About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Makeover Monday #8...To Save Or Not To Save

Sometimes I think that I would rather get a dog in that is matted all over rather than matted here or there.

Let me explain.

When a dog comes in mated all over the body, legs, ears, tail, and head, and has obviously been neglected in its grooming at home, I don't have any problem telling an owner that the dog needs to be clipped short.

The key is to try to make the owner understand.

It took me a little while to develop this particular backbone, but I am proud to say that that backbone gets stronger all the time.

I am still working on other backbone issues. :/

Anyway, I have learned to be very matter of fact with a owner that comes in with a very matted dog.
I have learned that you need to access the dog BEFORE you make any promises.
Feel the dog all over to check the condition of the coat.
Most of the time I can tell right away, without even touching the dog, how matted it is.
Every once in awhile a dogs coat will fool me.
So always feel the coat before agreeing to keep it long. 

One thing that I have learned over the years is, not to get an owners hopes up.
It is better for that owner to walk out your door thinking that you have to shave their dog because of the mats, and then surprize them at pick-up if you were able to save some of the coat.
It is better to have a pleasant surprise, rather than a shocking surprise of a naked dog.   
Even if I am fairly sure that I will be able to save some of the coat, I do not tell the owner a head of time.

Lets say that I checked over a dogs matted coat.
In my mind I am pretty sure that, with the help of my shampoos, conditioners, and HV dryer, I would be able to get a comb attachment through the coat.
But, I am not 100% sure.
The coat may not be forgiving.
The dog may turn nuts, or into a biter if I even try to brush.
I may have to shave that coat that I was pretty sure I could save. 

I have also learned not to tell customers that I might be able to save the coat.
Because, all the owner will hear is 'I will save the coat.' 

You need to take the time to talk to the owner and make very sure that they understand how you have to, or are going to groom their dog. 

My check-in conversations with a matted dog owner used to go something like this;

 Owner: "I brush him everyday so he is in good shape. I only want you to take a 1/2 an inch off."
Me: "Your dogs coat is really matted. I will have to clip him short."
Owner: "I don't want him short. He looks ugly. Every time I bring him to the groomer, you people always shave off all of his hair."
Me: "When was he last groomed?"
Owner: " I brush him every week and give him a bath once a month!"
Me: "When was he last professionally groomed?"
Owner: "You mean when did the groomer shave him last?....Six months ago." They shaved him so close I could see his skin. I don't want you to do that. I only want a 1/4" off of him."
Me: "Oh, I thought you said 1/2" off?"
Owner: "Noooo, I said 1/4 of an inch! Do not shave him.
Me: "I have to cut him shorter than that, because his hair is matted."
Owner: "Well, as long as you don't cut him too short."
Me: "I'll do the best that I can to leave him as long as I can for you, but he is pretty matted."
Owner: "Okay, but don't let his skin show."
Me: "I may have to take him pretty short to get the matted coat off."
Owner: "As long as you leave hair on him."

That is what my conversations used to be like with the owners of a matted dog.
A lot of 'I may' and 'I might'.
Even though I told the owner several times that the dog was matted and had to be taken short, do you think that that is what she heard me say?
All she heard me say was that I would leave him as long as I could.
Of course, when I was saying that, I was thinking that maybe I could get a #4F through the coat.

What did the owner of the dog hear?
She heard that I was going to leave the coat long.
She was guaranteed to come back and be shocked and upset that her dog was shaved, even if I had been able to get a #4F through the coat.

How many pet owners have you had that thought a #4F blade length was shaved?

She was guaranteed to think that way because I was not firm enough, or straight forward enough to make sure that she absolutely understood that her dog had to be shaved.

When I say 'firm' I don't mean to tell her in a mean, or condescending way.
I try very hard to say it in a educational why.

This is how my conversation with matted dogs owners go now.
See if you notice the difference.

