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Professional Full Service Grooming | Juneau Dog Wash (do-it-yourself) | Budget Dog Baths | Grooming Tips

Communicating with Your Groomer

Over my 25+ years as a Professional Groomer, it has become apparent that there is not a common language within the profession, to describe different clips. This has led to many miscommunications between client and groomer, and usuaslly ends with a dissatisfied client. If it doesn't matter to you what the outcome is, read no further. If you do care what the final result is, read on.

The confusion, I believe, is because there are so many different definitions for same or similar terms. And during conversations regarding how a client wants a dog clipped, the terms used are not defined, and many assumptions are made. I have found that the definitions depend on where or how the groomer was trained, if at all. Additionally, the client gets introduced to some terminology (e.g. "puppy cut") by one groomer, sees what the final result is with that groomer, and then assumes that all other groomers will produce that same outcome, when using that particular term. While it is logical, this couldn't be further from the truth.

To avoid possible dissappointment or dissatisfaction, with the final groom, when working with a groomer new to you, I recommend you use specific descriptive terms, such as "clip to leave 1/2" of length on the dog". Units of measure are still very specific, regardless of what part of the country you are in, and regardless of training. A half an inch is still a half an inch.

You also should be specific about each part of the dog, as to how long or short you want the coat, sharp edges or feathered, demat the dog or just cut the mats out, etc. I always spend as much time as is needed for me to get a clear picture in my head of what I think the client wants. How is the face/muzzle done, how long should the ears and tail be, what about the body and legs, long or short crown...and so on. Many new clients have told me they have never been asked so many questions by their groomer before.

So remember, be specific, and have the groomer define their terms, so you know what they mean. A "Puppy Cutd" or a "Shave" by one groomer could be a completely different process from one groomer to another. Define YOUR terms, so the groomer knows specifically what you mean.

It will save a lot of confusion, in the end. and get you much closer to the clip you want on your dog.



Long Nails Cause Crossed Toes on Dog

Long Nails Long Nails trimmed
This dog's nails are so long, that the nail of one toe has gotten crossed over the nail on the next toe, and is now caught and held in the crossed position. The second picture shows the nails after trimming, with the crossed nail now uncrossed, and no longer hooked and caught. We recomment clipping nails back to (just before) the quick, and not just tipping them. Nails this long cause posture changes to the dog, and are very uncomfortable. Check your dog's nails often, and clip as necessary, to prevent this type of condition from happening. See below for pictures of properly trimmed nails.


Essential Oil(s) for Calming

.. .........

..Essential Oils can be wonderful for calming and relaxing your pet. This first video clip (on left), is almost four minutes long, of a dog that I groomed, that was truly unable to stand still, for any amount of time. He also licked/tongue flicked much of the time. I offered a sniff of Lavendar (theraputic grade) Oil, and then later put a drop of Lavendar Oil on the corner of the grooming table. The dog was not restrained in anyway, and I was standing right next to him, to make sure he didn't get himself in trouble. I prefer to use oils aromatically, giving the pet the option to move/get away from it, if they don't like it. If it works, you can always put a drop on a neckerchief that they will wear, so you can take if off easily, when they have had enough.

The second video clip, on the right, is of the same dog, after grooming and ready to go home, waiting in a kennel. There is a drop of Lavender on the scarf. The effects of the Lavender continue to work, calming and settleing the dog. It is in sharp contrast to the usual non-stop movement and anxiousness that this dog has always exhibited before.


Paw Check!

Springtime...it's that time of year again...sticky plant pods on the ground, from the plants and trees leafing forth. These get easily stuck in your dog's feet, especially between the pads, and in all kinds of places in their hair. Please, do a paw check when ever they have been outside, and pull (can soften first with olive oil, butter or ? if it's still pretty fresh pitch) or cut those pods off, and other foreign material, out. Your dog will really appreciate it, as will your groomer.

Plant pods in pad


Snow Packed Paws

If your dog has paws that collect snow easily, try trimming the hairs between the pads really short, with a short, snub nose scissors (to prevent injury). Usually, it is the hair that the snow clings to, and packs up on, so by trimming off the hair, there is not much for the snow to grab on to, and build up. You can also trim the hairs between the toes, on the top side of the paw, for the same reason and result.


Grooming Tip - Demat Before Bathing Your Dog

As many dog owners are spiffing up their dogs in preparation for the holidays, it's a good time to remember that your dog should be dematted BEFORE wetting them down for their shampoo. Every time a mat gets wet, it gets tighter, and more difficult to get out.


