Styling Tips & Techniques

Creating a Beveled Foot

Some readers may say, "What's the big deal?" about knowing how to properly set in bevels on a groom.  So, that's the purpose of this article- not to just show you how, but to explain WHY such a simple procedure is important to every groom and every dog.

Aside from the how to-s of this, I want to explain a little more first on why each great groom is the sum of its parts. Without one thing, other parts may falter, so it is important to have an understanding that each thing touches the next, and so on- akin to the domino effect.


According to breed standards, many breeds of dog are desired to have a nicely round and tight foot, or to be viewed in their profile to be "up on toe".  A well created bevel will make your dog look as if it is "floating" just above the surface of wherever it is standing, and this creates definite "presence" to any groom!

*A dog with healthy foot composition and structural mechanics that relate to the entire conformation of a dog, will be viewed in a more positive light whether you know what to look for when taking in a dog or not.*

So, how does this relate to us in the grooming salon?

More often than not, we as skilled stylists have the ability to create that nice tight foot, correct foot placement and most importantly- a foundational element of a balanced groom just by using the coat our client has to work with and our capable eye. And, more often than not, the pets that come to us for grooming can benefit greatly from our ability to perform fault grooming and to really have a knack for the tricks that create a beautiful signature groom.

The Foot is the Foundation of a Groom

When standing back and looking over a freshly groomed dog, where does it all begin?

Our eye should be drawn toward the center of the pet's profile. However, anything that is out of proportion or unbalanced will pull our eye away from the overall symmetry of a dog and detract from the fluidity that we view the entire animal. This creates a less than desirable look for the dog, and a less than pleasing groom as well.  Sometimes, we cannot quite put our finger on what it is, other times when standing back, we can easily see where the groom fell apart.

Almost always- it has to do with one of three things- proportion, balance (or symmetry) and angulation.

These are three incredibly important words, for every single groomer. From a new groomer in school, to a groomer working every day in a salon, to a competition groomer, to the top competing show dog groomer. 


Angulation: The precise measurement of angles.

Balance: A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.


Symmetry: Correct or pleasing proportion of the parts of a thing.

Proportion: A relationship between quantities such that if one varies then another varies in a manner dependent on the first...Agreeable or harmonious relation of parts within a whole; balance or symmetry.


Fundamentally every groom and breed profile relies on each of those attributes to define itself as aesthetically pleasing and mechanically sound. 

So always think about those things each and every time that critique your grooms. 

A Solid Foundation

The groom begins, where the dog begins,,, at the feet.

By starting your groom correctly from the ground up, you are setting yourself up for a better outcome.

If a dog's feet are too full, too large or they look like a pancake, that will travel right on up the leg, across the entire groom, and leave you with a dog that looks chubby, frumpy, and needs to be shorter all over.  This means that by setting the length of a foot, you are also setting the length of the entire groom as much as you are with any other length of clip you do on the other parts of the dog.

Normally, The very FIRST thing I do is to set in the front (chest and neck) and the back (point of rump to bend of stifle) on every groom that  I do. This allows me to see the overall length of the dog that I am working with so that I can correctly judge the center of the dog where the eye should be drawn to- typically this sets just behind the last, (or 13th or floating) rib of a dog. And this allows me to adjust every other piece of the groom in accordance with that central point based on all that I have to work with per the conformation and coat of the dog.

So what does this have to do with the feet?

Well, what do I do next on every groom?

I set in the feet.

Prepwork is POWER.

I have said it so many times that it sounds like a self help guru's slogan, but it is the truth. No one can create a beautiful groom on a dog that is not properly prepped.

Properly cleaned and dried and conditioned coat, properly trimmed nails, cleanly trimmed pads and well trimmed sanitary area are all foundational to a good groom- even a shave down!

~But let's stay on course & stick to the feet. Be sure that your pet's nails are trimmed as close as they safely can be. This will help keep the circumference of the foot as small and compact as possible. Also be sure that the pads are cleanly trimmed without cutting into the coat around the paw so that you have all of that to work with for creating your bevel. Another reason that I trim the pads first is so that I can clearly view the foot shape in case there is a missing, misshapen or superfluous digit that needs to be hidden with more hair.


Camera Nov23 2011 002

Hind leg first:

 Next you will want to comb all of the hair on the foot so that it is tangle free and well lofted or standing well up from the skin.

Camera Nov23 2011 001
  Now trim all of the hair that falls past the bottom of the foot-

Camera Nov23 2011 003
 So that is looks similar to this-

Camera Nov23 2011 004 Next stand the dog as squarely on the table as possible as you will be setting in the hock angle and it is important that from this step on they are standing in a comfortable and square position.

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While they stand, lift the back leg up carefully so that it is perpendicular with the table top. As so:

Camera Nov23 2011 001

With the leg lifted, now trim the hair off the back of the foot and straight up the hock. When you reset the foot, this will most easily set the hock angulation needed for the hind leg in one easy step.

