Many pet grooming professionals feel the bathing, drying, and prep work are the most important part of the dog grooming process.  If these steps are not done correctly, the final haircut suffers.  If you provide world-class bathing, drying, and prep work, it will make the task of performing the haircut far easier.

Most pet owners have almost no idea what a proper haircut for their dog should consist of; what they DO know is that the dog should feel and smell clean.  There should be no knots or tangles in the coat.  The dog’s nails should be trimmed, and after grooming, the stool should not stick to their dog’s bottom after going to the bathroom.  Most things pet owners will notice if they are not done properly will relate to the grooming prep work and not the groom itself.


When you complete this lesson, you will be able to

  • Properly bathe a dog, including:
    • Using shampoo
    • Using conditioner
    • Cleaning ears
    • Rinsing a dog
    • Towel drying a dog
  • Properly dry a dog, including:
    • Using a high-velocity dryer
    • Using a stand dryer
    • Using a hand dryer
    • Using a cage dryer


The first step in dog grooming hasn’t always been the bath.  Due to newer products and more effective high-velocity dryers, more and more groomers start with the bath without clipping the coat or nails or brushing the dog first.  There are many benefits to beginning a groom with the bath; here are a few:

  • Bathing first means less wear and tear on your equipment. When you avoid using clippers, blades, and scissors on dirty dogs, they will last longer and require less frequent sharpening and refurbishing.
  • Clean dogs de-matt easier than dirty dogs. When you wash the dirt and oil out of a mat, it loosens it up, allowing it to be worked out with the dryer and/or a brush.
  • It is safer and healthier for groomers to work with clean dogs. We can inhale skin and hair particles, nail dust, and more.
  • There are shampoos, additives, and conditioners that all work to help with the de-matting process. It is best to use these advances in product technology to our advantage and let the products help do the work.
  • When you bathe a dog first, you cause less damage to the coat than if you were to try to brush and de-matt a dirty coat.

Once in a while, you will get a dog that is so matted it will have to be shaved down first to remove the mats, but most of the time, you will find dogs can be bathed before grooming.


Securing a dog in the tub sounds like a simple task, but there are some important things to note.  Some dogs love the bathing process and are happy to get into the tub; others are not fans of a bath and will put on the breaks.

It can be helpful to have a non-slip surface in the tub.  There are a few options for this.  Some tubs have tub racks; these are usually plastic-coated grated racks that either sit in the bottom of the tub or a higher position for small dogs.  If one of these is not available, a bath mat may be used.


Securing a small dog in the tub is simple.  You carefully lift them into the tub.  Then you place a grooming loop around their neck and secure it to the tub so their head does not hang out of the tub.  If you are bathing a dog with a neck problem, the loop may be placed around the head and under one of the front legs of the dog.


When bathing large dogs, it can help to have an electric lift tub that lowers to the ground so that dogs can walk right into the tub.  Other stationary tubs come with ramps that allow a dog to walk up the ramp into the tub.  There are also grooming tubs that sit low to the ground. When tubs do not have a ramp or are not electric, it is necessary to lift the dog into the tub.


Once you have the large dog in the tub, secure it to the tub using a grooming loop.  If the dog wants to sit or tries to throw its rear end and back legs out of the tub, you can use a belly strap around the dog’s waist and secure it to the tub.

Dog with belly support


Dog ears should be gently cleaned as part of the bathing process.  An ear cleaner specifically made for cleaning dog ears should be used.  Place some ear cleaner on a piece of cotton and gently rub it in the ear to clean the ear.

It is important to avoid getting water into a dog’s ears during the bath.  You can do this by carefully folding the ear down and spraying water from the back of the head down the face.  Some groomers feel more comfortable putting some cotton into the dog’s ears to help protect them from water.  If you place cotton in a dog’s ears, be sure to remove it after the bath.


Anal glands are sacs that are located on each side of the rectum of a dog.  If you think of the area like a clock, they are usually found at about 10 and 2.  These glands contain a foul-smelling substance, and most dogs secrete some of this through their glands when they have a bowel movement or are scared.  Some dogs can’t express their glands on their own.  In the past, the task of expressing anal glands often was left to the dog groomer.  In recent years, due to liability issues, fewer groomers perform this service leaving the job of expressing anal glands to veterinarians.  Groomers need to check the glands while bathing a dog and let dog owners know if the glands may need to be checked by a veterinarian or if any abnormalities are observed.


When bathing a dog without using a bathing system, you begin by getting the dog wet.  Warm water should be used, and you spray down the dog starting at the neck and moving towards the tail, from the top of the dog moving down toward the feet.  You then carefully spray the dog’s head, careful not to get water into their ears or nose.



Shampoo Mixing Bottle

The next step is to apply shampoo.  Dog shampoos are usually concentrated; this means you will need to mix them with water to use them.  Most salons have special mixing bottles with dilution rates and levels printed on them.


This video explains what bacteria can grow in your shampoo mixing bottles.  It is important only to mix what you will use in one day and to wash out the mixing bottles at the end of each day with 10% bleach/80% water in the mixing bottle.  Allow the mix to sit for ten minutes and rinse.


Dogs require at least two shampoo applications to get clean.  The first shampoo breaks down oil and surface dirt, while the second shampoo gets the dog totally clean.  You will only need to do a quick rinse after the first shampooing and a thorough rinse after the second shampooing.   If a dog is quite filthy, a third or even fourth shampooing may be necessary.

Apply shampoo starting at the neck of the dog, back toward the tail of the dog, and then down the sides and legs of the dog.  Finally, apply shampoo carefully to the dog’s head, avoiding getting soap into their eyes.  Some shampoos are labeled “tearless,” however it is still safest to avoid getting shampoo in the dog’s eyes.

Remember that friction is what makes shampoo work.  This means you must rub the dog while the shampoo is applied, so the shampoo picks up dirt particles off the dog.  Pay special attention to a dog’s feet, bottom, ears, mouth, and eyes.  These are the areas where debris builds up.  They are also the areas a pet owner pays the most attention to.

Once the dog is completely clean, it will need to have a final, thorough rinse.  You rinse moving from the neck toward the tail and from the top to the dog’s bottom.  The head can be rinsed last, again, being careful not to get water into the dog’s ears or nose.


There are a variety of bathing systems available for dog grooming salons.

In-line bathing system: the in-line bathing systems connect shampoo directly to the water supply and use dilution tips to measure shampoo into the water.  Both shampoo and water flow together out of the sprayer attached to the system. Examples of these include the Smoochie Pooch and Save-ur-fur bathing systems.

Pre-mixed system: the pre-mixed systems have large tanks where you mix shampoo and water according to the dilution rate on the shampoo.  The shampoo and water mix are applied to a dog using a sprayer attached to the system.  Examples of these include the Cosmos and Prima bathing systems.

