Canine Coat & Skin

The Role of Water In Canine Skin & Coat Health

The Role of Water In Canine Skin & Coat Health


Water is a fundamental facet of the grooming process, and yet it is commonly overlooked for its value and effectiveness to gently cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize the skin and hair coat. Water is expressly important to the overall health and vitality of not just the inside of all living beings, but to the outside as well. Water is in its simplest form- the most natural and safest vehicle for removal of pathogens and debris from the canine coat and the best source for adding moisture to the canine skin. Without considering the role of water aside from mechanically removing shampoo and dirt from the coat, we would come up short of really understanding and utilizing our options for caring for the very foundation on which we lay our grooming skills much as a painter does upon canvas.

Water Chemistry

Contrary to popular belief, water is not pure. Unless a salon has a large filtration system in place, the water coming from the shower heads, going into shampoo and topical dilution bottles, and going onto the skin of each pet which you bathe, all contains microorganisms and trace elements. Environmental changes such as heavy rains, drought, and changes in water table tapping can all affect the makeup of water from your pipes. The pipes themselves add certain elements to the water before we even add anything else to it.

Trace elements, chemicals and microorganisms within water used during the bath are deposited on the skin and coat and can superficially permeate the skin as well. The content of your water will affect what and how the skin absorbs, and it will also affect the actual content and ability of your topicals to perform their manufactured purpose. Keep in mind that you may find that your shampoo dilution rate may change, and the outcome of the coat may change as well depending on your water chemistry. Softened water will yield most usually an optimal performance of most any shampoo or topical when compared to well or city water from a tap which may be hard or contain trace elements.

It should be mentioned that with regard to cleaning and sanitizing both your shampoo dilution bottles, mixing bottles and your entire shampoo or hydro-dilution system, that the importance of proper sanitizing is paramount. Anaerobic and aerobic bacteria grows both in diluted shampoo as it sits, and on the inside of all bottles, hoses and fittings through which water and shampoo passes. Shampoo, conditioner and other liquid topicals are a feedstock for secondary bacteria to utilize. Once water is added to any bottled shampoo or liquid concentrate, the product’s storage and shelf life becomes quite short-(breaking the seal may also shorten shelf life, but not as directly as when water is added). These bacteria can quickly and aggressively populate the surface of such areas and grow into various molds, fungus and secondary bacteria colonies as well. This petrie dish environment is where skin infections like furunculosis begin.

Thereby, with diligent attention to cleanliness, we can avoid this possibility, get the most from our products, and have the best result upon the canine coat.

Water Temperature

The temperature of water will not only affect the comfort of a pet, but it will also affect the skin’s absorption and moisturizing ability.
As well, it is simple sense that warmer water used in the shampooing process (using warm water to dilute your shampoo for application upon the coat) helps to beef up the cleansing ability of your surfactant formula by helping to liquefy congealed sebum build up and oil based dirt on the hair shaft and skin.
One should utilize a variety of temperature settings for any given pet client per their needs, but overall, the bathing water for a pet with no open sores or medical issues should always be tepid-warm. Water that is too hot is severely irritating and drying to the skin, and will cause heat stress reaction in most pets (listlessness, swaying, unsteadiness and drowsy expression). With the bath water being the most warm, the subsequent rinses should be progressively cooler in temperature. Meaning that the rinse after your shampoo should be cooler than the water used to wet the coat or apply your shampoo, and the water used to rinse conditioners from the coat should be the coolest. Water that feels warm enough upon your skin for you to bath in is far too warm for a canine. Water that is quite warm should never be applied to open, irritated or aggravated skin as it will be painful and likely worsen the symptoms due to damaged or sensitized epidermal nerve endings.

With reference to changing the water temperature while treating skin symptoms, the reason for this is that different temperatures possess different abilities or benefits upon the skin.

This temperature change process is to use warmth to both dilate or open the follicles or pores, and increase circulation and plump up the skin; thereby more easily releasing lodged sebum and oil based dirt on the skin and hair shaft surface. Warm water also helps swell and lift built up dead skin cells of the stratum corneum and aids dead hair up and out from the dilated follicle cup, and to help lift the hair cuticle depending solely on topical pH levels.