From there, now you can set in the front of the foot. I always do the back, then front, then pull the sides together, but that is up to your preference.

One easy way to set in the front of the foot and to find the tips of the nails- so that you do NOT cut into the needed hair to cover the nails up- is to take up your shears, and with the dog standing, pull the blades of the shear (closed) across the top of the foot, and down against the toenails. This way you will quickly see how much hair you can safely cut away and still keep the foot tight, but not expose nail. Camera Nov23 2011 005

Once you have that, just open the shears and cut off the hair straight across the front of the foot and upward at about a 30 degree angle from the table as so:

Camera Nov23 2011 010

~A note- this can be done with straight shears, but is much easier with curved shears.

From there, you can cut in the outside angle of the outer edge of the foot a the same angle, and then lift the leg inward and slightly outward to set in the remaining inner edge of the foot.

**Please remember something important:  The front assembly of a dog is held together by joints and ligaments, and the rear assembly of a dog is held together by a ball & socket- so lift the legs always very carefully. Never over the level of the dog's back, the front leg should not be over extended either forward or backward any further than its normal length of stride, and always push the hind leg in towards the body to create the most safe leg lift in case the dog is old, stiff, or slips.**

Next the Front Leg:

Again, fluff out the dog's leg hair, combing the foot hair well, lift the paw slightly so that you can view the underside of the pad and trim the hair which falls past the bottom of the foot.

Reset the foot squarely under the dog. 

Locate the dog's nail tips with your shears, and cut in the front of the foot. Then cut in the sides at the same angle, and the inner edge of the foot as well. Once the foot is shaped, now you can set in the slight curve at the back of the foot across the stopper pad so that the back of the leg is tidy and the dog will look up on toe- as so:


Feb 12 2011 035

 Once your bevels are all set in, you can soften the edges of each foot if you prefer a less crisp edge. This looks most nice on a dog with straight furnishings such as the American Cocker.

Feb 12 2011 003

And this applies to your Terriers with full leg furnishings also. Except that toenails can be exposed.







 Thanks for reading!


Session with Chris Sertzel on GroomerTALK LIVE!

Bio pic

Hello everyone!

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

This session will be on August 12th, 7PM EST.

Please call in with any questions you can come up with about things like skin and coat issues, offering supportive and spa type services, questions about competition grooming, or anything you can think of that might help you out! Its sure to be a fun and interesting broadcast!

Preparing and Scheduling for Competition Groomers

The following article is an excerpt from my Competition Grooming Guideboook!


Chapter Two: Preparing Yourself

There is much preparation that goes into competitive grooming.  Most of all, you will want to be preparing yourself emotionally for your journey.  Now is the time to confirm with yourself that you will happily do what it takes to get into the ring with all you’ve got.  Months ahead you will be looking at how to get dogs together to compete with, talking with your clients or breeders, allocating funds to travel, looking at hotels and air fair or driving itineraries, making arrangements for your clients to be cared for while you are away, practicing on at least a couple of dogs each week at your workplace (to check your pace, your thoroughness, and to critique your skills as if you were in the ring), possibly working with an experienced mentor to help you along, and most of all- you’ll be making lists and more lists!  But it is all in the name of something great.              One of the greatest attributes of our industry for all of those groomers and stylists who are looking to climb the ladder of knowledge and ability is that all of our industry icons, our “A” list members, and our top stylists from around the country are always available and willing to help you with your questions.  Now is the time to possibly also locate a mentor or an active or seasoned competitor to pose your questions to for their advice.  I have never had another competitor turn their back on me when I have asked them a question on what to do with my competition dogs, and I know from experience that you should feel confident enough to approach and question those with the knowledge you want to gain.  Actually, what better way to learn that from someone who has already been there?  You can ask in person at the industry trade shows or you can arrange for one on one learning and hands-on sessions or you can email pictures of your finished grooms, stacked and presented for the camera, so that they can do an outline or shoot back with the changes they see need to be made and what they see is right on.  Photos, though, are never the best way to get guidance with a dog, but they are better than getting no help if that is all you can do for now.  The best way is to bring your dog to someone with the experience to assist you and let them see the dog and your groom from every angle.  They may not always be available to offer their help for free at a trade show because they have their own itinerary and responsibilities to get to, so scheduling one on one is the most ideal learning opportunity for you, and next in line is by attending learning seminars where you can ask all of your questions directly to the speaker.

It is a lot of planning and devotion, and money, and time- but the preparations are what make the journey exciting and fun.  If you choose to just do a show or two a year for the fun of it, that is up to you, but if you get hooked unexpectedly by the competition bug, oyu will want to go big and do all oyu can to not waste your time or mnoney.  Poor planning can make the journey a little more bumpy, but it will only take these mistakes one time around to prove their avoidance for the next time!  There are many points to remember and it can be helpful to get an idea ahead of time at what all you will want to go over and remember when preparing.  Here is a general timeline and the duties that will fall into place as competition time draws near.




