Meghan Trainor, a singer and musician, sings it so well …
“I’m all about that bass, Bout that bass … bass … bass … bass”
Ellen Ehrlich, pet stylist and canine beautifer, likes to sing …
“I’m all about that comb, Bout that comb … comb … comb … comb”
Who knew? When I started grooming, I thought it was all about the brush. I was so wrong. I learned this lesson early on, when I arrived in my mobile van for a Havanese puppy’s first groom. I asked the new pet owner during the phone interview, “Are you brushing Bella?” Her response, “Every day.” Boy, was I in for a surprise. Little did I know she was brushing her puppy’s hair with the brush she used on her infant.
What happened next will be of no surprise to my fellow groomers. Bella’s hair was pretty and fluffy on top. Lurking below all that fuzzy hair was a pelt. I texted Mom to come out to the van where I had the opportunity to show her the coat and discuss the puppy’s matted hair.
This was my “ah ha” moment. Brushes lie, but a comb always tells the truth. A comb is a pet owner and groomer’s best friend. What would our lives be without a comb? Combs get into some of the nooks and crannies where brushes can’t go. Combs are so important that judges carry and use a comb when going over a competition dog in the ring. Some pet stylists have been known to stick a comb into their own hair to keep it handy.
Photo Courtesy of Libi Villagomez
The word comb is defined as “a strip of plastic, metal, or wood with a row of narrow teeth, used for untangling or arranging the hair.” Combs have been around for five thousand years. They are usually flat and have a frame with teeth sticking out; they’re simple tools. Even so, never underestimate their power!
Combs have many important uses; they untangle wet and dry hair and fix stray hair. They help put hair into different positions and styles and are used for parting and braiding. The reason why there is such an array of different combs in the grooming industry is because dog and cat hair have such a wide variety of thickness, texture, and length. Combs keep your pet beautiful and healthy. They search for tiny parasites like fleas and are very helpful tools during the bath.
There are many excellent products and options on the market when it comes to purchasing combs. Groomers have favorites and use them in different situations.
Helen Schaefer’s favorite is the 10” Andis comb. This comb makes back brushing easy and is great for thinning shear work. The fine end is very short for picking out small knots; the wide end gets through the thickest coats. This comb is not expensive and is durable. It’s Helen’s workhorse.
Debi Hilley loves her Utsumi Half Moon comb. It’s great for fine hair because the teeth and fine spacing make it perfect for fluffing and finishing. It’s Christine Ann Pasieka’s favorite everyday comb. She likes the way it grabs hair to prep the coat for clipping. This comb comes with a high price tag but Christine feels it was money well spent. Debi states, “Without the right comb you cannot get a good finish on a coat. With the right comb you could rule the world!” I’m happy to see a grooming tool that is both practical and sexy.
Photo by Linda Trader
Carol Visser uses this comb, commonly called a poodle comb, not only for poodles, but also for double-coated dogs like Newfoundland’s and Golden Retrievers. It is also a favorite of Julie Ellison’s. She uses it for de-shedding, line-combing drop coats, and detangling. Both pet stylists agree that the wooden handle is thick enough to hold comfortably and the design helps keep hands from tiring, especially if you have arthritis. Julie prefers this comb to undercoat rakes because the teeth are rounded and do not cause trauma to the dog’s skin.
Gillian Harvey loves her 4 ½” Greyhound Pocket Combs when she grooms cats. The small one is great for face, legs, and under armpits; the course comb for the bulk of the coat. She has small hands so they are comfortable.
This is Valerie Lagalo’s favorite comb for cats. Valerie states, “The long and short teeth work well in getting down to the skin in fine coats.” Many cat groomers who use this comb feel the same way.
Find combs that are right for you. Ask your grooming buddies what combs they like. Make sure the combs you use fit your hand properly. I know many groomers who own a collection of combs in every shape and size. When using a comb always think safety first, as you would any grooming tool. Linda Trader shared, “With any comb you use, make sure the pins are not sharp and don’t scratch the pet.”
Always take care of your combs. Lara Latshaw is careful not to drop hers. Janie Semprevivo places her combs in Barbicide, an approved hospital disinfectant, after every dog and for thirty minutes at the end of the day. Judi Stratton puts her combs in an ultrasonic cleaner. Sharon Zimmerman mists her combs with alcohol and dries them with towel.
I’m happy to report Bella, the Havanese puppy, had a terrific outcome. Mom purchased a brush and comb and uses them. Pet stylists and teamwork pet owners understand that the comb is an important tool in our arsenal against tangles, knots, and mats. Let’s change the popular phrase, “Brush your cat or dog” to “Brush and comb your cat or dog.” Combs are not only great for human heads; they are also perfect for pets.
I love collaborating with groomers. A heartfelt thank you to every pet stylist that contributed to this article.
Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. She is the author of The Successful Pet Groomer, Go Mobile And Succeed, and 49 Essays On Pet Grooming. For more information go to: www.gomobileandsucceed.com