Recirculator system: A recirculatory is a pump that sits in the tub.  You plug the tub so water doesn’t drain, fill it with a few gallons of water, and add shampoo to the water.  The soapy water is then pumped through the system and applied to the dog with a sprayer.  One example of this system is Bathing Beauty by Hanvey.

It is not necessary to pre-wet the dog when using any of these systems.  The shampoo and water mix can be applied directly to the dog.  One benefit to using these systems is they conserve shampoo and water.  Another benefit is you are pushing soapy water into the dog’s fur directly; this can save time and make it easier to get a dog clean.

When washing a dog with these systems, you proceed the same way as described when washing a dog without these systems.  You begin at the neck and work your way to the tail and then from the top (back) of the dog down toward the feet.  You still need to use friction and rub the dog’s coat to help the shampoo clean the fur.

Also, just like as described when bathing a dog without a bathing system, you will need to shampoo the dog twice to get it completely clean.  You then continue with the final thorough rinse making sure to remove all shampoo residue.

The final step of the bathing process is to apply a light conditioner to the dog.  It is applied the same way shampoo is applied, with or without a bathing system, and then rinsed off the dog.

FAST FACT HOW DOES SHAMPOO WORK? “Very simply put, one end of the shampoo molecule is attracted to soil (dirt and grease) while the opposite end of the molecule chain is attracted to water.  Debris gets attracted to ‘sebum’ (the oily deposits secreted by the skin’s sebaceous glands upon each hair shaft) along with any other oily deposits.  Shampoo molecules clean by removing this sebum and soil deposits, suspending them in water, to be rinsed away with fresh water.” Dave Campanella.  “Groomer to Groomer Magazine.” Oct 2016.



Occasionally a pet owner will ask that a groomer wash their dog in a medicated shampoo their vet has provided.  It is important to read the entire label and use it as the label directs.  If the label has been removed, or can’t be read, call the client’s veterinarian for directions on using the shampoo.

It is best first to wash the dog in a hypoallergenic shampoo to remove dirt, oil, and debris from the coat and then use the medicated shampoo for the second shampooing.  Most medicated shampoos indicate they should be left on the dog for a period of time.  It is important not to leave a dog unattended in the tub.  You should either stand and wait with the dog in the tub or place the dog in a crate to soak in the shampoo.  Set a timer, so you don’t leave the medicated shampoo on the dog longer than required.



There is no truly hypoallergenic shampoo, although many are labeled as such. Hypoallergenic means something does NOT contain allergens.  All shampoos contain chemicals that a dog (or person) could be allergic to. However, a shampoo labeled hypoallergenic will be less likely to cause an allergic reaction than some other shampoos.


Deodorizing shampoos are formulated to help remove unpleasant odors rather than just covering up the odor.


Flea and tick shampoos contain ingredients used to kill and repel or just repel fleas and ticks.


Puppy shampoos are formulated specifically for puppies.  They tend to be milder than shampoos for adult dogs.


Whitening shampoos are made to whiten or brighten white or light hair.  There are different types of whitening shampoos.  Bluing shampoos use blue or purple to make the white hair appear whiter and brighter.  These blue colors also counteract yellowing that can be found on white dogs.  Enzymatic shampoos use enzymes to dissolve proteins found in urine, blood, and tear stains that cause stains to form on dog’s hair.



Clarifying shampoos are used to strip products off a dog’s coat.  They have a higher PH than most shampoos, meaning they are acetic.  This helps to open the hair cuticle allowing staining pigments to be removed.






Unless a dog is so matted it MUST be clipped short; you are better off making the bath the first step of the grooming process.  This is a newer, progressive way of thought that is taking off in salons.

Why wash the dog first?

  • You are not using your clippers, scissors, and blades on a dirty coat. This makes them last longer, require less frequent service and sharpening.
  • You only do a haircut once versus clipping, bathing, and clipping again.
  • You are working with clean dogs. This means you are not breathing in or handling dirty hair.



Once a dog is bathed and rinsed, the drying procedure begins.  This starts by squeezing water off of the dog.  Then you take a towel and pat and squeeze dry the dog with the towel.  You do not want to rub the coat of a long hair dog with a towel as this could cause tangles to form.  You should remove as much water as possible from a dog with a towel to reduce the total drying time.  This may take more than one towel.


There are many ways for groomers to accomplish the task of drying a dog.  You may end up using more than one method on a dog.  Which method you choose will depend on a dog’s coat and temperament.


A high-velocity dryer is a powerful dryer used to dry a dog quickly.  Oftentimes high-velocity drying begins in the tub just after towel drying a dog.  When using a high-velocity dryer, you often will have a condenser cone on the end of it to concentrate the airflow, making the flow even more powerful.

When drying a dog with a high-velocity dryer, you can speed up your drying time by holding the dryer hose in one hand and directing the water spray off the dog into a towel in your other hand.

You should dry a dog from the top down when using a high-velocity dryer.  You want to move slowly over the dog holding the dryer on each area until it is about 80-90% dry.  If you move haphazardly over the dog, it’s easy to blow water about the dog, re-wetting areas you’ve just dried.  Also, when you move slowly with the dryer, the noise from the dryer is less likely to bother the dog.


You must be careful when using a high-velocity dryer to dry a dog.  Do not point the airflow into a dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth.  Doing so could injure a dog.  Do not let dogs bite at or grab the dryer with their mouths.


To kennel or cage dry, a dog is placed into a cage, and a kennel dryer is attached to the cage.  This is a passive drying technique.  Kennel drying is a good way to dry a dog that will not tolerate high-velocity drying.  Often, dogs are fine having their bodies high velocity dried, but they won’t tolerate the high-velocity dryer on their heads.  A kennel dryer is a great way to get the head dry on a dog like this.

It is important to note that kennel drying does nothing to remove loose coat or to straighten curly coat.  Kennel drying is not a good way to dry a curly-coated dog.  Also, if you kennel dry a dog with matting in it, it will cause the mats to dry tighter than they were before the bath.

Many newer kennel or cage dryers no longer have a heating element; they only warm up due to the motor running over time and creating a small amount of heat.  If you have access to a kennel dryer that still has a heating element, it’s safest to use it WITHOUT turning on the heating element.  If your kennel dryer has a timer, use it, it’s safer than leaving it on indefinitely.

When using a kennel dryer, it’s important to monitor the dog.  A dog should not be left sitting in a cage with a kennel dryer on it for hours.


Air drying doesn’t often happen in a grooming salon.  When it does, it’s because a dog will not tolerate any form of drying other than towel drying.

There are breeds, with hair, who when groomed to the breed standard, are air-dried.  These include mostly corded breeds such as the Puli and Komondor.