10-12 weeks and longer:  

  • Make contact with a possible mentor if you want to work with someone to give you tips and critiques in preparation for the ring.  Mentors could be stylist friends that you know, dog show conformation class exhibitors with your local kennel club, members of your area’s grooming association or club, or simply approach groomers that you have seen place in competitions and ask them for some tips.  Always check the pet grooming websites online to post a “need ad” for a mentor if you are coming up empty handed. Be sure to check your mentors credentials and experience just to be clear that you are getting quality advice, especially if you are paying for their time.
  • Start surveying your client list for possible competition worthy dogs. 
  • If you are employed by another, and haven’t yet, now is the best talk with them about what you want to do and be sure to get their agreement on allowing certain clients to be involved in your plans.  Be sure that you have a signed contractual agreement between you to state clearly that you are responsible for the fees accrued in their free or discounted grooming so the business owner will loose no sales.
  • Go to local dog shows and make business card contacts with breeders.
  • Begin to decide which breeds you are comfortable with or are personally interested in learning about.  You will groom a breed better if you have a personal interest in that breed.
  • Talk with groomer friends to see if they have dogs or clients that would be interested.
  • Visit all of the learning sites listed in this book to gather as much knowledge and make as many contacts as possible.
  • Decide on what competitions and classes at these competitions you would like to enter.
  • Begin to allocate funds to cover expenses.
  • Start mentioning to your clients that you are planning this trip and why, and try to schedule their grooming around the date so they are still cared for.
  • Start making your organizational show lists.
  • If you have dogs on hand for competing with as of now- start practicing your grooming start to finish on them. Time the groom.  Work on properly presenting the dog on the table.  Take your time to do a thorough job, notice conformational attributes and flaws, address coat issues such as density or texture by trying products or working the coat with only scissors to harden it. 


        8-10 weeks:

  • Choose which dogs will work for your eligible classes.  Meet with the owners and go over your lending contracts again, sign them mutually and have them notarized.  Personally deliver a copy to each of the dog owners.
  • Whether working on client dogs, breeder dogs, or your own personal dogs, now begin a weekly maintenance grooming schedule for these dogs. Take your time with each of the dogs that you are planning to utilize for competing when you groom them. Watch the clock to see how much time the groom takes you.  Time how long you spend on each task like the sanitary work or markouts and even drying so you know how long that takes you, and try different techniques to cut off some time. 

Remember that when you are in the ring, you will want to get a great outline first and then perfect your scissor finish work.    ~Bathing and conditioning the coat for maximum healthy growth, trimming in markouts, feet & sanitary until 6 weeks from the show date.

  • Study your breeds!  Practice your stacking, you presenting and your smiling!
  • If needed, take on a few extra hours to groom your competition dogs and still get all clients taken care of.  You do not want to disturb your business work day or clients as they are not only your income, but they are going to help pay for your new endeavor!  You may want to groom all competition dogs on a separate day (my personal choice) or take one less dog a day to have ample time to care for each competition dog’s coat to get it up to par in time for the show.   It is extremely important to not impact your business income and clients’ grooming quality and schedules in any way while you are competing.  there are a few salons that have been lost to the competition bug because of mismanagement of time and income while away at competitions.  This is avoidable with just a little extra time and planning on your part.
  • If you are employed by another, talk with them and get your dates available now.

6-8 weeks

  • Continue weekly grooming visits.  If using a coat builder or volumizer such as Jazzing (a clear hair colorant that binds to the hair and produces a more dense coat in thin or sparse, problem areas- available at Sally’s or other salon supply stores) or experimenting with products such as Thick & Thicker, do it starting now so that you will know ahead the results that you get on that coat with these products, how to properly apply them and to fine tune the outcome.
  • Book your flight if needed.  Book your dog’s flight arrangements if needed.  Be sure to shop around different airlines and on discount sites like Expedia and Travelocity.  Double check if you are an NDGAA or NASE, etc. member as this membership can get you discounts on hotels and rental cars.  And be sure to double check on your luggage fees. Most airlines now charge fees per bag if it goes in cargo.

You will have to have all current medical info and the owner present at this time.  It is best to book your dog’s flight arrangements yourself and not leave it in the owner’s hands.  Not only are you responsible for fees, but the airline needs to know the situation and that you are caring for the dog in the owner’s absence.  Certain states have laws governing owner-absent care and temporary ownership/parent ship of a dog, so just be sure to clue in the airline now to avoid any hiccups. 

