave  a leash on in a crate. The dog can become tangled. Sometimes, however, you have to  do this (leave it  dandling over the top of the door), so you don’t have to reach in, but can gently pull the dog out.  &, it is safer for all to  have control over the dog this way, rather than chasing the dog around.   THAT is never good.

Many HATE having their  feet messed with.  Where I work (at an animal hospital), unfortunately, for some reason, all the vet techs have been taught to lay the dog on the floor, strong arm the dog, and scare the dog when they cut the nails. Then I get the poor dog.  I would NEVER make a dog feel vulnerable on purpose.  I guess the vet techs feel that because they’ve gone to college (or have a certificate), that their way is the right way.  I know there are more humane ways of doing this.

basket muzzles come in sizes 1---10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

basket muzzles come in sizes 1—10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

Some dogs don’t like being brushed and will throw a hissy fit.  This can be overcome, but not if the owner isn’t committed.  We can’t do magic.  I have gotten severely matted dogs which I’ve had to shave, and started from ‘scratch’, and got those dogs to lay down while I  brushed their hair.  It can be done.

It is in my best interest to  reassure a dog and convince the dog that I am not going to hurt him.  However, if the dog’s owners are going to make excuses for bad behavior, I have no  problem charging extra for ‘special needs’.  I use  plastic ‘wire’ (we use them for dog racing) basket muzzles on the dogs I can’t convince to keep their teeth in their mouths. They can still open their mouths to pant (so they won’t panic and overheat), and they can still drink water through a basket muzzle.

If we say we love dogs, we have to learn to understand them.  Not only are there  some very good books with illustrations of dog behavior, you  learn this when you work with dogs and are mentored by more experienced dog professionals.  This is what separates us from the  business owner whose only experience with dogs is having owned or walked pet dogs.  It’s a little more complicated, but not so much if you really want  to understand dogs.

Don’t Make Her Look Like Anything (or, the ‘Puppy Trim’)

April 1, 2016

Jennie, a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, needed more than a bath.

When I learned to groom dogs, in the late 1960’s, virtually every dog that came into a grooming shop was a Poodle.  Most of the other breeds that were popular at the time (Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkies) went back to their breeders for grooming.  Or, if the shop was owned by a hobby breeder or dog show handler, we saw those breeds.

It was so rare to see a badly matted dog when I started grooming, because  the breeders made it very clear to pet lovers  what they had to do, how often the dog would need professional grooming, and there  was  no other option, You  did what you had to do.

When did things change?  Well,  hobby breeders assumed that everyone buying a pet had integrity, and, if you  sold a dog as a pet, it would not be bred.  It just took a few unethical people who wanted to ‘make their investment back’, and  that’s how it started.  These pet breeders did not consider themselves breeders ( they still don’t) and did not pay any of that knowledge forward.  They did not give  housebreaking, feeding, or grooming instructions.

It took  probably another 20 years or so before ethical hobby breeders started selling pets either on co-ownership of with a contract stipulating that the pet was to be neutered–or at least not bred.  This is why you don’t see the  more rare breeds in shelters or  pet shops:  the breeders hold them close.  With many breeds, you will never see an ad for puppies for sale anywhere. So, how do you find them?  Through the  breed parent clubs.  You have to network.  & this is why, after the Obamas got Bo, their Portuguese Water Dog, the market wasn’t inundated with Porties.  The breeders made sure that nobody who wasn’t concerned about the future of the breed got a breedable dog.

When I started grooming, there were no  Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Bichons, or Shih Tzu.  No Cavalier King Charles Spaniels , no cockapoos, no Doodles.  By the time I had been grooming over 20 years, these were the dominant dogs in my grooming shop…and it got to the point that I rarely saw a purebred Poodle.  I bought a client base from a groomer who had a reputation for  grooming  drape coated dogs and Wheatens, and at  one time, I had over 40  clients with Wheatens.  I had maybe  two clients who wanted their Wheatens to look like Wheatens, but most didn’t like the forelock.  They didn’t want  their  dogs to look like the breed they were.

Why did these people get Wheatens?  They didn’t want a poodle, because they heard they were too high strung.  However, they didn’t know enough about dogs, and to  think that a Wheaten would be less high strung  (meaning nervous, hyper active, noisy), was, to me, just  bizarre.  The  the other factors were that Wheaton were  not too big, not too small, and didn’t shed.

Jennie, after a hair vut. Sh's a Soft-coated Wheaten, would yu know it?

Jennie, after a hair cut. She’s a Soft-coated Wheaten, would you know it?

