It has been a very wintery sort of winter here in the north east! Lots of snow and some below-average temperatures. This time of year I find our grooming customers fall into three camps. They will say to us:
1. I don't get my dog groomed at all in the winter, I'd rather have it tangled and warm than groomed and cold.
2. Cut my dog short because the long hair gets all balled up with snow.
3. Please just give my dog a bath, brush-out and light trim, it's cold out.
This is a great opportunity for customer education. One way that coated dogs stay warm is by using the tiny muscles called arrector pili muscles that are at the base of each hair follicle. The muscle pulls the hair up and away from the body in response to the dog feeling cold. In doing this, air is trapped under the fur and works as an insulator against cold. This works very well, UNLESS THE PET IS MATTED. A matted coat is unable to lift and fluff properly when the dog is cold, so the insulating system is rendered inefficient. Add to that the fact that tangles trap and hold moisture and you can see where a long, matted coat not only does not keep a dog warm, it can actually cause it be chilled!
When I first moved to Maine after living in the mid south for many years, I was very suprised that some customers wanted thier dogs coat clipped short in the winter. Then one day it clicked when a customer said, "Honey,she only goes outside long enough to potty, and she wears a coat then!" In harsh climates, if a dog is not exposed to the great outdoors for more than a few moments at a time, a short hair cut is perfectly appropriate.
The third option is an excellent one for the customer, the dog and the groomer. Having the dogs maintain their regular grooming schedule keeps them clean and de-tangled,maintains nail length and a shorter trim in the spring gets the dog back to its normal haircut. Some customers are actually surprised to hear that their dog can come in just for a bath/fluff/trim to maintain cleanliness and coat condition. We make sure to remind customers of this as fall and winter approach. Regular visits are good for us, as groomers, because it maintains our regular income and prevents us from having quite so many matted dogs that need a long, hard session with a 7F blade when spring comes!