Stand drying is also known as stretch drying or fluff drying.  You use a stand dryer, usually with heat, and brush the dog as you dry it.  When using a stand dryer, you will normally start with the areas of the dog that have the shortest coat and finish with the parts of the dog with the longest coat.

When brushing the dog to stretch dry it, you should be quickly brushing while at the same time being aware of how much force you are putting into brushing.  You do not want to scratch the dog’s skin with the brush.  This is also known as brush burn.


Occasionally it can be useful to use a regular hand-held dryer. These can be useful for getting the jacket of some sporting breeds straight or for drying dogs who don’t tolerate other methods.  When using a hand dryer, it’s essential to be aware of the heat created by the dryer and to use caution so as not to burn the dog.


Quiz 1

Short Essay:  Write a short one-half to a one-page essay explaining which you think you’ll enjoy more, bathing or drying dogs and why.




As of 2018, there are 190 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.  Add to that number a large number of designer mix breeds and all the mutts in the world, and you have quite a variety of coat types.  If you generally narrow this down, you have short hair coats, double-coated breeds, and breeds with hair that closely resembles the type of hair humans have.  We are going to break this down even more within this lesson. There are different techniques used to bathe and dry all these different coat types, and when done properly, you have an opportunity to make many customers quite happy.


When you complete this lesson, you’ll be able to

  • Recognize different coat types.
  • Understand which bathing techniques work best with each coat type.
  • Understand which drying techniques work best with each coat type.
  • Recognize different grooming techniques that can be used while the dog is wet to help increase cleaning and drying efficiency.


Dogs have compound hair follicles.  This means the hair follicles contain multiple hairs.  Dogs have three types of hair.  Guard hairs: These are thick and harsh hairs that are thick.  These are also known as outer coat hairs.  On a double-coated breed, such as a German Shepherd, these are the longer hairs that are darker than the undercoat hairs.  Undercoat hairs: Undercoat hair is fine and has less pigment than guard hairs.  The undercoat is what is often referred to as fur.  The undercoat is usually found close to the skin, under the guard hairs.  Tactile hairs: Tactile hairs are used for perception and sensory feeling.  They are the whiskers and o the eyelids of a dog.

Dogs have compound hair follicles.  Depending on the breed and coat type, dogs have about 1-5 guard hairs per follicle and 3-25 undercoat hairs.

“This is an image of a double-coated breed whose coat isn’t growing properly due to being shaved.  You can see the longer guard hairs against the tremendous amount of undercoat hairs.”





Everyone understands that dogs shed, even those who are known for not shedding still shed.  There is regular shedding that occurs, and with most double-coated breeds, there are periods of excessive shedding.  These periods of excessive shedding usually occur when the seasons change in the spring and fall and are tied to the amount of daylight, not daytime temperature.  Most double-coated breeds lose their lighter summer undercoat in the fall to allow a heavier winter undercoat to grow in.  In the spring, they lose the winter undercoat and grow in their lighter summer undercoat.

Unusual or profuse shedding can indicate a health issue.  Poor nutrition, parasites, allergies, and medical conditions can cause profuse shedding.  If a dog is shedding more than normal or has bald patches, it should be brought to the attention of the dog owner.




Smooth-coated breeds are known to have short hair.  Some breeds have longer short hair, such as a Labrador Retriever, and others have concise hair, such as a Boxer.  These breeds have many guard hairs and a smaller number of undercoat hairs per hair follicle.  Short-haired breeds shed quite a bit.  This is because their hair has a short life cycle.  Dobermans and Bulldogs are examples of short hair dogs.


Double coated breeds are those with an outercoat of guard hairs and a decent amount of undercoat.  Some breeds, such as the Chow Chow and Newfoundland, have a very thick double coat with an immense amount of undercoat.  Other double-coated breeds, such as the German Shepherd, tend to have a thick outer coat, and while they do have plenty of undercoat, it’s not so much as other double coat breeds.


The wire coat is also known as a broken coat.  The outercoat of wire coat breeds is thick and feels wiry.  Often, breeds in this category are hand stripped when groomed for dog shows.

Wire coated breeds have a very coarse outer coat.  Many of these breeds are almost self-cleaning as when they get dirty, once their coat is dry, dirt will tend to brush out, and they can avoid a bath (at least at home) altogether.  Over time, when a wire coat is clipped instead of hand-stripped, it will soften as the areas clipped may stop growing the outer coat/guard hairs, and all that is left is the undercoat.

Wire coated breeds include the Border Terrier and the Airedale.



Curly coat breeds have a crisp coat of outer guard hairs and a wooly undercoat.  This makes the coat dense.  These coats will continue to grow longer and longer and require regular haircuts.  Poodles and the Bichon Frise are examples of curly-coated dog breeds.

The Portuguese Water Dog is another example of a curly coat.




Drop-coated breeds have a very little undercoat.  Their coat is almost entirely made up of outer coat or guard hair. Drop coats can tangle easily when left longer. Breeds include the Lhasa Apso and the Yorkshire Terrier.





This is just as it sounds; dogs without hair have a hairless coat.  Some breeds in this category do have hair in some places; for example the Chinese Crested has tufts of hair on its head, lower legs, and tail.  There is a grooming process for these hairless breeds as their skin does require special care.





The general bathing procedure is going to be the same as described in the previous lesson.  Here we will review additional methods and steps needed to bathe a variety of coat types properly.


The smooth or short coat dog is one of the simplest to bathe.  When shampooing, you can use a rubber curry to massage the soap into the skin and coat.  One of the most important things to remember when bathing a smooth or short coat breed of dog is to always brush or rub in the direction of the hair growth.  Dogs have arrector pili muscles that are attached to the hair follicles.  Short-haired breeds can be irritated and made uncomfortable by rubbing or brushing their coat against the grain.  You also run the risk of causing ingrown hairs by brushing short-haired breeds against the grain.

You also should be sure to use a conditioner after shampooing a short hair dog. Most short hair dogs are naturally water repellent; this is because their bodies produce more oil than some other breeds.  When you strip all this oil off the dog by shampooing it without replacing the moisture, they can end up smelling stinky within a few days of a bath.  When you condition the short hair dog’s coat, you are remoisturizing it.  This will help extend the life of the bath.

Areas to be extra aware of:  around lips, feet, and under the tail.


For the double-coated dog, the bath is where the lion’s share of the work takes place.  This means the most important part of their groom is the bath.  If possible, using a bathing system is the most efficient way to shampoo a double-coated dog.  You start by completing the initial shampoo, being sure to work the shampoo through the entire coat. A rubber curry can be helpful when scrubbing a double-coated dog.  Once you’ve applied the second round of shampoo, you can then work out any stuck undercoat.  It’s helpful to make every effort to remove loose coats during the bath when the dog is wet.  You can easily control wet hair versus blowing it all around during the drying process.  Tools such as a rake, slicker brush, and undercoat rake can all carefully be used to help remove the loose coat.  It’s important to be careful and avoid being heavy-handed, or you could scrape or brush burn the dog’s skin.

