Styling Tips & Techniques

Monitoring HV Dryer Temperature

Just a friendly reminder for those groomers who are aware of the growing amount of burns and related injuries and pet deaths involving heated kennel dryers.
It should not be overlooked that we need to also be careful with how we are using our high velocity dryers with pets as well. Aside from needing to be careful around bodily orifices as well as the eyes and ears and mouth of a pet we also need to pay attention to how hot the air is upon the surface of the skin while you are drying. It is important to remember that if your heated air hurts against your skin, it definitely is hurting the pet. Be sure to sweep over the pet thoroughly and never leave the flow of air up close to the skin for very long.  
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I am not saying anything against any certain company in particular but I happen to have a ChallengeAir dryer that I ran this test on, and this is the temperature recording for the airflow after only five minutes. Very commonly we are using our dryers on a pet for over 15 minutes by the time they are completely dry. That means the temperature reading here after that length of time, could be even higher. Some dryers get even hotter than this.
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Please note that Dr. Mueller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology medical book states clearly that early-stage burning can happen at as little as 110°F. Use your high velocity dryers wisely!
 
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As well, always remember to monitor the ambient air temperature of your drying room. In addition to very warm air, having a high amount of humidity in the air creates a breathing and overheating risk quite quickly. Anything above 80F calls for a break to allow the pet and air within the room to cool. Keep your eyes on the pet for panting, wanting to lay down, or drooling as some of the first signs that nausea and imbalance can be present, which are part of the early stages of heat stroke.
Always offer a warm pet a drink of tepid water (not cold).

Grooming The Lagotto Romagnolo

Paging through the breed by breed grooming entries here on PetGroomer.com, I noticed there were no entries on grooming the Lagotto. I happened to have one in the salon for grooming, so I thought I would share the basic grooming needed for this breed.

 

Lagotto 5

Some brief history on this breed:

The Lagotto Romagnolo [laˈɡɔtto romaɲˈɲɔlo] is a breed of dog that comes from the Romagna sub-region of Italy. The name means "lake dog from Romagna," originating from the Italian word lago, meaning lake. Its traditional function is a gundog, specifically a water retriever. However, it is often used to hunt for truffles.

 

Some photos of Lagottos

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Lagottos come in a variety of colors

Lagotto 1

This dog in physical character largely resembles the Portuguese Water Dog, but it is smaller in stature, and its coat is left much more rustic than the Portie. In fact, a coat containing matts is accepted in the show ring and by most educated Lagotto owners as part of their true coat characteristics. Of course, in the grooming salon, leaving matts in a coat is a big no-no. So, as groomers, we have the unusual task of completely grooming the dog, and then getting it to actually look quite UNgroomed as a final step before it is considered finished.

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Normally a nicely scissored and plush looking trim on a curly coated pet is what we are trying to achieve and what the owner would envision. But on a coat which is to be kept rustic or natural and not altered looking, as groomers we have to go over the dog as a final step and re-wet and hand squeeze the coat and then allow it to air dry to re-introduce the "marcelle" and the curl back into it. The stick straight results wanted for a Poodle's coat is not what you are going for. And the marcelling or natural wave desired in the jacket coat of a Kerry Blue Terrier is close to what you want to achieve, but the final trim on a Lagotto should be even much more curly, touseled and untidy. Doing this totally goes outside many of the comfort zones that most groomers find easy to turn a dog out as finished, and indeed, overcoming the final look of any tailored characteristic can prove surprisingly difficult.

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To begin on a pet dog, we must thoroughly wash the pet and carefully remove any deep solid matting from the coat to be sure the pet's skin is healthy beneath, and that the coat does not inhibit free physical movement. Before the bath I recommend removing only the matting that is so solid that you feel you cannot penetrate it with shampoo and water and result in the hair within the mat being clean. Leave the rest of any webbing or matting until after the bathing session for two reasons:

1. Doing so likely will cause coat damage

2. The coat has a natural ability through its genetic texture and density, to easily blow out loose matting and webbing during the HV drying session. This is easier on the dog and yourself to allow your equipment and topicals to loosen & remove what you would otherwise be relying on your hands and arms to manually do.

