Styling Tips & Techniques

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.


Dog D-Skunking 101



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

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

They’ve tangled with a skunk! 

What do you do!?!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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


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

**This part is incredibly important!**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And why is this?

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


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

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

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

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

This prolongs the smell even more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy Hounding!


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.


Monitoring HV Dryer Temperature

Just a friendly reminder for those groomers who are aware of the growing amount of burns and related injuries and pet deaths involving heated kennel dryers.
It should not be overlooked that we need to also be careful with how we are using our high velocity dryers with pets as well. Aside from needing to be careful around bodily orifices as well as the eyes and ears and mouth of a pet we also need to pay attention to how hot the air is upon the surface of the skin while you are drying. It is important to remember that if your heated air hurts against your skin, it definitely is hurting the pet. Be sure to sweep over the pet thoroughly and never leave the flow of air up close to the skin for very long.  
I am not saying anything against any certain company in particular but I happen to have a ChallengeAir dryer that I ran this test on, and this is the temperature recording for the airflow after only five minutes. Very commonly we are using our dryers on a pet for over 15 minutes by the time they are completely dry. That means the temperature reading here after that length of time, could be even higher. Some dryers get even hotter than this.
Image1 - Copy
Please note that Dr. Mueller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology medical book states clearly that early-stage burning can happen at as little as 110°F. Use your high velocity dryers wisely!
Image3 - Copy
As well, always remember to monitor the ambient air temperature of your drying room. In addition to very warm air, having a high amount of humidity in the air creates a breathing and overheating risk quite quickly. Anything above 80F calls for a break to allow the pet and air within the room to cool. Keep your eyes on the pet for panting, wanting to lay down, or drooling as some of the first signs that nausea and imbalance can be present, which are part of the early stages of heat stroke.
Always offer a warm pet a drink of tepid water (not cold).

Grooming The Lagotto Romagnolo

Paging through the breed by breed grooming entries here on, I noticed there were no entries on grooming the Lagotto. I happened to have one in the salon for grooming, so I thought I would share the basic grooming needed for this breed.


Lagotto 5

Some brief history on this breed:

The Lagotto Romagnolo [laˈɡɔtto romaɲˈɲɔlo] is a breed of dog that comes from the Romagna sub-region of Italy. The name means "lake dog from Romagna," originating from the Italian word lago, meaning lake. Its traditional function is a gundog, specifically a water retriever. However, it is often used to hunt for truffles.


Some photos of Lagottos

Lagotto 3

Lagottos come in a variety of colors

Lagotto 1

This dog in physical character largely resembles the Portuguese Water Dog, but it is smaller in stature, and its coat is left much more rustic than the Portie. In fact, a coat containing matts is accepted in the show ring and by most educated Lagotto owners as part of their true coat characteristics. Of course, in the grooming salon, leaving matts in a coat is a big no-no. So, as groomers, we have the unusual task of completely grooming the dog, and then getting it to actually look quite UNgroomed as a final step before it is considered finished.

  Lagotto 2

Normally a nicely scissored and plush looking trim on a curly coated pet is what we are trying to achieve and what the owner would envision. But on a coat which is to be kept rustic or natural and not altered looking, as groomers we have to go over the dog as a final step and re-wet and hand squeeze the coat and then allow it to air dry to re-introduce the "marcelle" and the curl back into it. The stick straight results wanted for a Poodle's coat is not what you are going for. And the marcelling or natural wave desired in the jacket coat of a Kerry Blue Terrier is close to what you want to achieve, but the final trim on a Lagotto should be even much more curly, touseled and untidy. Doing this totally goes outside many of the comfort zones that most groomers find easy to turn a dog out as finished, and indeed, overcoming the final look of any tailored characteristic can prove surprisingly difficult.


To begin on a pet dog, we must thoroughly wash the pet and carefully remove any deep solid matting from the coat to be sure the pet's skin is healthy beneath, and that the coat does not inhibit free physical movement. Before the bath I recommend removing only the matting that is so solid that you feel you cannot penetrate it with shampoo and water and result in the hair within the mat being clean. Leave the rest of any webbing or matting until after the bathing session for two reasons:

1. Doing so likely will cause coat damage

2. The coat has a natural ability through its genetic texture and density, to easily blow out loose matting and webbing during the HV drying session. This is easier on the dog and yourself to allow your equipment and topicals to loosen & remove what you would otherwise be relying on your hands and arms to manually do.

Once the coat is clean, completely dry and lofty, use a pin brush and comb to separate the coat nicely. If you use a slicker, be sure to use either a flexible head slicker, or a very soft touch and a pat & pull method.

Thoroughly clipper I wide sanitary trim on the groin of the dog, trim out the underarm area of the front legs, and clip well around the rectum.  Trim out the hair around the ear opening and where the ear rests on the side of the head to allow for plenty of air flow to the ear canal. And trim the pads nice and tight.


From here, based on the requested length the owner wanted, choose your blade or comb attachment length and clip the entire dog both body and legs into the same length. This breed calls for columnal shaped legs, but also uniform coat length over the entire dog with exception of the head. And with as active as these dogs are, minimal leg coat will prove in the best interest of everyone.


Once the body and leg coat is fully clippered, go around the feet and shape them into soft round bevels, and be sure that the pads and perimeter of each paw is scissored tidy and tight.



From here be sure that the tail is scissored into its characteristic *carrot shape*. There should be no plume or flag on the underside of the tail per breed standard. For this dog, I scissored the entire tail, but you can also use a longer clip comp attachment if the tail hair is nicely dense.


 From there we move to the dog's head, which is finally the place where you can utilize your scissoring skills.


The breed calls for a round head and ears, and a muzzle with coat but in slightly shorter length than the hair on the head and cheeks.  It also calls for a round head where the ear hair doesn't extend past the length of the nose nor the cheek line. So you are trying to achieve a relatively round head similar to the Portie but with true circular shape instead of the slightly flat shape required of the top of the Portie head.


To achieve this, I first clippered tightly the throat area and behind the line of the jaw to get this messy area short and even, and to add length to the neck. From there I scissored the head and across the tops of the ears, sides of the ckeeks, and then shaped the bottom of each each to blend it in with the sides of the head. And finally, I stretched the lower lips and scissored the flew tight and then thinnered across the stop area of each eye and around the eye to open the view of the eyes. You should be able t easily se the eyes of these dogs, but there should still be a slight awning of natural hair that sits across the brow so the "deer in the headlights" expression is avoided. This owner also requested that the beard be left longer than usual so you will notice that doing so creates more of a bell shaped head. Ideally, the head should be fully round and similar to a Cockapoo or teddy bear head expression.


From there, as a final finishing step to the groom, I re-wet the dog's entire body and leg coat with a thorough misting of plain water and squeezed the water into the coat with my hands, and then put the dog into the kennel under a fan to allow it to finish by air drying. Remember to allow yourself extra time at the end of the groom to provide this finishing step and still get the dog back to its owner fully dried.  


It is important to not use heavy coat conditioning sprays on this breed that will be left on between grooming visits because typically they are not groomed as often, and their guard coat to undercoat ratio coupled with the density of their coat and the type of natural oils their skin produces, proves to be adequate for what they need and you don't want a heavy conditioner left in the coat.

Happy Grooming!


Lagotto 4

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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