After shampooing, you will want to apply a conditioner.  If you still have a loose coat left on the dog when you get this step, you can use the rake, slicker brush, or undercoat rake once again to help remove loose coat while the conditioner is sitting on the dog.  Rinse the dog well.

If you have a very thick double-coated breed with a lot of packed-in undercoat or matting, you may need to take some additional steps.  In this case, get the first round of shampoo on the dog, then, before rinsing, use the high-velocity dryer on the soapy coat to help blow apart the thick or matted areas.  This works similarly to using dish soap to get a ring stuck on a finger to slide off.  Do the same thing after each round of shampoo, rinsing quickly with water between each shampoo. How many times you shampoo the dog will depend on how dirty it is.  You continue to shampoo until the dog is clean.  At some point, you may be able to carefully use a rake to assist with loosening the coat as you push air through the coat.  Once the dog is clean you will apply conditioner and use the high-velocity dryer to continue to break up the coat.  Rinse the dog well.

Areas to be extra aware of: around lips and flews, feet, under the tail and ears.  The ear hair around dogs with lots of coat tends to get oily.  It may be necessary to do an extra shampoo of the area around the ears.  Be sure to rub the area without creating tangles as friction is necessary for the shampoo to clean the area.


Wire coated breeds are shampooed as described in the previous lesson.  It can be helpful to carefully rake out the jacket (the area around the neck, down the shoulder, down the back, and the hip) of a wire-coated breed being groomed in a pet style.  Doing this during the bathing process can help achieve a smoother haircut. Note: this would not be done on a show dog.

Wire coated breeds should have a light conditioner applied and rinsed out after the shampoo.

Areas to be extra aware of:  Eyes, lips, feet and under the tail.


Curly coated breeds are shampooed as described in the previous lesson.  It may be beneficial to use a clarifying shampoo on a curly coat to strip any build-up off.  This will allow the coat to fluff up well making it easier to complete a stylish groom.  Be sure to massage shampoo throughout the curly-coated breed’s coat but do not rub it erratically as this could cause tangles to form, especially where the coat is long.

Curly coated breeds should have a light conditioner applied and rinsed out after the shampoo.

Areas to be extra aware of: Eyes, lips, feet, in front of and under the ears, and the tail.


Drop coated breeds are shampooed as described in the previous lesson.  It may be beneficial to use a conditioning shampoo on a drop coat.  This will help the coat lay straight and will fight static electricity.  You should be careful not to create tangles while massaging shampoo into a drop-coated breed.  It can be helpful to use a soft pin brush to brush shampoo through the coat.

Drop coated breeds should be conditioned with a light to heavy conditioner after the shampoo is rinsed out.



It is not beneficial to combine shampoo and conditioner to be used both at the same time.  Shampoo lifts the cuticle on the hair shaft to allow dirt to be washed away.  Conditioner helps the cuticle lay back down and fills in cracks in the hair shaft so that it feels smooth.



It may seem that a hairless dog wouldn’t require a bath, however, they do.  Their skin needs constant care.  Hairless dogs are prone to blackheads.  If they are washed regularly in a clarifying or medicated shampoo containing salicylic acid, the blackheads can be diminished.  Even though they do tend to get blackheads, it is still important to use conditioner to condition the skin and the areas of hair on their bodies.  It is also beneficial to apply a light coat of argan or coconut oil to their skin after a bath.


Properly drying a dog is one of the most important steps in the grooming process.  Unless a dog has a very adverse reaction to being dried or is one of the handful of breeds that don’t require force drying (such as corded breeds,) they should be completely dried before grooming.

Move slowly and methodically when drying dogs.  Rapidly moving the dryer all over the dog creates a LOT of excess noise that can bother the dog being dried.  It also just moves water all over the dog rather than removing it and will increase the drying time.


When using a high-velocity dryer to dry a dog with long hair you will need to avoid creating knots with the dryer.  If you get the dryer too close the hair can whip over and become tangled.  A good rule of thumb is the dryer is kept about the length of double the length of coat you are drying away from the hair.


There are stretchy pieces of material known as the Happy Hoodie that you can place over a dog’s head and ears while drying to block some of the dryer noise.  This can really help to settle dogs down who don’t tolerate the noise.



Smooth-coated breeds are simple to dry.   Start by placing a towel under the dog.  Hold a second towel in your hand.  Dry the dog from the neck down the back moving slowly with the nozzle right down upon the coat and skin, pushing water down the dog and into the towel in your hand.  Methodically move from the front to the rear of the dog, down the sides and legs of the dog.  Continue to push water into the towel in your hand to speed up the drying process.  Remove the nozzle to dry the dog’s head being careful not to blow air into the dog’s eyes, nose or mouth.

To get the last bit of dampness off the dog you can remove the nozzle from the dryer hose and push the dryer hose down onto the dog’s coat close to the skin and slowly go over the dog.  You can use a rubber curry during this process to help remove more loose hair.


Double coated dogs can be a challenge to dry depending on how thick their coat is.  You will want to towel dry them quite well before starting to dry them.  If you have access to a high-velocity dryer in the bathing area you can use it to remove a lot of water after towel drying initially.  The next step would be to take the dog to the drying area.  For some salons the drying area may well be the tub, in which case you’d keep the dog there.  In other salons, there are designated drying areas, and in some, you may dry dogs in your grooming area.  In any of these cases, it’s best to have the dog stand on a towel to help catch water mist as you dry.  Spray the dog down with a finishing spray.  Finishing sprays have ingredients that help moisturize, condition, and break up matting and thick, stuck undercoat. Massage the finishing spray into the dog’s coat. You will want to use a condenser cone on a high-velocity dryer and hold it in one hand while holding another towel in your other hand.  Then dry the dog moving from the neck to the tail, and then from the top-down, slowly moving and pushing water into the towel in your hand.  You should move slowly from each section allowing each area to get about 90% dry before moving to the next area.  This means you will be moving slowly.

If a dog has packed in loose coat, or matted areas, you can work those out by slowly moving the dryer nozzle back and forth over the area, you should see areas like this “spider web” and bits and pieces will blow out.

Don’t forget also to dry the legs and feet of the dog, although on double-coated breeds the hair here is short, it is often thick, and requires attention.

Some dogs tolerate high-velocity drying while using a condenser cone, on their heads.  This often goes better if you block their ear canal on the side of the head you are working on by holding the ear down over the ear canal or placing your hand over the ear canal.  Be careful, especially when using the condenser cone, not to blow air into the dog’s eyes, ears or mouth.  If the dog will not tolerate drying with the condenser cone remove it.  To finish removing any dampness remove the cone and slowly move the dryer over the dog close to the coat and skin.