Shampooing Your Dog-a faster, easier, more cost and labor effective way

Shampooing TipsFor an easier, faster, more effective and less costly way to shampoo your dog, dilute your shampoo in a separate bottle (like a water bottle). Some shampoos are concentrates and others are not. Regardless of how thick or thin the shampoo in the source bottle, diluting it with water will make applying it to the wet coat of your dog much easier, will use less of the shampoo, make it go further, and be a faster application of the product.

I recommend shampooing/rinsing at least twice (more if needed), to get down to the skin. The first shampoo is usually quick and is used to get "the big stuff" off, takes off the top layer of the dirt and bacteria. The additional shampoos get down to the skin.

If you use your shampoo straight out of the bottle, especially if a concentrate, it is difficult to spread around evenly on the dog, requires more work and time to try to dilute it on the dog and get it all over, and usually means you use a lot more because of the above (more than is necessary) so you go through it faster. While there may be times when it is necessary to use it straight (if appropriate) such as on a really dirty dog, you should not have to do it all the time.

The dilution ratio depends on the company recommendations, as well as your need. I prefer shampoos that can be used full strength or diluted, as it tells me they are safer than those that MUST be diluted. So be sure to read directions for usage, first.


Sticky Plant Pod/Pine Pitch Removal

Springtime brings with it its share of budding new growth around us. Pine pitch starts flowing again, and the new growth of many plants produces sticky pods, and wind up in our pet's hair and feet, resulting in matting and collection of more dirt, pine needles, etc., especially in the pads of the feet.

Getting to the sticky substance, while it is still soft, helps in its removal. I'm told olive oil and peanut butter work. The olive oil did work pretty well. I haven't tried peanut butter yet.

On dried, hard, crusty pitch, I have used Hand Goop, available at your local grocers. It does dissolve the sticky substances pretty quickly, even the old, dried on, crusty ones. I avoid getting it on the pet's skin, and wash/rinse the area very thoroughly immediately. While I don't like using such chemicals, it was quick, effective, easy to clean up, and I didn't have to cut "holes" in my dogs' coats, making them look pretty chopped up.



Shedding Reduction Program

See our Shedding Reduction Program for ways to reduce shedding, both internally and externally.


(Behind the) Ear Mats

Please, check behind your dog's ears, weekly, to see if any mats are getting started. It is much easier to shave, split or clip them out when they are still small. When they get really massive, they can even effectively "glue" the ear down, so the dog cannot lift or prick its ears up. Sores can develop underneath, too. And of course there is the constant discomfort or even pain from the constant pulling on the skin, that a pet endures, if there are mats.

Massive mat behind dog's ear Hair behind dogs' ears is often finer, more kinky or curly and tangles easily. Add moisture (rain, playing in ponds, etc.), and dog scratching it, before long you have a well tangled mess going. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, if left alone.
Behind the dog's ear after shaving the mat off Mats of this caliber need to be shaved out with a clipper. The matting is too close to the skin to be safe using a scissors, unless you do it hair by hair (to avoid accidentally cutting the skin). This mat was so large that the ear and neck skin was finally "released" and able to move normally, once it was no longer fastened down by the matting.
The mat that was shaved off The culprit mat after being shaved off, heavily "felted", including strands of moss and twigs interwoven amongst the hairs.


Clean Dogs and Doggy Odor

A healthy, immaculately clean dog does not have "doggy odor", even when wet. If your dog does have "doggy odor" it is most likely because he is not really clean...I mean immaculately clean. That means you shampoo and rinse him as many times as it takes to get the hair squeaky clean, all the way down to the skin, all over the dog, and to get the skin completely clean. It is the dirt and bacteria that usually creates the undesirable smell. Use plenty of good shampoo, that cleans but does not strip the natural oils off. Smell the wet dog. If he still has an odor, shampoo and rinse again.

Dogs that are not at optimal health may have an odor because they are detoxing though the skin (the largest organ of the body). In those cases, I have usually found that even though they were immaculately clean after I groomed them, the odors were usually back in three or four days, reeking out of the skin. You should consult your veterinarian about this.

Quite simply, a dog with "doggy odor" is probably a dirty dog.


Matting Underneath Brushed Coat

If you cannot run a comb from the skin out to the end of the hair on your pet, you are dealing with mats. Even one snag is a mat. Once mats get started, they seem to grow exponentially.

