By Michell Evans
“Dear Michell, I don’t get to go to very many grooming trade shows. I feel like I am missing out on the newest and greatest tools. Do you have a list of must–haves?” –Becky
Hi Becky. I have been grooming since I was nine years old, almost forty years now. I have seen many new tools change the industry for the better. The top of the list would be the pump–hydraulic and later electric tables. Back in the day, resourceful groomers would make adjustable tables out of old barber chairs until manufacturers caught on and started producing tables.
Next, I would say the recirculating bathing system was a real game changer. This tool allowed for less shampoo to be used and eliminated the need for mixing bottles or vats of mixed shampoo. Plus, it added a cleaning ability and speed that couldn’t be matched by hand bathing.
Then the first high velocity (HV) dryers hit the market. Before this time, groomers either completely dried the dog with a stand dryer or crate dried, or even air–dried dogs. It was nerve racking to experiment with the first HV or forced air dryers. It seemed we would blow the dogs right off the table (we did not.) Now, looking back, it is laughable. The first generations of HV dryers hardly had any pressure at all compared to today’s models. Now it is not uncommon to see groomers use two HV dryers at once.
Let’s not forget that there were very few pet shampoo manufacturers then. Now we have hundreds of choices. There were less than ten when I started grooming. My mother’s favorite was Mr. Groom from Amway. It was not uncommon for us to experiment with various human shampoos in an attempt to change or repair coat. For example, using an anti–frizz human shampoo on a show Lhasa Apso to fight static and smooth the coat. Now we can find any and all coat applications in pet product lines.
Parasitic treatments were common place. We used toxic chemicals on the pets and ourselves on a daily basis. These were our best options at the time. Today we have so many flea and tick treatments on the market that are much less toxic to the pets and us. Plus, we simply see fewer infestations due to better control in general. This area of grooming has almost entirely been turned over to monthly parasite treatments. I am not sure new groomers could imagine the flea and tick infestations that used to come into the shop before monthly flea and tick applications. Thank goodness for science!
It was not uncommon to see groomers who had custom built a bank of cages for their shop. Yes, they were called shops, not salons. They typically looked similar to rabbit hutches. Now we have a plethora of cage and kennel manufacturers that can customize any salon. Models that are of a solid material are quieter, more private, warmer and easier to clean.
Early cordless clippers were loud and heavy but, in some cases, better than a cord. Early clippers also vented hot air out the sides. Now we have 5–in–1 clippers with one blade that adjusts to five different lengths and use lithium batteries. These clippers are quiet and the blade stays relatively cool. They have improved detailed work like poodle patterns, face shaving, poodle feet and creative grooming, as well as cat grooming. It used to be a real problem to fight hot blades all the time when trying to shave a pet. Often groomers would have several blades of the same length ready and waiting because you would have to change out your hot blade for a cool one so you could continue. The alternative was to spray your blade with a cooling agent that states right on the can that it is a carcinogenic. This means that it has the potential to cause cancer. Glad we don’t have to use that anymore! There are also many lightweight corded clippers and even lightweight cordless clippers that use good–old–fashioned detachable blades.
Snap–on combs or attachment combs were originally plastic. They are designed to fit over a #40, #30 or #15 blade to leave the coat a bit longer. The original ones were made by a company called Dubl Duck and there were only three sizes: 2, 1 and 1.5. Now we have mostly metal attachment combs that come in sizes all the way up to more than 2 inches long. Good prep work with all matts and tangles removed is essential for successfully using attachment combs.
Which brings me to combs. Fine–tooth combs are essential for good coat preparation. Many companies have expanded into a full variety of combs. Every groomer needs at least five combs of different styles to be able to groom whatever comes into your salon. Running a fine–tooth comb, which is relative to the thickness of the coat, through the coat to check for matts and tangles is the preceding step to trimming the coat with an attachment comb.
Not to leave out brushes. Companies have all varieties of brushes. Having a nice collection to manage different coats is vital.
Scissors have come a long way. Because early groomers were limited to barber tools, we lacked scissors that worked well on fur. Now manufacturers and sharpeners have great products and techniques to keep us in business. Because it is not as easy to improve on straight shears, the improvements have largely come in curved shears and thinning shears. That’s not to say that straight shears have not improved, because they have. The different blades and edges mean that you can have five nearly identical 7 inch shears that each cut coat differently. They might even work on one coat and hardly work on another.
Curved shears are finally curved! Curved shears used to be a slight bend in the blade that you had to study closely to even tell it was curved. Now, however, there are some amazing curved shears out there. This is important for all things round! It is so much easier and more efficient to make round faces, tails and angles with a tool that is suited for the job.
Thinners come in tons of varieties; fine, medium, coarse and even curved and double. These can really help to soften the look of a groom and make it appear more natural.
There are new products and tools coming out in our industry every day. It is so exciting to see things progress. If you are missing any of the basics that I mentioned here, that would be a good place to start. Good luck!
I am a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards including journalist of the year. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year 2015. I am a (VIG) Very Important Groomer-Ambassador for Purina and I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]