There is growing concern amongst pet groomers about the promotional language used by some breeders of the “designer dog breeds” known colloquially, collectively as ‘Oodles (e.g. Labradoodles, Spoodles, Cavoodles, etc.) which is misleading first-time owners about the grooming requirements of these dogs. As a consequence, the welfare of these animals is suffering, whilst new owners find themselves in for a shock the first time they take their ‘Oodle to be professionally groomed; leaving the groomers in a very difficult position.
So first, let’s talk about hair. All mammals grow hair somewhere on their bodies, if not all over, in the case of most dogs. Hair is the same structure on all of these animals - on people, sheep, platypus, dogs; whether we choose to call it hair, fur, pelt, wool, fleece... it is all in fact the same thing: hair. Each individual hair is a chain of protein molecules strung together, specifically, a protein called keratin. This chain grows in strand-like form from a follicle - or opening - in the skin.
Now, in people, only one hair grows from each follicle. In dogs, up to 27 hairs may grow from each follicle. One of these hairs is coarse and colourful, and is called a primary or guard hair, which in some breeds, like the Poodle, can grow all the way to the ground. The other hairs are fine, soft and pale, and are called secondary or undercoat hairs, and do not grow longer than a few centimetres. If you have ever seen a cashmere goat in Winter, this is the clearest depiction of guard hair versus undercoat hair: long, strikingly coloured, guard hairs poking through masses of soft, fluffy, creamy coloured undercoat hairs. This undercoat is often referred to as “fleece”, but is still, in fact, hair.
Hair, no matter how fine, coarse, straight or curly, has a life cycle. Each strand grows, rests, dies, and eventually falls out, when a new hair grows in its place. This is true of all hairs on all mammals. Any woman with long hair, or any man who has ever unblocked a shower drain, knows this to be true. Relatively speaking, guard hairs have a longer life cycle than undercoat hairs.
Thus, when ‘Oodle breeders claim their dogs are “non-shedding”, this is biologically incorrect. All breeds of dog shed hair. Granted, their pattern of shedding varies - some, like Labradors, shed lots of hair all of the time, because their hairs have a very short life cycle. Some, like Golden Retrievers, shed large amounts of hair twice a year, and only small amounts the rest of the time, because their guard hairs have a long life cycle, but their undercoat hairs, which increase in number during winter, have a short life cycle. Others, like Poodles, who have long lived guard hairs and few or no undercoat hairs, shed very small amounts of hair all of the time.
‘Oodles are created by crossing Poodles, with their long, fast-growing, longer-lived, curly guard hairs and few or no undercoat hairs, with, for example, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers or Cavaliers, with their shorter, coarser, straighter, short-lived guard hairs plus masses of fluffy, even shorter-lived undercoat hairs.
Many ‘Oodle breeders are claiming this creates a wonderful new “fleece” coat which requires only monthly brushing and yearly trimming. Sadly, this is wholly untrue. But first-time owners don’t know this, until they take their new dog to the groomer for the first time, usually when it’s almost 12 months old.
The groomer is then faced with something resembling a sheep left out in the wilderness for the past 5 years. Whilst the top few centimetres of the coat may look terrific to the untrained eye ... this is because it is comprised solely of the tips of the ‘Oodle’s longer guard hairs, which the owner has probably been brushing happily every few weeks. Closer to the skin, however, the guard hairs are intermingled with the shorter undercoat hairs, which, due to the non-shedding genetics of the Poodle inheritance, are now not shedding out as easily as they would in a Labrador, but staying put for longer and thus matting tightly together.
You see, when you brush a dog, if the brush doesn’t go all the way to the skin with every stroke, your efforts are completely pointless. Achieving this takes skill and the correct tools - and is impossible to achieve with a long-haired dog if not done at least twice a week. None of these facts are being communicated by ‘Oodle breeder to their puppy buyers.
The saddest part is, these owners love their new dogs. Often they’ve paid handsomely for them, and honestly believed they were looking after them correctly based upon the breeder’s communications. And then, instead of returning proudly from the groomer with their beautiful pet, they leave with something which looks like it’s been waxed from nose to tail, because the matting was so bad and so close to the skin it would be extremely cruel, if not impossible to brush it out, and only the shortest of clipper blades managed to cut underneath it.
What these poor owners - and equally poor dogs - don't know, is when they leave, the groomer feels just as tearful as they do. Groomers love dogs - but most especially, we love fluffy dogs! We love styling their hair and making them look and feel amazing. We love seeing the joy on their owners’ faces when they come to pick them up. And ‘Oodles, when properly maintained, can be the stars of any grooming salon, with that amazing “big hair” look lending itself to all sorts of fantastic styles like Asian Fusion and more.
Groomers hate shaving dogs. It deprives us of any chance of demonstrating our creativity, the love we have for our job or the skills we’ve worked hard to acquire.
So, on behalf of groomers everywhere, this article is a plea to request ‘Oodle breeders reconsider their approach to the promotion of their dogs: because if all ‘Oodle owners knew their pets needed to be brushed to the skin twice a week and groomed professionally every 6-8 weeks, every grooming salon in the country would be such a much happier place!
Biologist, Behaviourist, Veterinary Nurse and Groomer (and former Wool Classer)
I often get asked by new clients do I pluck the dogs ear hairs; a short answer would be not unless requested. Ear plucking was once a normal part of the grooming process, but in recent years new knowledge has changed whether it is a help or a hindrance to ear health.
So, what is Ear Plucking?
Ear plucking is the practice of using fingers, haemostats or other tools to remove excessive amounts of hair from a dog’s ear canal. Floppy-eared dogs or very hairy breeds such as Poodle, Schnauzer, Maltese and Bichon Frise can be in need of plucking. It was originally performed because it was believed that this would help increase air flow to the ear canal and prevent all too common ear infections.
