Canine Coat & Skin

The Details On Deshedding


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”.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


  • 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.

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.


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?


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?


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.

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.


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

Intro To Coat Carding & Stripping


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.



**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!



Grooming For Optimal Coat Health






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.


2020 Pet Stylist Invitational!!


This year our trade show has gone fully virtual!

This learning summit offers 2 full days, 16 hours total, of educational classes on Friday, October 17, and Saturday, October 18th, and a full day of livestream grooming competitions  Monday, October 19th, judged by our industry great: Michell Evans!!

There’ll be shopping discount opportunities all weekend long to stock up on supplies before our holiday rush!

Enjoy this final opportunity of the year to invest in yourself and your business all three days for only $99!!

You can register here:


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This cycle always results in another pile of dead coat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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