Big Things a New Groomer Should Know

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Rainbow colored animals fascinate, and Asian inspired trims are all the rage. The competition dogs look like pictures out of a magazine, but what about the details for the up and coming groomer?

I have witnessed the lightning fast rise of some of the top groomers in the industry. They are shiny like diamonds with their perfect lines and smooth finishes. It wasn’t until I began to receive questions from some of them on basic skin care and foundational techniques that I realized there is a need to go over some basics for talented groomers to provide a starting point on simple techniques that might have been overlooked in their passion to turn out a beautiful trim. Here are some basic tips and techniques for the groomer who may be too timid to ask.

Roughing out the coat

Roughing out the coat can be a huge time saver for the finish and a shampoo saver as one does not have to wash the hair that will be trimmed off. While this is a standard operation within grooming, there are things to keep in mind while doing so. It is a good idea to keep a separate set of scissors and clipper blades for this purpose as dirty coat can really dull them quickly. These “dirty” tools do need to be disinfected between every single pet so the bacteria from one pet is not transferred to the next.

Another option is to bathe the pet at the beginning so you are always working on clean coat. This too has its drawbacks as you will use more shampoo and conditioner, but you will save wear and tear on your precious tools.

Whichever option you choose, be sure not to do any close shaving in delicate areas with a #7 or #10 blade before the bath. You can virtually eliminate “clipper burn” by following this simple rule. When a close blade is used to do sanitary and paw pad areas and the skin is dirty, the scraping action creates micro abrasions on the skin and inside the delicate area between the pads. Even the most gentle cleanser can then cause the skin to have a reaction and make those micro abrasions more apparent to the eye and perhaps even make the pet itchy and uncomfortable.

Using Masks

Using a mask to deeply condition or draw out toxins on a pet with a rash is always a good idea. Mineral foot soaks are very popular with clients that hike their dogs. It benefits the pets in a huge way and boosts profits by being a great add–on. Keep these things in mind when applying and using raw clay or commercial preparations.

Skins with a rash should always be seen by the vet to determine if it is bacterial, fungal, or something that you shouldn’t touch. When working with pets that have infection or hives, wear gloves so your skin is protected. Do not apply the mask on any mucous membrane, this includes flews, eye rims, directly in the nares (nose holes) and directly around the anus.

It is always wise to do a “patch test” to make sure the mask you are using does not create more of a problem. Do this by putting a finger dot of the preparation on the inside of one of the tuck ups and wait for 5 minutes, then rinse. The area should not be swollen or sore to the touch but may be a little pink which is ok. Never leave clay masks on for more than 10 minutes for safety.  A good rule of thumb is that lighter clays such as white or pink kaolin are very gentle and can be purchased in powder form or you can choose a ready–made mask that is made with these gentle ingredients.

Wrinkles and Pads

Wrinkles on the face or sometimes around the tail area (for our portlier clients) can be finished with a clean oil mixture. Traditionally, it has been recommended that these areas be kept dry but it is now known that these delicate folds need to be hydrated to stay healthy. A mixture of a nourishing oil such as Emu, Argan or Avocado and minerals is the perfect way to finish cleaning the wrinkles. If there is some irritation, a gentle cleanser and conditioning is required first. Then when you are finished with the pet, put your oil/mineral mix on a cotton swab or pad and gently wipe into the folds and wrinkles. This will keep them hydrated, mineralized and give the tissue a barrier against bacteria and other toxins.

Life After Colors & Chalk

I am overwhelmed by emotion when I see a talented groomer finish out a creative groom. The thought processes involved and the preparation time can be mindboggling with details. While I am not an expert when it comes to doing this kind of work, I do understand the demands it makes on the skin of the pet.

Chalk; It is easy to apply, fun to use and is temporary until the next bath. Keep in mind that it is extremely drying and the area that is chalked will need some sort of hydration treatment at the next grooming. Because it is drying, there may be matting involved so take this into consideration when planning the areas to be chalked.

Color Dyes; There is much information on permanent and semi–permanent dyes. Simply remember that human dye should never be used and any bleaching or lifting of color on a pet coat should be done under the strict supervision of someone who is well versed in this type of coloring.

There are cases currently in the news surrounding the misfortune of pets that were dyed with chemicals meant only for humans and not all of them survived. There are many creative forums on social media that are great resources. And if you can befriend a creative stylist, it is always a good idea to ask for their advice before choosing color brands and techniques for getting the effect you desire.

After any style that requires heavy hairspray, chalk or colors, the pet in question should be pampered with a full–service conditioning mask, cleanse and hydration treatment to nourish the skin and preserve the cuticle of the hair.

These are simple tips that can help maintain the health of the pets that you are working on and provide better results in the long run. There are no stupid questions. Never be too timid or afraid to ask, we are here to support you! ✂