Using the Force: High Velocity Dryers & Their Role in Grooming

The Groomer's Guide

Using the Force: High Velocity Dryers & Their Role in Grooming

It’s just air, but air molecules moving at a high rate of speed has been one of the most transformative grooming tools in the history of our industry. 

Those of us more “mature” groomers remember when we did not have this timesaving, quality–enhancing tool. I am actually old enough to remember the introduction of the high velocity dryer into the pet industry. 

David Stern, grandson of the Founders of Metrovac in New Jersey, tells this interesting origin story: They were a vacuum company who also made an industrial leaf blower that used forced air technology. In the early 1980’s they heard that their leaf blowers were being used by people who showed Pygmy Goats. Stern looked into it. They discovered dog show breeders had borrowed the idea from the goat people. After a bit of research, they decided to market to our industry. They changed some of the exterior features to allow it to be hung on salon walls, made the hose longer, and sold the first Air Force high velocity dryer to pet groomers. 

At that same time, Rapid Electric had put their flying saucer–looking blower on a stand and started to market the Speedy to our industry as well. 

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I know I speak for all of us when I say how grateful we are for these early pioneers who brought us this powerful, timesaving, easy–to–use technology! 

High velocity dryers, or forced air dryers, do not have heating elements. This means they are less expensive to build and to maintain. They are safe for dogs and people, when used properly. They work by in–taking the air from a larger opening, then pushing it with a fan/turbine into a smaller output. The air velocity and pressure will increase because it is being pushed mechanically through a compressed opening. Motors invariably also get hot, transferring some heat to the air passing through, giving the air a gentle warming without the heating elements that can raise the prices and electrical usage of other dryers. 

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

As with any grooming tool, safety precautions should always be a high priority. First, mechanically, you want to make sure your electrical outlet has the correct capacity. Read the plate on the dryer and make sure that your electrical circuit has more amperage available than the dryer will pull. 

The loud noise these dryers make is the primary downside. The drying area in my salon is in a separate room from the bathing and grooming areas. My staff are all mandated to wear industrial–strength hearing protection while in that room and dryers are on. 

I make an issue of this because I am living proof of the damage done. I am already going deaf, with constant ringing in my ears. When I was a young groomer, I was not aware of the damage caused by the noise of these dryers. No one knew to warn me. My staff hears my earnest concerns and knows that they come from my heart. Losing my hearing now is life–changing and devastating. High velocity dryers should not be used without professional–grade hearing protection. I do not want this to happen to anyone else.

The requirement for hearing protection for anyone within range of these dryers in a smaller space such as a mobile unit or a single–room salon is singularly important. 

If we need hearing protection while anywhere near these high velocity dryers, the dogs under the dryers most certainly do. The hooded wraps that are available to put around dogs’ head and ears are an essential protection for their hearing and stress.

To dry a dog’s head and ears, turn off the velocity dryers and use a traditional stand dryer or gentle tabletop or handheld dryer. To also reduce the dog’s stress while using an HV dryer, add an Elizabethan–style soft collar around their neck. This makes an excellent barrier to keep their head away from the forced air.

To help the dog gradually become accustomed to the noise and power of the dryer, always begin the HV drying process at their rear end and move forward. High velocity dryers should not be used on young puppies, seniors or dogs with stressful health conditions. 

Follow all manufacturers’ instructions and maintain your dryer by cleaning out the end cap and filter where the air intake occurs daily. And weekly, vacuum out the interior cavity to keep hair from getting inside and damaging the motor. 

NO WIGGLING NEEDED

A common misuse of this impressively–designed tool is to wiggle the nozzle back and forth quickly, as we might with a smaller–powered, human handheld dryer, trying to get more push into our own hair. HV dryers were not designed to be used this way. They were designed to make the drying easier for us and to save us this effort. 

There are five reasons why this is a wrong technique:

First, the whipping action is damaging to your wrists. Groomers have enough problems with carpal tunnel syndrome and flipping the already very powerful air around is completely unnecessary. 

Second, this rapid shaking makes the dryer even noisier to the dog and to the person doing the drying, further risking the dog’s hearing and ours. 

