THRIVE for the Holidays!

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Strategies for not surviving but THRIVING through the holiday rush!!

•Make sure all of your tools are sharpened and replaced as needed.

•Make sure your dryers are serviced and operating at full capacity

•Pre-order all of your topical products and liquid tools since stocking delays and not meeting demand are a real thing these days.

•Get client holiday gifts in order and ready to go ahead of time. Gifts requiring bagging or wrapping can be done while you nosh at lunchtime, or as part of your opening or closing duties, or even on a day off just to power through it.

•In the last 6 to 8 weeks before your holiday rushes take affect, clip your client dogs down one blade length shorter as much as possible. This will speed up your final grooms during the holidays and possibly even free up more full groom spaces since you might be doing more bath and tidies during your last couple of weeks before the holiday. Don’t be afraid to dedicate one groomer/assistant just to handling your bath and brush appointments. If you’re busy enough, you may find this to be effective and helpful year-round.

•Really try to save your appts through the holiday for your year-round patrons who regularly support your business. It’s nice to have a few available spots in the event of a last-minute new client, but typically these people shop-hop and they will likely just end up being a pain in the neck if you accommodate like that right out of the gate.

•Embrace a blackout date for walkins and à la carte services such as nail trims which can easily eat into your time. Or schedule additional help just to tackle those so your groomers stay uninterrupted. Only do this if it still generates you greater revenue to offset the additional employee fees.

•Decorate if it helps morale. ♥️

•Be sure to take care of your staff during rush times. Gifts of good food and beverages, a smile and a thank you- these go along way during hectic times.

•As much as the holiday spirit may overwhelm you, try not booking extra activities or functions during your holiday rush time such as an open house or a Christmas event unless you have plenty of staff and available time. Nothing will sap your spirit faster than planning some thing great when you’re in the mood and then bottoming out when it comes time to do the work. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

•Give back. If you are a business- especially in a small town- it’s important to pay it forward. During holiday times there are plenty of opportunities for us to embrace the bigger picture and help out those who might be struggling. It lifts your heart and puts a little more meaning to your very hard work to know that each dog on the table helped out someone in need.

•Thoughtfully take charge of your scheduling to alleviate high maintenance/difficult clients at least for the last two weeks right before the holiday if at all possible. Some people will just loom on the book no matter how much they pay you.

•You need to be taking care of yourself. Even if you struggle with this year-round, the holidays are exceptionally important to be mindful to listening to your body and your emotions and honoring what they’re telling you. Get that massage, try to eat well and get your rest, pamper yourself in some small way after every single hectic day at work. You’ve earned it and you need it.

•Monitor your screen time at work. In this age of internet social-connectivity, the amount of time you spend on your screen at work can be a secret time sucker as well as pulling on your emotional heart strings and focus depending on what you see. Try your best to stay on task and stay focused while compartmentalizing your downtime. This practice increases efficiency and lessons overwhelm.

•Delegate, delegate, delegate.

•One of the best gifts you can give yourself extra time off right after Christmas or new year. It will give you something solid to look forward to at the darkest of times.

•I typically buy my next year’s appointment book at the very beginning of November. As part of my New Year’s preparation and holiday ritual, I will sit down with that book and thoughtfully process each week’s scheduling and vacations and time off for myself. This gives me milestones to look forward to and assures that I am running my business and it’s not running me.

#themindfulgroomer

 


Mindfulness for Canine Vestibular

 

If you’ve ever had an inner ear problem, vertigo, or even a bad case of roller coaster brain, you know how disorienting it can be to have your equilibrium off. 

 

In old dogs, idiopathic vestibular disease, otitis media/interna, ischemic stroke, and neoplasia as well as hypothyroidism can all cause balance and coordination issues. 

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Second to this is the age related process of the breakdown in cognitive function as it plays a definite role in how pets process their world and move through the daily tasks of such things like a visit to the groomer.

 

Sometimes it is easily recognized and other times outward symptoms can be quite subtle even though the dog is still suffering. As groomers, we may or may not recognize these symptoms- but we can always handle older dogs with a bit of mindful attention to their comfort and sense of security while on the table.

 

I personally have found that not holding the chin hair on pretty much every dog lessens the amount of tugging that they do in return, but especially with all dogs avoiding holding the chin hair helps a lot. Aside from the possibility of dental issues or jaw pain, opting to not hold chin hair and to instead cradle the lower jaw of the dog while trimming the head and face can help to give the dog a much greater sense of security and balance as they work alongside you. 

 

Cradling and supporting the head and neck in a comfortable position gives them a sense of being able to lean on you for both balance and reassurance. This can further deepen your bond with them and help lessen their anxiety and increase their comfort. 

