Our Groom_TNT@yahoogroups email groomers’ group is having a discussion about which methods of drying produce the best results. Is it necessary to have a stand dryer? Is cage drying a four-letter word? Let’s take a look at drying methods through the eyes of an old veteran groomer who has been around since the Dark Ages. That would be me!
A Little History: In The Beginning, there were dryers on stands with arms, known as "stand dryers" or “arm dryers.” Dogs with scissored coats were meticulously dried with the arm dryer blowing air while the coat was brushed and stretched. The arm of a stand dryer can be moved to target a specific area for straightening. The groomer’s hands are free to work with the dog and the hair. The air of the stand dryer is heated by a heating element in the arm, which often has a control, and the air volume can also be adjusted. It took a lot of time to dry dogs this way, but produced a gorgeous result, with the coat separated and straightened to the max. In the salon where I apprenticed, we dried most dogs this way, including the owner’s Standard Poodles in show continental trims. THAT could take hours!
The Revolution Began: The 1980’s saw the emergence of a new option that came from the livestock barn: forced-air drying with a high-velocity (HV) dryer. One or two small reverse vacuum motors are used to blow air through a hose and nozzle to force the water off the coat, and stretch the hair by flattening it to the skin. This method of drying caught on immediately, as it offered considerable savings in time. It was great for thick, double coats, such as Bernese Mountain Dog or Rough-Coated Collies, as the forced air removes the undercoat. The forced-air drying greatly reduced the physical effort of brushing and raking and quickly became the choice for "deshedding" tasks. The old method of thoroughly brushing and combing the dog before the bath became obsolete. Working on a clean coat is much healthier for the groomer.
Groomers gradually learned to apply the techniques of high-velocity drying to more and more of the drying tasks in the commercial salon; so much so, that some now regard the stand dryer as a dinosaur, a thing of the past. Some grooming schools no longer teach the techniques involving stand dryers, and train students to use only forced-air drying with a little brushing to straighten coats. Many new groomers not only want the forced-air option, they search for the dryer with the most force.
Are HV dryers better for the hair? It can be argued that drying with high-velocity air is not as damaging to the hair as the constant brushing to stretch the hair under the arm dryer. We know that brushing causes wear and tear to the hair cuticle, stretching the wet hair can cause breakage, and the application of heat can be brutal to hair. However, some of these same concerns also apply to our method of forced-air drying. HV drying can whip the ends of hair, causing dreadful knots. Also, if natural wind is a factor in the weathering of hair, is not the powerful air of the high-velocity dryer having similar adverse effect? Some of our high-velocity dryers put out high heat. I don’t think we can give the forced air plus brushing method a total pass in the coat damage department.
What’s the best way? I knew you would ask! Personally, I like to keep all options on the table. (grooming table joke!). Certainly, forced-air dryers are the most efficient. However, they tend to be loud, and some dogs are very uncomfortable with the air pressure or the noise. I have no doubt that there are groomers who have mastered the use of HV dryer and brushing and can achieve a perfectly acceptable fluff-dry result. The key to straightening with an HV dryer, imho, is that there must be enough force placed on the hair while it is straightening. In any form of drying, forced-air or stand dryer, the hair must be stretched before it is thoroughly dry. Brushing the coat while still damp can provide this key element when using the forced-air dryer.
Standing by the stand dryer: Although I use a stand dryer for a small portion of my overall drying, I have not been able to wean myself entirely from the arm dryer. I still perceive a noticeable difference in some coats that are finished the last bit of the way with brushing the hair under the air (stretch-drying). The hands-free aspect of the stand dryer is important to me. Also, I like having the option of the gentler air of the arm dryer for puppies, old dogs and others who have issues. I also will use passive drying with these individuals. (See next article) At my second table, where I do not have room for a stand dryer, I use the Chris Christensen
Hold-a-Hose. This has a flexible arm with a cradle to hold the HV dryer hose (or a hand-held dryer) and gives a hand-free advantage without the huge footprint of the stand dryer. Warning: Cheap clamp style third arms are a waste of money. Look for a device that has a cradle with bungee cords to hold the hose.
Speaking for myself: In my own practice, I have a shifting standard of expectation. I consider myself an advanced stylist offering excellent grooming. However, I often accommodate the needs of the moment and don’t try for a “ring perfect” grooming for every animal. I try to achieve the best possible result with the coat, temperament and behavior I encounter on the grooming table. The client's expectations and the available time are other important factors. I compromise a lot with older animals or dogs that have issues. I like being flexible in preparing a dog's coat. I use a combination of forced air drying and brushing, brushing under the arm dryer, and passive drying with fans. Rarely do I use the stand dryer for a full fluff-dry as I was taught. Nowadays, I use the force dryer much more than even ten years ago. I teach students to use the force dryer first, and only reach for the arm dryer for the last bit of straightening, or for ears and face work. I challenge myself constantly to see if I can get as good or a better result with a different combination of methods. My experience is that coat preparation is more a matter of commitment to excellence than any particular equipment or method of drying. Here are some examples of my work that illustrate my fluff drying results:
For more information on drying, you might be interested in an article I wrote for Pet Age magazine on the science of drying as applied to pet grooming. Here's a link.