By Jonathan David
When I was a child I remember my father giving our dogs a bath in the bathtub at home, or in the summer months, using the hose in the backyard. He would towel dry them as best he could after the bath, and then they would run around the house and rub on the carpeting and furniture to dry themselves—much to my mother’s dismay. They would eventually dry and their hair would look scruffy and wavy, but they were clean and that was good enough for my dad.
There weren’t many pet groomers in our area at that time, and professional pet grooming wasn’t a booming industry in those days. But a lot has changed since then. Nowadays, the pet grooming industry has evolved into a respected professional career path that many pet owners understand is a necessary part of dog ownership—and the equipment available to us has made our lives and our work easier and better.
Companies have developed equipment that helps us to turn a scruffy, shaggy pet into an eye-catching and adorable member of the family that they proudly include in many family activities. One of those pieces of equipment that have changed the way we groom pets are blow dryers—and there are a variety of them on the market. But why are there so many different kinds of blow dryers and are they really any different?
The answer to that question has everything to do with the pets that we groom. With such a variety of coat textures, lengths, thicknesses and styles, we as professional pet groomers need blow dryers that will give us different results to achieve the best overall grooming on our furry clients.
There are dryers that use high velocity, forced air to dry the coats and dryers that use gentle, continuous air flow, and there are some that have speed and heat settings as well. There are stand dryers, force dryers, cage dryers and handheld dryers, and they each have their purpose and intended method of use.
Let’s start with high velocity dryers, or force dryers, as they’re commonly called. This type of dryer uses a motor to generate a very powerful and concentrated stream of air that is forced through a hose that the groomer holds in their hand. The groomer can choose different nozzles to affix to the end of the hose to either concentrate the airflow through a narrow opening, or through a wider opening to give a more diffused stream of air. These dryers are typically built in a canister style or a box style that sits on the floor or a shelf, or can be attached to the wall.
Force dryers are often used as a first step in the blow drying process to remove much of the moisture being held within the coat by using the powerful stream of air to blow the water away from the skin and coat. They’re also an excellent tool for loosening and removing packed undercoat, and an asset for removing mats by using the finer, more pointed nozzle to help separate the hair and push the undercoat or tangles outward, making it easier to brush out the coat and save you from having to clip down a matted pet.
Force dryers are rather noisy and can frighten some pets, so choosing one that has speed settings is ideal so you can start on a lower speed and work your way up to a faster speed as the pet becomes comfortable with the noise and feeling. Caution needs to be exercised when using this type of dryer around sensitive areas like the rectum, the ears and the eyes, and should never be pointed directly into those areas. Using a slower speed setting and a cotton ball in the ear, or using your hands to shield the direct pressure of the air in those areas, can also help calm a pet and make the experience a more pleasant one.
A stand dryer is a type of blow dryer that is used to fluff and stretch the coat to get the hair as straight as possible. These blow dryers are fixed upon a base and pole that stand next to the groomer, or suspended from an arm attached to the wall, and they use a motor to create a more gentle flow of air that a groomer points in the direction of the hair they are drying. It gives the groomer a hands-free flow of air so they can dry the coat while simultaneously using a brush to fluff and straighten the coat.
This type of blow dryer is typically used as a second step after the force dryer, but can also be used as the only type of dryer after using a towel to draw the majority of the moisture out of the coat. The action of brushing while drying with a stand dryer is the best option when you’re trying to achieve the straightest and most voluminous coat, which in turn will allow you to achieve the best and smoothest finish on your cuts.
Stand dryers also typically offer multiple speed and temperature settings so you can change the setting when necessary, such as lowering the heat when you get near the more sensitive areas like the eyes. They’re also an excellent dryer choice when trying to brush out tangled or matted hair because the airflow separates the hair, allowing you to both see and get down to the tangles and work them out gently with a brush.
Another commonly used type of dryer is called a cage dryer. When used properly, a cage dryer can help cut down drying time and cut out some of the hands-on work of using the force or stand dryers. Cage dryers are either a single unit that is hung on the outside of the kennel door with the flow of air facing towards the pet inside the kennel, or a unit that sits away from the kennel and has a single or multiple hoses that you hang on the kennel door so the air flows through the hoses towards the pet inside the kennel. These dryers use a gentle stream of air flow that helps to evaporate the moisture on the pet while they drip dry, and is often used before other dryers, or for short-haired pets to dry completely inside the kennel.
There has been much controversy over the use of cage dryers because when used improperly for extended periods of time with high heat settings, a dog can become overheated, resulting in heat exhaustion or, in severe cases, fatality. Therefore, extreme caution should be exercised when using cage dryers, and pets should never be left unattended while using these dryers. The temperature should always be set to cool or warm for short periods and a groomer should never use these dryers on a higher temperature setting.
Handheld Blow Dryers
The last type of dryer that groomers can use are handheld blow dryers, similar to the ones a beauty stylist uses on humans. There are several companies that make handheld blow dryers specifically for pets. These dryers offer lower heat settings so the temperature doesn’t irritate or burn the pet’s skin. The advantage to handheld dryers is that they are easily portable and you can pinpoint the airflow exactly where you want it. These are often used by groomers at dog shows for quick touch-ups. Some models will fit inside specially designed grooming aprons to make them hands-free, similar to a stand dryer. Although less commonly used, these dryers offer more versatility with multiple speed and heat settings.
Whichever type of dryer you decide is best for you, be sure to make sure all the speed and heat settings are right for your grooming needs. I recommend investing in a high-quality dryer that will run for hours without much maintenance. You should also experiment with different types of dryers and see the results first-hand on various coat types. Do your research, make informed choices and take your grooming to the next level! ✂️