 

Simple small points like this of us thinking outside the box and making subtle changes are part of what makes our profession so rewarding and give us a chance to be empathetic to the clients in our care.

 

#themindfulgroomer

 

Addtl reading:

https://www.greymuzzle.org/grey-matters/health-and-well-being-common-health-issues-care-mobility-common-ailments/canine

 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/jvim.13633


The Details On Deshedding

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This time of year in the Midwest, a lot of groomers start talking about deshedding. We’re already past the interim phase of spring coat shed, and onto the next phase of late summer coat shed.

Spring coat shed consists of predominately blown undercoat, but summer shedding consists of both undercoat AND guard hair. The reason for this is the supreme function of the coat as an environmental barrier and thermoregulator. In late summer, the days are longest, the heat is usually high, and these dogs are letting go of all they can towards comfort. They will also be shedding guard coat more prominently in an effort to make way for the bulking up of undercoat production in late summer and into early fall.

This phase is probably more noticeable to pet owners because of the amazing amount of undercoat their pets are losing at home. We start getting calls right about June with complaints of “tufts of hair all over” and that their dog is “just so hot”.

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We know that on a genetic level, different breeds shed different areas of coat cyclically depending on the time of year. Typically the Nordic or triple coated breeds during late summer will shed an abundant amount of coat across their stomach and sides, rough and neck.

Part of this is due to addressing thermoregulation for their major organs. During the cooler months, you’ll find that these dense coated breeds shed less on those areas in order to insulate their major organs, but will shed more throughout the hips, pants/britches, and sometimes the tail (not so true with Husky/Akita/Sammy/ etc who use that tail to wrap around them in cold weather).

You’ll find that during the colder months they shed less on their legs and ears as well.

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This is part of what keeps us in business year-round addressing these breeds that go through cyclical or seasonal coat change as well as those breeds and cross breeds or mixes which shed year round.

Either way, thorough and knowledgeable deshedding is a major component of a groomer‘s career.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Deshedding can be hard on a dog if we are working harder and not smarter. Deshedding can be hard on our body and our equipment if we are doing a lot of it mechanically with our combs, rakes and brushes, as well. However, dead coat removal and opening or unpacking dense coat can be a lot easier if we harness the power of our bathing cycle and drying cycle to remove most of the dead and loose hair before we ever have to touch it with tools.

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Utilizing the bathing and drying cycles is also less invasive to the skin and hair coat and can remove shedding hair and skin build up far more gently so that the skin is less likely to become irritated, In this way, we will see far less hair damage and breakage that can be caused by some of our metal tools. As well, using water temperature and flow encourages the hair follicle to dilate and release even more hair in the resting phase.

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Irrigating or flushing the coat with more water volume and less pressure works great on longer dense coats such as Newfies, Samoyeds, Keeshonds, Chow Chow, Rough Collies, Autralian Shepherds, Border Collies, etc. This helps open the coat starting at the skin and aligning the hair fibers as the water flow pushes through the coat.

Using higher water pressure AND volume works best for unpacking those medium to short dense coats like that of a Shiba Inu, Basenji, Pugs (these 3 breeds shed constantly but still hit a seasonal crescendo), German Shepherds, Cattle Dogs, etc. This helps open the secondary undercoat that is porous, as well s the lesser tertiary undercoat whose job is to literally weave in between the undercoat and create even more loft and insulative pockets within the coat. The water higher in volume and pressure will more effectively break up any insulating pockets within that extra fine undercoat, and with lifting up and out any dead skin and oil build up. These breeds with dense, shorter coats all typically excrete A LOT of oil and it builds up quite readily under the telogen or resting phase hairs that turn over so frequently.

Different Hairs Means Different Snares

Dogs that shed seasonally as we mentioned above, typically will have tertiary or secondary undercoat hair. This type of hair is far more porous and has a different hair cuticle formation than both undercoat hair and primary or guard coat hair. Under a microscope these comparisons look like this.

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Undercoat Hair                                   Guard Coat Hair

By this visual comparison, we can surmise that undercoat hair will tangle and break far more easily because of its strand/fiber size. There’s still another reason to consider this type of hair more closely for both deshedding and dematting. This hair is also more porous due to its cuticle thinness and composition. For this reason, we should know that a topical product will not work the same on every type of hair depending on these above factors. So, if a dog’s coat is very thick and contains tertiary hair, a heavy silicone or a waxeous conditioning agent of poor quality, will actually adhere MORE to this hair and can cause it to catch on itself instead of releasing.

This is another reason why its so important to rely on method and not just a specific product recommendation.

