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  • Shave downs

    Are shave downs really as difficult as I am making them? I find them soo stressful and time consuming. I usually always try to save the hair first which is obviously adding to the time alot but still it takes me forever. I had a cocker come in yesterday who hasn't been in since the first of December (her parents just had a baby and the dog took a back seat). The mom says to me on the phone that she can get a brush through the legs so I am remotely optimistic but not really. The dog comes in and she has atleast two and a half inches of coat on her legs and it is all webbed together at the skin and like in those bunched wavy strands. So I through the dog in the tub in hopes of being able to maybe get the legs brushed out and to get a better look with the force dryer. Did I mention this is one of my two least favorite dogs to groom? She is so frigging spoiled and poorly behaved and will not stand at all or sit still and cries and cries and I feel so bad the whole time. Anyways I get drying the legs and think maybe this isn't so bad and I am trying to brush but she just won't let me and then down towards the bottom of the leg is balls of matting so I call the mom (after working on her for an hour and a half) and say I am going to have to shave the legs down and she says do what you have to. So I start with a 4 and no, go to a 5 and will go through some of it but then I get stuck. So I am literally pulling the hair out to try and get the 7 under the bad spots and the dog is pulling away and going on and it is just a nightmare. So should it be this difficult? Or should I have just gone to a 10 instead of struggling with the 7? It might not have been so bad if the dog was more cooperative but holy. After 3 hours my next appt was in so I called the parents and said I will have to finish her next week. I didn't even get to her ears which were all bunched and webbed too. I am going to rebath her and get her dried properly and hopefully be able to get a somewhat nice finish on her. What a mess. So is there an easier way to shave down or is it just a hard job? Is there a way to get to leave the hair a bit longer? Will I someday just know ok this is going to be a shave down and not waste the time trying to save the hair? I need your wisdom.

  • #2
    I think you are making it a lot harder on yourself than it should be. I don't know if it is just me, but shavedowns don't bother me and if the dog comes in matted I tell the owner, this is going to be a shavedown. No option. I will work somewhat on the head and tail hoping to save some if it isn't hard on the dog. When the dog is done I think they look cute and leaves with a bow or scarf. So far all have been happy and not disappointed. They know that it is their fault if the dog is in that condition and are mostly gratful that you are willing to help them and the dog without the lecture. As far as blades, use whatever will work. Most dogs in that bad of condition I will use a 7 but sometimes on the legs I will have to go to a 10 or use my arco which usually helps. Dogs with shavedowns look a heck of a lot better than when they come in all matted. If the owner needs to be reminded, take pictures of all before and after grooms.

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    • #3
      I'd start by really feeling the dog over during check in, so that you know what step you are going to take straight off the bat. You can always take the dog back, while the owner is still there and use the blow dryer first thing to discover mats that are there, and possibly show them to the owner that way depending on how your set up is. If the matting is brushable, ask yourself... how will this dog handle the brushing? Will this hard work be worth my time for someone who doesn't come in often enough? Will they actually deal with the upkeep at home if you save the hair? Is the money worth it? In this situation, I would say no to all of those. These people just had a kid, their priorities have shifted, and unless they're going to change and start brushing their dog, or at the least bring it in regularly, they'll need to get used to the look of a short cut. Yes, even the ears.
      Another trick to dematting is to start with the most matted part first, that way you know how short the shortest spot will need to go, and you don't spend time trying to leave hair longer in spots than you'll actually be able to leave it overall. Look into wet shaving, there are a lot of posts about it here, and it really helps to keep length on the dog, but keep in mind if these aren't people who put effort into their dog, I don't think I would work real hard to keep that extra 1/4" of hair, but that's just me.
      Good luck, it sounds like you are on the right track, these things just take time.

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      • #4
        I'm not trying to sound condescending, but I need to know for informative purposes-are you new? It sounds like it!