  • If your car is making a long trip, be sure that it has a current tune up and care so it is running smoothly.
  • If you are relying on a ride with a friend, be sure to get these commitments laid out now for minimal last minute surprises.  It is always best to not wait to make travel arrangements, not only for the peace of mind at having this done ahead of time as you will have a lot on your plate, but also remember that the closer to your trip date, sometimes hotel rates and surely flight rates will go up in cost.  It simply doesn’t pay to wait!
  • Study your breeds and practice your presentation skills!

4-6 weeks:

  • Continue with weekly maintenance grooming visits.
  • Double check and try to rebook with all clients at the time they leave so that everyone is accounted for as much as possible.
  • Change your answering machine message to mention your upcoming trip (be sure it is an upbeat and excited manner!) and remind clients of your short absence.
  • If you are leaving family behind, get together a list of contact info for where you are staying.  If leaving a pet behind, make these arrangements now as well. 
  • Arrange with a pet sitter if needed.
  • Study your breeds and practice your presentation skills!

2-4 weeks:

  • Start seeing competition dogs 2 times a week; once for a complete brushout and the second visit for a bath/coat treatment from now until the day before the show, or as needed per their breed requirements. 
  • Study your breeds and hone your grooming skills!
  • Have needed shears and tools sharpened if needed.
  • If you are reliant on any personal medications, be sure they are filled & ready for your trip.

               1 week prior:

  • Confirm any travel plans the owner has if they are coming along and driving themselves. Go back over the times you need them there.  If they are riding with you, be sure that they are all set to go. 
  • See the dogs every other day if needed to assure the coat is in optimal condition.
  • If the breeder or owner is allowing you to home the dog until after competition, now is the closest safe time to take the dog in.
  • Double check that the dog is current on all needed vaccines and acquire the Vet info to have for your crate tags.  Be sure that you have them in hand when you leave whether the dog is coming with you or the owner as you will usually need them in order to be issued final registry of your ring number. 
  • Do a final sweep of grooming clients to be sure everyone is taken care of over your leave.

             The day before:

  • Clean your tools.
  • Pack you tool bag or box (see packing checklist!)
  • Pack your personal suitcases and toiletries.
  • Load your car with all supplies if driving.
  • Pack your carry on bag if flying.
  • Gas up your car if driving.
  • Pack your cooler if driving.
  • Print off online directions, print off airline itinerary, print off show attendance confirmation and show addendum if you haven’t already.
  • Call and touch base with breeder or dog owners about when bring dogs by in time for your timely departure. *Be sure to give them a time cushion!  And when they arrive, take the time to send them off well and secure with the leave.  If they are going with but not riding with you- be sure to impress upon them exactly what time you will need them there by if you are leaving the same day of the competition, where to meet you at, exchange contact numbers and let them know the weather forecast if there is any adverse weather you will be travelling through, and be sure to remember to ask if there’s any anxiety on the pet’s behalf as this could put a serious kink in how they feel for their full day ahead. 
  • Take your pet to the boarder if needed.  Remember to leave with them clear and thorough contact info to avoid a catastrophe in your absence!
  • If you are leaving you home empty, take out your trash, clear perishables from refrigerator, etc.
  • For safety, change your business answering machine so it does not say that you are going to be out of town.
  • Double check with pet sitter if you will have one visiting.
  • Get to bed early and (try to) get a full night’s sleep! 

The day of:

  • Finish last minute packing of personals if driving.
  • Finish packing the car if driving.
  • Eat a good breakfast.
  • Give the dog(s) time to run & play a bit before you leave. 
  • Settle your dog into their crate calmly.
  • If flying, get to the airport with plenty of extra time to get your crate(s) into baggage safely, to get your baggage checked and get to your terminal on time.  Allow for traffic and remember that when you rush, this is when things get forgotten.


~I realize that all of this information may be overkill!  But in the interest of educating readers at every level, all of the possible outcomes and requirements are being overviewed here. When you actually start making preparations for competing, things will likely flow smoothly and with less effort once you know all of your information ahead of time.~



What to discuss with prospective dog lenders:


* Talk in depth with your clients about how competitions work:

They can travel with you or you can take the dog alone- (if the show is close, them coming along will ALWAYS make things easier for you as you now have an assistant to watch & care for their dog while you are in the ring. Which may allow you to compete in more classes!), the length of the day at the competition, show them pictures of the show winners from years past & the show itinerary, go over what grooming schedule and maintenance is involved to keep up with on their part, and relay to them how excited you are- they will most likely be excited, too! And if you are a first timer, this will be a bond between you both as you are learning together!

*Explain why you are competing:

You are continuing your education which brings them a higher quality of grooming services and promoting your career.  

*State the benefits they will receive by working with you:

They are receiving free grooming and upkeep on their dog for the next 6-8 weeks!  And, their dog will be the center of attention!  

* Be clear, genuine, and up front with your dogs’ owner as to how important it is that they allow you to do your grooming work without disrupting the schedule of grooming care. 

