Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Fur Side: De-Shedding Your Pet

One of my customers made me laugh by telling me she was imagining that we had a machine that we could put a dog into with just its head sticking out that would just suck out all the extra hair, kind of like what you might expect to find in an "I Love Lucy" episode. That would be nice, but de-shedding is just hard work, tools and technique, no machine at all.

I invited my customer into the grooming cabin to watch how de-shedding is done. First we clip nails, clean ears and eyes just as we do at the beginning of any groom. On big dogs we would use our high velocity drier to blow away dead hair and debris (small dogs are often wary of the noise of the drier and honestly, it's so powerful it could blow a very small dog right off the table!)

Then we use a de-shedding shampoo and a rubber curry tool in the bath to give a vigorous massage that releases and washes away dead hair. Following the rinse we massage in a de-shedding solution for at least five minutes, concentrating on the dog's heaviest coat areas, around the neck and hindquarters. Typically after a de-shedding bath the tub is coated with a layer of hair and the drain basket is totally full. After a thorough rinse and leave-in conditioner, we dry with the high velocity drier, again blasting out more hair. Whew! That was a lot of work and now the grooming cabin is filling up with hair that we'll conveniently suck into our shop vac, and you won't have in your house, but the real work starts now.

We use a de-shedding tool, or what's often called a carding tool, to remove excess undercoat. Furminator makes a line of these products for consumer use but many brands have been made and used in the grooming business long before Furminator captured the consumer market. We carefully draw the ultra-fine teeth of the de-shedding tool through the clean dry coat until it's captured all the excess hair, which can take a half an hour of more of dedicated work. These tools can irritate skin so it takes experience to know how much pressure to apply and how much repeated combing can be tolerated without redness or soreness developing. I often collect the hair gathered with the tool into a bucket to make it easier to clean the cabin and I can see how much hair is removed by the de-shedding process even after a professional bath and brush. For a medium or large dog, I can expect to gather 2 to 3 gallons of downy, "dust bunny-like" balls of undercoat just using the de-shedding tools. See Clover's picture at the head of this article.

We de-shed cats too, although most of our customers prefer a lion cut to reduce the amount of hair in their homes and their cats' tummies. Either way, having your dog or cat professionally de-shed can reduce the amount of hair in your home by 60 - 80% if done regularly. With a light coated dog, we might recommend you try de-shedding in spring and just professional baths the rest of the year to keep the "fur side" under control.

On their web site, Furminator says that shedding is the number one complaint of pet owners. I don't doubt it!

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