        Its definitely compounded by the fact that the dog is difficult, (please invest in a Groomer's Helper you will thank it every day) but I would also stop feeling bad for the cocker when she starts crying-unless you are really tugging. If she was crying while shaving it makes me think she's just a talker and complaining about the injustice of being groomed vs. actually being hurt. I don't know exactly what she does so I'm not going to advise you on handling, but it may help to take some training classes and see what you can learn and apply about dog psyche.

        In all the years I've been grooming, I've needed to go shorter than a #7 (In cases of matting, not the look the owner wants) exactly twice. TWICE! And only on certain parts, I've never done a #10 all over if the dog is matted. I've also gotten allllllllll kinds of horrible matting. Maggots, ears matted to the body, body casts, deformities due to mats being there so long, sores and bruises. One avenue is you need to make your products work for you. (you can also wet shave but I am not an expert so search in here for wet shaving threads) What kind of dematting conditioners do you use? I use Iv San Bernard Pek and also their K101. Talk about melting the mats away!

        Are your blades sharp? Is your equipment quality? Do you have a powerful dryer? For cockers, depending on if I care on saving the coat vs. saving time and also how bad the matting is, I will use my Les Pooch mat zapper to try and loosen them a LITTLE before the bath with Nature's Specialties EZ demat. Then follow with a conditioning shampoo, and a sit in K101. After sitting a couple of minutes I'll use my mat zapper again to work it through and move the mats away from the skin. Rinse, thoroughly towel dry, and douse liberally with The Stuff or Crowne Royale. Brush through again! (The hair has more give when it's wet) Then, I turn my dryer as high as the dog can stand it and use the nozzle really close to the skin. The mats *SHOULD* spiderweb up and away, exactly how much depends on how tight they were in the first place.

        That's definitely a lot of work and I usually don't do it all on the same dog, I will change up my routine depending on who the dog is and how bad the matting is.

        You also certainly can skip to a #10 all over, but personally I don't like going so short on a dog with matting that bad since the skin is usually irritated already underneath. I've also never needed to.

        Good luck for her next appt!
        There are 3 different kinds of people in this world: Dog people, cat people, and rational people who don't have a problem liking two things at the same time.

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        • #5
          Thanks for the replies and yes, lol, I am very new. How could you tell haha. I know I am not hurting her but I guess my concern is for the level of stress. This is a dog that has hidden under the table for two days after her grooms with every other groomer than me so I guess I feel like I have a standard to keep up as far as keeping her not stressed. My lack of experience faults me because when looking at a coat I really don't know if I will be able to brush it out and I know that you can't know for sure but this is the only cocker I have and she is never a mess like this so I have never attempted to dematt her. And brink, I am like you in the fact that I just do not like to shave right down. I used my recirc with some conditioner in hopes of loosening and separating the leg hair some and tried doing some brushing when it was wet but she was so uncooperative. I think when I saw her I was immediately discouraged and just didn't know where to start. My goal was to save a bit of hair to be able to do with like a 0 or 1 SS...I didn't plan on brushing out the full coat. And I do have a GH but I find it doesn't help a whole lot with her. She is still able to turn away from me (am I doing something wrong?) and I put the no sit apparatus on but she just lifts her legs up and over the strap and I also find it is right in my way when I am trying to work on the dog. So I think what needs to be done here is I need a bunch of you to take a months vacation and fly to Canada and teach me everything you know because I have no mentor and am all alone in this big old world of grooming and I can pay you in cookies and hugs. Any takers?

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          • #6
            Did you try shaving the hair wet? A lot of times you can get a longer blade through clean and wet hair.

            I am really bad about accessing mats when the dog is checked in. I really can't tell how bad the matting is or whether I am going to be able to comb out until the dog is wet and I am trying to dry the hair. At that point I can tell in a couple seconds if I have to shave or not.

            Jodi Murphy has a new DVD out that deals with matting you might want to check it out.

            Basically if I can pull apart the mat with my fingers it can be combed out. BUT that requires time and patience. Some days I have neither. If I take the time the owner pays for the time. I will call the owner and give them the option (if I have the time and patience) of paying .75 a minute or shaving the dog down. If the mats are too dense or the owner doesn't want to pay I will shave the dog while it is still wet. I do like you did, I will start with my #3 blade and gradually go down until I can get the blade through. Shaving the hair wet really goes fast and it takes less time to dry.

