After a long day of work my brain is too fried to study Biology right now. So I'll take this chance to answer more questions that you guys have about grooming! The response to this article has been great thus far, a bunch of you found it interesting and educational. Lets keep it going :)
SusanLandia wants to know - I wonder if all the hair that comes off of my dog when I brush her (wads and wads and wads) can be recycled.
Yes it certainly can! You can spin it into yarn and knit stuff with it. Yarn from dog hair (PS Cat hair works too) is called "chiengora", and is considered extremely warm. It can be a great tribute to your dog, and can last for years so it can commemorate dogs that are no longer with you. There are even shops on Etsy that offer to spin the yarn for you. Another pet hair spinner. SpinningStraw and Spaz Spun are the shop names, for reference if the listings ever become unavailable.
Here's another idea for recycling dog hair - making it available for birds to use in their nests. NatureNut makes special baskets that you can stuff with dog or cat hair (she also has ones premade with yarn and other stuff). You hang them on a tree, and birds should find them and take the hair to patch up their nests. If i ever move to a less urban area, this is definitely something I'll try (we don't have much exciting bird life in my neck of the woods - its a concrete jungle).
sudiosu asks - I can't get rid of the purple stuff that comes from my bichon's eyes. I have tried to use the solutions found at pet stores, but he hates it. I don't get it in his eyes, but does it sting the skin?
What you're talking about is called tear stain. Its a combination of tears and eye boogers that stain the hair by the eyes brick-red due to moisture and bacterial growth. On some dogs its so severe that nearly the whole face turns that colour.
Essentially before you can effectively attack it, you have to understand why your dog has overactive tear glands. Often this is something genetic (as in the shape of the tear duct itself, which may be naturally small and prone to blockage). It can be very stubborn to treat - i've seen many dogs in the show ring with stained faces, and you know that they're trying everything they can to clear that up on show dogs, yet with no avail. One possible cause is blocked tear ducts. This can supposedly be alleviated by rubbing the area by the corner of the eyes. The gentle pressure can help empty the ducts. If you try rubbing the nose bridge between the eyes and it helps, then keep doing it daily and slowly it should help. Another possibility is ingrown hairs and irritation - this is for Shih Tzu owners in particular, because their hair grows in all directions on the face, including right into the eyes. Irritation to the eyes will cause tears to flow in an attempt to flush out the irritant. So if the hair in the dog's eyes is getting bushy, its time for another trip to the groomers (even if your dog is not due for a full haircut, most groomers will be happy to just do the face for a few bucks).
The last and probably most common cause of tear stained eyes is bacteria. Sometimes bacteria will set up lodging in the tear ducts (remember, its a moist warm environment). Especially if your dogs eyes smell - it could be yeast. This is usually best treated internally. I have had success controlling yeast in my dog Perry's eyes and ears with acidophilus. He has always had a very mild case of yeast, just a slight odor, no discharge. I add a teeny bit of acidophilus powder to his food. This is the same bacteria that is found in yogurt that is all the rage now, except in much higher and more effective concentration. Acidophilus helps digestion and absorption of food, and it eats up extra sugar in the body that would otherwise feed the yeast. Women take note, acidophilus is also the #1 recommended supplement in the case of ladies' yeasties too ;)
One more thing, one more thing! A commercial solution for tear stain is Tylan powder - a mild antibiotic. It is available for sale as Angel Eyes. It is stronger than acidophilus and will probably have better and more visible results. Personally I have no intentions of feeding my dogs an antibiotic on a daily basis, I prefer to manage it more naturally. By the way, read the ingredients in your dog's food, they may be contributing to stain. Any red food or treats contain the dye Red #40, and it will make the red tear stain a brighter red! Also, if corn is in one of the top 3 ingredients, there may be a bit too much sugar in your dog's diet (see yeast-related comment above). BTW! Any wipes that you can buy on the market are probably a total waste of money. They are "supposed" to remove the redness of the hair that is already stained by bleaching it. But they're usually very weak, not effective, and don't treat the root of the problem.
...wow that got wordy. Sorry, people. Its just a very common question, and there are so many things to consider!
wingnut asks - You know that black discoloration that small dogs like yorkies and westies can get on their stomachs? My chihuahua is starting to get that. I went to a groomer's convention about 18 months ago, and someone said to use Sargent's ear cleaner or anything alcohol based on it, but he's got sensitive skin. Is there another alternative to that?
Well you've stumped me. I have no clue. I think I can visualize what you're talking about - skin turning darker on the belly of some older small dogs. But I've never worked on removing it. What I'm thinking of is pigmentation that comes out with age, you can't wash away pigment. But what you're talking about sounds like a discharge or residue, maybe a greasy residue that has picked up dirt over time and has become black. If it really bothers you, i'd say spot-test the alcohol method. Dip a cotton ball and apply it to only a small patch of skin. See if it cleans it off. And depending on whether your dog gets irritated, you can judge whether to go on and try to get it all off. And every dog has very sensitive skin on the belly, its a common spot for irritation. If you try this method and your dog's skin does get red or rashy, some baby or medicated powder will soothe it.
stawhousebooks mentioned - Another message to convey in your blog (and based on other posts I've seen from you I expect you're of the same opinion) is that grooming is not simply aesthetic. There are health and quality-of-life issues behind grooming.
