By Daryl Conner
Back in ancient times, when I was a new groomer, the variety of shampoos and conditioners designed for pet use could be counted on one hand. There were just a few brands, and those brands had a very limited variety of products. They could be depended on to get dogs clean, keep static down and maybe help a bit with detangling, but that was about the extent of the assistance they offered to the complete grooming process.
Fast forward to today. Peruse your favorite grooming supply catalog or website, and you will find shampoos that:
- Kill external parasites
- Add texture to wiry coats
- Add body to limp coats
- Make coats softer and more silky
- Help remove matting
- Help coats to shed out
- Treat dry skin
- Soothe itchy skin
- Enrich the colors of bronze, gold, red, black or brown coats
- Make white coats whiter and bright coats brighter
- Remove odors
- Remove excess grease and oil from the skin and coat
- Are medicated and designed to treat a wide variety of specific skin ailments
And if these are not enough options, there are tearless shampoos designed to be extra gentle on the eyes, facial shampoos designed just to clean those sweet canine mugs, shampoos and soaks for paws, and even a variety of products that mimic those used in human spa’s, for an added elegance effect in upscale grooming situations.
There are so many choices, in fact, groomers are sometimes daunted when it comes to choosing which products to buy. Add in the fact that many shampoo manufactures won’t (if you’ll pardon the pun) come clean about what ingredients are in their products, and hard working groomers find that deciding what brands and types of shampoos to buy and use is a big job. Feeling unsure, and unwilling to invest their money in a product when they are unclear if it is safe or will work as described, many groomers get rather stuck, using one or two known products and never varying from the tried and true.
This can be a costly mistake. Let me give you an example: Meet the diving Miss. G, a favorite Lhasa Apso friend of mine. Miss G. is a frequent flier, I see her every 3 weeks. But her owner likes her coat on the long side, and isn’t much on brushing between visits. The last time Miss G. was in, I was faced with some epic tangles. The sort of matting that would cause many groomers to reach for their trusty 7F blade. But I knew I had a superior arsenal of liquid tools at my disposal, and I went to work. Because I had the correct products on hand, I was able to save the lovely coat on the dog without ruining my schedule, and keep the client delighted.
Here is how the groom unfolded. I popped Miss G. right into the bathtub, and gave her a good all over wash, using a basic cleansing shampoo to remove dirt, oil and dander. I gave her a light rinse, and then washed her a second time in a shampoo designed to help remove tangles. The product I was using has a 3 part system: a shampoo, conditioning treatment, and a leave-in detangling spray. I let the shampoo sit the 5 minutes recommended on the label. A thorough rinse, and then I followed the manufactures instructions and coated Miss. G. in conditioner. Again, I let her “marinate,” for several minutes. After she was well rinsed, I wrapped her in a thirsty towel and let it absorb a lot of moisture.
Then I used my velocity dryer on low to remove a little more water. Lastly I sprayed her all over with the leave-in spray, giving an extra spritz (or three!) to the areas boasting the worst matting. Then I dried her, and to my glee, could see that the products were already doing some of the de-matting for me. As the gentle flow of warm air went over her coat, some of the smaller tangles began to loosen, lift away from the skin, and even separate before my eyes.
Once she was completely dry, I added another spritz of detangling spray to each section of her coat as I worked. Using my favorite slicker, pin brushes, and comb, I was able to gently break up the matted hair. Her right rear leg was the worst. Keeping you, dear readers, in mind, I timed myself. It took me 6 minutes to de-matt this very badly tangled hip, thigh and leg. There was little coat lost, and Miss G did not suffer with the process.
These same products work wonders when grooming double coated breeds such as Pomeranians, Samoyeds and Australian Shepherds. After appropriately using the shampoo and conditioners, the vast percentage of packed undercoat literally slides up and off the shafts of the guard hairs and wafts merrily in the air when the dog is properly and completely dried with a high velocity dryer. Not only does this save time, but it is far easier on both the pet and the groomer, drastically reducing time spent brushing, raking and combing through all of that excessive coat to remove it.
If you find that you are in a rut, using the same old products on every pet, try ordering some smaller sizes of different shampoos. Take them for a test drive and see if they are helpful. This is an inexpensive way to try new things. Keep notes on what worked, so you can buy larger, more economical sizes when you reorder.
If you don’t know where to start, ask other groomers what products they find work best for them. Think about what types of coats offer you the biggest challenges, and look for products designed to tackle those jobs. As for me, I’d hate to go back to the “old days.” I had fewer wrinkles and less gray hair, but I don’t think I’d trade for the wonderful liquid tools that make my job so much easier now.