To use cool temperature upon the skin is to help constrict blood vessels and capillaries and tighten the skin, to seal moisture within the skin, and to help seal active ingredients upon hair shaft as well. Cooler water being used as your final rinse also calms epidermal nerve endings which can help alleviate generalized itching. Also, cooler water helps to congeal skin oil and set the topical coat conditioners upon the skin.

29017398-AC0F-4075-911E-BFE2DFD6FE44Ofuro bath

Soaks and Wraps

When doing soaks to soften layers of buildup, it is best to do these soaks warm- depending on the pet’s needs and age (older or ill dogs as well as pregnant or nursing females should not be allowed to have an elevated core temperature) so that the pet does not become chilled. When applying an oil treatment, it is also recommended to use a very warm rinse to keep the skin open before applying the oil and a warm towel wrap for maximum absorption.

Always stay tub-side and monitor the pet during the duration of any soak or wrap to be sure that they remain alert and do not slip or injure themselves just as you would during the bath.


Pressure and Flow

Since within many coat types the hair grows at an oblique or slanting angle to the skin, we should note that the direction of the water flow, coupled with the amount of pressure of that flow against the skin, can alter the lay of the coat and apply pressure to the arrector pili muscle and phylosebacous unit in general. One should rinse water through the coat in the direction that you wish for the coat to lay and in fact this will help you with training and setting the lay of coat. Drop coated dogs can be rinsed with the lay of coat even though they typically have a more lax arrector pili reaction. Furnished dogs can be rinsed with the growth of coat on the jacket, and against the coat growth on the furnishings. Stand up coats can be rinsed against the growth of coat. For double coated dogs, rinsing with the growth of coat but using an elevated water pressure will help to lift up and out dead packed coat if the skin beneath is healthy.

The pressure of the water can be both abrasive and damaging to irritated skin and brittle coat if set too high. One should use less pressure and higher volume of water when rinsing through the coat. Squeezing the hair with the shower spray held closely to the coat is safest, with minimal aggressive rubbing since hair is most vulnerable when it is wet and elastic. As well, pressure that is set too high will not only irritate the skin, but could also press pathogens more deeply into the hair follicle causing possible reactions.


In close, remember that water is an effective and incredibly gentle tool for canine skin and coat health and helping to ease the mechanical facet of the grooming process. Let water pressure and flow be one of the tools you have at your disposal to more easily do your job and optimize skin & coat health.

Deshedding In The Tub

As a groomer who teaches about canine skin and coat and methods that support the lifetime integrity of both, I have always been leery of working tools on wet, matted or packed coat. 

For a long time I have tried different methods of unpacking coats in the tub to make the HV drying process faster and the mechanical workload of brushing as little as possible. 

Aside from applying conditioner and using the HV dryer to blow out packed hair, they were very little tool methods that incorporated the act of combing or brushing clean, wet hair, that I knew weren’t somehow damaging hair coat for the long haul.


I found that this method proves to not break coat, not irritate skin, and not be physically tiresome or time consuming. 

This method happens to use a dull undercoat rake and a protein conditioning treatment as a hydrating mask that provides a great amount of slip to help the packed hair out of the coat. 

I’m also attaching a shorter video in the comments that utilizes a similar technique using only pure water with low pressure and high volume. 

It works wonders, and keeps the mess in the tub and the groom time efficient. 

Most of all it doesn’t stretch and break coat and set it up for matting right back up again!

** This is NOT a dematting method nor for use on curly coats. It is for unpacking double coats and undercoat.**




And a pure water rinse method as well.


Double Coated Shave Downs

I wanted to share a photo of a dog that I have been shaving down 2-3 times a year for the last six years. She is now seven years old, and each time she arrives she comes in dripping in coat with the proper guard coat to undercoat ratio. Good genes and good diet? Of course! But I also believe that a large part of the reason that she comes in with proper coat regrowth is because I thoroughly card, brush, and de-shed her coat before clippering anything off. By keeping the skin free of dead and build up coat before removing the length of hair, and by not pulling a clipper blade heavily through dirty, thick coat, we help to ensure proper regrowth of coat between grooming visits. IMG_8487

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.


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.

Ear 7

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.

Ear 2

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~

Ear 5

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



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:

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.


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! or




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.

2014-04-04 12.00.30

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.

2014-09-12 10.39.37

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.

2014-09-12 10.56.32

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.

2014-09-12 11.00.39

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.

2014-09-12 11.03.27

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.