Matting next to skin, under "brushed" coat Matting & dander under brushed hair Matting underneath is uncomfortable or  even painful to  your dog or cat
This is what matting looks like from the "skin" side. The hair on the back end may look like a brushed coat, but underneath, the matting is keeping the the skin from moving freely, "breathing" freely, and holds dirt and moisture (and maybe more). A closer look shows dander underneath what looked like a brushed coat (on top). It is also a wonderful place for fleas, and is difficult or impossible to wash (depending on severity). It can keep the skin from drying out properly, and is a breeding ground for bacteria, causing or adding to "doggie odors". In severe cases, there can be open sores underneath.
How do you think it feels to walk around and exist while your skin is being held in place, with limited or little ability to move. Every time the dog moves, the matting pulls on the skin, because the skin cannot move in the manner for which it was designed. And every time someone pets the dog, it pulls even more.

The only really humane way to deal with substantial to severe matting is to shave the pet. Often times it is impossible to leave more than 1/4" to 1/2" (or shorter), because the matting is so close to the skin it becomes impossible to get the clipper blade underneath the mat. Beside health issues, an animal's temperament can be affected, due to the constant, nonstop pulling on the skin. I have had instances where matting was so severe the animal had stopped moving, and even stopped eating.

Your pet should be thoroughly dematted BEFORE being washed, because every time the hair gets wet, it curls more and makes the mat even tighter. So in the cases of lots of matting, washing your dog, before taking them to the groomer, actually makes the job more difficult and takes longer. The longer you want the coat left, the more time it takes to shave the dog.

Many groomers simply shave the dog/cat down to the skin, because it is quicker and easier for the groomer. My preference is to try to leave at least 1/4" of hair, so the animal has some protection from the elements, and is not quite so embarrassed, and it is not quite so much of a shock to the owner when they come to pick up the dog/cat. In my experience, the animals are frequently quite sensitive to how they look, and if their owner has less than a delightful response when they pick them up, the pet can feel quite bad about it. It's tough enough to have to go back out in the world looking kind of "naked" (especially if truly shaved down to the skin), let along being laughed at or made fun of. In almost 20 years of grooming, I have only once had to take an animal completely down to the skin. The removed matted coat was so tight, it was like removing a felted coat.

Severe matting can be difficult and dangerous to remove, and the possibility of nicking the skin with the clipper blade is substantiality increased. Add to that the fact that the pet is often in discomfort or even pain, means that they may be less than cooperative during the process, and you increase the nicking possibility even more.


Nail Trimming - "Quick" looks

The photos below clearly show the pink quick, in the center of the white nail, and the translucent black quick, in a black nail.

Quicks in white nails

Black nail quicks

When trimming nails, trimming up to, but not into the quick (nerve and blood supply) helps to discourage nail growth. Trimming, or even grinding, needs to be done weekly, to encourage the quick to recede. Looking for the "quick" is like looking at growth rings on a tree stump. The above photos show what properly trimmed nails look like, on both white and black nails, viewing from the underside. When in doubt, be conservative, and back off a bit when you make a cut, so you don't cut into the quick.

Reduce "snowballing" between dog's toes. (January 1, 2008 Newsletter)

As a professional groomer, I have found several ways of dealing with snowballs that build up between dog's toes. Depending on the need (practicality versus show coats/clips) you can either eliminate the hair, use booties, or put substances on the hair, that may release the snow.Hair trimmed away from between  toes

The simplest way to reduce "snowballs" that build up between toes is to eliminate the hair that it sticks to. Here in Juneau (Alaska) snow conditions are such that certain dogs have hair that is particularly prone to building up snowballs between their toes. Eventually you have to stop and remove the snowballs, or the dog stops and chews his paws until he can get rid of them, because they are uncomfortable.

On dogs that have fuzzy feet or longer hair (not shaved poodle feet), I clip close (using a short, snub nosed scissors) or even shave between the toes, so there is no hair there for the snow to stick on and build up. (See photos below.) It is almost like shaving "poodle paws", but only between the toes, leaving the hair on the top of the toes, so they don't look like poodle paws. This, however, may not be an option if you need to leave the hair between the toes, for show/conformation purposes.

Booties are always an option, but you may need to spend some time training your dog to accept and feel comfortable using them. It is recommended that you get or make them using a fabric suitable for the conditions. As mushers know, some fabrics work better for snow conditions, others provide more protection for icing conditions. And you may need to keep extras handy in case your dog looses one (or more).

If that is the case, substances like petroleum jelly, Pam (cooking spray) and musher's wax might work. They do have their down side, however, in terms of the dog ingesting them (from licking their paws) or rubbing off on carpets.


Hair trimmed away from between  toes....Trimming between toes does not show on the outside.



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Canines Unlimited
Martha Fischbach, Owner
4191 Taku Blvd., Juneau, AK
P.O. Box 34496, Juneau, Alaska 99803

Phone/fax: 907-790-3647
E-mail: info@caninesunlimited.com