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November 2010

Some Skin & Coat Q & A

This exerpt was taken from a discussion thread on It pertains to a discussion on skin & coat differences between breeds of dogs and is formatted as a Q & A session with the questions coming from a Pet Groomer member, KeyRay, and answers coming from myself. 

Some skin & coat Q&A


Q. Why is it that Terrier hair and Shih Tzu hair is different?  I'm not talking about how coarse it is.  Why can terriers be plucked and don't feel it but Shih Tzu hair can't. 

A.  Well that is mostly about genetics and breed design. I say mostly because per each Terrier breed and per each drop coat breed, there can be many variations of coat type alone- depending on their lineage, etc. let alone their overall makeup which can also affect coat and skin quality, etc. 

~So,, plucking on a Terrier can be done vs. not being able to pluck a drop coat due to several things: the most responsible is the actual hair design; or its genetic code of shedding and growth, and the function of that coat that adheres to the dog's breed purpose. A Terrier's skin while having mosaic growth stages as does a drop coat breed (meaning that some hair here & other hair there are never in the same growth or shed stage), has a much shorter turnover or growth and shed stage that the continually growing hair of a drop coated breed. This mosaic pattern of growth & shed on a shorter coated dog means that the dead or dying hair of a terrier is ready and able to be plucked & removed to make way for new hair.  Often, if this hair is not completely removed from the hair follicle, it gets backed up and creates follicle "blockages" and therefor hinders that skin's ability to produce a hard, well colored, and healthy shedding cyclical coat. Some breeds have a continuous growth or "anagen" phase that can last for many, many years. Whereas the harder, tighter and more coarse coat of a Terrier is designed to turn over faster, to maintain itself more easily, and to protect the dog from the elements via oil and guard coat and undercoat production.  The coat of a drop coat breed, while protecting it from the elements, would never grow long enough to do that if its growth and shed stages were as short as a Terrier's.  So, the reason we can pluck out a Terrier's coat again is because at any given time, due to its breed design and genetic coat "code", leaves hair in different and shorter growth stages that leave the mosaic patten of dead and dying hair ready to be pulled out. 


Q.  Why can terriers be plucked at all, is their hair follicle rooted differently? 

A. Indeed their hair follicles are designed differently than that of other breeds having a different guard coat/undercoat hair ratio per their breed. Short straight hair does grow from a differently designed follicle, and out from that follicle in a different way than the follicles that produce curly, or wavy hair.  Also, as mentioned above, the hair being pulled out from for example, a terrier coat, is dead and dying, therefor not deeply rooted, not in an active growth stage, as that hair in an anagen stage that has a long growth cycle like on a drop coated dog.

Q. Why does the follicle of a terrier hair produce the pigment when the hair is first produced?  Why doesn't it shed out like short coated dogs?  Why does it continue to produce a thinner hair that just continues to grow but at a much slower pace?  Why don't they shed like a lab but not grow hair like a poodle? 

A. Ok- this part can be bundled again because of their genetic coat design.  Short coat hair that lacks much undercoat is still different than short hair that also has ample undercoat as well. This hair- as on a Lab, etc. has a very short growth/shed pattern, causing it to turn itself over more rapidly. Whereas the coat of a Terrier may be short on some parts of the body and longer on the others--it is designed genetically to grow that way, and each length of hair also has its own independent growth and shed cycle.  It still is rooted differently and the actual makeup of the hair shaft and root are different than a short straight hair like on the Lab.   What causes the pigment difference from the base to the tip of a terrier hair that is left to grow and not pulled out (pertaining only to the jacket or short hairs that are designed to growth and shed more rapidly and not the longer hair of the furnishings) are a couple of things: the effect of the elements on the structure of the hair shaft, and that hair rich in color is designed to grow and then be shed,,if it is not helped out mechanically, it looses, as it grows,, its coarseness and hardiness, and also it will "dwindle" (slower and weaker growth) out from the follicle as its growth stage has not been prompted to completely shed out that dying hair, and therefor it continues to produce a lackluster and softer, and more fine textured hair.  Now, if that hair is pulled, the growth stage starts all over, and therefor can be maintained again as long as rolling or maintenance is kept up on.   If that hair is clipped off, then its dead or dying root (depending at which growth stage the hair was in at the time it is clipped off) will either leave the dead hair sitting in the follicle, or the dying hair with an interrupted growth stage due to mechanically removing the weight of the hair which helps it slide out of the follicle.  Also, hair designed genetically to grow out to a certain length, and then die off and shed out, and be replaced more rapidly, if that hair is not pulled out, it actually does change its structure of the hair shaft the longer that is allowed to sit in the follicle and try to continually grow. Weaker at the tip and stronger closer to the skin and the root.  Think of how a tree or a houseplant will shed leaves at a certain rate outside and how that changes inside, and per times and seasons of the year.  If that plant is moved inside under conditions where it does not receive enough light,, it will continue to grown its leaves and branches,,but the folliage is more sparse, lacks vibrant color, is larger to try to "grab ahold" of more sunshine and overall you'll get a poor quality and non thriving plant; putting more effort into growing folliage to take in enough nutrients, and therefor weakening its root system.  It will still live,,but not as well.  Hair is the same.

