False collective beliefs can be found everywhere—even in the pet grooming industry. Some are funny, some make us shake our heads in disbelief and others are just incredibly frustrating. So, after some brainstorming with other groomers, I came up with a list of grooming- and pet-related myths that have been around too long and need debunking.
1. Washing dogs too often will dry out their skin and coat.
This common myth can be found in many breed-specific books. Owners are cautioned to only wash their dog if necessary, and certainly not more than every few months. When customers ask about this, I point out that the glowingly-healthy, beautiful dogs they see trotting around show rings are often bathed weekly, and some more frequently than that. Then I explain that modern, high-quality pet shampoos are designed to be gentle on the skin and coat while washing away dirt, sebum and dander. I also talk about the importance of conditioning the coat after bathing.
2. Pet Shampoo is a different pH than human products.
Grooming educator Barbara Bird handily slew this myth years ago, but many groomers still widely accepted it. Bird tested the pH of over 50 products and charted the pH levels. Her study also inlcudes everything you ever wanted to know about pH in pet shampoos.1
3. Smooth-coated dogs shed less than other breeds.
Shedding is the result of the animal’s hair growth cycle. Short hair has a brief growth cycle. So, from the time it emerges from the follicle until it dies and sheds out, this is the short period. This explains why Pugs, Dobermans, Dalmatians and other dogs with short coats shed a lot! On a similar note, many people (even some groomers) don’t believe that short-haired dogs need professional grooming. Indeed, regular bathing, brushing, ear and nail care are essential for smooth-coated breeds.
4. Some breeds (or mixes) of dogs are hypoallergenic.
People who suffer from canine allergies may have less of a reaction to some dogs than others, but there is no genuinely hypoallergenic dog breed. In most cases, the dog’s dander and saliva are the culprits that cause people to have adverse reactions, and all breeds produce dander and “drool.” Low-shedding breeds may produce less dander than higher-shedding breeds and may be more tolerable for some people.2
5. Some breeds (or mixes) do not shed.
If a dog has hair, it will shed. For example, dogs with long hair (e.g., Old English Sheepdogs, Shih Tzu and Poodles) have hair that may stay in the growth (anagen) phase for several years, but this means that shedding is barely noticeable, not nonexistent.
6. Dogs that are part Poodle do not shed.
Dogs mixed with Poodles are subject to the whim of genetics. Some “doodle” mixes shed very little (see #5), but others shed just as much as the Golden, Labrador, Bernese Mountain Dog or other shedding breeds that make up the rest of the dog’s gene pool.
7. Cats bathe themselves.
While it is true that cats spend a lot of time licking their coats, it is not the equivalent of a good bath. Many cats benefit from professional grooming. A proper shampoo, conditioning, fluff-dry and comb-out leave cats looking, feeling and smelling amazing.
8. Dogs don’t need to be groomed as often in the winter.
May pet owners believe their dogs need to go longer between grooming appointments when the weather is cold to make sure they stay warm. The problem with this logic is that stretching the time between grooming visits often results in matted fur. Matted fur does not insulate well and may trap moisture, causing the dog to feel the chill even more. Besides this, tangles pull and are uncomfortable for the pet. If the dog wears a sweater or coat, it increases the chance of mats forming unless the pet owner is very dedicated with a brush and comb. I encourage my customers to keep their pets on regular appointments, especially if they want to leave the fur longer for cold weather.
9. Using a conditioner makes dogs dry more slowly.
According to grooming educator Christein Pearson, this myth probably “started back in the day when our limited choices for topical conditioners typically had a lot of heavy, waxy ingredients that took forever to completely rinse out and typically coated the hair leaving it limp and oily. Formulators have since moved away from such ingredients.” Instead, modern conditioners smooth the cuticle, allowing water to be blown out of the coat more efficiently.
10. Puppies should not get their hair cut until they are at least six months old.
This is a myth that every groomer I know would love to see become extinct. I encourage customers to bring puppies in as soon as they have their second set of vaccines, even if it’s for nothing more than a nail trim, a treat and some affectionate pats on the grooming table. Early, regular visits help acclimate puppies to the grooming process. If the pet owner wants the puppy to be groomed but the coat left long, that is perfectly fine. Teaching the puppy bathtub and table manners is beneficial in shaping behavior for the rest of the dog’s life. However, if the owner wants the pup’s hair to be trimmed, no harm will come.
Myths are memorable and persistent. Debunking them can be tricky. The next time you are presented with a grooming myth, try to help the person sharing it learn the truth. Maybe we can even finally slay that one about puppies not needing to be groomed until they are old enough to go to college. ✂️
1. The pH of Pet & Human Shampoos. (2012, Sept., 29). GroomBlog. http://groomblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-ph-of-pet-human-shampoos.html
2. The Low-Down on Hypoallergenic Dogs. (2015, Dec., 11). Tufts University. https://www.tuftsyourdog.com/news/the-low-down-on-hypoallergenic-dogs/