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Trust the Process

If we tackle deshedding with a 3-pronged approach, and don’t just relay on a product’s marketing, we are able to choose from a much broader scope of brands and formulas that work well for each coat, perform well with or water chemistry, and are affordable.

If we pay attention to the process instead of just the product, we have much more freedom to apply these methods to many different coat types and issues- such as matting and depleted or poor-quality coat.

We can harness the power of the process and remove the dead hair, stale sebum and dead skin and environmental debris that literally acts like sandpaper on hair and glue in the coat and which also contributes to electrostatic charge in the dead coat. Porous, dead coat has a negative electrostatic charge, which lifts the hair shaft cuticle and causes the hair to catch on itself.

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  • Choose a method such as a pre-poo conditioning step or a co-washing step BEFORE you shampoo to smooth the hair, grab onto protein-based dirt and skin cells, and remove the static charge in the coat by altering the pH. You’ll optimally want a cationic surfactant for your pre-shampoo conditioning step. What this means is that the formulation of the conditioner contains positively charged cations (positively charged particle) because they are attracted to negatively charged hair strands. These particles also sit ON the hair and resist being washed off by water alone. This action offers manageability.
  • Choose a shampoo that will adequately address the amount of hair and coat debris without being too overly stripping and perhaps lifting that hair shaft more with a harsh cleanser. A cleanser with a protein additive or other manageability or conditioning agent such as a silicone derivative will plump up and smooth the hair shaft with a thin substantive film and boost the untangling ability of the hair fibers.
  • Choose a conditioner that is high quality and preferably one that has a silicone derivative in addition to its moisturizers.
  • Choose a coat spray that not only provides slip, but also contains a humectant on a healthy coat. A humectant works to help draw in environmental moisture. On a depleted or dry, lackluster coat, choose a coat spray with BOTH a humectant and a light emollient. This will offer greatest longevity of the moisturizing action to the hair and skin.

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Note: lighter coat sprays work fine on dry coat and on healthy hair. Heavier coat sprays with added emollients and humectants typically need to be applied to damp coat and dried into the coat for greatest protection and performance. These work best on depleted coats and very porous hair.

Aside from using both water and air as part of your most effective deshedding, choosing products to help with removing dead hair efficiently can be a groomer’s best yet hardest decision.

There’s much deliberation in various groups and online discussion platforms about what products work best, what tools to use, and what methodology is the most efficient.

After all, time is money.

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It’s been my experience, while deeply researching skin and coat function, that some of the marketing surrounding deshedding products may sound amazing but might not actually be that much different from other products in the lineup.

Typically many of our deshedding products have some type of an additive that offers substantivity to the coat, which in tun provides slip. These additions to a formulation will minimally coat and smooth the hair shaft allowing for greater ability to slide the hairs apart. They also may contain a silicone derivative which will deliver the same affects.

There are MANY products available to us that tout being specific deshedding products. But the standards listed above, some of them deliver, while others do not. At a minimum, a majority of them perform similarly when all is said and done.

So instead, what we should be thinking about when we are reading discussion threads about “best deshedding products”, should be 3 things:

  • What’s the meat and potatoes of the topical product formulation? As long as there’s full disclosure of the ingredients deck on a product label, we can begin to see many similarities from one product top the next as to what the engine of these products contain. What to consider most importantly is the actual type of coat that you’re looking at addressing for your deshed services. Remember that your water chemistry can drastically affect the function of many ingredients within a product.
  • What type of coat am I looking to deshed, and is the formulation really best for that coat type?
  • What methods would be more effective to get the most coat out without overworking the skin and coat, your body, or the dog?

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From there, you can choose any range of products that cover these bases, regardless of whether or not they’re actually sold as a deshedding product.

  1. Is there something in here that coats the hair for slip?
  2. Is there an additive ingredient in here that addresses pH and will help lay the cuticle flat?
  3. Is there a depositor ingredient in the product that adheres to the hair during the rinsing process?

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Many groomers will be surprised to find out that the shampoos sold for shedding, are actually predominately a standard moisturizing or conditioning shampoo with perhaps and added silicone.

What the KEY topical product really is, is your conditioner and coat spray (which is also a conditioner 😉) choice. It’s the chemical action of the conditioning steps that adjusts the pH to best help seal and lay flat the porous cuticle associated with undercoat hair.

Without the conditioning steps, your deshedding procedure will be sorely lacking.

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Try these procedures for different coat types and see what you get!