Dog groomers  know that the only official  puppy trim is for the Poodle. Everything else is basically cut off hair.  No style…unless the groomer decides to make it a style.    This (photo on the left)  is my default puppy trim.  Depending on how large the dog is (as I want to keep everything in proportion), and what kind of shape the dog’s hair is in (because  people ask for this haircut because they don’t want to brush the dog), I will  use a #4 on the body, and a #0 on the legs.  I always try to make the legs a bit longer so the dog does not look shaved.  When it comes to the head, I will set the length with an ‘A’ attachment, and scissor it shorter, often using a thinning shears to blend and make the  dog look more natural.  I  generally only lightly scissor the tail,and I never leave a skirt.  When we groomers started out,  every  dog that was not a poodle got a sort of  cocker spaniel trim, with the  ‘saddle’ (most of the body) trimmed short, with a long skirt.  I can’t think of any trim more impractical than leaving a skirt on a dog that is not going to be brushed until the next time we see it. But….as an apprentice groomer,  I dematted a lot of dogs with skirts. Why?  The grooming shop owners—the main groomers, weren’t doing the dematting. WE were.  Then, their clients got used to it, and of course they liked it. Then, when dogs were to badly matted, many groomers started leaving ‘false skirts’—where the chest was hollowed out, and there was long hair on the sides.  Another  stupid idea….because the short hairs  wove into the long hairs. That skirt, no matter how ‘false’, was always a mess.  Your client wants the skirt? Fine. Tell them to either brush the dog, or the dog has to come in once a week for bath & brush out.  I used to let them go for 2 weeks, but I found that the dog was  too messed up and matted after that long an interval. Would Jennie (on the left) look better with  longer hair on her legs?  Yes, she would.  However, her owner has  MS, and  he has to hire a dog walker to help him, as he is mostly paralyzed. So, I did the practical thing, and at least she’s not shaved.

A Corporation Comes Calling

March 25, 2016
You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I wanted  to blog about something else this week, but I got contacted by  a recruiter who had seen my resume on an internet site.  Now, he thinks he needs another dog groomer at the business he manages (for the corporation), but when I asked him how far ahead his groomers were  booked….he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

I told him—straight out—that his corporation had fired me for doing what his manager told me to do, and I doubted his corporation would allow him to hire me even part-time.  It was though he was not listening to what I was saying.  I also told him that if I worked part-time, I knew I would not make commission, and he ignored that, too.  He out and out told me I had to work weekends to make commission, and I told him I  was showing my dogs in  performance. Then, the conversation switched to  the fact that he also needed to hire a dog trainer, and blah blah blah…long story short, once I built up my classes, i would make $20 an hour.

I told him  that I wanted to go to classes myself, so that would not work. Then he told me about another location, close to where I live, that needed a grooming manager, as they had no groomer at all.

I know these guys answer to corporate. Corporate sets the prices you can charge.  That’s only  part of it.  There  is nothing to prevent them from hiring more people than needed so nobody makes commission, and their base pay is $12 an hour. Even some Walmarts are now paying that for non-skilled workers, so how can anyone think that’s fair?  Because you don’t need a college degree?  What is it that causes so many of them to re-arrange their policies and still disrespect the people making them money?

But I’ve also gotten religion in these past several years,  having worked at pet shops selling animals.  I  want to ask, between the time you order  guinea pigs, gerbils, mice and bunnies (never mind the herps and birds) and the time they get to the  shop floor, how many die of stress  or injuries, and what happens to the unsold animals?  Are they children of a lesser God?  Deserving less concern?  Do I want to  work for a corporation that exists on the premise that they are selling  love, but don’t really care if pet animals are mistreated?

I was in Viet Nam a few years ago. Communist country, right?  We’ve told ourselves so many lies about Viet Nam, but what I witnesses was that so many people were entrepreneurs.  So many. I am sure there are factories in Viet Nam, but in so many cities, what I saw were  so many vendors.  They sold cloth, and notions, and clothing,  dishes, cookware, electronics, had little tearooms,  restaurants, herbal stores,beauty salons…. whatever.  I’m sure  very few of them were making any real money, but they had cell phones, and TVs…and their time was their own.  That’s so important.  They didn’t have bosses telling them to do crazy stuff, belittling them, and lying about it.  This is why groomers have said, “Take this job and shove it.”  They make less on their own, but their time is their own.

Until the corporations start treating their groomers and dog trainers at least as good as they treat all the people making rules for them…and paying them justly, they are going to continue to beg for groomers, and keep training people who don’t have a clue, don’t have an aesthetic eye,  or don’t have any interest in animal behavior.  What a business model!