It is now thought that ear plucking can have the opposite effect to what we are actually trying to prevent. When we pluck the hair from the ear canal pores are opened up from where the hairs are removed and can now become exposed to bacteria and debris.
“Healthy ears are self-cleaning”
The number one rule I like to follow while grooming is ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it’. Human and canine bodies do a great job of maintaining themselves. So if I come across an ear that is healthy, I usually leave it as is. However not every dog is the same and like in humans some dogs are prone to health problems. When I do come across an ear that is not too healthy my first suggestion is a vet visit. There could be a number of reasons for a problem; some examples are if the ear canals are too small, problems related to allergies, bugs or other foreign object inside the ear or a yeast infection. Once a vet has figured out the base-cause a groomer can then assist in keeping the ear clean. Shaving around the ear canal can prevent leaving pores open but still assist in air flow and help make it easier to apply any treatment necessary.
The right shampoo is a big part in keeping your pets coat healthy. There are many factors that determine the health of a dogs coat, and while I cannot always control internal factors, I can assist in helping externally.
So how do I pick the right shampoo for your dog ?
The first step I take is research. I make sure I have an understanding on what goes into the shampoo and how it works. Here are lists of ingredients I avoid when picking and why.
SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulphate) are types of detergents or surfactants. Detergents are the most abundant ingredient in a shampoo and makes up about 10-15% of a formula. It lifts oils and dirt and carries it away from the coat.
So why do I avoid SLS and SLES?
There is a lot of mixed research on how these surfactants affect the skin. What we do know is it can be very drying and cause skin and eye irritations. As there are many other alternatives to these detergents I feel it’s better to be safe and avoid.
Parabens are a preservative added to products to give them a longer shelf life and to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Parabens are known to cause skin, eyes and respiratory irritations and allergic reactions. They also can be absorbed by the skin, blood and digestive system. Endocrine disruption: Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.
Formaldehyde also used as a preservative. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, and has been linked to leukaemia. Widely understood to cause allergic skin reactions and rashes in some people
Testing a chosen shampoo
This product has been tested on humans
Yes I admit I test all shampoos on myself before using it on any pets. While our ph. levels maybe a little different, I can get a better understanding on how the product feels during and after the process and if any irritations occur. I also see how the product affects my hands, using shampoo all day every day I know if a product is going dry out my hand it will do the same for the dogs skin.
There are some cons to being a groomers dog
Yes poor Chase sometimes is my next guinea pig. Chase suffers from external allergies so if a product is ok with him it will be for most other dogs. I also can keep watch over him for 24hrs and close to bathing facilities if a reaction occurs.
Test patches and observation.
Lastly is your pet. I carry a wide range of shampoos; everyday, medicated, clarifying, whitening, soothing, deep clean. So how do I know which one to use? At the beginning of every visit I assess your dogs coat to see if its oily, dry or brittle or flaky and from their decide which will best help correct the skin to a normal ph balance . Once the skin starts to normalise itself i will change back to a gentle everyday shampoo. Many factors can change your pets coat from one visit to the next so my shampoo choice on your pet will also change making sure what leaves my salon is a healthy coat and happy pet.
Dogs love nothing more than a run through the long grass during the warmer seasons. These outings are a good way to encourage physical and mental stimulation for pets as well as an opportunity for us to bond. But sometimes even the smallest of things can ruin a good time. Grass seeds! While very small and not looking like much trouble they can cause big problems for our canine friends.
This little dog shows the damage that can be caused by grass seeds if not noticed right away. The grass seeds make their way up though the dogs coat and embed themselves into their skin. Once embedded infections start to form which can cause serious health problems as well as discomfort and pain.
So how do I avoid this problem?
The best way to protect your dog from grass seeds is to be particularly vigilant during the months when they pose the greatest risk – usually from late spring to the end of summer. Keeping grass and weeds under control at home with a combination of mowing, removal and poisoning can reduce the number of seeds that the dog is exposed to.
When out walking our dogs, avoiding long grass is another way we can help, but we all know that some of our dogs love to jump through the tall grass and have fun. So once home make sure you do a thorough check of your dog from head to toe particularly paying attention to in between the toes, armpits, ears and groin areas and removing any grass seeds seen on the dog.
For those long coated breeds regular grooming will help reduce the amount of grass seeds attracted to the coat. Matted coats can hide grass seeds and infections, so by keeping the coat Matt free we can easily identify any changes to our dogs skin.
So what do we do if we find grass seeds in the dogs skin?
Immediate removal if not embedded to deep and the area cleaned with salty water is your best option. This will prevent infection and swelling occurring. If infection and swelling is already present or the grass seed has gone into the skin to deep a trip to the vet sooner rather than later is advised. They will be able to remove the grass seed safely and advise if antibiotics are necessary.
Happy long summer walks with your dogs.
As a rule of thumb, your dogs nails are too long when its paws are rested on flat ground and the nails are in contact with the ground. Or if you can here them as the dog walks.
While daily walking is usually a good way to keep your dogs nails at a good length, there are times when clipping either by yourself or a dog groomer is necessary. This is usually when your dogs foot is not in the correct posture (like us some dogs can have flat feet or bowed legs which cause the paw to sit in a different position.), Certain breeds that have tough nails that cannot be warn down from general exercise ( example Vizslas), dogs that are not walked daily and dew claws (specially if your dog has back dew claws)
Checking your dogs nails regularly to make sure they are at the correct length can also reduce paw problems developing and keep your dog happy and health.
If you need help with maintaining your dogs nails contact funky fur for advice or an appointment today
Bianca is the owner and groomer at Funky Fur dog grooming and always looking for ways to help you care for your pet.