Owner: "I brush him everyday so he is in good shape. I only want you to take a 1/2 an inch off."
Me: "I can see that you have been been brushing him, but unfortunately the brush has only been going through the top half of his coat."
(At this point I will part the dogs hair to show how the coat closer to the skin is matted.)
Owner: "I don't see any mats."
Me: "Here let me show you what I mean.
( Now I will also find another area on the dog were the hair is not matted and will show the owner the difference, and how they should be able to see all of the way down to the dogs skin. It can be an ear, the tail, the side of the face. If the dog is matted all over, I will get one of my dogs, or another customers dog, and show how a comb should glide through a mat free coat.)
Me: "As you can see when you look at this part of the coat, that is not matted, I can part the hair all of the way down to the skin."
(At this time I will also pull my comb out of my pocket, and comb the good hair.)
Me: "As you can see I can get the comb through this part of his coat, because it is not matted. Now, if I try to comb this part of the coat, the comb will not go through the mats."
Owner: "Can't you just cut out the mats and leave the rest of the coat?"
Me: "No. Unfortunately the matted part of the coat is under the hair that you have been brushing. In order to remove the mat safely, I must use a blade that will cut safely between the skin and the matting."
Owner: "You can't leave the long hair on top? It's not matted."
Me: "No, that hair is attached to the matted hair underneath."
Owner: "Why can't you just brush out the mats. That is your job."
Me: Some matting can be brushed out, but this matting is too tight and too close to your dogs skin. It would cause your dog a lot of pain to try to brush out that matting. I will not hurt your dog to remove mats. That is not part of my job."
Owner: "I don't want him short!"
Me: "Unfortunately that is the only option that I have. I must shave him to safely remove the mats. He will have to be shaved because the matting is very tight to his skin. The matting is actually hurting him."
(I do not say this in a accusing tone of voice. I try to say it such a way to sound like I am just trying to inform them of a fact.)
Me: "As the mats get tighter, they pull the skin causing pain and possibly sores under the mats. The best and safest thing to do for your dog is to start all over again. I will shave off the matted coat and we can set him up for regular grooming appointments to help keep his coat in good shape. If you like his coat to be on the long side, he needs to be professionally groomed at least every 4 to 6 weeks. I can also show you how to brush him so that you will brush the hair all of the way down to the skin."
Owner: "I don't want to bring him in that often only to have you shave him."
Me: "As long as you bring him in regularly, brush him the way I show you, and do not bathe him with knots in his coat, I should be able to keep him any length that you like as long as he is not matted."
Owner: "You really have to cut him short?"
Me: "In order to safely remove these mats...yes. I have to shave his coat off. The only other choice you have is to take him home and try to brush theses mats out, but that would really hurt your dog."
Owner: "Will his skin show? Do you have to take him that short?"
Me: "It is not up to me." (Here again I part the matted hair to show the owner what I am talking about.) "See that space between the skin and  the mat? I have to use a blade that will safely cut between the mat and the skin. I have no choice in the matter."
Owner: "Do what you have to do."

This conversation is longer than the first conversation.
I am taking my time to make 100% sure that the owner understands that the dog must be shaved, and that the coat will be very short.
I would rather spend time explaining at drop-off than having an irate owner in my lobby at pick-up because they thought that I was going to leave their dog long.

I also have pictures of other dogs that had to have their coats shaved even though the coat looked okay from the top.

To an owner, this coat probably looks in pretty good shape.

But this is what was going on under all of that long hair.

So, I guess my point is, pictures speaks a thousand words.

I have found that when approached in a firm, understanding, educational way, most customers eventually accept that their dog needs to be shaved.
They may still not be real happy that their dog has to be shaved, but they understand why you have to do it.

Of course, you will still run into those customers that absolutely refuse to believe that their dog is matted.
They are welcome to find another groomer, or take the dog home and comb the mats out themselves after I show them how.

I only ever had one owner take me up on that.
She brought the dog back a week later to have me shave it.
Then she became a very regular customer and never had to have the dog shaved again.

So, what does all of this have to do with the Makeover Monday dog?

Not a d*mn thing!

Well, that is not entirely true.
I did get of subject there a little, but that's me. :)

The Makeover dog does have a little to do with matting.

This type of matting is one of my weaknesses.

The only thing matted on this dog is her back legs and belly.

I just can not bring myself to shave a dog all over that is only matted in a few places.

This is an argument that I used to have with other groomers that worked for me.
If the dog had any mats at all they felt that the whole dog should be shaved.