Yes, absolutely! Getting your dog groomed is not all about having him look pretty and smell nice. Its also taking care of his skin and mentality. Letting a dog get a bit dirty once in a while is no big deal. Dogs love to roll around in all sorts of filth, after all, it seems to make them happy to smell like horse poop and dead fish, lol. But letting the dog's coat get all sorts of mats is a different matter. Mats tighten and start to pull on the dog's skin providing constant irritating pressure. They can also trap moisture and become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria - I'm not kidding. Mats can hide ticks and fleas - if you can't see down to the your dog's skin when you part the hair, you don't know what might be crawling underneath. Mats can also lead to hotspots - when a dog chews itself raw trying to get rid of an irritating mat, and the raw skin gets infected and full of (very smelly) pus. Mats will also absorb anything - like urine or rainwater or mud - and keep the absorbed stuff next to the skin. And trying to wash a matted dog will only make matters worse, the mats tighten as they dry (think of washing a wool sweater only to have it become felted and shrink to half its size), and they may take a long time to dry irritating skin even more. And if what I listed still doesn't sound convincing, imagine yourself in a dog's position, trying to itch raw skin that you can't get to because there's a huge mat in the way. There is NO excuses to let your dog get into such condition. See the dog in the picture? Neglect.
Of course its not only about mats and coat condition. It is very important to clear the area in front of your dog's eyes (remember my long ramble about tear stain?). This is mainly for dogs that have long hair on their faces, again. Ears need cleaning. Its amazing how many people don't realize when their dogs have ear infections, some people just assume that its natural for a dog's face to smell "because he licks his butt". Often dog groomers catch medical conditions, such as some warts, tumors, hot spots, or infections that the owners never realized were even there. It is also important to shave or at least clean butts, sanitary areas, and paw pads to make sure your pet is comfortable.
Another important aspect to keep track of is nails! If nails get too long they will seriously inhibit your dog's ability to walk. Or rather they will still walk, but it'll be more difficult because their feet will splay and they'll have to move funny to make up for it. In the long run this can lead to arthritic development and just a lot of pain. Also older dogs that are already in pain will really have a challenge moving anywhere with talons growing from their feet. Another reason to clip often? Nails that are allowed to grow for months will eventually curl over... and grow into a circle. Right into the pad. Man, that has to HURT! Sometimes when we remove a "macaroni nail" from the pad, the pad will start bleeding because the nail had grown so far into the tissue that it became embedded. At least once a month, let your pet have a manicure. If your dog is good for nails, you can do it yourself with a nail clipper and a nail file. If you can't handle your dog when it comes to nail clipping, groomers and vets' offices will gladly do it for a few bucks.
You see, people, its not all about the aesthetics! There is some serious health involved in grooming. And having your dog groomed is very important for their morale, too. First of all, bringing them to a grooming shop often will help socialize them and get them used to being touched, being around other dogs, people, noise... Second, its amazing to see the attitude changes when a "matted wreck" is shaved down to reveal a dog under the hair. Dogs often feel sooooooo much better not to have mats pulling at their skin, to and finally feel a breeze, to be clean from dirt and grime. Sometimes you really see a spark come to their eye as you're peeling mats and brushing out tangles. I'm serious!
okay last question for today!
strawhousebooks asked - How long have you been a groomer?
I've been grooming for three years now. A little more if you include grooming school. I graduated from the New York School of Dog Grooming when I was 17 and a couple of months later I landed a Saturday job. This was the the Dog and Cat House in queens, where I still work. The neighborhood is a little shabby and a very large part of our clientele are "neglect cases" - dogs that are only groomed two to four times a year. Its unfortunate. But I have learned a lot from this, especially ways in which such neglect can affect dogs (see rant above). I also have wrestled my share of bad dogs and am able to handle nearly any dog and get them done. I don't intend to groom forever... hmm maybe I do. I would love to have my own shop some day, but I would only work there part time, and have my main focus in other venues. This work is fun and rewarding but I have a hard time working more than twice a week (partly due to a hectic environment). I would also love to move on to Manhattan and groom city dogs, where there is a wider range of breeds and dogs that are well-kept, so I can focus on scissoring technique and really making dogs look great, rather than manageable. Not that I'm a bad groomer now, but I know where i can improve :P
wow that got long! Now tune in for part 3 where we will discuss vaccinations and stuff. Watch for it in a couple of days. btw if you've got questions, do not hesitate to ask, I'll add them to my list :)