Fall grooming

Fall is upon us, and with fall, the semi annual “blowing of the coat” for our double coated dogs.

In the winter, double coated dogs (retrievers, shepherds, huskies, etc.) build up a think undercoat of fine hair to keep them warm. They shed this thick coat in the spring, replacing it with an undercoat that is less dense, dries quicker and keeps them cool.

So the fall coat blow is a lot less of an issue than the spring one, but it is important to help the dog lose all that undercoat so the new thick warm winter coat can come in.

There are many brushes and brushing techniques that you can use to take out this undercoat, but be careful. Many use flat blades that scrape the coat, and can end up removing as much top coat as undercoat, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Top coat hairs are meant to come out regularly and be replaced by new hairs, but not a lot of them at once.

Single coat dogs (Dobermans, rotties, dalmatians, dachshunds, bulldogges, etc) don’t have that undercoat to remove, and these flat blade shedding tools work well for them. They should be used on a regular basis, to keep new coat coming in, not necessarily on a seasonal basis.

Other tools and techniques for removing undercoat include shampoos and conditioners designed specifically for loosening undercoat, and high velocity dryers. Few home groomers have access to high velocity dryers, these are the large turbine driven blowers used at professional grooming shops which can cost up to a thousand dollars. Groomers use these to save time and do a better job of “blowing” out the coats, and watching a Pyrenees getting dried is a fun thing, it looks like a snowstorm in the drying room, little bundles of fur floating around.

Shampoos can help loosen coat, but most need to be used in conjunction with a high velocity dryer for maximum effectiveness. Once loosened, the coat needs to be as dry as possible for a brush to remove that loosened coat, if it is still damp, the undercoat will stay stuck. Also, when using a shampoo or conditioner it is very important to rinse, rinse, rinse… if you think you’ve rinsed enough, its usually a good idea to rinse one more time. Any shampoo left behind can cause skin irritation which can cause the dog to scratch itself raw.

Once shampooed, conditioned and dried, brushing out the remaining loose undercoat can be done with a pin rake, a slicker or a coat king rake. My choice would be the coat king, as it works best, and does not affect the skin. Slickers are great, and make the coat look beautiful, but can cause “brush burn” if overused. For some dogs, the simple pin rake or comb will work, but I find that they are less efficient, both in time and amount of coat removed.

It is always a good idea to do any double coat brushing outdoors, much less cleanup. Plus, springtime birds will love the fur for nests, wintertime small hibernating animals can use it to insulate their dens.

Preparing your dog for the change of season isn’t difficult, but if you don’t have the time, there are plenty of groomers out there that can do a good job. Many will pre-book you for spring and fall visits so that you don’t miss out, at these times of year it can get quite busy and they might not be able to get you in promptly. Booking ahead is always the best plan.

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