Insights for Winter Grooming

by Christina Pawlosky CMG and Oster® Representative


I always dread springtime because of those customers that believe their dogs do not need or should not be groomed in winter.  The thought is enough to stress any Pet Stylist.  As professionals, we need to educate our customers that regular grooming throughout the winter months is important.

Keeping Your Customers’ Dogs Well-Groomed

The science behind a dog’s skin and coat life cycle plays a big part in the reasoning behind regularly scheduled grooming appointments, even in winter.

First, a dog’s skin is regenerated under normal conditions about every six weeks.  A dog’s coat is housed in the common opening – made up of one primary hair and seven to 25 secondary hairs. The primary and secondary hairs share the same opening below the surface of the skin.  Each hair has its own unit, but each of those hairs does not grow continuously. Instead, the hair grows in cycles that consist of their respective growing period.

At the end of the cycle, dead coat is shed.  Some things that can trigger a coat to shed large amounts are:

  • Seasonal changes (especially from winter to spring)
  • Light associated with seasonal changes
  • Hormones
  • Diet

If you do not assist the dead hair out by bathing and force drying and/or brushing, then it becomes packed in, matted or intertwined with the healthy hair.  This causes a number of issues.  Bad matting can cause sores on the skin from the coat pulling as the mats tighten.

Another issue is that a matted coat can’t breathe. When the coat gets damp, it stays damp for longer than normal periods of time, causing an imbalance in the natural flora of the skin.

But one thing is for sure – maintaining a regular grooming regimen will ensure less trouble for the dog and will assist the life cycle of the coat in a healthy way all year round.

Carefully Grooming a Neglected Coat

A neglected coat is very painful for the dog because when you de-mat the dog, you are pulling live hair with the dead matted hair from the skin. When a dog is in really bad condition, a groomer has one option to prevent the dog from going through a lot of unimaginable pain.

The Oster® #7F blade is a good choice on an Oster® Volt or A6 clipper.  The #7F blade seems to work the best to shave under the mats unless it is so bad that you need to go shorter. Once I remove all the mats, I bathe the dog and then repeat the process.  It’s important to remember to stretch skin tight and flat where you are clipping.

A matted coat makes shaving a dog down difficult and time consuming because the weight of the matted coat pulls the skin, creating folds.  It’s vital to never clip directly into folds of skin or force the clipper.

Another issue that is caused from de-matting when the coat is not clipped down is the risk of damaging the coat.

De-matting tools can cause the cuticle of the hair to fray and lift, catching on other hairs and causing the coat to web and the ends of the coat to mat.

A heavy conditioning spray like Hydro Surge® detangling spray can help with this problem by sealing the coat.

Tweaking the tips of hair regularly is also a good way to keep a coat in good shape.  But ultimately, maintaining the dog regularly and not allowing them to become matted will best minimize the risk of damaging the coat.

Making Your Grooming Appointments Easier

When you do have to deal with those matted coats, make sure you charge for your time.  Just think how much you would charge if you groomed the same dog every six weeks for those six long months. It would add up to four grooming appointments and a dog that should be easier to handle and in great condition.

Remember – a dog that is only groomed once or twice a year is going to be harder to handle because they are not used to the environment. Plus, the work is going to be more invasive because of the owner’s neglect.  So charge accordingly!

Training your customers is important and is critical in preventing winter grooming neglect.  I schedule my customers one year in advance for a minimum of six-week intervals to keep the dogs looking and feeling their best year round.

It also keeps their owners on track by helping them understand that when the coat is dead it is coming out regardless of coat type. Owners will be proactive – brushing and scheduling regular appointments, or they will deal with the aftermath of shedding, matting, odor and dirt.   ♦