Once the coat is clean, completely dry and lofty, use a pin brush and comb to separate the coat nicely. If you use a slicker, be sure to use either a flexible head slicker, or a very soft touch and a pat & pull method.

Thoroughly clipper I wide sanitary trim on the groin of the dog, trim out the underarm area of the front legs, and clip well around the rectum.  Trim out the hair around the ear opening and where the ear rests on the side of the head to allow for plenty of air flow to the ear canal. And trim the pads nice and tight.

 

From here, based on the requested length the owner wanted, choose your blade or comb attachment length and clip the entire dog both body and legs into the same length. This breed calls for columnal shaped legs, but also uniform coat length over the entire dog with exception of the head. And with as active as these dogs are, minimal leg coat will prove in the best interest of everyone.

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Once the body and leg coat is fully clippered, go around the feet and shape them into soft round bevels, and be sure that the pads and perimeter of each paw is scissored tidy and tight.

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From here be sure that the tail is scissored into its characteristic *carrot shape*. There should be no plume or flag on the underside of the tail per breed standard. For this dog, I scissored the entire tail, but you can also use a longer clip comp attachment if the tail hair is nicely dense.

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 From there we move to the dog's head, which is finally the place where you can utilize your scissoring skills.

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The breed calls for a round head and ears, and a muzzle with coat but in slightly shorter length than the hair on the head and cheeks.  It also calls for a round head where the ear hair doesn't extend past the length of the nose nor the cheek line. So you are trying to achieve a relatively round head similar to the Portie but with true circular shape instead of the slightly flat shape required of the top of the Portie head.

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To achieve this, I first clippered tightly the throat area and behind the line of the jaw to get this messy area short and even, and to add length to the neck. From there I scissored the head and across the tops of the ears, sides of the ckeeks, and then shaped the bottom of each each to blend it in with the sides of the head. And finally, I stretched the lower lips and scissored the flew tight and then thinnered across the stop area of each eye and around the eye to open the view of the eyes. You should be able t easily se the eyes of these dogs, but there should still be a slight awning of natural hair that sits across the brow so the "deer in the headlights" expression is avoided. This owner also requested that the beard be left longer than usual so you will notice that doing so creates more of a bell shaped head. Ideally, the head should be fully round and similar to a Cockapoo or teddy bear head expression.

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From there, as a final finishing step to the groom, I re-wet the dog's entire body and leg coat with a thorough misting of plain water and squeezed the water into the coat with my hands, and then put the dog into the kennel under a fan to allow it to finish by air drying. Remember to allow yourself extra time at the end of the groom to provide this finishing step and still get the dog back to its owner fully dried.  

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It is important to not use heavy coat conditioning sprays on this breed that will be left on between grooming visits because typically they are not groomed as often, and their guard coat to undercoat ratio coupled with the density of their coat and the type of natural oils their skin produces, proves to be adequate for what they need and you don't want a heavy conditioner left in the coat.

Happy Grooming!

 

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Help For Hematomas

A tip for newer groomers:
If you're combing or brushing on a dog's hair and you're pulling at it when you hit a snarl or matting, etc., aside from the damage you're likely doing to the hair, you're also possibly damaging every layer of the skin and also the connective tissue over the muscle which lies beneath the skin.


If you feel a "pop" or a "crack" come from the skin while you're tugging, you're pulling *way* too hard.


I saw on a message board someone mentioned this and I know they just didn't realize what they were doing, but this can be very serious and such an injury is easily avoidable.


Underneath the final layer of muscle there is an layer of tissue called the epimysium and then a thin layer of "fat", nerves and fine capillaries,etc.
Beneath that there is a very thin fascial membrane layer. Beneath that there is bone. If you're a meat eater then you know what the fascia looks like already. It lays in between each bundle of muscle and is translucent and color often giving off a prism effect when viewed under direct light. You will also see multiple layers of this type of tissue occurring around joints, ligaments and tendons in weight-bearing areas, and working as connective tissue.


When groomers tug too hard on matted ears and cause swelling of the ears, edema, or bleeding around the edges of the ears, that's exactly the same thing that happens.