2014-09-12 10.58.34

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).

2014-09-12 11.03.46

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.

2014-09-12 10.59.07

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.  

2014-09-12 12.28.47

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.

2014-09-12 11.53.51

2014-09-12 11.53.19

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.

2014-09-12 11.19.32

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!

  2014-09-12 12.28.38

2014-09-12 12.27.39

2014-09-12 12.28.13

2014-09-12 12.28.32

2014-09-12 12.29.16


2014-09-12 10.39.37 

2014-09-12 12.27.31

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

2014-07-10 12.44.19

2014-07-10 14.51.53

2014-07-10 14.52.26


2014-06-27 12.48.42






Understanding the Double Coat

Below is a simple chart showing the growth stages of the canine double coat; one with a dense guard coat to undercoat ratio.

This is a handy chart to have on hand when relating to clients the importance of keeping up their double coated breed. It diagrams how a coat works either for or against the dog's well being and comfort.

Double Coated hair stages

Session with Chris Sertzel on GroomerTALK LIVE!

Bio pic

Hello everyone!

Be sure to listen and call in for my LIVE session for'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!

Healthy Dematting

This is Oliver- a Bichon and Lhasa mix- Ollie has a drop coat with just enuf soft undercoat beneath long coarse guard coat that he matts up very easily with pretty dense cottony matts.


I washed him with ShowSeason’s Soothe shampoo at a 3:1 dilution rate. You can choose your favorite gentle shampoo that is not clarifying or stripping to do the cleansing work any time the dog’s skin and coat needs cleaning but is in danger of over-drying. If the dog has dry or flakey skin, you may want to go with either an oatmeal shampoo (except in the case of allergies where oatmeal can aggravate this and actually feed yeast cultures on the dog’s skin), or another alpha-hydroxy shampoo to bubble up and off dead skin cells and stale skin oil build up. Whenever there is excess dirt or oil or skin irritation, always try to rinse thru the coat with a good tepid water rinse to break up those oils and open the skin pores prior to the cleansing of both the skin and hair coat. Water which is too warm can be uncomfortable or irritate already upset skin as in the case of hot spots and allergies. You can use a tepid to cooler rinse water if there is any question of unhealthy or irritated skin, but if the skin looks good and the hair coat just needs some work, a warmer rinse will loosen packed undercoat, lift up dead skin cellular matter, break up built up skin oils, and open the skin pores to let go of dead hair partially submerged within the hair follicle which the coat will be healthier without.



Water is often overlooked as both the most gentle and most safe means of exfoliation and of moisturizing. However, as with us, prolonged exposure to water can actually over-dry the skin, so I personally never rinse during any cycle of the bath for more than 2-3 minutes, so the skin is wet for no longer than 10 minutes unless I am addressing a certain skin issue which requires an active soak.

After a thorough hand wash, I used a warmer rinse to remove all the shampoo from the coat, and squeezed the water from the coat. Next here I used ShowSeason’s Hypo Conditioner (cream consistency) at full strength. You can use any thicker cream consistency moisturizer of your choice, but you want something that works well for drop coats without causing long term coat buildup. After a while, some lower quality conditioners will actually build up on the coat and can attract dirt and cause waxiness, limpness and lackluster color. If you are seeing limp or scraggly coat after grooming, try a clarifying shampoo to first strip off any wax build up. I worked this by hand from the skin surface to the tips of all of the coat and then left this on for 5 minutes while Ollie was wrapped in a very warm wet towel to keep the skin and hair follicles open for moisture absorption and help fill in the gaps in the hair shaft structure of any damaged coat. I then followed this moisture wrap- similar to a hot oil treatment- with a long cool rinse to close the skin and hair follicles and help seal in moisture. Once towel dried, I applied a liberal amount of DeTangle spray to the areas where he was most tightly matted. I then HVed on low until he was completely dried before doing any brushing.

Combing and brushing of wet hair- especially in order to dematt- is often the culprit of causing more matting as it mechanically stretches each hair shaft at a time when it is wet and there for at its lowest tensile strength. This stretching usually causes the shaft to crack and splinter and twist similar to a spring. This in turn causes the fragmented shaft to snag on other hairs around it. This helps to create friction- a major element of a matt, and also since a damaged hair shaft holds dirt- another ingredient in most matts, this makes this a great recipe for tangles- which is a common building block of any matt. Then what was left I combed out. This was the outcome.






