How do I know that Spring has arrived?
Is it because the calendar says so?
Is it because business has picked up?
Those are good indicators, but as a groomer, the biggest indication that Spring has arrived is that the number of filthy, matted, and/or shedding dogs has increased dramatically. Sure, I see those types of dogs year-round, but the number of each type goes WAY up in the Spring.
Let's start with filthy. I do this Westie puppy about every 5 weeks. Being a terrier, she basically lives in the dirt - and you can tell.
By itself, this picture gives a pretty good idea of how dirty she was, but it is in comparison to the after picture that you can REALLY tell how dirty she was.
That's quite the color change, wouldn't you say? By the way, the reason her front legs look partially shaved and funny is because I think the vet removed her dew claws while they spayed her.
Here is another dirty regular of mine. I'm not sure how well the pictures show how dirty he was, but since I see him so regularly, it stood out to me as soon as I saw him how dirty he was.
And here he is after the bath but before the haircut - I forgot to take a picture after the haircut, but this picture still does justice to how dirty he was before the bath.
Even if you can't see the difference between dirty and clean, I think it's neat how fluffy he gets.
Now on to the matted dogs. I'm not sure how many other groomers do this, but for a lot of dogs that are only matted in a few places, I will leave them longer (up to 5/8") where they are not matted and go shorter where I need to in order to get under the mats.
This is a Labradoodle I did recently. You can see how curly she is, but without feeling her, it's hard to say how matted she is.
Here is a close-up of some of the matting. When you spread out a dog's hair like that, you should be able to see skin, not more hair.
The bath and blow dry (non-groomers please note - you MUST dry the dog completely, preferably with a high velocity dryer, for this to work. I do NOT recommend washing matted dogs to non-groomers!!!) usually loosens mats up enough to get a longer blade through - but I don't feel the need to wash and dry non-matted hair when it is SO long, so sometimes I will take my longest blade through the dog where I can before the bath. This is how the dog looked before I washed her.
Note that I left all the matting on the dog so I could loosen it with the dryer and get a longer blade through her.
Here is how she looked after the bath and blow dry.
She was also pretty dirty. Notice how she is less shiny after the bath? That's because she was SO greasy before I washed her.
Here is her after picture. Can you even tell where I had to take her shorter due to matting?
Before I learned this technique, I would have had to shave her nearly to the skin all over her body before the bath. I like to think that even if owners can notice the shorter spots, they appreciate that their dog isn't that shorter (or shorter!) on their entire body. This method takes longer than just shaving the dog before the bath, but I think the end result is generally worth it.
Here is another dog that came in extremely matted on about 1/3 of her body. Can you tell where her harness goes?
How about now?
Here's my PSA for the day - if your dog regularly wears a harness, you really need to take it off and brush the hair under it at least 2-3 times per week to avoid this kind of matting.
Again, much of her body was not matted, so I used my long blade on the parts of her that weren't matted before the bath. I forgot to take a picture of that before I washed her, but here she is straight after being washed and dried.
From here, I try progressively shorter and shorter blades until I find the longest blade that will fit under the matting.
Here she is all done. She was a little wild for her head, so forgive me if it isn't perfect.
Would you even believe that's the same dog? Anyway, if I had shaved before the bath, I would have had to use my shortest, or maybe second shortest, blade to get under the matting. She would have been bald, possibly even pink. I am glad I have learned the skills to send matted dogs home with some hair still.
Now for the shedding dogs. Dogs shed year-round, some more than others. But the worst sheds of the year tend to be Spring and Fall. This Golden was, I think, also blowing puppy coat. Here is how much hair came out with just the bath and blow dry.
Now let's add in the hair that I got out with my brushes and other tools, and you get a pretty impressive final total.
Well, this blog post was longer than I anticipated, so I should probably stop here.
I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into what Spring is like for a groomer!