Saturday, 28 June 2014

Why I Like Home Visits

When I decided to go free lance I wasn't sure how I would get on with home grooming. There seemed to be a lot of negatives: humping all my kit around, having to improvise with the facilities, feeling self conscious with the owners present etc etc.

Actually I can honestly say I have discovered there are at least as many pros as cons:

  • Home visits allow me an insight into the lifestyle of pet & owner which I would not otherwise have. This really helps work out what is most practical in terms of coat maintenance for a new client. For example if a busy, harassed young Mum or an elderly owner with arthritic hands asks me to shave their dog, generally I'm not gonna argue!! I can immediately see the logic behind the request.

  • Often the owners express a lot of interest in the grooming process and whilst I am working, without meaning to be patronising, it can be a great opportunity to educate. There are an awful lot of myths floating around out there, and whilst I would never promote myself as an expert on animal care, it's great to be able to put people straight on a couple of issues if I can. Did you know dogs cannot distinguish colour the way we do? So however unappetising certain brands of kibble may appear to us humans, the fact that they are every shade of brown makes absolutely no difference to your best friend! Except they are likely to have fewer additives than those full of artificial colouring.

  • Best of all, and by far most important for me, the dogs seem much more at ease in familiar surroundings. It's a shame but rather than enjoying being pampered with a wash, cut & blow dry as we do, most dogs dislike being professionally groomed. Whether this is the result of negative early experiences or simply because the unfamiliarity of it all becomes overwhelming & confusing, for the vast majority of dogs I would say a visit to the groomer is akin to a visit to the dentist for us: something to be tolerated because cost v benefit it is worthwhile but not a happy experience! Meanwhile, in their own home and with their trusted owner close at hand (often a willing helper) Fido will generally be much calmer, happier and accepting of the ritual, which of course means I can get the job done quick. Win - win!

  • If, as sometimes happens, the dog is still difficult to handle and even having the owner on hand will not help the situation, at least it will be apparent why the job is taking longer/ has an imperfect finish. MOST important of all, even if a firm hand is required, it is obvious Fido has been treated with compassion & respect throughout.
  • Relaxed Customers - Happy Days!!

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Everyone loves the warmer weather, however along with it comes the perennial problem for dog-lovers, flea infestations!

A dog can pick up a hitch hiking flea anywhere but during the summer months we are likely to take our scallywags out and about more and they have much more opportunity to do what dogs love to do best, rummage around in unmentionable places! Flea eggs, which have been dormant during the colder months hatch in the warmer temperatures and the fleas latch on for a tasty meal. Cats are also culprits for picking them up and generously passing them around.

It stands to reason that preventative measures are essential:  there are a variety of spot on treatments such as Frontline or flea collars to choose from. Make sure you follow your vet’s or the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully to ensure optimum efficiency but also to avoid making your pet ill. There have been incidents where owners have inadvertently poisoned their pets by giving them the dosage intended for a larger animal, or being overzealous with the application.

A dog treated with one of these applications may bring home a random live flea, but it should not be able to survive if the dog has been dosed regularly and correctly, so any infestation will be nipped in the bud.

If you are unlucky and the dog brings home fleas you must act quickly or you will have an ongoing problem to deal with. The flea eggs can drop off and become embedded in your soft furnishings waiting for a likely host to happen by when they hatch. Treating your dog alone will not be sufficient you MUST take the following precautions to avoid re-contamination:

·         Wash your pet’s bedding immediately and either wash, vacuum or replace any soft furnishings & flooring in the house, especially where your pet likes to sit.

·         After vacuuming throw away the dust bag.

·         Thoroughly clean your dog’s grooming utensils after every use, preferably in bleach.

·         If the infestation is really bad you may need to invest in a flea bomb, available from pest control and/or vets or pet shops.

Bathing your dog in flea shampoo will help expedite matters, again ensure you follow instructions to the letter and avoid over dosing! Invest in a flea comb which will enable you to sift thoroughly through your dog’s coat and remove any you find. Note however that these precautions alone are not normally sufficient to eradicate the problem once it is entrenched.

Some dogs are unfortunately allergic or sensitive to flea treatments, or are resistant to them, which makes prevention a bit of a nightmare. However there are a number of natural preventative methods which you can try and there is plenty of information about these to be found on the internet and via other sources.

One final word of advice: fleas are carriers of tape worm eggs, so a flea infested dog is much more vulnerable to worm infestation. It is common sense therefore to make sure you treat a flea ridden dog for worms too.
Oh, and by the way, a flea carrying dog will NOT be welcome in a dog groomer's salon for obvious reasons! Taking your problem to a public salon is NOT the way to tackle this particular situation!

Monday, 9 June 2014

English Groomers Group

The first weekend in June was the convention of the English Groomers Group in Swanley, Kent. Only an hour in the car so I thought I'd take a look:
There was so much going on, a variety of grooming classes: clipping & hand-stripping both to breed standards and pet trims. All a great source of inspiration for both pet owners and professional groomers, in fact anyone with an interest in doggy appearance!
Meanwhile around the central arena stalls showcased professional grooming equipment and products from a number of outlets, whilst various organisations manned information stalls.
My favourite though were the seminars running all day in the adjacent lecture room. For just £5 extra for the whole day, anyone interested could drop in for one of the half hour presentations available on topics ranging from health & safety to pet styling:
I loved the alternative pet styling suggested for this little shi-tsu , similarly the demonstrations on styling a schnauzer or westie were great to watch:

But yes, you've guessed it, my favourites of the day were the spaniels (of course) being hand stripped in the afternoon classes:
I've uploaded more pictures to the Scalliwags Facebook page - why don't you take a look?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Styling Your Dog

If you DO want to keep your dog’s coat long, but it is already out of control and heavily matted, you need to find a user friendly professional groomer who will work with you to get you out of trouble.