This dog is a fairly regular customer.
She already gets a cut that is on the short side, but not as short as I would have had to take her if I didn't demat a little first.

 As I do with all of the dogs, I bathed her first.

I let her legs soak in shampoo and conditioner while I softened up the crust under her eyes.

The eye crud had run half way down the side of her face and was very hard.

So, I used my fingers and shampoo to slowly work the crusty crud away from her skin.

Then I cut the crusty hair off so that I could clean under the eyes with a medicated shampoo.

Careful not to get the medicated shampoo in the eyes, I let the shampoo soak for a few minutes to help with the sore skin under the eyes.

After HV drying the mats had loosened a little.

I tested to see how easily they would brush out as I fluff dried.

I used the red 'Les Pooch®' demat brush.

It is amazing how fast and easy this brush gets most mats out.

(*You MUST use a light touch with this brush, as it could very easily cause brush burn)

Even though the demat brush helped me to quickly remove the mats, the hair is damaged after dematting.

The hair is very frizzy and broken now from removing the mats.

Unfortunately, this will cause the hair to mat easily again.

Here you can see the difference in the hair on the front part of the body, where there was no matting, and the frizzy hair on the leg that was matted.

So I spray the back legs with finishing spray and blow dry again to help repair the hair.

The finishing spray helps to take a lot of the frizz out of the coat.

I clipped the body with the 13mm clip comb attachment.

Then I scissored the legs.

Her belly and stomach were too matted to brush out.

So I shaved it out.

I shaved the chest, belly area out with a #5F.

I shaved the lower stomach/belly out with a #15.

I also had to clip part of the way down the inside of the back legs to remove chew mats.

The red circles are small chew sores that were under some of the mats.

Make sure that you remember to show and tell the owner about these sores.

Let them know why they are there, and let the owner know that there is a possibility that the dog may go home and lick  those sores.

 The owner wanted bangs with bows on the top of the head.

So, I parted the hair at the front of the head to make a visor and combed the rest of the hair back.

I did a rough cut of the bangs before pulling the hair up on the back of the head for two bows.

I put the bows in and then went back and shaped up the rest of the head and the bangs.

Because this dogs bangs shifted and moved every time the dog looked in a different direction, I had to shape them up several different times.

There she is.

Body: 13mm comb attachment.
Legs: hand scissor.
Head: Bangs with two bows, scissor the rest of the face in proportion.
Ears: neaten
Tail: neaten

So, even though I have gotten much better about sticking to my guns when it comes to shaving a very matted dog.
I still waffle on the dogs that come in that I know I can save. 

I hope my rambleing helps someone. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. 13mm comb is what color/blade #? (if it's on the Wahl SS?)
    P.s. your blog is great!

    1. Thanks Laura,
      The clip comb that I used on this dog was the tan/brown colored stainless steel comb from Wahl. Although I have noticed that they have changed their combs. The clip combs that I have from Wahl (for the cordless clipper with the 5 in 1 blade) are each a different solid color. The new combs that they sell now are black with a little color chip. The comb itself should say what mm it is on it somewhere.
      I hope that this helps you. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  2. I don’t know why some people are so strange about their dog. My dog is my buddy, and I want what is best for him. Sometimes that means he has to look different than I want him to look, because it better for him. All I can do when reading about some of your clients comments is shake my head. That dog is adorable! Your work is incredible. I love your blog!

    1. Thank you Emma,
      Most people are great about their dogs. I just tend to talk about the ones that aren't. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    2. did I tell you that I love your blog? I have only been grooming for one an a half years so it is extremly helpful to me...

  3. Lisa how do you avoid punching the nipples when you have to shave those matted bellies? I normally use a no 10 blade for this - but it is always a nightmare to me....

    1. Hi,
      Sorry the reply has been so long in coming.

      Nipples scare the heck out of me too. Especially the really tiny hanging ones. I always clip the belly with a very light touch and try not to run the blade right over the nipple. I do not use pressure when clipping the belly unless it is matted and I have to get under those mats. I like to use a light pressure so that I can pull the blade away if I think that it is catching on something.

      Lisa, MFF