*Discuss any vacations or times when they will be absent during the time you are conditioning their pet.  If needed, see if you can sit their pet in their absence or personally  make grooming arrangements with their boarder.  There have been those who’ve had a client go on vacation, board their dog, and have it returned for their next grooming with a short clippered, or hacked-up, or matted coat!  Yikes!

*Go over the actual contract agreements slowly with them.  Explain what you are giving to them concerning the grooming and its monetary value, what they would owe should they breach the contract and how it would have to be repaying to you.  Give then time to look it over and decide if it will work for them.  But do not proceed until the signed and notarized contract is in both of your hands!


NOTE: some dishonest people may ride the contract in order to get free grooming and then try in many different ways to find a loophole.  If they try this once, remind then that you do have a binding contract that you need to follow through on or you will have to hold them accountable.  Proceed from their normally and let them make the final decision.  Either way, it is always best to have a back up or reserve dog that can take their place, should something happen.  This dog gets all of the same treatment (and flattery!) and their owner would be explained to what part their dog is playing. 


*NURTURE your relationship with these dog owners!!  You will be seeing a lot of them, and they of you.  They need to know how grateful you are, how important they are, and that this is a mutual favor situation to which you will both benefit.  You can remain in the driver’s seat and still show gratitude and flattery to them!  Remember to set aside the little annoyances that may surface in light of the bigger picture as long as they are following through on their end. If they are totally disrespectful to your work, don’t “fire” them unless you have a back up dog in the wings or you might kick yourself later!  And if you do “fire” them, let them know that they will still owe you for the grooming given thus far- as should have been stated in your contract.








What are “breed standards” and how do I know which dogs are up to breed standards?

Breed standards are usually created and laid down by the various parent clubs of individual breeds.  It is a set of descriptions that outline in depth the qualities that an individual dog in the breed should conform to. Breed Standards are then accepted by international bodies such as the AKC or CKC. 




For example:


Golden Retriever Breed Standard



Sporting Group

General Appearance
“A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident. Primarily a hunting dog, he should be shown in hard working condition. Overall appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts. Faults--Any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to which it interferes with the breed’s purpose or is contrary to breed character.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Males 23-24 inches in height at withers; females 21½-22½ inches. Dogs up to one inch above or below standard size should be proportionately penalized. Deviation in height of more than one inch from the standard shall disqualify. Length from breastbone to point of buttocks slightly greater than height at withers in ratio of 12:11. Weight for dogs 65-75 pounds; bitches 55-65 pounds.

Broad in skull, slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of frontal bones (forehead) or occipital bones. Stop well defined but not abrupt. Foreface deep and wide, nearly as long as skull. Muzzle straight in profile, blending smooth and strongly into skull; when viewed in profile or from above, slightly deeper and wider at stop than at tip. No heaviness in flews. Removal of whiskers is permitted but not preferred. Eyes friendly and intelligent in expression, medium large with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets. Color preferably dark brown; medium brown acceptable. Slant eyes and narrow, triangular eyes detract from correct expression and are to be faulted. No white or haw visible when looking straight ahead. Dogs showing evidence of functional abnormality of eyelids or eyelashes (such as, but not limited to, trichiasis, entropion, ectropion, or distichiasis) are to be excused from the ring. Ears rather short with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek. When pulled forward, tip of ear should just cover the eye. Low, hound-like ear set to be faulted. Nose black or brownish black, though fading to a lighter shade in cold weather not serious. Pink nose or one seriously lacking in pigmentation to be faulted. Teeth scissors bite, in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. Undershot or overshot bite is a disqualification. Misalignment of teeth (irregular placement of incisors) or a level bite (incisors meet each other edge to edge) is undesirable, but not to be confused with undershot or overshot. Full dentition. Obvious gaps are serious faults.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck medium long, merging gradually into well laid back shoulders, giving sturdy, muscular appearance. No throatiness. Backline strong and level from withers to slightly sloping croup, whether standing or moving. Sloping backline, roach or sway back, flat or steep croup to be faulted. Body well balanced, short coupled, deep through the chest. Chest between forelegs at least as wide as a man’s closed hand including thumb, with well developed forechest. Brisket extends to elbow. Ribs long and well sprung but not barrel shaped, extending well towards hindquarters. Loin short, muscular, wide and deep, with very little tuck-up. Slab-sidedness, narrow chest, lack of depth in brisket, excessive tuck-up to be faulted. Tail well set on, thick and muscular at the base, following the natural line of the croup. Tail bones extend to, but not below, the point of hock. Carried with merry action, level or with some moderate upward curve; never curled over back nor between legs.

Muscular, well coordinated with hindquarters and capable of free movement. Shoulder blades long and well laid back with upper tips fairly close together at withers. Upper arms appear about the same length as the blades, setting the elbows back beneath the upper tip of the blades, close to the ribs without looseness. Legs, viewed from the front, straight with good bone, but not to the point of coarseness. Pasterns short and strong, sloping slightly with no suggestion of weakness. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. Feet medium size, round, compact, and well knuckled, with thick pads. Excess hair may be trimmed to show natural size and contour. Splayed or hare feet to be faulted.