Once the dog is about 90% dry you can remove the condenser cone, tuck the dryer hose under one arm, and aim at each section of the dog while brushing the coat with the other hand.  This technique will take practice, but it’s invaluable.  Drying and brushing at the same time will save you time as you are combining two steps into one.  Another benefit is some dogs are distracted by the dryer and show less aversion to being brushed when they are being dried at the same time.

If you have trouble drying a double-coated dog with a high-velocity dryer there are alternative steps you can take, all will slow down the drying process, but this may be necessary.  You can remove the condenser cone and dry the dog without it.  You may need to attach a dog to the groomer’s helper on the grooming arm or have another employee help calm and hold onto the dog.  The worst-case scenario is you get as much water off the dog with the high-velocity dryer and then put it on a towel, in a crate, with a cage dryer on the dog.  Make sure not to use any heat setting and monitor the dog.  Check the coat every 20 minutes to see how dry it is.  Once it is mostly dry then take the dog and finish drying it with a stand dryer.


Wire-coated breeds tend to dry quickly. When wire coated breeds have tangles or packed in coat it is easily removed while drying.  They should be towel dried well and then dried with a high-velocity dryer.  Keep a towel under the dog to catch water spray, and again hold the dryer hose in one hand and a towel in the other, directing the water into the towel as you dry the dog.  Once the dog is about 90% dry you can finish drying it with a stand dryer, brushing the coat as you dry.  If a wire-coated dog won’t tolerate the high-velocity dryer, it can be placed in a cage on a towel and allowed to cage dry for 15-20 minutes and then finish drying with a stand dryer.


Properly drying a curly-coated dog is critically important to how the haircut will turn out.  You start by towel drying the dog well, pressing and squeezing the coat with a towel.  You don’t rub a curly-coated dog as this can create tangles.  Then place the dog on a towel and dry with a high-velocity dryer.  Hold the dryer hose in one hand and a towel in the other, move slowly from the dog’s neck down to the tail methodically drying the coat from the top down.  You want to dry one section at a time, blowing the curly coat out straight.  Once the dog is about 90% dry you will want to fluff/stretch dry the dog’s coat with a stand dryer.

If a curly-coated breed doesn’t tolerate being dried with the high-velocity dryer you can quickly go over them with the high-velocity dryer to remove some water and then totally dry them using the stand dryer.

It is important to avoid using a cage dryer to dry a fluffy or longer curly-coated dog as the coat will not dry straight.  If the curly-coated dog is going to get a very short haircut or if it was matted and pre-shaved before the bath, it is acceptable to allow them to dry in a kennel dryer.


Drop coats can require some patience when drying.  If they are between the length of 4 inches to complete show style, it’s best to towel them dry, and then let them sit on a towel for 10 minutes, with no fan or dyer.  Then remove the dog and dry it with a stand dryer using a pin brush and/or comb to brush as you dry the dog.  The dog can be completely dried this way.

If the dog is a drop coat in a short haircut, less than 4 inches long, you can towel dry it well and then blow the water off the dog while in the tub using a high-velocity dryer.  Then if you are needing to be efficient with time it can sit in a crate with a cage dryer for about 15 minutes.  You can then finish fluff drying it with a stand dryer.  It is also not a problem to completely dry these shorter drop coats with the high-velocity dryer, or through the fluff drying process with a stand dryer.


The hairless coated breeds are easy to dry.  You can either dry them with a stand dryer or place them under a cage dryer for 10 minutes and finish drying their hairier areas with a stand dryer.

Quiz 2

Short Essay: Write a half-page to a page essay explaining which coat type you believe you will enjoy grooming the most and least and why you’ve come to this conclusion.




Prep work includes tasks you will complete on nearly every dog you groom, and prep work is a great place to start learning how to use grooming tools such as nail clippers, nail grinders, scissors, and clippers.  Prep work usually includes trimming the hair on the dog’s feet and sanitary area (if needed.)  From there you move on to trimming and filing the nails.  For severely matted dogs prep work may include pre-shaving the whole dog, or part of the dog, to get all the matted hair off.


When you complete this lesson, you’ll be able to

  • Trim and file dog’s nails.
  • Trim the hair on the dog’s feet.
  • Trim the hair on a dog’s sanitary area.
  • Understand the variables that must be assessed to determine if a dog can be de-matted.
  • Determine if matted areas can be de-matted or must be shaved out.
  • Pre-clip a matted dog.
  • Pre-clip matted sections of a dog if the entire dog isn’t matted.


Nail trimming is a staple of the grooming industry.  Nearly every dog that comes into a grooming salon for a bath or groom will get their nails trimmed, PLUS additional dogs will come in to only have their nails trimmed.  If you can get adept at nail trimming the process will go smooth.

Most dogs need to have their nails trimmed every 4-6 weeks.  Some dogs are active enough that they wear their nails down and do not need them trimmed.

When a dog’s nails get too long it can cause pain and discomfort for the dog.  When the nails are long enough that a dog is walking on the nails instead of the pads of their feet the bones and toes of the feet can be displaced.  It is also possible for nails to grow so long that they curve around the pad of the dog’s foot, puncture the pad, and start growing into the pad.

Some dogs have an additional nail called a dewclaw.  This is located on the inner part of the paw but is higher up and doesn’t touch the ground as a dog walks.  Some dogs have these dewclaws on the front and back paws, and a handful of breeds, such as a Great Pyrenees, who have two rear dewclaws per foot.

Example of a double dewclaw.


Dog nails have a hard, outer layer with a soft cuticle in the center.  There are nerves and blood vessels within the cuticle.  The area containing the blood vessels is also called the “quick.”  When trimming a dog’s nails, you want to avoid cutting into the quick as when you do so the nail will bleed. The quick is easy to see when a dog has a clear white nail.

When trimming black nails, you can see a black dot in the center when you get close to the quick.  Another rule of thumb is to trim right where the nail is starting to curve down.  Sometimes you can even see the quick if you look at the underside of the nail.






There are pros and cons to trimming nails both before and after the bath.  Personal preference or salon preference will probably be the determining factor as to whether they are trimmed before the bath or after the bath.


Pros:  If you get the nail too short and it bleeds you can clean up the foot in the tub.

Cons: The nails are hard and more likely to split. If the dog doesn’t do well for nail trimming you will be getting them worked up before the bath.


Pros:  The nails are clean so if you clip or file them the nail debris is clean.  The nails are soft from being in the water, making them easier to cut and less likely to split.

Cons: If you get a nail too short and bleeds, you will need to clean up the foot.


