This is the time of year that the big shedding breeds come in. They’re often the ones that haven’t been groomed in FOREVER. You know the ones—Goldens, Arctic-type breeds, Saint Bernards. They have that coat that totally trashes your salon, and maybe even you. There are tricks to getting this type of job done without too much agony, though. 

As many of you know, I’m a big-dog person. Working on these large, furry dogs is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. Call me crazy, but I just love the transformation in this type of job.


Rule #1: Never Work on a Dirty Dog. 

If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job. Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, it also takes longer. Plus, there will be a lot of coat damage and breakage. A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier—and much more pleasant—for both you and the pet.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using a tool that is safe for the pet. Don’t worry about removing the tangle completely, just break it apart, so the water and shampoo can do its job.

Make sure to prepare your bathing area. If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo specially designed for dirty dogs. Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead-coat removal during the drying process. Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean, like rubber curries or scrub brushes. And make sure you have plenty of towels handy. 

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high-velocity dryer right into the bathing area (bring your eye and ear protection, too!). With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub. The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles to slide out. It’s the same principle as applying soap to get a tight ring off your finger. It speeds up the entire process when it comes to mats, tangles, and shedding coat if you get the product right down to the skin.

As you work the high-velocity dryer over the soapy dog, the loose coat and shampoo will stick to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess. Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed, but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer the pet to the drying table. Once you have blown out the pet, follow-up with the rinsing process. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog squeaky clean.

After the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table. Read the directions; some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not. Your high-velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.


Rule # 2: Be Methodical & Thorough on the Drying Table

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat as possible with the airflow. Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with and a condenser cone. Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet as possible, remove the condenser cone. Bring the airflow close to the pet’s skin. Boost any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area with a slicker brush, right where the air is striking the skin.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush. Double check your work with both your hands and a wide tooth comb.


Rule #3: Be Proud of Your Work

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh. The coat should be glossy, and it should float freely as the dog moves. There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet's fur. To me, this is one of the most gratifying types of grooming jobs we do. It’s relatively easy, but it does require knowledge and skill to be thorough and efficient. PB

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