It’s Hair, Not Warfare: A Primer on Shedding

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Many misconceptions exist about how, where and why our pets shed and what we, as groomers, can do about it. There are many products on the market to address this very real concern but still so many questions about which is the best one and if they really even work.

Here is some basic knowledge to arm yourself when looking for products, using techniques and helping your clients choose de–shedding over shaving.

When Does Shedding Occur

Seasonal shedding occurs around the solstices, which are June and December 21st. This happens because the amount of light the pet perceives, and the temperature fluctuations let the body know that a new season is on the way and a lighter or heavier coat is needed. Shedding usually starts at the back of the animal and works its way to the front in order to protect the vital organs longer.

Shedding is most evident in the short coated, natural coated or double coated breeds, but every land mammal sheds in this same way. Year–round shedding is still to be expected but should be minimal and manageable.

If the shedding of an animal is heavy during the off season, there could be an underlying problem and a visit to the vet is in order. There are many issues and illnesses that can cause the hair to fall out, become thin or even stop growing all together, so eliminating these possibilities is the first priority.

Needs of the Coat and Skin

Coats come in a spectrum of needs, topically speaking. From Hairless to Long coat, and everything in between, all skins need oils, minerals and some form of keratin or collagen to nourish, protect and fill in the cracks in the hair and to preserve the protective layer of the skin. Many coats that shed off–season are simply depleted and can be very dehydrated.

Short coats need the most oil and are usually very “sheddy” all of the time. These dogs can benefit from weekly oil polishes, especially if they are a breed that is meant to be in the water. Hydration is the key to keeping this type of coat from excessive shedding.

Double coated animals need large amounts of minerals, a small amount of oil and a tiny bit of keratin in their grooming routine to keep their coat properly shedded out.

Long coats are delicate and require a very light keratin or collagen to keep their hairs hydrated to the very ends. Mixed breeds can be treated like the breed they most resemble. Dryness can mimic shedding as the hairs can be very brittle and are simply breaking off instead of falling out because it is the end of their life cycle.

Essential Basics to a Good De–Shed

De–shedding when the coat is very dry, or when it is shedding season is an easy technique to master. Using a coat spray, comb or brush out any loose hair and/or chunks of coat that come out easily before the bath. The three bathing steps are as follows:

1. Hydrate—Use a quality conditioner, keratin or collagen product. Wet the pet down first and apply the diluted mixture onto the coat and massage in well. This step “fills” up the hairs so the “shingles” lay flat against the hair shaft. Let sit for a few minutes or long enough to sing a song, then rinse.

2. Cleanse—A protein shampoo works best for this step as it nourishes the skin while further filling up the hair cuticle while it cleanses. Sing another song then rinse well. Any surfactant left on the coat will interfere with the closing of the cuticle so rinse very well at this stage.

3. Hydrate—Using the same conditioner or the finishing conditioner of your choice (this could include extra oils for the short coats, minerals for the natural coats and keratin for the long coats), apply the mixture as the last step. This is the best time to use a comb or brush to gently work the product into the coat. You will find that at this point, lots of loose hair will separate from the main coat. Rinse well and dry or style as usual.

Protect Your Lungs

This method is very gentle for the pet—even though it adds a little extra time, but the real value of the technique is that it is effective and it keeps most of the loose hair out of the air and out of your precious lungs. Clean up is a little easier also as it keeps the majority of the dead hair in wet clumps in the tub which are easily scooped out and thrown into the trash.

At this point, I will usually let the pet rest from the bath in a holding area or kennel where they are free to rub themselves on towels. I then get them out and comb out the loose hair while they are still a little damp and then fluff or dry, depending on the needs of the specific pet.

Arming Clients with Knowledge

When selling the de–shed service, make sure you have a pamphlet or handout for your clients so that they know the extra effort you are taking and they understand why the process takes a little longer, as well as why it costs a little more. I love seeing the light go on when they realize why the dog sheds in the first place and that you have the know–how to really make a difference.

Learning to tweak this basic technique has built my bath and brush clientele immensely. Try this method and see for yourself!

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