In the photo below you can see just how many veins and capillaries run through that the ear leather of the dog. It's easy to see why extremities such as this bleed so badly when they are cut.

Ear 1

A hematoma and petechial hemorrhaging is what usually develops in the case of hearing that "pop' or 'crack" sound when you're pulling too hard with your tools. It's basically a forceful separation between the fascia and the cartilage layers of the ear which fills with fluid and blood. This is similar to a blood blister. This can happen from pulling on an ear too hard and causing breakage of the cartilage or can happen when the pet shakes its head excessively as well.


The matting around the edges of an ear will slowly pull the skin beneath it tight to where it's not receiving normal blood circulation and even nerve damage can happen.
When you cut back the matted hair, there is a sudden resurgence of blood circulation to the fine capillaries. This causes a tingling, itching or burning, which in turn will often cause the dog to shake its head.


This is when the fascia damage occurs, and when that separation between the layers of tissue is made, it fills with fluid. These hematomas or fluid filled sacks rarely will go down on their own if large enough; they usually have to have a needle aspiration done in order to remove the fluid and sometimes that has to be done repeatedly.

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To help lessen the chance of developing a hematoma on a matted ear:
Warn the owner ahead of time that you have found the mats and they must be removed carefully in order to not damage the ear. Let them know that brushing them out if they're too tight is not an option. I have found with some owners if I part the hair and show them the mat, and even actually have them feel it, their buy-in comes quite easily. You may also at this time want them to sign a matted pet release form.
I recommend removing the matting of the ears first, so that you have as much time as possible with the dog in the salon to see what their response will be.
Carefully lay the ear flat in your hand and clip with a shorter blade outward towards the edge of the year in a fanning pattern so that you're working from the center of the ear outward towards the edge and never along it.

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You can choose as needed to completely clip down the ear into a lamb style, or you can lift up the matted hair away from the edges of the ear and just shave around the perimeter & the underside of the ear as shown below. This will leave you with a fall of ear tassel hair that will still look pretty nice although it will be thin.

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Ear 3

Ear 4

Remember to tell the owners in the case where you leave shorter hair on the ears with longer hair over the top that they must be diligent with brushing as the short hair beneath grows out in length. Shorter hair beneath longer hair in any terms of dematting will usually end up matted again as the shorter hair brushes against the longer strands and catches in it. As well, if you damage the ends of the short hair which is left behind, the damaged ends will be fragmented and very easily grab onto the hair around it; knotting it up. In most cases it is just best to get all the hair off the same length at one time.


~In other cases there can be a solid mat with free flowing hair all around it. In that case I will go to my thinner shear and take a couple of strokes through the mat at the perimeter of the ear as also shown below, and then carefully brush the rest of the ear out~

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Once you've carefully clipped off the hair from the topside and the underside of the ear leather, I recommend elevating the ears up and over the back of the head and holding them there with a Happy Hoodie or something of the like that will hold them in place but not squeeze them too hard.
Elevating the ears above the level of the heart, and up over the top of the head will bring them to the highest point. This will help to slow the resurgence of blood flow and hopefully lessen the tingling.

Ear 6

Ear 8

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You can also use vet wrap or other rolled guaze to achieve the same type of wrap, but with a bit more steps as shown below.

Ear wrap chart

photo courtesy: https://basc.org.uk/gundogs/gundog-advice/bandaging-part-1/


Leave the ears up over the top of the head while you do whatever remaining pre-bath grooming which needs to be done. In the bath carefully remove the Happy Hoodie or wrap and be sure that you're using cool to tepid water to wash the years and do not scrub them too deeply. Remember the idea here is that you're working with irritated tissue and you don't want to exacerbate the problem.


Monitor the dog during the duration of its stay, and be sure to go over the issue with the owner when they return. I recommend showing them what you've done,explaining the precautions, and letting them know to keep an eye out at home for headshaking and scratching. I also recommend if they do find the dog scratching at their ears, that they let me know right away.


Just some insight into what happens on the skin in these situations and why it's so important not to pull too hard just in order to leave a little longer hair. Never cause harm or pain in order to save hair. :)


The Society of Holistic Pet Stylists

A long time ago I began to feel that I was different.