  • Lightly wet the coat with an ample amount of warm water. Warm water dilates the hair follicle and increases circulation which allows for greater hair release. Monitor the pet for signs of heat stress and be sure your water is warm, but not hot.
  • Apply your quality conditioner and gently work it through the coat. Work it root to tip on all open coated areas, and massage it gently all the way to the skin on your packed areas- squeezing it into the coat works well here. Take your time here and use your fingers to break up areas of packed coat by hand.
  • Don’t rinse the conditioner from the coat. Next, apply a clarifying shampoo or a protein enriched shampoo depending on the amount of coat dirt and skin build up present.
  • Work the entire coat head to tail, spine to feet, with the growth of coat with either high volume or high pressure and volume depending on the coat type. This rinse should also be warm. You may or may not get a squeak in the coat depending on your water chemistry and your product choices. Don’t always look for that squeak. Sometimes its not about the washing, but its always about the rinse.
  • Apply your final conditioner application and work it through the coat by hand or with your shampoo delivery system. Give the conditioner ample contact time in order to do its best work. Typically 5-7 minutes for high quality cream conditioners is enough.
  • Do a very thorough cool water rinse with the cot lay. Cool water calms dermal nerve endings and helps tighten the skin follicles. It also helps to congeal the conditioning agents within your conditioner across the skin and the hair shaft evenly.
  • Squeeze the excess water from the coat in the tub. Liberally apply a quality coat conditioning spray onto the dripping coat and work it deeply into the coat with your hands. Don’t try using a rubber or meta tool at this point. Your hands are the best tool for working in the spray and feeling areas of lumpy (packed) coat that you can start to break up with your fingers.
  • Move the dog to your drying table, settle them comfortably, and with a warm air setting and medium to high velocity, direct the air flow through the coat with the coat lay. Work the air from the surface, layer by layer, down to the skin on any packed areas. Work down into the coat, and be sure you’re blowing the water out so that the skin surface is dried as well. Monitor your air temp and be sure the air flow doesn’t sit in one spot to avoid risk of burn. Methodically work each area of coat instead of erratically whipping air through the coat. Work with the direction of gravity draw. The wicking ability of the hair shaft will follow this principle as well and speed drying.
  • Use your fingers as you go from area to area, using the dryer to “airbrush” the dog in the most gentle and effective manner for coat removal.
  • Once completely dried, move to the grooming table. Areas left damp are going to continue to shed more and be prone to tangles. Work the coat methodically with a pin brush, comb, or a coarse rake if still needed. Stay away from slickers on any coat more than a couple of inches long, and stay away from fixed tooth style rakes for risk of stretching and breaking coat. Be mindful of your technique. The coat is smoothed, open, and aligned the most at the point. Your comb and brush strokes should be with a fixed wrist and motion from the elbow and/or shoulder- just like hand stripping. A pat-and-pull method works great here, too.

In end, you can actually save time and manual labor by working step by step with each component of the deshedding procedure by allowing each part to serve its function. Using water, shampoo, conditioner and coat spray and air in a mindful manner makes removing dead coat and skin build up much more easy on both you and the pet. And that is time well spent.

Sources:

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Scale-patterns-of-hair-shafts-in-dogs-a-irregular-wave-b-streaked-c-mosaic-d_fig1_325858765

Tumiłowicz, Paweł & Goliszewska, Agata & Arct, Jacek & Pytkowska, Katarzyna & Szczepanik, Marcin. (2018). Preliminary study of guard hair morphology in four dog breeds. Veterinary Dermatology. 29. 10.1111/vde.12656

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Breeds-number-of-dogs-average-measurements-of-hair-thickness-average-medulla-area-to_tbl1_325858765

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2665910720301195

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287359922_SEM_Study_of_Hair_Cuticle_in_Some_Canidae_Breeds

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0192623316631843


Considering Carding

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Look at the angle at which a dog‘s hair coat grows out from its skin. This is the same angle that you should be using your carding, stripping and fixed tooth raking tools to remove dead coat.

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The position of your carding or stripping knife on shorter coat, and your rakes on longer coat should resemble the direction in which the hair emerges from the follicle in comparison to the skin. This can be anywhere from 5° for tight, oblique coats such as boxers and flat work on terriers to upwards of 80° on our primitive or Nordic breeds which are triple coated.

It is our heavy or triple coated breeds with the most dense undercoat alongside ample guard coat that are at the greatest risk for skin irritation and coat damage when we use our tools.

Dense or long hair=more finesse and diligence.

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If you do not take into consideration the way the hair follicle sits within the skin and hair grows out and away from it, you will inevitably risk stretching and breaking both guard coat and undercoat because of not working with the natural coat lay.

 

If you are raking out dead undercoat from a double or triple coated dog- your tools should be dull, your raking action should be coming in short strokes from your elbow and/or shoulder- but with a fixed wrist position, and the coat should be clean and conditioned with no tools being worked through dirty coat except for certain instances with hand stripped terriers.