Q. Why does it take Cocker hair longer to dry?  Is it more porous? 

A.  Yes, its outer structure, speaking of the longer furnishing hair, is designed to hold onto moisture to help protect is at it grows in length out from the skin. Shorter hair is designed to wick away or sheet off water rapidly and it does that also with less undercoat (Cocker and other Sporting dogs actually have ample undercoat although it is not long in length) and via oil production.  *Also, when we add conditioner topically to hair, it holds onto moisture more and therefor will take longer to dry as the conditioner is designed to help seal in moisture and "lay down" the "shingles" that make up the hair shaft.  (think of the Pantene commercial with the microscopic photos of damaged vs. healthy hair)

Q. Why won't the undercoat on a previously shaved Pomeranian not comb out like the undercoat on a non-shaved Pom? 

A.  Likely due to a couple of things: either an underlying medical or nutritional deficiency that makes it harder for the dog to regenerate healthy coat, or stress upon the skin and follicles when the hair is pulled & then clipped off by a clipper blade (a reason that sharp & clean blades that cut cleanly and do not pull & tear the ends of the hair are a must), or also because, depending on the time of year, the dog's coat growth cycle may have been interrupted and pushed into a non-mosaic pattern- meaning that it is now producing more undercoat than guard coat- and remember that undercoat grows more rapidly than guard coat on DC breeds.

Q.Why can't you handstrip a maltese (other than humane reasons) and not turn the hair into Shih Tzu hair? 

A. The dog's genetic coat structure and follicle design. The hair follicles and even the depth of each skin layer on a Maltese, vs. a Shih Tzu, or a Terrier vs. a drop coated breed, are physically designed differently.  Maltese skin is much thinner, has different pigment, and the follicles are smaller as well.  Growing a thicker and more coarse hair from a small and fine follicle just can't be accomplished per DNA code.

Adding Supportive Servces to Your Salon


We would all benefit immensely by being able to increase our salon revenue without having to wear ourselves out with grooming more pets.  We know that there is much more to owning a pet than keeping up on their grooming.  So why not consider providing more than just grooming for our clients and their pets from our current salon? 

There are many services and programs that can be easily added to your pet salon or spa that will require only a little change to your frame of mind and your appointment book.  Most all of the care and services you can offer in addition to grooming take less money to add to your business, but they do take time to add to your focus.  Dedicating some of your time to learning about and scheduling these services will take you much less time than figuring out how to possibly groom more dogs in your already busy day.  You should always know exactly WHY you are offering any service or recommending products and giving advice. This will shine through every time you counsel and talk with pet owners.  Or it will be your greatest hindrance in taking yourself and your business to the next level.  The worst thing you can do for yourself at any time, and especially when starting to make these changes, is to try to sell things just for profit and to not be able to treat your clientele genuinely and supportively.  You should work with the mindset that you are focusing on educating yourself first and sharing that education with great purpose to your career and your livelihood.  After all, time is money, learning takes time, and you don’t want to have your new plans and goals undermined by poor planning and not following through. 

 Remember to network.  One of the most important things we should realize is that we cannot do it all.  One of the most lucrative and business supportive things we can work on is to create a network of reputable and honest people who can offer the care for our clients that we cannot.  Of course, we want to maximize our business opportunity and to not turn clients to others that we could be caring for ourselves. But if there are things your clients needs that you just aren’t able to address, setting their course with someone who can, will still land you in a position of being the go-to person for your clients.  They will respect & appreciate your guidance, so they’re still going to value you just as much.

      Sources to look at networking with:

  • Veterinarians-

Work diligently and proactively to gain several Veterinarian sources that are supportive to your pet care ideals, and supportive to your services as well.  I believe strongly in Holism and Integrated Alternative care, so I have worked to find Veterinarians who offer their care with the same basis.  I do this because I understand and believe in this as a way of life, and I care for my own pets this way, so it comes natural to look at my client pets this way as well.  Networking with like-minded business people can take only help you in your own business.   You can also consider that most Vets in turn network for things such as dental care, internal medicine specialties, and surgery specialists, so it is only natural that we could as well.

Other pet care providers:

  • Day care or pet sitting
  • Pet Walking
  • Boarding
  • Behavioral Counseling & Training
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Local Kennel Clubs and Class Sources- for activities such as agility, earthdog, dock dog, ground work and Canine Good Citizen
  • Contacts for living assistance programs such as LABS, Angel On a Leash, or TheraPaws, and for therapy dog programs that offer to train your clients’ dogs
  • Food and Supplement Retail (some may have no space for food retail in their salons)
  • Extended Pet Supply Retail (this is very important because you want to turn them to people who will advise them on purchases they cannot make with you, and not just sell them things they don’t need)
  • Massage or Acupressure, Chiropractic and Supportive Care
  • Emergency Vet Care (always have a list of Vet contacts near your salon phone)
  • Reputable Breeders
  • Rescue and Shelter Organizations
  • Pet Hospice Care
  • Pet & Owner Bonding & Communication Counseling
  • Pet Memorial or Remembrance Services and Grief Support Groups

~Just think, about all of the things “pet” out there, and work to either get your business involved, or have a source of referral for it for your clients.

I say give the extra time, give the extra knowledge, and by all means give that part of yourself that wants to consider those things outside of the average or the norm that a grooming salon offers.  We can only add to the longevity of our careers, add to the enjoyment and fulfillment we take from our work, and add to the healthy, happy percentage of well cared for pets in our area.  The rewards are immense, and the return comes in ways that are meaningful- not so much just as profit, but the pride and professionalism of our industry as well, and of being part of that positive progression.