When you book your appointment explain the situation, tell the groomer you want to keep your dog’s coat long and you are committed to brushing your dog regularly if she/he can help you get things back under control. Expect scepticism, so many owners want the best of both worlds, a no maintenance pet that looks like it has just walked out of Crufts! Sorry, not gonna happen!

You will probably be presented with several options, depending on the condition of your pet’s coat:

·         A full shave down so that you and your dog can start again. Many groomers believe this is the most humane option, given how distressing it can be for a pet to sit through hours of de-matting. If this is suggested make sure the groomer explains the long term effects of clipping down your dog’s coat. Some coat types can change texture & colour as a result of clipping. A one off clip is unlikely to cause severe and irreparable damage but ask.

·         The groomer may be able to cut out the worst of the mats and leave the majority of the coat intact.   I don’t recommend trying this yourself – wielding scissors around a wriggling animal is asking for trouble without the proper training. This may leave your doggy looking somewhat moth eaten to begin with, so make your mind up to expect this initially but a series of regular appointments will rescue Rover’s crowning glory in time

·         The groomer may suggest a pet clip or trim which resembles the full coat styling but is much shorter and more practical. Think of it as a smart everyday frock vs evening wear!

In the case of a pet trim or a full coat, a skilful groomer will know how & where to take key areas short to avoid mats re-forming. These short spots will be in areas that are not immediately visible but are often hot spots for tangled fur. One example would be armpits, where friction can create knots and mats, so the groomer will shave them out. Since this is a particularly sensitive area it is common sense to obviate the need of combing here. Imagine having to comb your armpits everyday! Ouch!

Don’t be afraid to ask your groomer for breed specific tips on keeping your dog’s coat in condition, it is in the professional’s best interest to keep your dog looking good – it is a walking advert for her/his expertise!!

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Dirty Weekend

My cover girl, Delilah doesn’t always look this good. Like any self respecting cocker she loves a rummage in the undergrowth. Ditches & mucky puddles are her idea of doggy heaven! Since living in Wakering we’ve found it’s superb dog-walking country but unfortunately booby trapped with plenty of opportunities for a dog to get down & dirty en route.

So how do you keep the coat of a long haired, heavy coated dog in shape?

Well when we return from one of our local walks, we are more often than not bringing this home:

If she is really dirty she gets a sponge bath using clean, luke warm water on her legs & underbelly where the worst of the dirt collects but if she has just been running through wet grass we don’t bother. She is then blotted dry with a towel. We don’t bath her using shampoo or use dryers, we only use these every 6-8 weeks max as we don’t want to strip the natural oils from her coat & skin.

Before I learned how to trim her coat properly, it used to take an achingly long time for her coat to dry. Not healthy, comfortable or convenient to have a wet dog hanging around the house, either for the dog or the owner. Now, although Delilah’s coat looks very full & heavy, it is scissor trimmed & thinned out regularly which allows the coat to ‘breath’.  I also cut it short in strategic areas which are not immediately visible and where friction can cause mats. This is much better for hot weather too.

Once her coat has dried naturally it is time for our walking compost heap to get a thorough brush out. I begin by brushing her all over with a slicker brush, starting on one back leg and working methodically around the whole dog. I then repeat the whole process with a wide tooth metal comb and then one final time with a fine comb. The aim is to de-tangle the coat completely, at the same time removing anything lurking within – mud, seeds, twigs, leaves, creepy crawlies (I’ve even had to eject slugs).

Don’t assume that running a brush over the dog’s jacket will be enough to keep on top of mats and the debris that usually cause them. You need to brush your dog all over and get all the way down to the skin.

Do be as gentle as you can. Dogs have very sensitive skin and if you tug too hard they will protest and resist – wouldn’t you?

With a very stubborn tangle you can break it down with the slicker brush first. Then with the comb start de-tangling from the hair ends and work gradually towards the root – it will help to hold the hair between your fingers & thumb so that you are not tugging on the roots as you work. Another method is to use the comb lengthways and tease the mat into small sections which you can work on one piece at a time.

Do also be aware that some areas are particularly sensitive – under the tail, armpits & groin for example.

This may all sound like a great deal of work but the secret is to brush your dog out regularly so that dead hair & debris are removed before tangles & mats have the chance to build up.  On a tangle-free coat ten minutes a day will often be all you need to achieve this. But on bad hair days, I won’t lie, there have been evenings when we have spent literally hours removing seeds from Delilah’s coat because if these burrow into the feet or ears (for example) painful infections can occur. This morning hubby removed a thorn from just below her eye!  Luckily this is not an everyday thing.

If you don’t think you can commit to keeping your long haired dog in a full coat, opt for a shorter more practical pet clip and you should find the daily routine much easier!