Sunday, 13 July 2014

Don't You Hate That?

Don’t You Hate That?

I groomed Delilah this week end, I thought you might like to see some before and after pictures.

And After:
No, I haven’t mixed up the photos. They are labelled correctly.

The first photo shows Delilah on Saturday, immediately post groom, before we took a stroll in the fields.

The second photo is of her the same day after our afternoon walk.

What can I say?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Undercoat, Bath & Brushout - What Is This?

When people book in a dog for a groom I’ve noticed they often don’t know what to ask for. So many dogs are clipped completely short these days for convenience sake that it is assumed that this is the only option on offer. Not so! A trained groomer will have several options at her fingertips but if a new customer asks for their dog to be clipped down this will not necessarily be questioned.

Some friends asked me to give their puppy his first ever groom. As we talked I discovered they had no idea what the grooming options might be for this particular breed of dog, what the breed standards are, or how they might vary from the appearance of a pet groom.

So I thought that I would devote my next few blogs to explaining some of the different options a versatile groomer can offer her customers:

Undercoat, Bath & Brushout

This is the ideal way to maintain the coat of double coated breeds (such as Collies, German Shepherds & Akitas). A double coated dog, as the name suggests, has two layers to its fur: a glossy harsh top layer known as the guard coat plus a softer thermal layer underneath. The roles of these two layers are self explanatory and common sense will tell you that it is the thermal layer which sheds most profusely. If the dog is not brushed regularly the dead coat may become tangled with the new coat and create mats and tangles.

The groomer will rake out as much of the dead coat as possible using a special tool, leaving the healthy new growth with the shiny top guard coat now shown to best effect. This method is recommended because:

·         It works well with the natural growth cycle of your dog’s coat

·         Alleviates discomfort in hot weather because the coat can now ‘breath’

·         Removes huge quantities of shedding hair in one hit, meaning it will not be dropping all over your house for the next few weeks!

·         The finished result is how your dog is supposed to look and presumably this is part of the reason you chose this breed in the first place.

Dead & surplus fur now removed, the groomer can give your scalliwag a thorough shampoo, brush out any remaining tangles and neaten up any hairy areas with scissors (usually feet, ears and leg furnishings).

End result, a gleaming healthy coat and a clean, comfortable dog which conforms to breed standards.

Why this method rather than clipping down?

It is a common misconception that the most effective way to keep a long haired dog cool and comfortable in summer is to remove the offending coat and shave him down. In fact a well maintained coat of a double coated dog will keep it warm in winter and cool in summer, protecting the skin from the sun’s harsh rays. Shaving it off can be overkill, leaving the skin vulnerable to sun burn and abrasions from undergrowth etc.

Furthermore, clipping the coat short interferes with the natural growth pattern. Often the soft thermal layer grows back more quickly than the guard coat which is unsightly and increases the potential for matting. Persistently clipping a double coat can eventually weaken the guard layer, compromising both its efficiency and appearance, which becomes dull and lifeless.

Surfing the internet, there are a number of horror stories to be found where the fur has not grown back and clipping has even been cited as triggering cases of alopetia. I can neither confirm nor refute these but I prefer to avoid clipping down double coated breeds if possible.

I would however point out that sometimes clipping a very heavily matted dog is the only humane option. If a heavy coated dog has not been brushed regularly or efficiently this could be the result and the groomer may feel obliged to do so. A one off clip is unlikely to cause irreparable damage. It follows therefore that there is an onus on the owner to brush their dog regularly and effectively between professional grooms. I help keep on top of this by offering maintenance grooms between full grooms. These consist of the undercoat & brushout regime only (plus nail clipping if necessary), no bathing or scissoring which helps to keep the cost down.

The undercoat, bath and brushout method is also effective for non double coated breeds such as Retrievers and Labradors which have a tendency to shed. It can also be adapted to suit some pets which may traditionally be hand-stripped such as Spaniels and Westie’s because it leaves a more natural finish than clipping but is less time consuming than stripping (and therefore less expensive).

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Don't Let It Bring You Down!

It’s been a bit of a demoralizing week for my fledgling business.

While  is still largely waiting to be discovered by the Google bots (and therefore everyone else) drumming up new business is pretty hard graft. Leafleting pays off, but deciding which areas to target is pretty random. I’ve taken to brazenly approaching unsuspecting dog walkers and bestowing a business card with what I hope is a friendly smile (as opposed to a nervous facial spasm). Got to be careful with this tactic though, as if I am not careful I will wear out my welcome by pestering the same poor people each day; and since I am usually walking my pooch too (multi tasking like all successful business types – impressed?) I don’t want to spend the rest of the summer feeling like a plague carrier as other walkers double take and give me a wide berth. I am so sorry if I have given anyone a persecution complex!!

So it’s important that any enquiries that do come my way are converted into concrete bookings. I’m not so desperate I’ll do anything, I still had the backbone to explain I wasn’t happy about shaving down a double coated dog and why, it remains to be seen if the owner will give me the benefit of the doubt and call back to book the recommended undercoat/bath/brushout regime instead. I hope so, all of the clients who have agreed to this so far have seemed pleased with the results.

Imagine though, how I felt when I turned up on Saturday morning at 10am prompt to what turned out to be a phantom booking:

Me: Morning! Southend Scalliwags to groom Fido

Phantom Client: Oh, I thought that was booked for Saturday

Me: It is Saturday

Phantom Client: Is it? Oh well Fido isn’t here today he is up in London with his master at So & So’s birthday

Me: Couldn’t you have called to let me know?

Phantom Client: I didn’t have your number

Me: But you called me to book, I didn’t call you……

At this point I accepted the futility of the situation and told the phantom client to call when Fido got back from London. May be I need to get a life but for me Saturday Kitchen is Must See TV and there is an upside to every situation. In this case it was James Martin.

Later that day another client called to postpone, I appreciated this courtesy and it was for a valid reason, so no absolutely no complaints here, just disappointment.

And when a third client called Sunday evening to cancel Monday morning’s appointment I really had to pull myself up by the bootstraps and give myself a stern talking to.

So today I literally got on my bike and went leafleting. And while I was out I took two new bookings. Whether these turn out to be phantom bookings too remains to be seen, but meanwhile the diary is starting to fill up again and it was a lovely cycle over to Canewdon!