Be nice! LOL

But seriously, I have always been a little different in my thinking, my outlook on most things, and especially I felt different in that I could never force myself to stay at a job for very long if I wasn't happy doing it. I struggled with leaving things at the door, with doing tasks that I felt didn't have lasting result, with feeling lost in a sea of faces, and most of all with just taking my paycheck and writing the rest off.

But luckily, I eventually found grooming.

Gratefully, I have been able to do a job that I love, and for that it rarely feels like work.

When I began grooming, I noticed right away that everyone worked just a bit differently, and that was rooted deeply in their general personality traits.

I groomed over the years with many, MANY different types of people, but I learned most of all about MYSELF.

I learned what I liked, what I couldn't tolerate, my strengths and weaknesses, to challenge myself to always think outside the box, and to never fear trying something different. I learned more about myself from the dogs I groomed each day than any other aspect of my grooming experiences. How I groomed began to define a very large part of who I was as a person. And to this day, it still does.

It is in honor of the time I've spent just pondering and watching the pets I groom, of the previously unimaginable awe of a pet's unconditional love I have come to know, and of all the wonders an animal can bring to your life, that I still find myself so passionate and overflowing with joy that I find in grooming.

In honor of the lessons I have learned, of how "different" I am so happy to be, that I have worked so hard to try to encourage other groomers and animal lovers to NEVER ignore that little voice inside themselves, and to ALWAYS follow your curiousities... that I have worked to form a new and wonderful association for groomers that may have also always felt "a little different".

Of these honors, I am very grateful and happy to announce,

The Society Of Holistic Pet Stylists.

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Our new society promises to be like nothing our industry has ever seen, a breath of fresh air, and a place for all stylists to come together to learn and share and forever change our industry through doing great things.

Together with Mary Oquendo, Barbara Bird, Daryl Connor, Lori Gulling, Sue Palmer and Melissa Jepson, we are creating an entirely new learning format and an entirely new opportunity in skill sets for the grooming industry.

Please visit our website for more information, or contact me directly with your interest!

www.HolisticPetStylists.com or www.HolisticDogGroomers.com

 

 

 


Those Cuddly Fluffy Terriers!

 

As I wrote before, don't get bogged down in frustration or being overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do to get a groom to look its best. Why not instead seize those opportunities and take what you know, and find a way to overcome? Remaining proactive will get you much more accomplished and help you realize that most usually, with a little creativity, anything is possible!

I wanted to share some information that can help stylists and groomers to better achieve great groom outcomes even with less than ideal upkeep or appointment rotations in the salon. Options for us to make our clients happy, and to keep our workload down while maintaining efficiency.

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So, right off the bat, let's tackle how to address one of the hardest types of coat to keep up in the salon atmosphere: the Terrier coat.

Anyone who spends any time grooming dogs knows that any one breed's standard dictates the trimstyle and coat upkeep needed on their breed to bring out its truest type. But, as a steadfast rule, genetics and breed lineage determine the quality of coat and the palette of attributes we as groomers have to work with to create the best possible groom. 

All of those things aside however, the final say is always left up to the wishes and the genuine ability of the pet's owner in terms of their at home upkeep and their devotion in priority, and financial ability of keeping a regular rotation of dedicated grooming visits. In no way can we as a groomer bridge that final gap that sometimes exists between what we know to be correct for the dog and its breed, versus the decisions and methods we have to mold our practices around for the client dog when factoring in the actual care the pet gets from its owner.

It is very important to take proper care of terrier skin and coat in order to keep texture, layers and color visible year round. We all know that if terriers are not kept up depending on their genetic coat growth cycles, that you end up with a lackluster, overgrown, soft coat that is not indicative of a terrier at all. Therein lies the problem; you can't cheat on terrier coats. You can't cut actively growing hair off with a clipper, right along with the dead hair sitting within the same follicle. What happens when you do that, is that you back up the follicle with dead coat and this allows less & less new coat to come in. As less new, actively growing coat doesn't have room to come in, and the dead coat isn't removed from its place in the follicle, you inevitably end up with fluffy, soft, dull, dead coated terriers.