Third, the flipping action causes the hair to mat and tangle, creating little “whip knots.” Always hold the dryer still, moving slowly. The longer the hair is, the further away from the coat you should hold it. 

Fourth, whipping the HV dryer hose around will straighten and dry the hair less. Holding it still, perpendicular to the coat, creating a “sunburst” pattern on the hair and coat dries the skin faster, and straightens and fluffs the hair better. We should move the hose and nozzle slowly around the coat, allowing it to better dry the wet skin and maximize the fluff–drying effect.

Fifth, rapid motion of the HV dryer will increase the drying time. You will lose actual contact drying time with the coat and skin as you constantly would move the air force away from the spot you are trying to dry. When we blow–dry a dog, we aren’t just drying the hair—we are drying the dog’s skin. 

So, save the “flippy hairdryer” thing for your own lesser–powered human hairdryers. You aren’t saving any time by using it with an HV dryer on dogs, and you are actually harming the dog and yourself. 

THE MANY BENEFITS

With proper care, the high velocity dryer can mean a significant improvement to the efficiency and quality of your grooming. One such benefit is the visual aid that these forced air dryers provide the groomer in being able to see down to the dog’s skin fully and completely. Those who blow–dry the dogs, and who should also be wearing breathing masks and eye protection, should always have their eyes on the dog’s skin, looking for any skin or coat issues such as parasites, sores or scabs, hot spots, etc., that need to be reported to the owner’s veterinarian.

Some of you may have heard me talk about the different types of coat on dogs, dividing them into the two categories of “hair” and “fur” for easy reference. HV dryers can be used on each in different but helpful ways.

For the fur–type dogs that shed and have significant undercoat, especially all double–coated dogs, the HV dryer has revolutionized our de–shedding workload. The dryer itself has become the most important de–shedding tool in our arsenal and has a greater impact on the process than even brushing, combing and raking out undercoat. Brushout time is dramatically reduced; all you have to do is methodically blow out the undercoat and then brush it away!

Flat–head nozzles on HV dryers can be used to gently push through the coat from the skin outward, saving brushing time. Even a fur–type dog that has a completely pelted undercoat can be saved. These natural coat types should never be shaved anyway. 

Use the close–open–close method: pre–condition the coat, massaging conditioner deep into moistened coat and skin, let it soak for a while, then shampoo and rinse as normal, and apply conditioner again. Hold the high velocity dryer perpendicular to the coat, as close as the dog will tolerate comfortably, and watch the pelted undercoat lift away from the skin! Even if it only lifts away a fraction of an inch, undercoat will naturally do this and create space to slide mat splitters in to break up the pelt. Then brush and rake as usual. 

Charge extra for this process! Educate your clients on how important it is not to shave down these double–coated dogs. You will save the dog and the owner many years of grief and discomfort. 

For maximum benefit in normal shedding coats, de–shed with the high velocity dryer while the dog is still in the tub soaking in conditioner. Keep the dryer nozzle at a 90–degree angle, directly perpendicular to the skin, moving slowly around the coat. You will see undercoat lifting away from the coat on a shedding breed. 

Hair–type dogs that mat and need to be trimmed require significant coat preparation for a beautiful finish to their groom. If there are any mats in a hair–type dog’s coat, while in conditioner, holding the nozzle directly over the mat, you will invariably loosen the mat without hurting the dog. After final rinsing, the coat now dematts much more easily, especially after you apply coat topical leave–in products that give the coat “slippage.”

We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. To those who have developed and perfected high velocity dryers for the dog grooming industry, we give our thanks! ✂️

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Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, ICMG

Jennifer Bishop–Jenkins, ICMG, owner of Love Fur Dogs in Glencoe, Illinois, was named Best Groomer in Chicagoland by the Chicago Tribune. She is the founder of the Illinois Professional Pet Groomer’s Association and serves on the board of both IPPGA and NAGA. Jennifer is a retired school teacher and author of The Groomers’s Guide to the 15 Coat Types, which will be available in 2021. Her academically–rich webinars can be found on Facebook under Groomer’s Guide, or by emailing [email protected]

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