 

When you cleanse (change the electrical charge on the coat & remove particulate debris and dead hair that cause friction and snagging), condition (further adjust the skin pH or electrostatic charge, seal & smooth the hair shaft, add pliability, moisturize the skin & add structural integrity to each hair shaft) and then HV blow dry canine coat (set topicals upon the hair and skin, gently remove dead hair, set coat lay & visually inspect the skin and haircoat condition), this is a streamlined yet multi step process each step has a very necessary purpose.

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During HV drying you also open up the packed, and tangled hair coat just the same as you do with your coarse/medium/fine cycle of raking tools. This action also has to be done with due process to help set the lay of coat so that you can move your tools across it without tugging or causing breakage or discomfort.

 

Remember that the job of undercoat is to create loft and density to the haircoat towards thermoregulation (heat dissipation or heat retention to maintain core temperature for health), and in doing its job it effectively locks in amongst the guard hair- so we need to open that coat to maintain it optimally.
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As groomers we have a tough job to do.
Often playing catch-up for each dog on the table per its grooming needs and genetically predetermined coat type. But the last thing we want to do is to be using tools or topical products on the coat that cause additional wear or damage, or enacting methods upon the coat with disregard to its natural state. 

If we do these two things we will fight that coat at every visit and only make more work for ourselves.

#CCEStyling

#mindfulgrooming


Moisture Is Key!


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Hair acts like a natural wick to guide water away from the skin surface and hair coat in much the same way as it’s used to disperse skin oil from within the follicle across the hair shaft and skin. 

If you can imagine the water in this photo actually being oil, only a far smaller amount, you can see how incredibly important having some length of coat can be to a dog in order to maintain balance in moisture levels and to protect the delicate skin mantle and it’s microbiome. 

This is one of the foundational reasons why it’s so important to use a gentle yet effective cleanser that’s not overly stripping and one with protein or mineral enriched formulation.

It is principally vital the understand that while we want a beautifully clean and crisp coat for tool work, it’s the skin’s moisture level that keeps the dog in a state of balance and health just as much as the length and upkeep of its hair coat. 

As a final step to nearly every bathing procedure, it is equally important always follow up with a thorough conditioning step as a final process before considering the bathing completed. 

Our cleansers remove vital oil and beneficial bacteria from the skin surface right along with the built up oil, dead hair, and pathogens or secondary bacteria which don’t best suit microbiome balance. 

We should work to replace those natural moisture levels in order to not disrupt the skin environment too greatly. 

Moisture becomes a greater concern in times of the year during seasonal change and when the weather is cold and forced air heat is used in homes.

Simple dryness is one of the most common causes of secondary itching, dandruff and a host of other issues which follow soon behind. 

As groomers we will begin to see cases of pruritis or generalized itching across-the-board with pets that are not adequately remoisturized or reconditioned following the bathing process if they are groomed frequently, just as much as we see cases of itching and a host of secondary issues that are caused by lack of grooming and coat upkeep. 

In these situations, as with so many other things- less is more, and balance is key.


Intro To Coat Carding & Stripping

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The removal of dead and resting phase haircoat from a pet is a simple way to help support overall skin and coat health.

Most commonly, a huge majority of secondary coat symptoms can be alleviated by simply addressing telogen phase (resting) or dead coat removal and pruritus (generalized itching commonly caused by overall skin dryness, and/or yeast/bacterial overload= imbalance of the microbiome). 

Dead coat sits up the hair follicle cup, and it doesn’t allow the follicle to cycle easily into the next anagen (actively growing) phase of hair.
Dead coat also inhibits the skin to slough in its natural cycle of desquamation while keeping adequate air circulation to the skin surface alongside the most healthy guard coat to undercoat ratio as genetically designated for each dog.

These roadblocks inhibit regular sebum (skin oil) production while giving secondary bacteria and yeast plenty to feed on. 

As secondary bacteria and yeast proliferate, this further tips the balance of the scale on the skin’s natural microbiome and then effects overall healthy pH or electrostatic charge of the skin.

This is an example of a waterfall or cascade effect of secondary coat symptoms that is easily eliminated just by more adequate and regular cycles of cleansing, remoisturization and removal of dead hair coat- even on clippered pets.

Especially on sporting dogs and terriers!

 

Here is a half an hour of intro info for carding and stripping on pet coats.

