What Is the Difference Between Rakes and Undercoat Rakes?

Illustration 1

Illustration 1

These tools can be confusing. When you read their descriptions in catalogs, they’re so similar…

They do the same thing, don’t they?

No, they don’t. Let me explain.

Both remove undercoat on thick coated dogs. It’s the METHOD of removal that varies. One pulls out dead and shedding coat without cutting the fur. The other has sharp, curved teeth which remove the undercoat but will also cut the coat. One is used primarily on dry coats, both before and after the bath. The other is effective prior to shampooing, during the bathing process, and after the dog is clean and dried.

Illustration 2

Illustration 2

The difference isn’t so much in the names. The names are interchanged all the time. To keep them straight in my own mind, I call them different things. It’s particularly beneficial when giving directions to others to utilize different names.

Rakes

Rakes are designed to pull out dead coat and shedding fur with ease. Typically they are a T-shape (see Illustration 1) with rounded pins on the head of the T. On some heads, the top bar is long, up to 6 inches across. On other designs, the head may be only a couple of inches wide. The length and shape of the teeth will vary, too. On some rakes (see Illustration 2), the teeth are short and shaped almost in a tiny cone-type fashion. With others, the teeth are long, sinking deeply into heavy, long coats. On almost all models, the handle comes directly out from the cross bar head with all the teeth.

This type of rake is designed to remove dead coat while not damaging the healthy coat. You work the tool in the natural direction of the coat growth. Care must be used not to sink the comb too far into a dense coat repeatedly with too much pressure. Tugging too firmly on a thick or tangled coat will be uncomfortable for the dog and difficult for the groomer. Repeatedly digging in too deeply could injure the skin, as well.

Illustration 3

Illustration 3

Used correctly, rakes can be highly efficient for removing dead coat or “lint” from rustic-coated breeds. They are used primarily on double-coated, heavy-coated, or rustic-coated dogs.

Undercoat Rakes

Undercoat rakes have many small, sharp, curved blades set close together that remove undercoat. They are available in a variety of tooth widths, making this tool suitable for a wide range of breeds. On shedding breeds, they can remove dead, fuzzy undercoat in minutes, yet leave the top coat shiny and healthy. On harsh-coated dogs, they mimic the hand-stripped look quickly and easily.

Undercoat rakes can be used on a wet or a dry coat. Pull the rake in the direction of the coat growth.Always start with a wider toothed rake to start (see Illustration 3). Work down to narrower teeth as the tool pulls through easily, removing less and less coat.

Undercoat rakes normally work better when used prior to bathing or in the tub on a wet coat.

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

Use caution when working with this tool. On some coat types, especially heavy-coated dogs, they will cut the top coat while removing the undercoat. While the blades are curved (see Illustration 4), you still need to be careful how much pressure you put on the tool as you drag it through the coat so you do not injure the skin. Use caution when working around areas where the skin is thin like in the hock area, ear junctions, flank, and armpits.

Undercoat rakes work well on many coat types including double coated breeds, heavy coats, and rustic coat types. The work exceptionally well on any breed that is hand-stripped like many of the Sporting or Terrier breeds. Just be sure to monitor your progress as you work this tool over the dog.

Here is a cool trick I have seen used with undercoat rakes. This trick minimizes cutting the coat while pulling out dead coat, particularly once the coat is clean and dry. Simply take a thick rubber band and wrap it around the hooks of the blade (see Illustration 5). The rubber protects the coat from excessive cutting while the rubber helps grip the dead coat, allowing to be pulled out almost effortlessly.

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhich raking tools do you prefer? Why do you like some more than others? What would you recommend to a newer groomer?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us!

When Should You Just Say No?

Agressive dogrrPet groomers and stylists are in the service industry. Our role is to help people and their pets. When we do it well, we make people happy.

What if you can’t make them happy because you can’t groom the dog safely due to its aggression or health? Should you still groom the pet?

If you have been in business for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve run into this scenario. Even seasoned professionals struggle with this dilemma at times. Should you groom the pet or turn the client away?

