A healthy coat isn't just about esthetics. The skin, being the biggest organ, is usually a good indication of what's happening internally. The best way to notice any changes in your dog's coat and therefore overall health, is building habits that help you see the changes.
1. Daily brushing - Their are so many advantages to brushing your dog daily. From reducing knots to bonding with your dog. Adding brushing into your daily routine builds consistency (which dogs love) and also builds their confidence. Connecting an established daily habit with a new one can help reinforce consistency. It could be adding 15min before food time to give the dog's coat a brush through. Evening when you watch your usual TV show or straight after you come back from a walk are some ideas.
2. Combing from the skin out - If you have ever regularly brushed your dog, only to be told by the groomer their is matting and you need to go short, it's most likely because you missed this step. Brushing is great for surface coat, but ideally you want to be able to separate the coat at any point and see skin or be able to get a comb (the closer the teeth of the comb the better) from the skin and down to the end of the hair without any snagging.
3. Regular professional maintenance - How often should you get a professional groom done ? The answer will depend on how consistent your brushing at home is and how long you want to keep the coat. Any where between 2-6 weeks is the ideal time frame.
4. Healthy fresh food - Digestive issues, allergies and poor nutrient content will always show through the skin and coat. This may not always be immediately as nutrients can deplete over time or the immune system can reduce over time. A fresh diet is always ideal but where it's not possible adding fresh food to a dry diet can also have lots of benefits.
5. Quality products - Just like what goes in our bodies matter, what goes on also matters. With a wide range of products that can assist, they should always suit your dog's skin and coat type. If you want to know what products best suit your dog, ask your groomer for a recommendation.
6. Building a positive grooming relationship - I left this till last because this would be the most important, but the most over looked point. How your dog perceives the grooming process can make or break achieving a healthy coat. Stress and anxiety can do a lot to our bodies just like they can to our dog's. Building consistency, confidence and a positive relationship is what changes a dog's mind frame from high stress to feeling comfortable. Dogs have their likes and dislikes just like us. Some dogs love the attention of being groomed while others prefer to be anywhere else. A dog is allowed to dislike the grooming process but they should never have anxiety or fear over it. If they do their is miscommunication somewhere along the line. The only way this can be addressed is through regular, frequent and consistent positive interactions. The more successful sessions a dog has the more they start to feel confident with the process. If your dog finds the grooming process difficult, discuss this with your groomer and possibly a local dog trainer on an action plan.
I I use conditioner on every dog I see . This seems to be a very important step that owners at home and even some professional groomers and vets seem to forget, but to me it is the most vital part of the bathing process. Specially for dogs who have skin issues.
Why is it important ?
Let's first talk about the epidermal barrier - first line of defense
How does our skin barrier work ? -Bricks and mortar
The epidermis (outer layer of the skin), is the front line soldiers for our bodies defense system. It is often described as a wall of bricks, dead cells filled with Keratin (aka Corneocytes) and the mortar holding them together are made from lipids (fats). Within three layers of the epidermis it preforms many jobs, defense against bacteria and viruses, maintaining fluid loss, protects the inside from the outside world.
Hydrolipid film. - protector of the protector.
The epidermis is covered by a thin layer of water and lipids called the hydrolipid film. It is maintained by secretion from sebaceous glands and acts as a further barrier against bacteria and yeast
Where does conditioner fit in ? If a dog suffers from skin issues it most likely means there is a disruption to the hydrolipid film and the epidermis. The reasons for this disruption can be due to genetic, environmental factors or what usually is the case a mixture of both, making it a complex issue to fix. The role of shampoo is to remove dirt, grime and OILS. While there are different grades of shampoos and how much they strip oils from the skin differs from product to product, the end result is still a breakdown of the lipids and skin barrier. Healthy skin will reproduce the natural oils and replace the skins barrier on its own in time. This process however can take up to 12hrs. By applying conditioner we are replacing this barrier until the skin can replenish itself and avoiding long term damage.
For dogs with skin issues, replacing this layer may take longer or if it even happens at all. This is usually why a lot of dogs with skin issues end up with secondary bacteria and yeast infections. The job of conditioner can help replace this layer until the root cause of the skin issues are found and treated. Just like we as humans moisturise daily when we have skin issues, daily moisturising may also need to be part of your dog's routine.
If your dog has any skin or health issues, always speak to your vet, my advice for those dealing with chronic skin issues is to find a vet dermatologist for further help.
Have you walked out of many grooming salons, just disappointed in the grooms your dog receives ?
Quite often as groomers we get a lot of requests on how someone wants their dog groomed. I love a good styling challenge and I specially love when photos are included on what you want. Sometimes though, the photos given don't match the dog standing in front of us. The groom that walks out of the salon may be great, but if the owner have a preconceived idea of what they want without understanding how it's achieved, they will always end up disappointed. So how do you avoid disappointment ? Here are a few things to consider so you will always walk out as happy as your dog.
Coats come in different forms, curly, straight, wavy, double coat, long, short. What can be done on a curly coat, which can be made to look fluffy and lots of volume, may not look the same on a straight coat which lays flat. When looking at photos always see if the coat type matches to your dog's coat and if not be open to discus with your groomer how to make the style work or have something similar.
Certain styles will suit a dog with a long nose but may not suit a dog with a short nose. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and usually breed clips are designed to suit the natural shape of that breeds body and may not represent as well on another. A round teddy bear face may not work on a dog who has a long snout.
Behaviour and Health
Consider if that style will be ok for your dog's personality or health issues. A clip that's going to take longer may not suit an elderly dog that can't stand for long, or a dog that doesn't like its feet touched may not tolerate shaved poodle feet. If your groomer feels another style is suited for your dog's abilities, listen to that advise. Your groomer always has your dog's best interest in mind. Sometimes their are ways around it like frequent grooms so less time is spent on the table per session or getting a dog behaviourist involved to work on behaviour issues.
Coat Condition and Maintenance
Some styles may require time or a few sessions to get the desired look. Specially if you dogs coat is matted, the coat may need to be taken back to ground zero first and then re-shaped over time. Some styles may also require more visits to a groomer to maintain. If you are looking for longer styles 2-6wk intervals to maintain may be required. Consider if this is the type of commitment you want to put in and if not ask your groomer what alternative styles can work.
Photos are definitely a great way to communicate what you want, but remember to be open to adapting the style to your dog's needs and lifestyle. If you are not happy with the groom you received, always remember that we always have your dog's best interest first and we may not have picked up on exactly what your seeing first time round, everyone visualises things differently. Contact your groomer to discuss what you may want different from the last groom, and just remember it may take a few grooms to get there.
It's that time if year where grass seeds can cause a bit of havoc. They like to travel through the hair towards the skin and then pierce the skin and keep traveling. Here are a few tips after a walk, to help reduce these pests causing problems
Check the skin.
The main areas you will find grass seeds are in between the toes and paw pads, under arms and groin.
Use a hair dryer
A hair dryer can help you see to the skin by separating the coat. Hold the dryer at a distance where you can see the skin but the hair isn't folding back in on itself (this can create knots)
Thorough brush through
Brushes the coat from head to toe straight after a walk. This will get the grass seeds out before they get to the skin.
I'm a stickler for seeing the skin from head to toe. The skin can tell us a lot about our dogs health so I'm always sure to be systematic so I don't miss anything. It also means I will pick up on grass seeds the have already hit the skin and able to remove before they become a problem. Once I spot one my tweezers come out and I check right through the entire coat.
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.