We also know that a lot of times your terrier owners in the pet salon cannot or will not commit to a two, three or four-week regular rotation you need in order to keep coats true. So what can we do his pet groomers that is both time effective and profitable in the grooming salon atmosphere as well as helps to maintain skin and coat on these breeds that grow & shed or "turn coat over" quickly, and keep clients happy?

We need to utilize the next best options as much as we can to get the most out of the coat growth phases while providing the methods of care such hair coat still needs to look its best. Those options come in the form of clearing out all of the dead hair coat, removing built up oils and dander from the skin, flushing out the hair follicles, and then using our hands and tools in a method that mimics the handstripping that these breeds require for upkeep. All the while, doing this within a time frame that keeps us efficient. And as a final measure towards a happy groomer AND a happy client, we need to PRICE our services properly to reflect the fat that we are playing a game of catch up at every visit. This is a skill greatly unrealize by many groomers.

Take it from me, until you decide to charge more for a difficult groom, nothing will make you feel better about having a dog coming in that you know will be a mess. That is, unless you've added tools to your arsenal that help you groom easier, and seal the deal by charging more for your hard work.

Below is an Irish terrier who only comes in every 8 to 10 weeks. Yes, 8-10 weeks. Believe me, you'll see what I'm saying when you see the before photo...

Genetically, I know this terrier needs a dedicated weekly stripping rotation on average to keep the undercoat down, and the harsh guard coat in all its fast shedding glory. This means that weekly, a person should be putting in about an hour or so of solid pulling of dead secondary coat and dead and dying guard coat to keep the skin debrided, and the coat colored, tight, and tailored true to its breed.
I have found that with a lot of salon clients that cannot keep up a tight grooming rotation schedule, or those that say they don't like their dogs short and tight coated or "naked", that these methods below are able to effectively bridge the gap between reality and being a groomer that delivers.


You and I know full well that if we don't give a client what they're asking for, they're just going to get it somewhere else. Obviously we need to educate and take the time to create a repoir with each client in the best interest of the dog that were grooming, but in the end if we don't give them what they want I'll just go elsewhere to get it. That doesn't help the dog and it doesn't help your sales revenue.


At times like that I groom the dog to the best of my ability and knowledge, and I keep a smile on my face the whole time I'm discussing with clients what is that they'd like to have their dog turn out like. Knowing full well that in the end I will do what I have to do to get them what they want as well as best caring for the dogs coat within my own a professional ability, but always without losing my profit margin.

Our first job as a groomer is always to remove dead and un-needed hair and dirt so that the healthy skin and coat can shine through. We are the housekeepers of coat.

To this effect, I always tackle every coat on my terriers with rakes, carding knives, a stone, a stiff bristle brush, and my hands, before even putting them into the tub. Working the coat with its natural oils present helps you to not irritate the skin by working it, and it helps you to be less likely to accidentally break coat when doing your initial raking and carding if you're working with very long tangled coat, or still mastering your terrier skills.


After working thoroughly through the coat in these stages below, the dog goes into the bath and receives a good benzoyl peroxide to or other follicular flushing shampoo. I do not use clarifying shampoo is in the salon on these coats as they are most usually overdrying and will put the skin into overdrive to create an abundance of oils in order to rehydrate. This can cause excesive oiliness at their next visit. I do not use terrier or texturizing shampoos which deposit a sealant on the coat that increases texture. Texturizing shampoos left on the coat for any length of time will most definitely cause breakage. As well I do not apply heavy cream conditioners on most any of my terriers with exception sometimes to long furnishings. Instead I opt for a light spray on conditioner put onto the coat as a final step just to add light moisture but nothing that will attract dirt.

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This is our terrier; in all her fluffy glory- ready for her initial coat removal before her bath.

First I use my coat rakes to rake through the coat in multiple steps. I begin with my coarse rake going over the entire dog to pull out the last layer of dead, long hair- working in layers- including the furnishings; but working carefully on the legs with any coat removal tool that has sharp tines. Next I move to my fine rake and repeat the thorough going over of the dog from the neck all along the jacket area. I do not fine rake the leg furnishings or the chest or side coat of any terrier as that would be asking for breakage.