The easy answer is to refuse to groom the pet. However, there are many variables. If you feel the situation presents a high risk for the pet or you – simply say no. That’s your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.

You must put the safety of the pet and yourself first.

Once you have that clearly established in your mind you can start analyze the situation.

  • What is raising the red flags in your mind?
  • What are your qualifications when it comes to handling a difficult grooming situation?
  • Is this a new or a long-standing client?
  • Can the pet be groomed safely with the help of an assistant?
  • Will the pet cooperate if the owner stays or assists in the grooming process?

When I think about these questions, I always mentally play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want is to have to tell an owner that their pet was injured while in my care. Or that we had to take him to the vet for treatment. Worse yet – that their dog died during the grooming process.

Let’s face it, there are a host of things that could go wrong in any grooming salon even under the best of circumstances.

The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. We are working with:

  • live animals
  • sharp instruments
  • tall tables
  • bathtubs
  • dryers
  • abrasive brushes
  • stacked kennels
  • slippery floors.

On most days, an experienced bather, groomer, or pet stylist takes all these dangers in stride. We know how to avoid accidental injuries to our four-footed clients.

So what do you do when that internal gut instinct kicks in?

You are standing there, looking at a dog (or cat) and listening to a client talk about their precious fur child. Deep down – some type of internal fear grips you. You just have a bad feeling about this particular groom. You know the old saying, “trust your gut instinct?” Well folks, that natural instinct is working in full force. Listen to it.

It’s okay to say “no” to a grooming client. It’s never worth grooming a dog you honestly feel is beyond your level of experience. If it’s more than you can handle, you have a potentially dangerous situation. The pet and you are the ones at risk – not the owner. I don’t know a single pet care specialist that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet.

Yet, if something goes wrong with the groom on that day, whose fault will it be? Yours.

Weigh out the risks. Whenever you need to decline service to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation. But the alternative is much, much worse. Telling an owner their pet has been seriously hurt or died in your salon it the most difficult task you will have to address. You want to avoid that at all costs – even if it makes the client angry or upset.

If it’s a new client, it’s much easier. There isn’t that emotional tie that comes with repeat or long-time clients. It’s much easier to refuse to groom a dog that is too big or too aggressive for you to handle.

It’s the long-time clients that are tough. The longer they have been a regular client, the harder it is. If a pet has physical ailments, it’s tougher. This is when you need to weigh out the risks and look for alternatives to your standard grooming practices. The health and wellness of the pet has to be a top priority.

Here are the questions you need to ask.

  • Could the pet be done safely with an assistant?
  • Would the dog benefit from the owner staying with the dog during the grooming process?
  • Would a different time of day work better for the pet? Maybe a time when you can focus solely on the pet without distraction?
  • If your salon is busy, would a solo stylist or mobile stylist be a better option?
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to get the grooming done without stopping? Maybe it’s best to break the grooming into sections, letting the dog rest between sessions? That might be over the course of the day or even over several days.
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to be groomed at a vet clinic where medical attention could be rapidly administered, if needed?

Years of experience have taught me there is not an easy answer. Whenever you need to decline services to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation.

However, if you decline services, do so out of care and compassion for the pet. Be prepared to offer alternatives to the client, even if that means you simply tell them “no,” you cannot groom their dog. Be ready to refer them to someone better suited to handle their pet. List all the reasons WHY you cannot and will not groom their pet. Do it with the confidence of a professional.

In the end, as difficult as it is to say “NO” to clients, you will sleep a lot better at night when you do. Trust me on this one.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.

It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

  • Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
  • Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it’s really smooth.
  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  • The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hay field. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible – but he doesn’t want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don’t miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog’s body in the same manner. It’s a hay field. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right… and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  • When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It’s round – like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade’s point of contact.
  • Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

clippersYou’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision.  You can do it. It just takes focus

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

Dollarphotoclub_57676672In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-4.08.52-PMDeep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.