How you hold a dog that is getting its nails trimmed can affect how well it will behave for the nail trim.  You should not hold the foot out in front or to the side of the dog.  Doing this leaves you in a position to get bitten.  If the dog gets wiggly you have very little control.  Also, groomers tend to put undue pressure on a dog’s joints when trying to trim nails this way and this will contribute to a dog wiggling for nail trims.


It is best to hold the dog next to your body with its head tucked under your arm towards your back.  You can then flip each foot up, within the dog’s natural range of movement, and trim the nails.  This also gives you a good way to look at the nail and see if you are close to the quick.


Nail trimming is one of the things a dog can get quite upset about.  Some will try to bite, and others will wrestle to get free.  You may need to use a muzzle or groomers helper for dogs like this.  You may need to ask for the help of someone else working in the salon.


FAST FACT: Using a distraction can help you accomplish a nail trim on a difficult dog.  Turning a stand dryer on and blowing toward the dog’s head can help.  Having someone talk to the dog and lightly tap or pat on its head can also distract the dog.


If a dog is far too out of control and in danger of hurting itself, it may be best to leave the nail trimming to a veterinarian.


Some grooming salons offer nail filing.  Freshly clipped nails are often quite sharp.  It can be helpful to file off those sharp edges.  Often, a Dremel tool with a sanding drum is used to file a dog’s nails quickly.  There are also diamond-coated sanding drums made specifically for the grooming industry.  These last forever and can be safer than a typical sanding drum.


It is best to hold a clipper, cordless or corded like you would hold a large pen.  You only need to have a decent hold on the clipper, if you grip it too tight your hand and fingers will become sore and tired.  The clipper is not held flat into the palm as this doesn’t allow for much control of the clipper.




On many breeds, there is hair growing in the pads of the feet.  It’s best to carefully remove this hair to attract dirt, rocks, and plant pieces such as stickers.  This hair can also mat up in the footpad.

To trim this hair, you hold the dog the same way that was described for trimming nails, with the head tucked under your arm facing your back.  You then flip each foot up and trim this hair with a clipper.  You can use a cordless clipper with a 5 in 1 blade set to #30 or #40 to accomplish this, or you can use a corded clipper.  It is recommended that you start by using a #40 blade on a cordless 5n1 clipper while you are learning how to clip the hair growing in the pads of the dog’s foot.




It is important to begin holding your shears correctly right from the start.  Bad habits are hard to break when it comes to how you hold shears.  Your thumb goes into the thumb ring and your RING finger goes into the lower scissor ring.  Your thumb should just barely go into the thumb ring, if yours wants to slide more than a little you should get inserts for the scissor rings to make them smaller.  The pivot point of the shear should sit at the first knuckle of your first finger.

When scissoring ONLY your thumb should be moving, your other fingers should remain still.  You can start practicing this now, even without a dog to scissor.  Get used to moving your hand this way.

You can do exercises to strengthen your thumb and hand’s ability to move.  Hold your hand, bend your fingers down partway to touch the top part of your palm. Move your thumb to each fingernail without allowing the rest of your hand to move.

Practice scissoring by “scissoring” up and down doorways.  Properly hold and use your shear working on making it move uniformly and smoothly up and down the doorway while you use your thumb to operate the shear.


Part of grooming prep work is trimming the hair on top of a dog’s foot when the dog is NOT considered one that needs a full haircut. Many double-coated breeds fall into this category include Golden Retrievers, American Eskimos, and Newfoundlands.  Curly coated and drop coated breeds are usually those who require a full haircut and trimming their feet would occur during the haircut.

To trim this hair, you brush the hair up on the foot and trim the longer parts to match the majority of hair on the foot.  It’s often easiest to use a curved shear for this.  You can then tidy it up using thinning shears.  There can be a tuft of hair around where the dewclaw is located, or where a declaw used to be if it’s been removed, and this should be tidied up with thinning shears too.



Trimming a dog’s sanitary area is a typical part of prep work for grooming a dog.  You will usually do this with a #10 or #15 blade.  This trimming is done with a light touch on the clippers to avoid irritating the sensitive skin in these areas.

Smooth, short, or hairless coated dogs do not require a sanitary trim.  Drop coat, curly coat, and wire coated breeds usually do need a sanitary trim.  When it comes to double-coated breeds they can have a sanitary trim, but often it is not needed.  For double-coated breeds it is usually up to the owner if they want the sanitary areas trimmed.  When a double-coated breed is very long, and thick owners will often opt to have their sanitary areas trimmed.

For both male and female dogs, you will carefully trim the hair around their rectum.  This is done around the edges from the inside out.  If you just move the clipper up and down over the rectum you could injure the dog.

Unless an owner requests it, the trim for this area does not need to be large.  You are only trimming the long hair away from the rectum, so stool doesn’t get stuck when the dog uses the bathroom.

For female dogs, you then carefully clipped around the vulva.  Gently lift one leg up a bit and clip the hair around and on the sides of the vulva.  Then carefully lift the dog up by the front feet and trim the belly area.

For male dogs, you carefully lift the dog up by its front feet and trim the belly and around the penis, as well as any hair on the penis.  If this is a giant breed dog you may have to accomplish this by lifting one rear leg up enough to clip the area, and then lift the leg on the other side and repeat.  This area does not have to be trimmed (unless owners request,) on most double-coated breeds.

It is NOT necessary to shave the entire area between the rectum and the lower backside of the dog.  In the grooming industry, this is often known as a “poop shoot.”  It is not necessary and can make the whole groom look unbalanced.  If an owner requests this, by all means, go ahead.

After you trim the sanitary area the blade should be cleaned before working on another part of the dog.


It’s inevitable, dogs with hair can and will become matted.  It is your job as a groomer to determine if it’s possible to remove the mats with the use of proper tools and products or if the dog is so matted it must be clipped short.  It is also important to know the salon you’re working for policies regarding de-matting.

When checking in a dog that may be matted take a comb with you.  Some owners don’t realize their dog is matted, and you can use the comb to help show them.


Mats are created by a variety of factors including dirt, skin flakes, friction, and moisture.  Dirt and debris can hold hair together and create a mat.  Friction, for example between a dog’s leg and armpit, can create a mat.  Also, if a dog already has some mats forming and goes swimming in the pond, or gets damp after a rain, and those matted areas air dry, they will snug up even tighter as they dry making the mat worse.

There are a few factors that help you determine if a dog can be de-matted.  Different coat types create different mats and can be de-matted easier than others.  The tolerance of the dog for being de-matted will also affect the decision. Finally, the dog’s owner will help decide.  Some owners don’t mind if their dogs are clipped short while others will want you to make every effort to shave a matted coat.  Some owners are happy to pay for the extra time to de-matt a dog while others will choose to save money and have the dog clipped short.

