Alison Rogers with Pete the Poodle

With 20 years of industry experience, groomer and trainer Alison Rogers of Pretty Paws near Huddersfield, knows what she’s talking about when it comes to grooming. Here she shares some of her techniques for bathing and drying…

I am often asked how I achieve a lovely scissor finish and sometimes people are surprised to find out that I put it down to the preparing of the coat. In my opinion, bathing and drying are the most important parts of grooming. If the dog’s coat isn’t clean enough, you can’t blow dry it to remove dead hair and matted areas effectively. There are no hard and fast rules to grooming as every dog is different but I try to stick to a fairly set routine when it comes to bathing and grooming.

Setting expectations:

When an owner arrives with a dog for grooming, you need to give the dog a health check so you have a clear idea of what treatment is needed and what finish is possible. You’ll need to look at the condition of the coat and also examine the skin underneath for sore patches and signs of irritation that are already there. You’ll need to communicate this to the owner up front. This initial assessment will also help you assess which products and tools will be necessary for your groom.

Before bathing:

If the dog has very matted hair you will need to make some decisions about whether the finish that has been requested is possible, appropriate and necessary. Grooming out before bathing will help remove the bulk of the matted coat. You can, at this stage, spray with de-matting spray. Leave the spray in the coat for a few minutes and then use a dryer set to cool to blow the coat so it opens the hair up. This will make it easier to brush from the roots outwards with a slicker brush. For bigger areas of matting, you will need to use a matt zapper to groom this out so as not to cause the dog any pain.

Get the best out of your shampoo:

I believe that using the same shampoo on a dog all the time is not always effective. Changing the shampoo you use can help to keep the coat in better condition. It’s important to consider not only the dog, and coat condition when selecting a shampoo but also the type of water in your area (whether it is hard or soft).

Shampoo on a dry coat:

I always apply the shampoo on to a dry coat. If you wet the dog first, it can be quite hard to get the shampoo right down in to the coat and the water will close the hair follicles. If you apply the shampoo on a dry coat, any muck and dirt slides out of the coat more easily.

Use a drying routine:

Make sure you blast your dogs in a routine fashion so you are not just  transferring the water from one area to another. I would suggest starting with the belly and mid area, from under the top of the dog’s back, then tackling the back legs from toes to tail, then the front legs and chest followed by the back of neck. Finally, if the dog will let you, gently blast from the back of head holding the ears. If you are drying a dog with a wool coat, such as a poodle, you should dry from the head first – this will help the coat to dry quicker.

Blow drying:

If using a cabinet dryer, remember the dogs should only be in for 5 to 10 minutes at any one time. You can take them out and blast them and then return them for longer – but never leave dogs unsupervised in a cabinet dryer – likewise never leave them unsupervised in a bath or on the grooming table. You should use a stand-dryer (superjet) to blow dry or fluff dry. You’ll need to brush from the root of the hair and work on small areas at a time in order not to miss any parts of the dog.