No severe breakage, and amazingly soft, supple, glossy coat. Pink and healthy plump skin with no more flakes, and a happy, unstressed, beautiful pup.




One of the most common questions that I see and hear in our canine skin & coat care
classes are surrounding the topic of grooming dogs which enter the salon with itchy, dry
or pink colored skin due to allergies. It can be seasonal or contact allergies, but these
dogs repeatedly come in with uncomfortable skin, and lackluster and unhealthy coat.
We have to remember that we can do all the best we can on the outside of these dogs, but
what is causing these symptoms is continuing to well deep inside the pet. In these cases,
it is ever so important to try to take the time to educate your pet client owners about
allergies, symptoms that you see and possible causes. Most of all, try to recommend
them to a vet who specializes in systemic and supportive care practices that really get to
the root of the problem. Without a good vet in place and pet owners who will work with,
your only method of providing relief for the pet is to use your tools and supplies in your
salon that you know will provide the pet the most benefit, some relief, and the least
amount of stress during their visits. Sometimes we can only know that we are doing the
best we can for the pet and giving some relief even if it visits again with the same
There are natural and simple ingredients and products that you as a groomer or stylist can
easily have on hand to help provide relief and create a beautiful groom for your clients at
each visit and to lessen a pet’s symptoms and provide some relief-even if only for a short
time. Having these on hand will enable you to give some genuine physical comfort to the
pet and to well clean the “canvas” on which you will lay your finished groom.
One of the most simple, whole, and safe products you can have in your bathing rooms is
colloidal oatmeal.

Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal, is also known by its Genus Species name, Avena sativa L.. What
colloidal oatmeal does is to help smooth and comfort itchy, scratchy, and dry skin. These
same effects can be given to your pet clients as well as it does for us humans.
Following is an in depth excerpt of work from Alessandra Panoni of the clinical
properties, uses & benefits or colloidal oatmeal. Beyond this, continues my article on
using colloidal oatmeal in our salons.

Oatmeal has been used for centuries as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation
associated with various xerotic dermatoses. In 1945, a ready to use colloidal oatmeal,
produced by finely grinding the oat and boiling it to extract the colloidal material,
became available. Today, colloidal oatmeal is available in various dosage forms from
powders for the bath to shampoos, shaving gels, and moisturizing creams. Currently, the
use of colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant is regulated by the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) according to the Over-The-Counter Final Monograph for Skin
Protectant Drug Products issued in June 2003. Its preparation is also standardized by
the United States Pharmacopeia.

The many clinical properties of colloidal oatmeal derive from its chemical polymorphism.
The high concentration in starches and [beta]-glucan is responsible for the protective
and water-holding functions of oat. The presence of different types of phenols confers
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Some of the oat phenols are also strong
ultraviolet absorbers. The cleansing activity of oat is mostly due to saponins. Its many
functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a
soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent.

History of Oatmeal

Enzymes, such as lipase, lipoxygenase, and superoxide dismutase, have also been found
in oats. (23,24) Because oat grains are rich in lipids with a high content in unsaturated
fatty acids, they contain various compounds with antioxidant activity to protect the lipids
from oxidation. (25) This activity is mostly derived by the presence of phenolic esters.
(25,26) The oat plant at various growth stages has been found to contain a large number
of phenolic compounds including all major classes: benzoic and cinnamic acids,
quinones, flavones, flavonols, chalcones, flavanones, anthocyanidines, and
aminophenolics. (25) The most important antioxidant phenols in oat flour are the
glyceryl esters of hydroxycinnamic, ferulic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids. (27)

Oats also contain flavonoids (phenolic structure) with strong absorption of ultraviolet A
(UVA) in the 320 to 370 nm range. (25) Other phenolic esters, called avenacins
(structurally belonging to saponins), have also been isolated. (25) These have a large
lipophilic region and a short chain of sugar residues, which interact with nonlipid
components. Because of this structure saponins have a soap-like action. (28) Lastly, oats
contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. (29) Among these, vitamin E, present mostly
as [alpha]-tocopherol, is the most clinically relevant. (23,27)