By using quality de-matting products and tools and being careful while working to de-matt a dog you are creating a situation where many dogs will tolerate the de-matting process.  If you have a dog that is fighting, trying to bite, and making noise about being de-matted it is probably in their best interest to clip the coat short rather than to de-matt.

Use caution when you are de-matting a dog. It is easy to get overzealous and brush too hard or too long in one area.  When possible get your fingers behind a mat and brush the hair while it’s on top of your fingers, this will keep you aware of how hard you are brushing. It’s better to slowly de-matt and be careful than to get in a hurry and cause an injury.

When working on a matted dog it is a good idea to take pictures before, during, and after the groom.  Often the condition of the skin under a matted area is unknown.  Having photo documentation can protect both you and the owner of the salon if there is a problem with a matted dog’s groom.


There are some tools created specifically for de-matting.  One is the mat splitter.  This tool is handy for de-matting as it is somewhat of a comb with blades on it.  You use it to break apart a mat making it easier to de-tangle smaller sections.  While useful, you must be cautious when using this tool.  It is easy to cut areas of a dog if you aren’t careful (especially when using it on a tail.)  It is definitely worth having in your tool kit but be careful when using it.




Double coated breeds are prone to getting thick, stuck undercoats in the longer parts of their coat: ears, undercarriage, chest, and rear end feathering is where you normally find matting.  Occasionally, you may see a double-coated breed where the entire dog is matted.

It’s important to go over a matted double-coated breed with the owner thoroughly. While most double-coated breeds can be de-matted, there may be areas, especially behind the ears and on their bottom or inside of their back legs, where the matting is so thick it would be nearly impossible to pick the mats out.  If this is the case, you will want to explain this to the owner when the dog is dropped off because clipping these areas out will result in a strange looking haircut.

To de-matt a double-coated dog, you will want to start with the bath.  Refer to the special bathing procedure at the beginning of this lesson about de-matting using a high-velocity dryer when the dog is being shampooed.

Once the dog is ready to be dried you will want to spray a finishing or detangling spray onto the coat, massaging it through the coat.  You may need to apply more as you dry the dog. As you dry the dog use the high-velocity dryer to break apart the matted areas.  Once the dog is fairly dry you can remove the condenser cone and use the dryer and a brush to continue working the stuck coat out.










Wire coated breeds can get matted, but fortunately, it is usually easy to bathe, dry, and brush mats out of a wire coat.  This coat is harsher than others and while it can mat up the mats loosen up easily.  You will still want to spray in a finishing spray or de-tangling spray prior to using the high-velocity dryer.







The softer coat of curly and drop coat breeds means they mat up easily, especially if they are kept in a longer style.  If the entire dog is matted so close to the skin, you can’t work your fingers under the mats it is probably best to clip the dog short.  If the dog is only matted in a few areas such as the ears and the tail, with a few body tangles here and there, it may be possible to save the coat.

If you can’t decide if the coat can be saved or not, go ahead and try bathing it.  Clean mats are easier to break up than dirty mats.  Once the second round of shampoo is applied you can try to use the high-velocity dryer with a condenser cone to help break apart the mats or at least push them away from the skin.  If you get the mats away from the skin, you will be able to clip under them with a longer blade than if they are right next to the skin.  This will allow for a more attractive hairstyle.  You might find the mats do blow out and you’re able to completely de-matt the dog.

If you get curly or drop coat breed and decide the coat is salvageable, place the dog in the tub and bathe it.  When it is toweled and ready to be dried apply a finishing or detangling spray.  Dry as described previously in this lesson, moving slowly and allowing the dryer to break up the matted areas.  When the dog is mostly dry spray it again with the finishing or de-tangling spray and finish fluffing, brushing, and de-matting while using a stand dryer.  Remember to put your fingers under mats and brush the mat on your finger to protect the skin.

Before, de-matable coat


Before NOT de-matable








You may get a dog that has just a few matted areas, but the rest of the coat is salvageable.  You may want to pre-clip this type of matting so that you can get the area clean in the bath. Some possibilities include:

  • A dog whose body isn’t matted but its ears are pelted.
  • A dog whose tail is badly matted
  • A dog whose armpits are badly matted


If you get a dog in that is severely matted to the skin it will be appropriate to clip the dog short prior to the bath.  You may want to designate one #10 and one #7 blade for pre-clipping dogs prior to the bath.  This will save wear and tear on your other blades if you only use them on clean dogs.  You will want to discuss the groom with the owner when the dog is dropped off.  Communicate to the owner how short the dog’s hair will be.  You must get the clipper blade under matted areas, it will not go through them.  If the salon you’re working for has a matted pet release be sure to have the dog’s owner sign it.  Make sure the dog’s owners are aware there could be skin problems under the matted areas that can’t be known or seen.  The dog may be itchy after the hair is removed and if it scratches it could scratch its skin as there will be no hair there to protect it.


This can be a difficult situation for dog groomers.  It is frustrating to care for severely matted dogs and can be easy to become upset with the pet owners.  It is important to educate these owners while being kind and respectful, so maybe they will take better care of their dog in the future.  Explain the benefits of getting their dog on a regular grooming schedule. If you are mean or overly critical, the condition of the dog could actually worsen as perhaps they won’t even bother taking it to be groomed again.

Benefits of Regular Grooming

  • Costs less
  • Dog is cute all the time
  • Dog gets used to the groomer and grooming process
  • Dog is more comfortable, mats hurt
  • Dog is cleaner


To pre-clip a matted dog you will place the dog on a grooming table with a grooming loop secured around the dog’s neck and to a grooming arm.  Start with the neck area at the base of the dog’s occiput.  If possible use a #7F blade.  If that won’t go through use a #10 blade.  Carefully shave the entire dog.  Go slow, watch for warts, growths, sores, and the like.  If you go to quick you could cut a wart or growth off the dog since they can’t easily be seen.  Work from the top of the dog down to the bottom.  You’ll want to be careful in the areas of the dog’s armpits and tuck up area not to catch skin there.  Clip the dog’s ears and face as necessary.  Do NOT clip the hair in the corners of the eyes.  When dogs are matted like this, they tend to have buildup in the corners of their eyes.  It is best to loosen this with warm water when the dog is in the tub, and carefully comb or brush it out with a toothbrush.  If you try to clip the buildup and hair out it can get stuck in your clipper blade and you could possibly cut the dog’s skin on their eyelid or lower eye area.

Caution: Pre-clipping can take extra time and create wear and tear on your clipper blade.  Monitor the blade for heat and swap it out for a cool blade if needed!


Don’t forget!  Place your hot blade face down on a marble or ceramic tile to cool it.


After you’ve pre-clipped the dog it is ready for the bath.

If you are running short on time or running behind it is appropriate to let a dog clipped this short dry under a cage dryer (while monitoring it.)

You should clean your clipper blade after pre-clipping a dog.