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After that I move to my carding knives. I start with my coarse carding knife and then move to my fine carding knife, working in each step completely through the coat of the dog with exception to the head and leg furnishings.

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I work with a flat knife, or laying the knife flat gainst the skin at all times. I never turn my wrist or fingers as that will stand the knive on its teeth and most usually abrade the skin and/or break coat.

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This cycle always results in another pile of dead coat.

Finally, I work through the entire coat- including the furnishings and beard- with a final brushing with either a stiff bristle brush or palm pad, or a very soft flexible style slicker such as Les Poochs or my newest favorite tool- the ActiVet brush pictured below and available from Groomer's Helper.

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This final cycle of fine brushing pulls a little more oils up & out of the skin and gets the last it of hair ready to exit the coat.

Lastly, I do my handstripping work to pull out coat that needs a little direct attention to get out.
The head and leg furnishings I also always pull my hand, because you'll find with breakage of finer hairs that these areas and that since these hairs grow and then shed the fastest, that they also lose their texture and color the fastest, as well as flatwork areas of coat (areas where the hair naturally grows in shorter & must be kept tighter such as the head, cheeks, throat and butterfly or inner thigh areas).

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After a complete cycle of raking followed by a complete cycle of carding knives, I go through the jacket coat and roll it loosely between my fingers pulling out only the longest and most ready to shed hairs within the coat. You can use powder for this step, but it is not necessary.

After the jacket pull, I quickly pull the head & beard hair down as needed by hand including as much of the ear hair as they will allow. It is important regardless of whether or not you're leaving more coat on your pet terrier than what he should by breed standard have, to at least nail the head profile on these dogs so that they still look like a terrier in the end.

After all of the dead coat is removed, we have a dog that's pulled pretty well down.

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Next its into the tub, and a then a thorough HV drying with the growth of coat to set the lay of coat. Setting the lay of coat with your dryer will help create a tighter profile in the end. You cannot allow a dog to kennel dry in order to help *marcelle* or keep natural wave to the coat, but I have found that with these pet dogs actively drying the coat helps to remove every bit of dead hair and is incremental as a part to keeping the coats free of dead coat for a longer grooming rotation.


After the HV drying, I work through the coat again in the same stages repeated over the entire dog, which goes much faster as most all of the hair is already out.  

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From there I do the clippering portion of the groom to tighten everything up. I use a skip tooth blade of my desired length depending on what the owner has asked for. With this dog I chose a #4S (Skip) tooth blade. With this blade I skim loosely over the coat to tighten everything and make sure that there are no moth-eaten (uneveness caused by areas of blown coat) areas in the coat to the best of my ability. After the clipper work on the jacket and neck area of the dog, and doing the sani areas and feet tight with my clipper.

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Terriers are diggers and tight feet will always help with mess!

From there, I tidy up and finish the headpiece on the dog and hand pull anything needed on the leg furnishings and the tail in the sensitive areas. I also will flat re-clipper the throat latch mark outs and the butterfly area on the back of the dog as well as the inner ear of the dog nice and tight and the flu needs to be cleaned up as well.

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If a client says that they want their dog "fluffy",  and some do- I will help reintroduce some curl to the coat as a final step. To do this, I apply a light leave in or terrier coat conditioning spray and lightly dampen the jacket & neck coat with a spritz of distilled water. Then I softly squeeze the coat throughout the length of the dog. This is a technique known as marcelling for breeds like Kerryblue Terriers. It's purpose for pet grooming is to reintroduce the soft curls and a separation to the coat that the owners find appealing to keeping them curly and soft looking. (And yes, some terrier people want a fluffy cuddly looking dog just as much as some Poodle owners are adamant of not having a "poodly-looking" Poodle). From there they go into the crate to finish under a low setting fan to get them completely dry or to air dry depending on their length of visit.

This is the end result, and another reminder photo of what we started out with!

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Here are several other terriers who also get the same method of care!

