I f a groom is the masterpiece, then the bath creates the canvas for the artist (the groomer) to work on. A successful bath leaves pets thoroughly washed, rinsed, dried and ready for a grooming session or clip.
“It is crucial to bathe pets before the grooming process to help rid the coat of grit, grime and dirt,” says Tommy Shankland, director of B2B Marketing for Skout’s Honor Pet Supply Co. “This, in turn, will soften and clean the skin and coat to help with the grooming/stylist process.” Basic Equipment Vinyl Disposable Gloves
Jay Michaelson, founder and CEO of HandsOn Gloves, adds that a pet’s cleaned coat “prevents clippers from getting too hot, pulling on the hair, and getting dull from working through the dirt.”
As an alternative to bathing a pet prior to a groom, Michaelson believes that bathing after a groom is sometimes a better option for pets with specific needs.
“Bathing after grooming and clipping works to facilitate the easy application of medicated shampoos and conditioners that nourish problem skin,” he says.
Whether bathing before or after a groom, it’s an essential step to treat a pet’s skin and leave the coat smelling fresh and clean.
“Not only visually, but good grooming habits impact a pet’s health and wellness,” says Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pure and Natural Pet. “Using quality, multi-functional ingredients that not only clean but heal skin is important.”
Martina De Gaspari, R&D director, cosmetic specialist of Yuup! Cosmetics, says that in addition to supporting skin health, a good bath sets the tone for the success of the entire groom.
“Ultimately, a good bath provides the essential care for the skin and hair of both cats and dogs, but also allows a pet stylist to deliver quality and customized styling for each pet client,” she says.
When humans envision bath time, it’s often seen as a pinnacle of relaxation. Aromatic warm water, coated in foamy bubbles—what’s not to love? Well, for many dogs, bath time is the opposite of relaxing. Groomers may have to rely on treats or calming supplements to help distract or relax pets while in the bath.
“Bathing time can be a stressful experience for any pet, but especially with a new four-legged client,” says Gaspari. “A groomer’s top priority is to create a safe and efficient bath time experience.”
To create this experience, every groomer needs durable, reliable equipment in their arsenal. When it comes to bathing, one of a groomer’s main concerns is that a pet can stay in place during the process. Especially since stressed and anxious pets may try to escape at their own risk.
“Pet groomers benefit from ergonomic workstations and safety mechanisms,” says Michaelson. “Elevated wash stations with leash attachments address both.”
As for other bathing essentials, he recommends easy-to-rinse shampoos; products that loosen hair and massage skin (such as the HandsOn grooming gloves); blowers with adjustable speeds and temperatures; and a simple solution to help capture all loose hair and dirt after the bath.
Shankland adds that a good brush or comb, a detangling spray for matting and tangles, and a proper hose and watery delivery system, are a few other groomer essentials.
Speaking of a water delivery system, Greg Crisp of Double K Industries says that a commonly overlooked element of bathing is water composition/ quality. He explains that “hard water or water with high levels of metals or certain minerals impedes lathering and the removal of dirt and debris from coats and skin.”
These minerals and materials can also sit on coats, leading to unwanted buildup–potentially resulting in a dull and less manageable coat. The solution to this problem is conditioning or filtering water for bathing, according to Crisp. Out of the five types of water filtration systems, there are two primary types that are practical for groomers: Mechanical/absorption filtration systems, which employ a charcoal filter; and reverse osmosis systems.
“A mechanical system should be at least two stages with a prefilter in front of a charcoal filter,” Crisp explains. “The fibrous prefilters are less expensive and capture larger particles and prevent the more expensive charcoal filters, which are engineered to capture smaller particles, from getting contaminated and rendered ineffective prematurely.
“Reverse osmosis systems are more complicated and expensive, but require filter changes less frequently. They are also generally larger even though some mechanical systems are quite large.”
On top of having optimal water quality, another major consideration relates to shampoo dilution and application.
“Unless a groomer is using a bathing system, virtually all shampoos should be diluted for efficiency and value,” advises Crisp. “Dilution is best achieved by adding shampoo to water in a sterile dilution container. Putting the shampoo in the container first results in dynamic tension binding the shampoo to the bottom of the container slowing the dilution process.”
When it comes to what shampoos to use, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for pets of different sizes and breeds. Crisp recommends that groomers explore a variety of options from different manufacturers to see which kind works best for different types of pets or breeds.
“Dilution ratios for each shampoo product will of course be different, but the challenge is to use as much shampoo as necessary and as little shampoo as possible simultaneously,” says Crisp.
As groomers aim to strike the balance between using too little and too much shampoo, they’re also looking for ways to ensure the bathing process moves along quickly and efficiently.
“Any groomer knows time is money,” says Creed. As a result, groomers should be on the lookout for time-saving solutions, such as Pure and Natural Pet’s Quick Wick Drying, which cuts drying time in half.
Of course, speed is important to efficiency, but more critical is making sure a thorough bath is complete. “Hasty” mistakes have consequences, such as grabbing products that are not right for a specific pet.
“Don’t rush the process, it’s easy to want to get the pet out of the tub and on the table for the groom,” says Shankland. “But a good, thorough clean is extremely important to the grooming process, the coat health and comfort of the animal.”
While time-saving-strategies are extremely useful, the bather’s own skill and care is essential for a smooth bathing process. Their time should be used wisely, and their health and wellbeing is critical to making sure grooming appointments can be carried out in a timely and efficient manner.
“Take care of your own body,” says Shankland. “The bathing process can be painful over time on the back, arms, hands and legs. Stay active to help with those long days and stubborn pups.”
Pets are animals with a wild side, and groomers can never get too comfortable with a pet’s apparent personality and demeanor. There are always wildcards, so prior to any bath, a groomer needs to understand a dog’s temperament, how they handle being around other dogs, and how sensitive certain areas of their body are.
“The pet’s temperament is always helpful to know,” Michaelson elaborates. “Does the pet react to being touched on the paws or ears? What about the pet’s favorite places to be scratched? Does the pet need a safety muzzle?
“It’s also helpful to know if the pet worries about other animals, is nervous with water, or is just happy for some attention, no matter the type,” he adds.
Gaspari suggests groomers ask pet parents if their dogs or cats have used drug therapies, undergone interventions, or had skin problems such as dermatitis or allergies.
“This information is essential to detect the presence of skin abnormalities or parasites, assess the degree of skin dryness and evaluate the general coat condition,” she explains.
Groomers should be prepared with as much knowledge as possible about their furry clientele, and have a good grasp on their customer’s expectations. Creed recommends asking: “[Does this] pet need shed control, flea and tick, or a whitening shampoo?”
As a follow-up to the bath, it’s especially important for groomers to understand the pet’s heat tolerance, and whether or not air-drying or a blow-dryer would work best. Some breeds, including pugs, boxers and bulldogs, are more susceptible to heatstroke because of their restricted airways, according to VCA Animal Hospital.
After the groom, groomers can report to customers about how their pet did during bath time, and if they noticed anything abnormal on a pet’s skin. Bath time is an opportunity for groomers to evaluate a pet’s skin up close and personal—even more so than a veterinarian. The skin is the largest organ on a dog’s body, and unhealthy skin is often a symptom of a different issue.
“During a bathing session, a groomer is the essential care partner who may identify the onset of a skin or hair condition and recommend a cosmetic treatment plan well before this condition worsens and requires a visit to the vet’s,” says Gaspari.
“A pet parent’s relationship of trust and loyalty with a groomer is as important as the one they may have with a veterinarian.” PB
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