Clinical Properties

Because of its chemical polymorphism, colloidal oatmeal presents many functional and
dermatological clinical properties such as cleansing, buffering, moisturizing, protecting,
soothing, anti-irritant, and antioxidant. As a skin protectant, colloidal oatmeal is
regulated by the FDA as an over the counter drug, and can be included in tub baths at a
minimum concentration of 0.007% if alone, or at a minimum concentration of 0.003%
when combined with mineral oil (30%-35%). (15) The monograph defines a skin

protectant as a "drug product that temporarily protects injured or exposed skin or
mucous membrane surfaces from harmful or annoying stimuli, and may help provide
relief to such surfaces." (15)

Other types of phenols in oat are responsible for different functional properties. In fact,
the oat flavonoids are strong UVA-screens, (25) and the avenacins have potent antifungal
activity as well as a soap-like function. (25,28)

Tocopherols (vitamin E) have anti-inflammatory and antiphotodamage activities. They
have been found to prevent or reduce UV-mediated damage in the skin and to inhibit the
biosynthesis of prostaglandin [E.sub.2]. (38)

The anti-inflammatory properties of oat have been substantiated in several
investigations. A study using extracts of Avena sativa showed strong inhibition of
prostaglandin biosynthesis in vitro. (39) Another in vitro investigation found that the oat
extract decreased mobilization of arachidonic acid from phospholipids, suggesting value
for ameliorating inflammatory skin disorders. (40)

A recent investigation in burn patients demonstrated the soothing benefit of a
shower/bath oil containing 5% colloidal oatmeal in liquid paraffin. The results showed
that the group using colloidal oatmeal had a significant reduction in itch compared to the

New technology in the formulation of oatmeal products has allowed more cosmetically
appealing topicals for improved moisturization, cleansing, and shaving, and new
products are constantly being developed to address different skin types, skin conditions,
and age groups. (8)


I thank Dr. Alessandra Pagnoni for providing her expert opinion and critical help in the
organization and preparation of the manuscript above.


How Does Colloidal Oatmeal Work?

Colloidal oatmeal is simply oats ground into an extremely fine powder. When added to
bathwater, it creates a milky dispersion that prevents the oatmeal from settling rapidly. So
the oatmeal stays in the water and doesn't just sink to the bottom of the bath. When you
get into the tub, the colloidal oatmeal feels silky, as it coats, moisturizes, softens, and
protects your skin.

What Conditions Are Helped By Colloidal Oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal works great to help relieve dry, psoriasis, skin patches (Eczema), acne,
bug bites, sunburns, and other minor skin irritations. It also helps relieve chicken pox,
poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other itching and scratching rashes. These

rashes also work twofold with the central nervous system as they continue to create-to
keep it simple-an itch signal to the nerves and then on to the brain-from within the skin
tissue. Regardless of how aggressively it is scratched on the surface, it is still telling the
brain that there is something there that continues to not feel right. This subsequent
scratching can be the source of much more than simple itching. Self mutiliation response
to relieve allergy itching often causes both secondary skin infections, a cycle of hair and
skin loss, sores, and general anxiety and even depression in a pet. Imagine being trapped
in your body for weeks, months or even years and always feeling itchy and
uncomfortable. To me, it would be maddening! Remember that these pets likely are not
“themselves”-they could be skittish, reactive, aggressive and just plainly unhappy at their
visits. Here is your chance to start a positive change for them, even if it is only a few
hours of normality and relief following their groom. What good things we can do if we
choose to try. Since colloidal oatmeal has an anti-itch property that helps reduce the
“need to itch,” soaking in the bath brings soothing comfort to those infected. When your
skin is itchy and irritated, its pH level may be higher. Colloidal oatmeal helps bring the
pH back to normal levels, taming the "need to itch."

Checking in a pet who may have allergies

It is important to address your concerns straight away with the pet owner. Both to
possibly help create a change back home while they are in your care at the salon, and to
avoid possibly having any issue blamed to your hands. Help the owner to leave your
salon with an idea of what services you plan for their pet, and WHY. Care for the pet as
best you can during their visit, and repeat that care every time you see them.

If the pet is extremely matted where you cannot get the skin and coat clean, you may
need to first remove some or all of the coat as a rough in clip. However, if avoidable, I
will always try to get them into a cool bath straight away and wait for grooming work
until the coat is clean and the skin has a little of its moisture and elasticity back. If your
grooming clients have skin that is mildly inflamed, reddened by irritation, is coated in
dander and oily or tacky residue, colloidal oatmeal can help soothe their skin as well.
Here is the method that I prefer to use in the salon for clients, it takes an extra 10 minutes
for prep time and allowing the pet to soak, but it still gives genuine help in a short time so
it is well worth having as a tool for relief.