Broad and strongly muscled. Profile of croup slopes slightly; the pelvic bone slopes at a slightly greater angle (approximately 30 degrees from horizontal). In a natural stance, the femur joins the pelvis at approximately a 90-degree angle; stifles well bent; hocks well let down with short, strong rear pasterns. Feet as in front. Legs straight when viewed from rear. Cow-hocks, spread hocks, and sickle hocks to be faulted.

Dense and water-repellent with good undercoat. Outer coat firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to body; may be straight or wavy. Untrimmed natural ruff; moderate feathering on back of forelegs and on underbody; heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs and underside of tail. Coat on head, paws, and front of legs is short and even. Excessive length, open coats, and limp, soft coats are very undesirable. Feet may be trimmed and stray hairs neatened, but the natural appearance of coat or outline should not be altered by cutting or clipping.

Rich, lustrous golden of various shades. Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat. With the exception of graying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, should be penalized according to its extent. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings. Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. Some latitude should be given to the light puppy whose coloring shows promise of deepening with maturity. Any noticeable area of black or other off-color hair is a serious fault.

When trotting, gait is free, smooth, powerful and well coordinated, showing good reach. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance. It is recommended that dogs be shown on a loose lead to reflect true gait.

Friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with Golden Retriever character. Such actions should be penalized according to their significance.”

 *courtesy of the American Kennel Club

So you can see that these guidelines cover all aspects of not only the dog’s physical makeup, but their personality and movement as well. 

Developing your eye to notice the melding of these characteristics in a particular dog comes with time and study.  Properly choosing a dog closest to breed standard will make less work for you on the grooming table and help you overall style outcome. The best thing you can do is get your hands on the many current breed magazines, grooming DVDs and books available to you.  Log onto sites like and or and read the posts and look through all of the breeds that interest you.  Sites like list the breed standards for each breed and printing these off or purchasing “the AKC All Breed Dog Book” to study is very necessary.  Magazines like “Dogs In Review” are priceless for they afford you the luxury of seeing all of the world’s top dogs at your fingertips.   Get out to local dog shows and bring a notebook.  Sitting at these shows lets you take all of the best dogs from each breed and look at how they move, how they act, and how to bring out or accentuate these characteristics in their grooming.  This will eventually help you get your head around making your hands do what you see in your mind on how that dog should look when it is groomed (and making contacts at these shows with breeders can be a wonderful source for acquiring dogs to use in the competition ring, but we’ll get to that in a bit).  You can also learn volumes of grooming techniques by watching the competitors as they groom ringside.  Some of their tricks differ from what we do for our grooming, but what we are both trying to achieve with our skills is the same.  To accentuate the breed characteristic for that dog and to cover up any existing flaws so as to bring that dog as near to “perfect” a breed standard as possible. 





You will know ahead of time which breeds are those that you really enjoy grooming and feel a connection with.  This connection will help you develop your eye and to excel in your proficiency and skills and this in turn will help give you an edge on those styles in the competition ring.  However, it is also important to grow by challenging yourself with dogs that you are not as familiar with in order to learn while you compete.  There will be others in the ring with you that are trying new breeds and learning as they go, so do not be afraid to go into  territory in front of others.  They are in the same boat as you and are too concerned with their own tasks at hand to pass judgment on your grooming!





Just a note- one of the most common and yet overlooked flaws in pet dogs is weight.  Even a couple of extra pounds will throw that dog’s balance off and therefore make your grooming harder.  Weight affects the dog’s underline most obviously, but when compared side by side with a dog of same type but a couple less pounds, you will see that the weight affects the dog’s entire profile, and you will have to try to compensate for this.  -Giving competitors with a leaner dog the upper hand.  So, if you are choosing a dog that has some extra weight aboard, talk with the owner about nutrition and diet. 
















Healthy Dematting

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


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



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

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

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






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



Holiday Jester Collars

Skeeter 2My dog, "Skeeter".

These fun little grooming salon embellishments for the holidays, birthdays, or just for fun, are super easy, low cost, and really loved by clients!

Supplies Needed:

Assorted ribbon

1" wide elastic banding


hot glue or craft glue

assorted small decos to glue onto the ends of each ribbon tassel; foam cutouts, jingle bells or pom-poms work well

First, choose some ribbon! Try choosing at least 3 colors or prints of ribbon that compliment each other. You can choose just one color or two colors, but the more variety the better if you want to use less ribbon. You'll find that if you use all one color, you will need to tie on a bit more ribbon to make the collars really look full.

It makes a nice collar to have some ribbon that is 1" wide, and some that is 1/2", but ribbon of the same width works great, too. Be sure to use ribbon with no wire in it. And tulle works nicely as well.