            Next time I wouldn't spend that much time. It's hard on both you and the dog.
            "The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog." -Ambrose Bierce

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            • #7
              There are different types of mats, and different types of hair. Sometimes the mats come right out (like on puppy hair of some breeds), and sometimes you have to take a #7 or #10 to the mats.

              Shavedowns can take a while on occasion, especially on a difficult dog. I am going to get on my usual "kick" of suggesting DVD's that would help you out.

              Jodi Murphy has 2 DVD's that I think would help you. Actually, there is also a third, but I'll talk about that in a moment.

              The first DVD is called "Mats happen" and she explains when dematting is a possibility, and when it's time to say, "Sorry, I can't demat this dog."

              Keep this thought in mind: Humanity always trumps VANITY. Tell that to the owners. I occasionally tell them, "Oh, it's not a matter of whether I CAN demat the dog, it's a matter of whether I SHOULD demat the dog." They learn quickly.

              The other DVD I think you'd benefit from is called "Caution: Handle with care" and it's about safely positioning and handling a dog on the grooming table, with various techniques. I've been grooming for 6 years now and I even learned a few things from it!

              The 3rd video you might benefit from is called "Smooth road to a shavedown." It covers shaving down a dog, pretty self-explanatory.

              Anyway, you can go to www.jodimurphy.net and you can click on the video samples of each of these DVD's to see what it's all about. I sure wish I had these DVD's available to learn from when I first started out! It would have helped a lot. They are very economical, a lotta bang for your buck, that is why I so often recommend them.

              Tammy in Utah
              PS: Feel free to PM me anytime, I'd be happy to help you!
              Last edited by SpikeyTheYorkie; 04-02-10, 09:25 PM.
              Groomers Helper Affiliate

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              • #8
                I check with a comb when the dog is dropped off. I do this in front of the client. If the dog is matted, it's a #7 smoothie. I can do a smoothie on a large dog in less than 30 min. I don't bargain and I don't "try". They never appreciate it anyway. They just show up matted again. The sign says "God doesn't groom dogs and I don't perform miracles."
                "The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind"-Theodorus Gaza

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                • #9
                  Don't feel bad. We were all beginners at some point-some of us so long ago it's hard to remember. Saving hair is a big time waster. No matter how careful you are, it does hurt, and some dogs just won't take to any kind of de-matting. Don't do it. Hair is a renewable resource-it will grow back. The pet is happier, and the owner learns a lesson-have dog groomed more often, brush at home, or keep hair short. You will find that if you do de-mat a badly tangled pet, the owner will expect you to keep doing that each time. So not fair to the animals we love.
                  Old groomers never die, they just go at a slower clip.

                  Groom on!!!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SpikeyTheYorkie View Post
                    Keep this thought in mind: Humanity always trumps VANITY. Tell that to the owners.
                    Include the vanity of the groomer too. Sometimes I choose to demat a dog just because I think I can make it look cute. Occasionally I have to remind myself that just because I can do something it doesn't mean I should do something.
                    "The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog." -Ambrose Bierce

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                    • #11
                      I'm with five, I do not try to save matted hair,and have no qualms about taking a 10 or lower to it to get it off quickly, you will get a feel for it, with time, but I would not stress over shaving a badly matted dog, even the best pet owners have life happen and get behind wirh grooming. And cockers are some of the worst to demat after spaying,coat turns into cotton candy and nothing will change it.
                      ~~Everyone is entitled to my opinion!~~

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by keyray View Post
                        Include the vanity of the groomer too. Sometimes I choose to demat a dog just because I think I can make it look cute. Occasionally I have to remind myself that just because I can do something it doesn't mean I should do something.
                        Yeah, like dematting poodle ears for an hour, making you late for having fun at my house!! Grrr! :P