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The Pet Schnauzer

Augie is a 3 year old, black, Miniature Schauzer.  He was discovered along with 4 litter mates in a box along side of the road, tails & ears docked & dewclaws removed...

Someone had no idea what they'd be missing.  Since grooming him from just a little pup, he has grown into a beautiful and very intelligent young man. 

Augie has a quite hard but thin coat, his furnishings are thin but his coat & skin are quite healthy.

Clippering in the pattern:

Augie Nov 2010

 

 

 


Dipping Your Feet in Color!!

Its all the rage to create nicely flaired legs with pretty colored
cuffs! The colors go from soft and muted and gradiate to a deep and rich
 band of color at the foot- making the foot or leg look as if it was
dipped into some color.


From light and soft 2010114182491

                                                      To bold and bright 20101311944291

This look is not hard to accomplish. And since I am just now getting into some
coloring and creative grooming- this was one of the neatest techniques
that caught my eye. I decided to give it a try. It took less than one
hour even with set up and clean up!


Creating a Beveled Foot

Some readers may say, "What's the big deal?" about knowing how to properly set in bevels on a groom.  So, that's the purpose of this article- not to just show you how, but to explain WHY such a simple procedure is important to every groom and every dog.

Aside from the how to-s of this, I want to explain a little more first on why each great groom is the sum of its parts. Without one thing, other parts may falter, so it is important to have an understanding that each thing touches the next, and so on- akin to the domino effect.

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According to breed standards, many breeds of dog are desired to have a nicely round and tight foot, or to be viewed in their profile to be "up on toe".  A well created bevel will make your dog look as if it is "floating" just above the surface of wherever it is standing, and this creates definite "presence" to any groom!

*A dog with healthy foot composition and structural mechanics that relate to the entire conformation of a dog, will be viewed in a more positive light whether you know what to look for when taking in a dog or not.*

So, how does this relate to us in the grooming salon?

More often than not, we as skilled stylists have the ability to create that nice tight foot, correct foot placement and most importantly- a foundational element of a balanced groom just by using the coat our client has to work with and our capable eye. And, more often than not, the pets that come to us for grooming can benefit greatly from our ability to perform fault grooming and to really have a knack for the tricks that create a beautiful signature groom.

The Foot is the Foundation of a Groom

When standing back and looking over a freshly groomed dog, where does it all begin?

Our eye should be drawn toward the center of the pet's profile. However, anything that is out of proportion or unbalanced will pull our eye away from the overall symmetry of a dog and detract from the fluidity that we view the entire animal. This creates a less than desirable look for the dog, and a less than pleasing groom as well.  Sometimes, we cannot quite put our finger on what it is, other times when standing back, we can easily see where the groom fell apart.

Almost always- it has to do with one of three things- proportion, balance (or symmetry) and angulation.

These are three incredibly important words, for every single groomer. From a new groomer in school, to a groomer working every day in a salon, to a competition groomer, to the top competing show dog groomer. 

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Angulation: The precise measurement of angles.

Balance: A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.

OR

Symmetry: Correct or pleasing proportion of the parts of a thing.

Proportion: A relationship between quantities such that if one varies then another varies in a manner dependent on the first...Agreeable or harmonious relation of parts within a whole; balance or symmetry.

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Fundamentally every groom and breed profile relies on each of those attributes to define itself as aesthetically pleasing and mechanically sound. 

So always think about those things each and every time that critique your grooms. 

A Solid Foundation

The groom begins, where the dog begins,,, at the feet.

By starting your groom correctly from the ground up, you are setting yourself up for a better outcome.

If a dog's feet are too full, too large or they look like a pancake, that will travel right on up the leg, across the entire groom, and leave you with a dog that looks chubby, frumpy, and needs to be shorter all over.  This means that by setting the length of a foot, you are also setting the length of the entire groom as much as you are with any other length of clip you do on the other parts of the dog.

Normally, The very FIRST thing I do is to set in the front (chest and neck) and the back (point of rump to bend of stifle) on every groom that  I do. This allows me to see the overall length of the dog that I am working with so that I can correctly judge the center of the dog where the eye should be drawn to- typically this sets just behind the last, (or 13th or floating) rib of a dog. And this allows me to adjust every other piece of the groom in accordance with that central point based on all that I have to work with per the conformation and coat of the dog.