Cut yourself a sturdy rectangle of cardboard. The length of the cardboard should be about 4 inches shorter than the length of the collar when finished. On each end, cut a slit about 1" deep that you will use to slide the knotted end of the elastic thru.

Cut a length of elastic long enough to fit comfortably over the dog's head and on its neck without being at all tight. Tie a single knot at each end of the elastic. Slide the knottend end of the elastic into the slit which you cut in the cardboar. Now stretch the banding across the board pretty snug. Tie another knot in the other end where needed to keep it tight, and slide that knot thru the other slit on the opposite side of the cardboard. When stretching the elastic banding across the cardboard, by pulling it fairly tight before securing it, the collar when removed, will pucker and be nice and full.

Resized collar #1

Now cut your ribbon! For large dogs cut the ribon in about 12" segments. For medium dogs, cut it about 10". And for smaller dogs, about 8" works nicely. This will make a nice drape around the neck and not hide the collar if the dog's hair is longer.

Now slip the lengths of ribbon, all laying flat, underneath the elastic banding. Simply pull the ribbon ends up and tie a single knot to secure the ribbon onto the elastic. Be sure that the ribbon is knotted closely to each other so that you can get a very full and thick collar.

Resized collar #2

Once you've knotted lengths of ribbon to cover the entire elastic except an inch or two on each end, remove the entire collar, and tie or thread stitch the ends together: DONE!

Resized collar #4

Also, as an added detail, you can also glue your embellishments onto the end of each ribbon after you've tied it onto the elastic and before taking it off of the cardboard.

Skeeter 1




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

Colloidal Oatmeal

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

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

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

History of Oatmeal

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

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

Clinical Properties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


How Does Colloidal Oatmeal Work?

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

What Conditions Are Helped By Colloidal Oatmeal?

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

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

Checking in a pet who may have allergies

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

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

Providing a Colloidal Oatmeal Soak

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caring For the Canine Coat

The last decade has seen the grooming, boarding and pet retail industry well into an upward trend towards providing a better client experience and customer service in every aspect of our businesses.  The grooming side of our businesses have seen a turn towards a more lush & relaxing spa atmosphere and spa type services that offer what I term, “encompassing grooming”- or added services in addition to the staple grooming for our clients.  In all, these raised expectations and individual endeavors have brought with them a sense of much needed professionalism from ourselves and our business fronts like never before.

These changes have brought with them not only the chance at higher revenues, but the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our salons and shops.  Whether we are mobile, home based, strip-mall, freestanding or corporate located, the advantages that total client care brings to our table in terms of profitability, personal growth potential, and business sustainability and growth- cannot be ignored.  Our businesses’ adaptability is singularly designated by us- the owners.  Our potential for personal education and professional growth is just as singularly important to achieve longevity.  Not to mention that overcoming individual challenges and making and meeting goals are the cornerstone of inner happiness and sense of pride.

So, with that outlook on furthering our education and professional skills as groomers, I have added many supportive services for my clients from my salon & spa; and I have had much positive response and a great sense of accomplishment from those changes. In what I feel is deeply rooted in the needs of our pet clients- to address and help care for- not just ears, nails, baths & haircuts- but the overall quality of life of our clients, and their interactive roles as part of their human families, these services came into focus.  I believe many other groomers who yearn for broadening their horizons, your inner voice will not be ignored, and it can be greatly rewarded. From that need, I comprised skin & coat care services, supportive & alternative services, and networking abilities for the services that I could not provide.  Thereby assuring that my business could be a greater source of the care options for my clients’ pets.  Of course, grooming is always the cornerstone of my salon, and most any salon in our industry, but we can add the services I will describe in this series of articles without any substantial change to our existing business in terms of monetary investment or build out.  These changes come from educating one’s self, and being open minded to the fact that we can make MORE money and groom fewer dogs, and still leave work each day less stressed, and more rewarded.

For this series of supportive care & spa type services, the first installment of these articles will cover adding sugar scrubs and will cover the what and why of offering this service.



The skin is the largest organ of the body, and keeping it cleansed, moisturized and healthy assures that it can perform the task it was designed to do- to protect the body and maintain a level of defense against environmental pathogens.  After all, the pets’ skin & coat are the canvas on which we do our work, and without healthy skin & ample coat, we cannot achieve a quality groom or style. 
So, in line with keeping things simple and using the products and ingredients that have offered relief and benefits for hundreds of years , I chose to implement many herbals and whole, raw ingredients to address the pet skin & coat issues that I saw many times over in my salon.

  The first simple and whole ingredient is:


Sugar is a simple, edible, crystalline carbohydrate. Sugar comes in many different forms, however, all types have a sweet flavor. The main types of sugar are sucrose, lactose and fructose. Common table sugar is typically sucrose which is extracted from cane or beets.  Sugars can go through multiple refining processes, such as our white table sugar, or be kept at a more complex & whole state such as with raw and some brown sugars.