                        Tammy in Utah
                        Groomers Helper Affiliate

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by PamperedPup View Post
                          Thanks for the replies and yes, lol, I am very new. How could you tell haha. I know I am not hurting her but I guess my concern is for the level of stress. This is a dog that has hidden under the table for two days after her grooms with every other groomer than me so I guess I feel like I have a standard to keep up as far as keeping her not stressed. My lack of experience faults me because when looking at a coat I really don't know if I will be able to brush it out and I know that you can't know for sure but this is the only cocker I have and she is never a mess like this so I have never attempted to dematt her. And brink, I am like you in the fact that I just do not like to shave right down. I used my recirc with some conditioner in hopes of loosening and separating the leg hair some and tried doing some brushing when it was wet but she was so uncooperative. I think when I saw her I was immediately discouraged and just didn't know where to start. My goal was to save a bit of hair to be able to do with like a 0 or 1 SS...I didn't plan on brushing out the full coat. And I do have a GH but I find it doesn't help a whole lot with her. She is still able to turn away from me (am I doing something wrong?) and I put the no sit apparatus on but she just lifts her legs up and over the strap and I also find it is right in my way when I am trying to work on the dog. \
                          Well, I commend you for sticking through it...it gets easier as you gain experience, promise. Unless the hair is extremely dirty, at this point I can feel the dog down with my hands during check in and usually be able to tell right away if it's too bad to save. It might help to carry a comb in your pocket and do a quick once over in front of the owner. I won't spend loads of time dematting, but like I said earlier, I will let my equipment work for me to loosen it up so I can get a longer blade underneath. I honestly don't care about saving coat sometimes but I feel longer (Like, 7 or 5) is better for the skin underneath the mats, so thats my goal when working with tight mats. I won't kill myself to get this length, but drying it the right way and using the right conditioner goes a long way.

                          I'm not exactly sure what you mean by turning away from you. If she is able to turn completely or almost completely around, yes, that's incorrect. Pull her in a little tighter. I almost never use the no sit as it gets in my way too, unless I'm doing a dog that is old or has health problems that need the support. If the head is in place you can gently but firmly stand her up with your other (non clipper) hand and keep her still that way. That sounds simple but again, I'm not sure exactly from your description how she's behaving. It just sounds like she's turning around and around.

                          There is a way to handle her more calmly without feeling badly for her. Not that having a heart for our clients is a bad thing, but sometimes it can get in the way of our more logical handling skills. (Ex: Mom won't brush at home because "it HURTS her!" when in reality the dog has learned that if she whines brushing stops. I don't think that's whats happening here, that was just an ex of heart vs. head handling.) A lot of handling is mindset and body language, along with verbal communication. Focus on being calm. I use the iron hand in velvet glove approach. (I.e. I am gentle with them but they are NOT getting their way unless they actually want to be groomed. Lol) Affix her head to the GH, and stand her up. Make sure your table is a bit lower than you are so she's not on your level. Stand her up with your other hand, but don't do anything aside from that. When she starts to wiggle, calmly say, "No" or "quit", or whatever your off command is, and place her back where you want her. Keep that up until she is standing quietly, and praise her when she is behaving the way you want her to. Then, start your clippers and move them up and down her legs. Repeat above process until she is again relaxed and standing quietly. It takes awhile the first time but if she continues coming in on a regular basis, and you stand firm on where the boundaries are and don't let her cross them, she will relax and not be so stressed.

                          I also highly recommend Jodi Murphy DVDs. They are expensive (for me anyways) but very, very informative! She is a great "mentor" to have.
                          There are 3 different kinds of people in this world: Dog people, cat people, and rational people who don't have a problem liking two things at the same time.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SpikeyTheYorkie View Post
                            Yeah, like dematting poodle ears for an hour, making you late for having fun at my house!!
                            Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking of.
                            "The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog." -Ambrose Bierce

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                            • #15
                              Not only is dematting a waste of time if the hair is frayed it will just mat up again anyway.
                              "We are all ignorant--we merely have different areas of specialization."~Anonymous
                              People, PLEASE..It's ONLY a website!~Me

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