So what does this have to do with the feet?

Well, what do I do next on every groom?

I set in the feet.

Prepwork is POWER.

I have said it so many times that it sounds like a self help guru's slogan, but it is the truth. No one can create a beautiful groom on a dog that is not properly prepped.

Properly cleaned and dried and conditioned coat, properly trimmed nails, cleanly trimmed pads and well trimmed sanitary area are all foundational to a good groom- even a shave down!

~But let's stay on course & stick to the feet. Be sure that your pet's nails are trimmed as close as they safely can be. This will help keep the circumference of the foot as small and compact as possible. Also be sure that the pads are cleanly trimmed without cutting into the coat around the paw so that you have all of that to work with for creating your bevel. Another reason that I trim the pads first is so that I can clearly view the foot shape in case there is a missing, misshapen or superfluous digit that needs to be hidden with more hair.

 

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Hind leg first:

 Next you will want to comb all of the hair on the foot so that it is tangle free and well lofted or standing well up from the skin.

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  Now trim all of the hair that falls past the bottom of the foot-

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 So that is looks similar to this-

Camera Nov23 2011 004 Next stand the dog as squarely on the table as possible as you will be setting in the hock angle and it is important that from this step on they are standing in a comfortable and square position.

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While they stand, lift the back leg up carefully so that it is perpendicular with the table top. As so:

Camera Nov23 2011 001

With the leg lifted, now trim the hair off the back of the foot and straight up the hock. When you reset the foot, this will most easily set the hock angulation needed for the hind leg in one easy step.

From there, now you can set in the front of the foot. I always do the back, then front, then pull the sides together, but that is up to your preference.

One easy way to set in the front of the foot and to find the tips of the nails- so that you do NOT cut into the needed hair to cover the nails up- is to take up your shears, and with the dog standing, pull the blades of the shear (closed) across the top of the foot, and down against the toenails. This way you will quickly see how much hair you can safely cut away and still keep the foot tight, but not expose nail. Camera Nov23 2011 005

Once you have that, just open the shears and cut off the hair straight across the front of the foot and upward at about a 30 degree angle from the table as so:

Camera Nov23 2011 010

~A note- this can be done with straight shears, but is much easier with curved shears.

From there, you can cut in the outside angle of the outer edge of the foot a the same angle, and then lift the leg inward and slightly outward to set in the remaining inner edge of the foot.

**Please remember something important:  The front assembly of a dog is held together by joints and ligaments, and the rear assembly of a dog is held together by a ball & socket- so lift the legs always very carefully. Never over the level of the dog's back, the front leg should not be over extended either forward or backward any further than its normal length of stride, and always push the hind leg in towards the body to create the most safe leg lift in case the dog is old, stiff, or slips.**

Next the Front Leg:

Again, fluff out the dog's leg hair, combing the foot hair well, lift the paw slightly so that you can view the underside of the pad and trim the hair which falls past the bottom of the foot.

Reset the foot squarely under the dog. 

Locate the dog's nail tips with your shears, and cut in the front of the foot. Then cut in the sides at the same angle, and the inner edge of the foot as well. Once the foot is shaped, now you can set in the slight curve at the back of the foot across the stopper pad so that the back of the leg is tidy and the dog will look up on toe- as so:

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 Once your bevels are all set in, you can soften the edges of each foot if you prefer a less crisp edge. This looks most nice on a dog with straight furnishings such as the American Cocker.

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And this applies to your Terriers with full leg furnishings also. Except that toenails can be exposed.

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 Thanks for reading!

 


Session with Chris Sertzel on GroomerTALK LIVE!

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Hello everyone!

Be sure to listen and call in for my LIVE session for PetGroomer.com's GroomerTALK!

This session will be on August 12th, 7PM EST.

Please call in with any questions you can come up with about things like skin and coat issues, offering supportive and spa type services, questions about competition grooming, or anything you can think of that might help you out! Its sure to be a fun and interesting broadcast!