Grooming by Skin & Coat Type

Just as in the human beauty industry, there are products designed to enhance or reduce almost any feature and to alleviate any problem.


A groomer goes over every square inch of the dog’s body in the process of grooming, so it’s part of the groomer’s job to be the first line of defense when it comes to medical issues. Groomers have alerted owners to many problems that, since they were found early, could be treated or cured easily. The list of forestalled maladies ranges from ear infections to malignant tumors to infections and on. Still, the most common issue groomers see is problems with a dog’s skin and coat. Luckily, these problems can be easily treated.

Groomers should always check the dog’s skin. Is it elastic, smooth and healthy? Is it free from flaking, scales, excess oil and lesions of any sort? If anything is amiss, bring it to the owner’s attention. If a dog has skin problems, a nutritional recommendation can be made to the owner, especially if the grooming shop sells supplements or food. Dry skin, flaking, scaling and dandruff are best treated with shampoos that combat the problem from all directions. Choose a product that has ingredients which will lift dead skin, soften, soothe and moisturize, as well as fight possible fungal, bacterial or other complications.

Dull color can be addressed using shampoos that contain optical enhancers, which make us see the coat as a more intense color, and ingredients to improve shine. Some include ingredients that will deposit pigment on the hair shaft to counteract dulling, or disguise that red tinge on black coats.

Texture can be affected by using a shampoo specific to your goals. One with a good amount of cleansers will texturize a terrier coat and add volume to a poodle coat. Make sure not to fight against what has been done with shampoo by using a conditioner or finish spray that has the opposite effect. If it’s soft and silky a groomer seeks, protein, lanolin, vitamin E, vitamin B-5 (panthenol), oils, glycerin and lecithin will help, and are great general moisturizers as well.

What should be done when there is a dog with dry skin that should be softened and moisturized but it’s a terrier that should have a harsh texture of coat? Always allow health considerations to win over cosmetics. The dog can come back and get a picture perfect groom once the skin has improved. And once the skin is better, the dog may not even need a texturizing shampoo–a truly healthy dog will grow a much nicer coat than one with skin that isn’t in ideal shape.

How should groomers determine which shampoo, conditioner or grooming spray will best suit the particular dog and help it to resemble its breed standard and improve its coat and skin? Focus on the ingredients and the description. In addition, ask other groomers. Get recommendations from distributors and ask them why they suggest that product over others. Check out and to see what is being discussed, but remember that techniques, weather and water composition will vary, so in the end each groomer will need to take their best guess.

One way to gain a lot of knowledge  in this area is to read the book Beyond Suds and Scent by Barbara Bird. The book covers topics that range from what ingredients in shampoo actually do to whether a silicon spray is safe. It’s written by a groomer, so it’s from a perspective we can understand. One other great resource is Tim Prior's seminar “Bathing, Grooming and Styling by Coat Types,” which is available at

The right ingredients, products and treatments will help make a dog look and feel its very best, and that’s creating a true masterpiece.

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.

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