Another form of sugar is honey- one with complex additional micronutrients & minerals.

Honey is composed of sugars like glucose and fructose and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron and phosphate. Honey also contains vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3 all of which change according to the qualities of the nectar and pollen taken in by the bees in the area from which it is collected. Bees use the pollen from local plants and eventually it ends up in your honey. This is why using locally grown or harvested honey topically on skin of a dog exhibiting skin allergies can be beneficial.  It can help the pet’s immune response to local or area allergens and can actually help build a better tolerance for the pet.  Besides the above, copper, iodine, and zinc exist in it in small quantities. Several kinds of hormones are also present in honey.

What positive properties does honey lend to the skin?

The micronutrients in honey are water soluble. Meaning that they readily dissolve in water and can be carried by water to disperse them onto and superficially into the skin layers.  Water-soluble minerals will absorb sublingually and, through cell osmosis, be transported throughout the body if the particle size of the mineral small enough.  You not only get the mineral into the body (absorption), but you also accomplish cell assimilation, which is the key to fully utilizing the benefits of mineral nutrients. 

Honey also has the ability to attract water- so it lends itself as a moisturizer in its most simple & pure form.

Honey is also a natural antiseptic. Medical journals cite more than 600 cases in which honey was employed to treat wounds.  Honey contains antimicrobial agents, which prevents infections by killing the bacteria in and around wounds. Many types of bacteria can’t survive in honey, so wounds heal faster, swelling eases, and tissue can grow back which can be applicable with issues such as hot spots, severe eczema or atopic dermatitis.

It is important to mention that while we cannot treat the dog’s problems from within, but we can give relief and provide positive change to skin & coat within the timeframe that the dog visits us in the salon. We can also provide complimentary relief and help support turning around a pet’s quality of life from ongoing medical issues by educating the owner, networking & referring

What properties does sugar lend to the skin?

Sugars have the ability to Mechanically Exfoliate.

The most obvious benefit of using a sugar scrub comes in the form of exfoliation.

Mechanical exfoliation means how the sugar or other abrasive product or ingredient acts upon the skin surface in a direct manner resulting from coming in contact with it, hence creating a change in the skin’s layers.  The granulated particles of sugar- whether coarse or finely graded in the sugar body scrub serve as tiny scrubbing beads that slough off dead surface skin cells and smooth over rough patches of skin. More coarse sugars such as raw will have a much more aggressive exfoliating ability due to their granule or crystal size. Whereas refined white sugar or fine brown sugar will have a softer exfoliating action on the skin.  The sugar beads glide over the dried and dead layers of skin cells, removing them- to reveal the soft, fresh skin cells underneath. 

Applying the scrub in gentle circular motions, will result in removing as much of the dead skin cells as possible while also helping to unclog skin pores. Pet skin follicles can become clogged or impacted with dirt, dead hair, saebum & waxeous oils that cause the follicle to become constricted & therefor unable to cleanse itself and maintain the healthy flora environment within & on the skin’s dermal layers.  Follicular clogging also cause the skin difficulty in its hair shed & growth phases.  

Follicular occlusions can result in many secondary skin symptoms such as oily or waxy coat, hot spots, acne, lackluster & patchy coat production, and also creates a breeding ground for yeasts & secondary bacteria to actively grow and create even more serious infections. 

In my opinion, I have on hand both types of sugar scrubs and will use finer grades for smooth coated dogs or on skin which is tender.  I will use the raw sugar scrubs on heavily coated dogs and oily/greasy dogs to get the most benefit from this sugar’s sloughing ability. 

The sugar scrub we use for bathing dogs and addressing their skin issues should be applied by hand damp and freshly cleaned skin for best exfoliation results. You can also add it to your diluted shampoo mix and use it immediately to help aid in exfoliation, but remember that applying any scrub should always be done to a pet’s clean skin so as to not rub open the skin to its fresh cellular layer and then possibly introduce dirt particles in the coat to that freshly opened skin. 


Worn Nails

Just a quick note- worn nails can be an indicator of knee and hip problems, as well as possible neurological issues concerning gait and balance.

When you lift a pet's foot to trim the nails, if you see that they worn on the sides at one angle, or especially if they are worn on the tops of each nail, the pet likely rolls its feet when walking.

Iphone dump 9 2 12 014
Nails worn on the outer side- rolls foot under as they walk


Iphone dump 9 2 12 015
Nails worn on their top surface show that the foot is dragged or not fully lifted with each step. This can be from being overweight, having a lazy gait, or from having bad or dysplastic hips. 

Why is this important to us as groomers?

As groomers, we need to take note of such symptoms as it can mean knee, hip, or joint pain, possible issues with steadiness or balance in the pets standing on our table, and these things should always be mentioned to the pet's owners.