Video:

https://youtu.be/COXv3Qcc1-I

 

**Please note that my Certified Canine Esthetician virtual course will go on rolling enrollment beginning in January in case you missed out on our three courses this year!

www.CanineEsthetician.com

#ccestyling

#themindfulgroomer


Chemical Scent Signatures On Safety Equipment

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Something a few groomers might not have thought about, or maybe you did and you’re already addressing it…

If you use a muzzle or an E collar on a dog that tries to bite you, or is scared, the next dog on which you use that muzzle or E collar can smell whatever came out and that dog’s breath or saliva or skin oil that was left behind on your equipment.

These things stay behind on hard surfaces for quite a while (porous surfaces even longer) even though pheromone and stress chemical signatures released into the air will dissipate in a much shorter period of time.

 

It’s science, not woo, trust me.

 

So what do groomers do to cleanse these things between each pet- not only for sanitization, but to remove these scent signatures that could in turn cause the next pet additional stress or anxiety by smelling and reading them?

I prefer a hot water and antibacterial dish soap scrub on each piece after use. Once dry, I then apply a hydrosol of chamomile essential oil.

#themindfulgroomer


Medicated Shampoos

Can we talk a little bit about how often groomers are using OTC medicated shampoos in the salon to combat things like yeast, secondary bacteria and fleas? 

Not prescription medications from a vet, but over the counter truly medicated formulas like all of our pesticidal formulas, and our skin treatment formulas like Chlorhexidine, KetoChlor, SulfurBenz, Ketoconazole, MiconaHex, MalAcetic, Malaseb, etc..

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Do you find yourself using these products more than once a day? 

 

Are you using gloves and an apron and possibly even a mask to protect your skin, your eyes, and your airways?

 

Have you considered learning about using raw ingredients such as sulfur, pure oils, and clays for therapies instead of off-the-shelf medicated shampoos? 

 

Are you using these products but wonder about a safer and equally effective way to combat skin and coat issues we commonly see, while keeping yourself safer? Or do you honestly just not find yourselves gloving up like you probably should be because you are in a rush or aren’t sure if what you’re using might eventually cause harm? 

 

Do you ever wonder if washing the same dog in a medicated shampoo at every grooming visit could actually be causing the dog’s symptoms to be harder to treat due to bacterial resistance and adaptability? 

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These ready to use products can definitely help, but we just want to remember that they are a medicine with truly active ingredients just as much as any tablet or liquid suspension. 

 

 

Even though the active ingredients within these formulations are in very small amounts, it’s the low level exposure and repetitive contact that groomers should try to be aware of and protect ourselves from.

 

For our industry, liquid grooming products have come a really long way in their formulations, effectiveness, and ease-of-use. 

 

I just want to ask groomers to remember that these formulas are definitely a medicine, and we should be protecting ourselves whenever we use them in order to possibly avoid health risk or immune system response. 

Especially when many formulas might list their active ingredients but are not federally required to list the entire ingredients deck for a product because of our industry being unregulated. 

 

Take good care of yourselves groomers! ❤️


Grooming For Optimal Coat Health

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Before

 

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Look at the angle at which a dog‘s hair coat grows out from its skin. This is the same angle that you should be using your carding, stripping and fixed tooth raking tools to remove dead coat.

The position of your carding or stripping knife on shorter coat, and your rakes on longer coat should resemble the direction in which the hair emerges from the follicle in comparison to the skin. This can be anywhere from 5° for tight, oblique coats such as boxers and flat work on terriers to upwards of 80° on our primitive or Nordic breeds which are triple coated.

It is our heavy or triple coated breeds with the most dense undercoat alongside ample guard coat that are at the greatest risk for skin irritation and coat damage when we use our tools.

Dense or long hair=more finesse and diligence.

If you do not take into consideration the way the hair follicle sits within the skin and hair grows out and away from it, you will inevitably risk stretching and breaking both guard coat and undercoat because of not working with the natural coat lay.

 

If you are raking out dead undercoat from a double or triple coated dog- your tools should be dull, your raking action should be coming in short strokes from your elbow and/or shoulder- but with a fixed wrist position, and the coat should be clean and conditioned with no tools being worked through dirty coat except for certain instances with hand stripped terriers.

 

When you cleanse (change the electrical charge on the coat & remove particulate debris and dead hair that cause friction and snagging), condition (further adjust the skin pH or electrostatic charge, seal & smooth the hair shaft, add pliability, moisturize the skin & add structural integrity to each hair shaft) and then HV blow dry canine coat (set topicals upon the hair and skin, gently remove dead hair, set coat lay & visually inspect the skin and haircoat condition), this is a streamlined yet multi step process each step has a very necessary purpose.

During HV drying you also open up the packed, and tangled hair coat just the same as you do with your coarse/medium/fine cycle of raking tools. This action also has to be done with due process to help set the lay of coat so that you can move your tools across it without tugging or causing breakage or discomfort.

