Before I was a dog person, I was a horse person. These days, I'm both, but only own dogs.
Let me start with this: I LOVE GROOMING. Horses, dogs, doesn't matter. Gimme.
Grooming is a regular part of being around and riding horses. Curry comb, dandy brush, body brush, give that wild mane and forelock a taming, spray that tail, pick out those feet & make sure there isn't too much stuff stuck under those fetlocks. The quick and dirty that allows you to fully check your horse over, make sure there are no mysterious pasture injuries (because, horses), bot eggs, burrs, whatever might be the case.
Grooming was and continues to be my favourite horse-related thing to do. Multiple times over the years, visiting different barns, people have commented on how much time I spend grooming before and after I ride. I know for a lot of people, going to the barn is mostly about riding. But as a "lesson kid", grooming was a way for me to spend the absolute maximum amount of time at the barn and with the horses. My father humoured me most of the time, but he was definitely on to me, especially when I started asking to leave for lessons earlier and earlier. I mean, I only had that one day a week to cram in all of the horse time and love I could, after all. Owning my own horse was not feasible growing up.
Fortunately for me, I got to spend the first week of owning my first dog (Journey, the (then) 9 week old Australian Shepherd) with my mother's best friend and longtime groomer, Janet. When my mother was searching for a first dog for me, and for our family, her first thought was to reach out to her friend. Janet was not only a longtime groomer at that time, but an ethical & responsible breeder of German Shepherd Dogs who had and continue to have long careers in police work, drug and bomb detection, and even working with the Department of Natural Resources sniff out invasive mussels on the west coast of Canada. If I'm not mistaken, a dog of her breeding was actually the first dog trained to detect these invasive mussel species.
But I digress.
Somehow, Janet showing me some basic grooming necessities for double-coated dogs took hold in my young, impressionable mind. It made complete sense to me that grooming this tiny, fluffy new family member would be so important to her overall health, just like it was for the horses I visited every week. It would allow me to do the same things I did with the horses: check her over for injuries or debris, keep her coat healthy, and spend meaningful time with her.
People often comment on how well-groomed my dogs are, how they don't have that "dog smell", and that their coats are so soft. I'm not even joking when I tell you almost every single person who met Journey, and who have met Nebel, ask me if they'd just been bathed, or how they can't believe how soft and non-smelly they are (Griffin, well-- he has his moments. But he's a teenager & my first male).
After Janet taught me a few basic things such as nail trimming, line brushing with a slicker brush (if you have a double coated dog, Google this technique, it will change your life-- & your dog's smelliness!), and trimming wayward paw hair, I took it upon myself to learn everything I could about grooming and caring for double coated dogs. I learned how to differentiate which tools are good for Aussie coats (undercoat rakes, slicker brushes), and which are really NOT ("Furminator"-type rakes that have blades). I learned how to trim wild ear-hair without making it look like a bowl-cut (for the most part), & how to use a dremel. I also learned how to not only use a high-velocity dryer, but how to train my dogs to be okay with them, and learned which products I could make myself, and which ones to avoid.
I ate it up. I LOVE grooming. I will literally ask visiting friends if I can brush their dogs, or trim their paw hair. I can't help it. I once took a puppy I was puppy-sitting to the dog wash for a little spa day, just because. Fortunately, my friends understand that it's not that I think their dogs are ungroomed, it's just that I love it.
Not to mention, I had absolutely no idea growing up around dogs but never owning my own, that you could completely avoid that potent "dog smell" with regular and coat-appropriate grooming. NO IDEA.
Unfortunately, there isn't always enough emphasis on how important grooming is when you get a dog. If you choose a dog who requires any specialized coat care, a good breeder will go over that with you, as well as support you on how to get your dog to be okay grooming. Unfortunately, not all breeders are good breeders, and not all Shelters go over this type of education. An example I hear about and see frequently are those selling Poodle-mixes under the guise that these dogs don't shed, or require minimal grooming. Poodles actually have hair, and not fur, and it will continue to grow. If you mix that hair with another breed, you actually don't know what sort of mix of coats you'll get, so it's not fair to tell a buyer that the coat won't need any maintenance. Seeing a groomer as soon as possible after acquiring any sort of Poodle mix is super important and will save you all kinds of heartache down the road!
To talk more about grooming (because let's be serious, she knows a lot more about this than I do!), I asked Sarah of Dogwood Den Grooming in Mount Denson, Nova Scotia, to share the top 5 things your groomer wants you to know:
1. Before bringing home a dog or puppy consider how much grooming maintenance they require.
A key factor in deciding which breed of dog is right for you is taking into
consideration how much grooming maintenance particular dogs will need.
Grooming will look very different depending on the dog you’re bringing home. Another consideration is how much professional grooming is going to cost per year. Brushes and products you’ll need at home should be thought of as well.
2. Prepare your puppy for grooming from a young age.
Puppies are capable of learning so much! Do them, and yourself, the favour of
prioritizing grooming from the very beginning. You can start with getting them used to their nails being clipped, ears and teeth checked, being brushed, and simply being handled. Don’t put off that first grooming appointment though! Between 10 - 12 weeks old your puppy is ready for their first professional groom. Some breeds will need haircuts for their entire lives, some will need undercoat removal or to be handstripped, but no matter what, if your dog is one who will be visiting the local groomer it’s best to get them accustomed to the grooming experience from a young age.
3. Brushing your dog is an important part of their wellbeing.
Brushing your dog with the correct tools meant for their coat is essential to their health and wellbeing. There are various ways you can learn how to properly brush your breed’s coat. A good place to start is by asking your breeder and/or groomer. Avoid matting especially in poodles and doodles by learning how to line brush. A technique to ensure you are brushing and checking your work over the entire dog.
4. Pre-book your dog’s grooming appointments.
Pre-booking is a simple way to set yourself up for grooming success! Many
groomer’s require their clients to pre-book appointments and there are good
reasons for it. You will avoid scheduling conflicts and have more date and time options available. You can budget for the months ahead accordingly. Grooming is in high demand and many grooming professionals are booked out months in advance. Pre-booking ensures your dog is seen on a consistent schedule.
5. Grooming your dog is an amazing way to bond with them.
Maintaining your dog’s coat at home yourself is one of the best ways to bond with your pet. Bathing, drying, brushing, nail clipping and ear care are essential to your dog’s health but also provide you the opportunity to handle them physically and give them affection in an appropriate way.
Sarah started her grooming education in 2020 after acquiring a dog who requires a lot of regular grooming because she is, you guessed it, part Poodle! Quila is an Anatolian Shepherd/Poodle cross & Sarah's inspiration to become a groomer. Quila, Sarah and her partner recently welcomed an adorable Miniature Poodle to their family, named Fisher. Sarah cares deeply for dogs, which is evident in her work (which you can follow on her Instagram page, here), and how she handles her clients. Please check out her page, give her a follow, and think of her if you or anyone you know is in the market for a groomer!