Providing a Colloidal Oatmeal Soak

Rinse the pet for 2 to 5 minutes with cool to luke-warm water. Light water pressure and
heavy water flow is beneficial. You do not want to water spray or to mechanically rub
the skin too hard when it is aggravated for obvious reasons.

Follow the long cool rinse with a gentle cleansing shampoo. Some may find that a gentle
shampoo does not adequately break up excess skin dander or oils to be effective in their
removal, so it may be necessary to step up to a clarifying shampoo if there is excess
debris on the coat. Always remember that gentler is better, but we also want to be
effective in our results to make a difference for the pet owner and the pet. If the skin is
not built up too badly, step back down to a gentle formula shampoo, and bathe at least
twice. Be careful about manually scrubbing too hard, let the water and products work for
you, and follow this bath with another cool rinse for 2 to 3 minutes to help seal in

After the bath, you can now get your oatmeal soak ready for the pet. You can keep the
pet in the tub, or remove them, towel dry lightly, kennel, and keep them warm while you
mix the soak.

Add 2 Tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal powder to a luke-warm bath of up to 5 gallons of
water (a very warm bath will irritate the skin), the heavier the mix, the only change will
be that you must be more thorough in rinsing. You can either cup up & pour the tepid
water over the pet’s back and neck, or allow them to soak supervised in a bath deep
enough to cover them up to their neck. The dilution ratio for the oatmeal should be listed
in the product’s label, but in the effect that it is not, a good rule of thumb is to mix 2
Tablespoons into 5 gallons of warmer water. You want this soak to be warm, but not hot
and not so cold that they may chill. Be sure they are supplied with an anti-slip matt in the
bottom of the tub, and never leave them unattended. Add your pet client, and let them
soak for 5 to 7 minutes. You can pour the tepid or cool water over the pets back and neck,
or allow them to soak supervised in a bath deep enough to cover them up to their neck.
Again, be sure they are supplied with an anti-slip matt in the bottom of the tub, and never
leave them unattended. Be sure not to get the colloidal rinse into the pet’s eyes.
Allowing the ear leathers to soak in this solution is a great help for inflamed ears as well.
After a soak rinse them again for a minute or two with cooler water, towel dry by softly
squeezing the water from the coat, and either kennel or hand dry as needed. If the pet has
needed a clarifying or deeper shampoo, you will want to apply a diluted cream rinse or
conditioner to their coat to be sure the skin is given added moisture. We never want to
over condition the coat, but we do not want to leave it at all stripped as well. *Remember
with conditioners, less is more, and slathering on a heavy cream or oils will only cause
coat build up and keep the skin from regenerating and cleansing itself as it was designed
to do. In the case of all pets with abnormal skin, we are seeking to normalize the skin,
help the skin to create its own healthy flora, and then to stop subsequent treatment in the
salon once that is achieved. Meaning that you may not need to treat the skin in this
manner at the next visit, or that you may need to alter your care as the skin’s healing and
normalization continues. We want to bridge the gap in the pet’s normal skin condition
and then let the body step up to continue that normality on its own if possible.

After the rinse, it is normal for both your hands and the pet to feel very silky and smooth.
This is the oatmeal doing what it was designed to do; lightly coat the skin, seal in
moisture, and providing elasticity back to the skin & hair. Since colloidal oatmeal also
pulls out the annoying irritants that are on the skin’s surface, and even superficially in the
skin’s upper cellular layers, your pet will be feeling better in no time.

This treatment will help as soon as it is applied for most every pet, but must be repeated
every two to seven days either with you or at home if this is what the pet owner wants to
rely on for relief. Using colloidal oatmeal is a very gentle and non-invasive remedy to
topical irritation and itching, but simply will not end allergic responses unless it is used as
part of a care regimen that helps end the allergen(s) inclusion in the pet’s daily life.
Remember that an oatmeal bath is a remedy, NOT a solution to an underlying issue
which may be at the root of the itchiness or odors. Again, always work with your pet
owners and their vet to be sure your pet’s health need are addressed and fulfilled.