 

Remember that the job of undercoat is to create loft and density to the haircoat towards thermoregulation (heat dissipation or heat retention to maintain core temperature for health), and in doing its job it effectively locks in amongst the guard hair- so we need to open that coat to maintain it optimally.

 

As groomers we have a tough job to do. Often playing catch-up for each dog on the table per its grooming needs and genetically predetermined coat type. But the last thing we want to do is to be using tools or topical products on the coat that cause wear or damage, or enacting methods upon the coat with disregard to its natural state. 

 

If we do these two things we will fight that coat at every visit and only make more work for ourselves.

Microscopic cutaway view of an oblique or nearly parallel hair follicle in the skin.

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Dog D-Skunking 101

 

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You let your dog out to go to the bathroom in the dark of night. You hear a small commotion from the yard, and they come streaking back to your door, full throttle and wide-eyed.

You usher them in and WHAM-O! PEEEEYOOO!! 

They’ve tangled with a skunk! 

What do you do!?!?!

The first thing is to corral your dog, but to also try not to panic.

After an encounter like this, unless your dog is a true hunter, they are going to be completely freaked out and will immediately pick up on your energy and endorphin signature which comes out in your sweat and breath. This will make their anxiety even worse and possibly cause them to be more in a state of fight or flight. Staying calm and doing what needs to be done in these few initial steps are very important to get right.

In my opinion every single pet owner needs to have a deskunking rinse or shampoo on hand at all times if they live in the country. Sometimes even dogs in town can encounter a skunk if they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

If you aren’t prepared and don’t have a specific product on hand, then I suggest you take a look at this recipe which is safest for odor control but will not dry out the skin and hair coat as badly as some other concoctions, while being made up of a lot of the normal things you might have around the house. 

I urge you though- if you don’t have all of these things on hand in the proper proportions- to not just concoct something. If you’re short on supply in order to complete such a recipe, then I recommend you head to town instead and just pick up a deskunking product to be most safe.

As a professional Pet Groomer versed in canine skin and coat, the recipe I’m about to share I must advise can be quite drying to skin and hair coat so it is incredibly important that you follow up as soon as possible with a professional grooming where your stylist uses a moisturizing protein-based shampoo and a high-quality remoisturizing conditioner in order to avoid secondary skin dryness and itching or coat breakage. 

But if you are in a tight spot and don’t have many options, this is the safest recipe which can be found also on the akc.org website.

 

  1. 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
  2. 1/4 cup of baking soda.
  3. 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap

 

You might find that you have to double or triple this recipe per the size and haircoat of your dog, but keep your proportions equal throughout- and mix it well. AND, if you have a quality pet shampoo on hand, you can always follow up with a second or third bath with that to help replace a little bit of skin moisture which will be drastically removed by the chemical action of this homemade formula.

 

And remember: DO NOT get this in your pet’s eyes or let them lick it at length off of their haircoat.

Part of pet ownership is often running damage control, and part of that is thinking ahead and being prepared for things like this.

Part of being a professional pet groomer is having these products on hand for your clients as well as being able to navigate a skunked dog coming into the salon in a state of emergency or happenstance. 

So if this happens and you are able to get in contact with a professional groomer to handle the situation while keeping your pet contained until your appointment time, that is probably in your best interest.

 

Typically it’s the head, face and neck areas of the dog that always get hit the worst because this is the part of the dog making the closest encounter with a business end of a skunk.

But these areas are also difficult to thoroughly treat due to the sensitivity of the eye tissue and mucous membranes and the fact that most dogs are extremely nauseous and drooling due to having this acrid liquid in their face and so near their nose- which is incredibly sensitive.

Concerning the skin and hair of the face and head, you will need to apply a separate method of cleansing this area and rinsing it to keep the eyes safe.

Once you have corralled your dog in a safe area somewhere inside your home or garage and away from that monstrous skunk so that they feel safe, go and grab your deskunking products and get them ready to go into the tub or laundry basin. 

I do not recommend trying to wash your dog in the backyard with cold hose water in the middle of the night; just my professional and empathetic opinion.

 

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If you can get them safely into a laundry sink, shower basin or a bath tub, that is best. Before moving them into a bathroom I recommend removing or moving your shower curtain and bathroom rugs or any other type of fabric material away from the tub onto where he could shake water and soap and skunk odor.

 

Once he is in the bathing area, **do not pre-wet his coat with water!**

**This part is incredibly important!**

If you wet his coat you are making it very hard for your cleansing product to grab onto the skunk spray sitting on his coat and giving it a chance to ride around on the surface of the water and deposit more deeply into his hair and skin.

