I attended the American School of Dog Grooming located in Dallas, Texas a few years after the dinosaurs became extinct. At the time I was also working for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas as a review nurse. I was young and believed dog grooming could replace my job as a nurse. Of course I also still believed in the tooth fairy.
Dog grooming, like many female-dominated occupations, has poor reimbursement rates. To replace my nursing salary, I would have to groom eight to ten dogs per day! Consider there is no consistency in the dogs that walk through the shop doors. A maintained miniature poodle may take an hour and a half. A matted collie could take all day. Add the pesky little overhead details such as shop lease, advertising, utilities and a boatload of other expenses and you don’t come up with a great financial opportunity. However, when I paid for the first tuition installment, I still thought I could actually make a living at dog grooming plus I liked it.
I attended school two evenings a week and all day Saturday. It was learn at your own pace so students could set their own schedules as long as the required hours were completed. I completed my coursework/internship in approximately six months.
The school was also a grooming shop and offered reduced rates for student groomed dogs. Maybe that was the reason animals in a variety of conditions walked through our doors.
I once groomed a dog that was so matted that his hair came off in one continuous piece like a dirty rug. Beneath that giant mat, the dog’s skin was covered in flea bites and sores. Of course the owners didn’t offer rationale for the poor condition of the dog. The hard part was getting a start through the mat. Once I made a hole, I ran my clippers between the mat and the dog’s skin. He looked pitiful, but felt great. After his clip and bath, the little guy raced around the shop with a smile on his face. I hated to let him go back to his neglectful owners, but the ASPCA didn’t hold such a dominant presence as today. The school charged twelve dollars for his clip. And no, I didn’t get a tip!
Dogs are humorous little characters and my experiences with different breeds sparked material for some of the scenes in my romantic comedy, The K-9 Affair.
Removing Eye Matter from Dogs with Long Facial Hair
If you have a long-haired breed with hair that grows unclipped from beneath the eyes, you’ve probably encountered a problem with the eye secretions creating hard matted “eye boogers” in the corners of the eyes. If this matted area goes unattended, it can lead to sores on the skin below the eyes. Because this is a sensitive area and the matter causes tenderness, your dog will have a tendency to avoid contact around this.
I first experienced this problem with my Yorkshire Terriers, but it’s also a problem with other breeds with long facial hair such as Maltese and Shihtzus. The easiest method for me that causes the least discomfort for the dog is outlined below:
Items you will need:
• Small plastic comb with blunted teeth
• No-tear formula shampoo
Steps for eye matter removal:
1. Moisten the matter-crusted area with water
2. Break up the matter with fingers
3. Starting with the hair at the bottom of the crusted area, gently comb towards the end of the hair shaft
4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the matter breaks apart
5. Gently comb the matter globs away from the eye
6. Once the matter is removed, shampoo the area and rinse.
7. As you blow dry the dog, comb through the cleaned hair to prevent additional water tangles.
Note: Eye secretions are water soluble, so continue to moisten and work out the crusty area. As you moisten and gently comb, sections of the matter will loosen and remain on the teeth. I keep the tap running. I work through the crusted matter, rinse the loosened secretions from the comb, and apply more water to the area.
Caution: Do NOT clip the hair in this area. If you clip this area, the hair will grow and protrude in the eye.
To me, a dog’s topknot is the make-it or break-it component for a groomer. When I look at a dog, I focus on the face and big kind eyes. If the topknot isn’t right, the dog’s eyes are not enhanced and may even be obscured. For some breeds, this is the standard, but not with my pet. I want his face clean so I can ensure the health of his skin and eyes.
The best topknots are created by using the dog’s landmarks to establish your scissor guide. For safety always face the flat of the scissor toward the dog. Never position the scissor points toward the dog. Start with a clean, dry dog and ensure you’ve removed all tangles, and then follow the steps below:
|1. Comb topknot hair toward nose.
|2. Rest the flat of your scissor at the junction of the skull and the muzzle. Cut straight across the front of the face.
|3. Rest the flat of the scissor at the junction of the top of the ear and the skull with scissor points toward the back of the head. Cut straight across the top of the ear. Repeat on the alternate ear.|
|4. Bend the dog’s head with nose toward the chest to arch the back of the head and neck. Rest the base of your scissor against the neck at the same angle as the neck. Cut. This angle should cut the hair on the neck the shortest and taper longer toward the top of the skull. Repeat the cuts until you’ve cut the back of the neck from one ear to the other.
|5. Once you’ve complete the cuts. Comb the hair upward. Scissor the hair creating a gently round appearance at the top of head.
|6. With scissor points upward and flat of scissor in front of the eye, scissor to even hair from ear cut to front of face cut.
7. Blend all areas to finish.
At this point I make a big fuss over how good my dog is and hand him a dog cookie. He instantly forgives me for spoiling his morning nap!