With Groom Expo just around the corner, I thought this article on combing would be helpful in preparing some contestants for competition success. This article can also be read in the GroomTeam USA Summer 2011 Newsletter found at http://www.groomteamusa.com/pdf/GTNewsletterSummer11.pdf
While at Groom Expo be sure to stop in the PetSmith / PlaqClnz booth and find out how you can enhance the oral health of all the pets you groom with the PlaqClnz System. We will have the Air Muzzle II and Soft Claw products too. Safe travels and see you in Hershey!
In Preparation for Competition Success
By Karla Addington-Smith
Grooming is a beautiful thing, a true art form. Watching a skilled groomer interact with his or her charge is akin to watching a dancer sculpt a masterpiece. The movements around the table, the anticipation, the trust and cooperation… the process is really very intimate. As a grooming contest judge for the past twenty years, experiencing this process, the dance, and the artistry, coming together in the competition ring, by the most talented among us, has been especially enjoyable.
Every contestant knows that to win in the ring, you must be skilled in shaping, sculpting and styling of the dog’s coat, that you must make that dog, at that moment, the best representation of his breed. The process requires skilled use of clippers, scissors, thinning shears, carding and stripping tools. But, as a painter would prime his canvas or sculptor kneed her clay, the dog’s coat must be thoroughly and properly prepared to receive the artistry of grooming.
To achieve a beautifully executed trim, a comb is the professional groomer’s most important tool. Choosing the correct comb for the coat type and length is the first step in preparation for success. Generally, an eight to ten inch comb will allow enough length to keep hands out of the coat. Very rarely is a handled comb the best choice for body work. For best results and ease of use, a comb should possess narrow, smooth, and tapered tines of at least 1 1/8” in length for optimum coat penetration. Finely spaced tines will push a dense coat, rather than penetrate. Shorter tines may not reach deeply enough into longer length coats to detect matting or to fluff for scissoring. On occasion during judging, I’ll reach to pick up the contestant’s comb, only to find a small, handled tool, packed full of fat, closely spaced ½” tines… sometimes bent and missing teeth… and I am sad to discover that they may never use those expensive shears successfully as long as they are using that comb.
In coat preparation, a comb is used to test what you have brushed. After using the appropriate brush, in the correct line brushing pattern, and working in small areas of the dog’s coat, the comb should be inserted parallel to the skin, and pulled through the coat so that the tines may detect close lying matting or packed undercoat against the skin. Inserting the comb perpendicularly into the coat is incorrect. Doing so allows the tines of the comb to raise up over, rather than capturing, matting and undercoat, or when coat is open and sparse, may create discomfort and skin abrasion. Close attention should be paid to friction areas, where matting is likely to occur; behind ears, around neck, under forelegs, tail, hocks, pasterns, chest and flank areas.
During competition, the comb is used to fluff the coat for sculpting and shaping, and then to test the coat for smoothness. If your comb can not penetrate the coat then it will not capture the tangles and matting, it will not lift the coat sufficiently enough for shaping and it most surely will not allow you to test the coat for smoothness. So truly, pricey shears and outstanding scissoring technique will be all for naught due to the use of an incorrect comb and poor combing skills.
A competitor should observe the judge closely as he or she moves around your entry. Perhaps the judge is skilled in the use of the comb. Watch and learn. Next time, use the comb in the same way to self test, before time is up, you will see what the judge will see first and that gives you the upper comb…so to speak! Find it and fix it before the judge has a chance to show it to you.
Sitting ringside, it may be easy to pick the winner…that one WOW dog that presents a beautifully balanced and pleasing profile. But winning is a perfect combination of preparation, skill and artistry. Without proper preparation the final product will be torn apart by the judging process or will soon fall apart by default. The simple and humble comb is the competitor’s most important tool. Use it correctly and often.