Drench him thoroughly with your homemade rinse or cover him thoroughly with your deskunking shampoo. Massage this by hand into the coat and expect that you’re going to get a little wet and a little smelly in the process.

Per the manufacturer guidelines, once the ready to use products are massaged and lathered deeply into the coat, give them the recommended adequate development time in order to fully do their job. 

Most enzymatic cleaners of any type need at least a handful of minutes in order to work well. If you’re making this at-home mix in an emergency, allow it about 5 minutes on the coat while lathering it all over.

Thorough saturation of the coat down to the skin as mentioned before is another huge component of getting as much smell out as possible.

After this, you’re going to want to use tap water and thoroughly rinse, rinse, rinse! Until every bit of bubbles are gone from the coat and the coat yields a squeaky clean feeling.

Most of your deskunking cleaners have a very high pH, which is part of what helps them to work as an enzymatic cleaner with the chemical composition of skunk spray, so if you find yourself itching after rinsing your dog, I recommend rinsing your skin well again with cool water. Unless you have a true chemical allergy, you will be just fine. And of course, if you had the presence of mind and the supplies on hand to don cleaning gloves and an old shirt or apron, those tools will always help out.

If you happen to have a pet specific shampoo on hand or even a high-quality human shampoo with a moisturizing additive, I recommend you follow up with an additional bath after the deskunking step to help thoroughly cleanse the coat of dirt and oil and the rinse you applied.

Even after a thorough cleansing bath with just the right products applied to dry coat in adequate amounts and rinsed thoroughly, commonly there will still be a lingering odor on the coat for weeks and sometimes even months. Especially each time the coat gets wet with moisture again. 

And why is this?

Let’s delve a little deeper into what happens on a physiological level with skunk spray and how it acts upon canine skin and hair coat.

 

One part of the reason that skunk odor lingers for so long on your dog is that their body is continuously growing and shedding skin cells and hair coat in regular cycles. As the process of desquamation, or skin cell turnover happens, right along with that comes a bit of that odorous liquid that’s still residing throughout the layers of skin.

Considering this fact of it, it is also the way it permeates the hair shaft and remains within the actively growing haircoat at the time of the encounter which is all still sitting in the follicle cup, right alongside dead hair ready to be lifted out, and new hair still being generated deeper within the follicle- that is all still growing in its typical cycles through the skin. 

The fact that this oil permeates deeply and uses sebum to accomplish this, but it also has a far different pH level than the average pH level of a pet’s skin, is also worth consideration.

In its chemical composition (acidic nature and caustic nature), it can penetrate several layers deep into the skin, which will continue to cause the newly emerging hair to still hold odor even after resting growth phases are all shed out. 

This prolongs the smell even more.

The individual hair shaft itself holds the odor also, and every time the hair cuticle is lifted with moisture contact, those odor-causing enzymes are reactivated alongside the water. This is obviously part of the reason why it’s so important to try to initially deskunk a *dry coat *without *pre-wetting because of the oil vs. water equation and using the micellar bonds within your shampoo surfactant (cleansing) formulation to encapsulate that oil-based substance as thoroughly as possible so that it can be suspended and more thoroughly rinsed from the coat. 

It’s also very important that you have an adequate cleanser not too greatly diluted so that the oil substance from the skunk does not simply ride around in the water and then redeposit in the coat during rinsing when the micellar bonds are broken down again.

So yes, the normal cellular replacement cycles do continue to re-release the odor just as much as the haircoat itself does. And you pick up on this by the very same signature ways that your nose tells you this each time you your pet again becomes damp or wet with moisture.

Add to that that typically dogs get skunked the worst in the head and face and it can be incredibly hard to efficiently apply a de-skunking or cleansing product strong and ample enough in these areas without causing eye or mucus membrane tissue irritation- so a lot of groomers still send dogs home with a slightly smelly head and face, and this is what the owner smells every time they are close to the dog even if the body is more effectively cleansed. 

Groomers are trying to keep your pet’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears safe while applying the topical, so there is a possibility that some odor will remain even after a professional grooming. 

And obviously, this pungent substance only takes a tiny amount to find objectionable and putrid, LOL!

It only takes once of having to go through trying to deskunk your dog in your bathroom tub in the middle of the night for an owner to have WISHED they had deskunking products on hand, so if you read this blog I suggest you stay ahead of the curve and buy what you need in the event of such an emergency.

  1. De-skunking Shampoo or Enzymatic Coat Rinse
  2. Moisturizing Shampoo
  3. Moisturizing Conditioner
  4. Plenty of towels, and an effective method of completely rinsing shampoo from your pet’s haircoat.

 

Happy Hounding!