Some salons clip double-coated breeds short while others choose not to.  It is important to understand how to shave a double-coated breed in case you work somewhere this is required.  There are rare times when it is necessary to shave a double-coated breed’s coat due to health reasons. It’s also good to know the complications and problems that can arise by shaving double-coated breeds as well, so we will discuss both.

Salons who shave double-coated breeds do so because they think the pet owners will just take their double-coated dog to another salon to be shaved, so they might as well do it.

Salons that do not shave double-coated breeds have often opted not to perform this service because it is unnecessary, unattractive, and not healthy for the dog.  Here is a good explanation:

Double coated breeds shed heavily a few times a year. They will often start losing the winter undercoat they’ve built up and a lighter, more appropriate undercoat for the summer months will start growing in its place. They normally will go through another serious shedding cycle in the fall when the lighter summer undercoat falls out to allow for the heavier winter undercoat to grow in. This twice-a-year shedding cycle is a little different than the normal, ongoing hair shed and growth process, so while these double-coated breeds do shed all year round, it is worse during the spring and fall. It is not healthy or necessary to clip dogs short in the summertime and clipping dogs short can actually make them hotter.

Double coated breeds include Labs, Golden Retrievers, Husky’s, Beagles, Pugs – dogs that have fur rather than dogs with hair that would just continue growing longer and longer like human hair, such as poodles. The best thing you can do for your double-coated breed to keep it comfortable is to have it bathed, brushed, and groomed regularly. Surprisingly – the worst thing you can do is have it shaved or clipped short. A dog’s cooling system works very differently from the way human bodies work. A dog’s “coat” is nothing like us wearing a coat and taking it off when we are warm. Removing a dog’s “coat” can actually make them hotter, shed worse, have skin problems, expose them to too much sun, and more. The cycle of hair growing and shedding is set up to work perfectly for dogs and we do a disservice to dogs when we shave them and interrupt that cycle (unless, of course, there is a medical reason to do so.) Dogs cool off a few different ways, of course, there is panting. A simplified explanation of panting is that heat within the dog enters the blood supply, which circulates, and fluid evaporates off the dog’s tongue while panting allowing the dog to get rid of heat. Dogs also have sweat glands in their feet and ears that play a small role in keeping them cool. A major way dogs cooldown is that their blood flow is increased (dogs have proportionality larger spleens than humans, the spleen helps store blood and control heat.) Blood carries excess heat to the skin where it circulates. There are muscles in the dog’s skin that help raise guard hairs (the harsher outer coat of a double-coated breed,) and allow for the heat to dissipate off the dog’s skin. When that hair is removed it changes the way air flows over the dog’s skin. This is how shaving a double-coated dog can actually make a dog hotter. What can contribute to a dog becoming too hot is not brushing out dead and or shedding coat and allowing it to become stuck in the other hair. This blocks airflow to the dog’s skin. Cutting a double-coated breed’s hair really short can actually increase shedding later as well because the way their coat and skin function is so disrupted when the coat is clipped very short. When you notice your dog starting the excessive spring shedding it’s time to get it to the groomer for a good bath, de-shed, high-velocity drying, and brush out. As temperatures increase it’s also important to make sure your dog has plenty of water as it plays an important role in the process of keeping them comfortable.


HOW TO SHAVE A DOUBLE-COATED BREED  (This is here for reference, we DO NOT shave double-coated breeds at Gordon’s Grooming.)

Discuss with the dog’s owner how short they want the dog clipped.  If possible, it’s best to leave enough hair to protect the skin from the sun.  Depending on the dog’s coat this could be anywhere from about ½” and on up.  Talk with the owner to find out what, if any, areas they want to leave some hair, often this would be a bit of hair left on the tail.

If you are going to clip a double-coated breed it is best done before the bath to save time drying the dog.

You’ll want to clip from just below the occiput down the dog’s back.  Always clip in the direction of the hair growth. If you’re using a guard comb, when you get to the legs, they should naturally blend with the guard comb.  The hair on the legs of a double-coated breed is shorter and denser than the rest of the coat.  If you’re using a short blade, such as a #5F or #7F, you will want to switch to a longer blade or guard comb and blend the leg area to the body. At this point, the dog can be bathed and dried. If you are running behind or low on time it is acceptable for shaved double-coated breeds to start out being dried for 15-20 minutes in a kennel dryer, while being monitored.

Once the dog is dry you will want to finish the groom.  Proceed by doing the prep-work (trim and file the nails, trim the hair in the pads of the feet, the top of the feet, and the sanitary area if required.)  Next, you will finish the groom.   You will probably want to go over the dog’s body again in case any longer areas have popped up after the bath. Shape the thicker leg hair by going over it again with the blade or guard comb you blended them with earlier, and tidy with thinning shears.  The hair on a double-coated dog’s face and the head is often shorter, and denser, like the hair on their legs.  You can take a clipper with a guard comb attachment a few steps longer than you used on the body and blend the head and sides of the face in by clipping in reverse of the lay of the coat with the guard comb attachment.  Then drop to one length shorter and go over the same areas with the lay of the coat. FIGURE 35  Finish the head by blending it with thinning shears and trimming around the edges of the ears.  Trim the tail to owner specifications.

Quiz 3


Short Essay:  Research clipping double-coated breeds and write half a page to a page explaining your current position on the topic. (There is no 100% correct answer here, this is only to help you start developing your opinion.)





Just as there are a variety of breeds, coat types, and personalities in the dog world, there are other considerations that must be considered as we bathe, dry, and perform prep work on them.  As a dog groomer, you will encounter senior, obese, flea and/or tick-infested, and difficult dogs and you will need to have the skills to bathe, dry, prep, and groom them.  These skills take time and practice to master, but they are necessary to do the best job for customers.


When you complete this lesson, you’ll be able to

  • Understand skills and tools that can be helpful with caring for senior dogs.
  • Understand skills and tools that can be helpful with caring for obese dogs.
  • Understand the process of caring for dogs who have fleas and/or ticks.
  • Determine which tools, equipment, and skills are needed to care for difficult dogs.
  • Safely bathe, dry, and perform prep work on dogs with disabilities, such as dogs who are missing a limb, blind, or can’t hear.


Dogs are considered seniors at varying ages depending mainly on breed and size.  Small dogs may not be considered as senior until they are 9 or 10 years old.  As the size of the dog increases, the age at which they are considered seniors decreases.  Great Danes are considered seniors about the age of 6 or 7 years old.

Diseases that tend to affect senior dogs include dental, kidney, liver, and endocrine diseases.  We also see more warts and growths on senior dogs.  Senior dogs can suffer from movement issues such as arthritis and diabetes is more common in senior dogs.  Mental changes can appear in senior dogs, they can become confused and afraid easily.  For example, dogs who were never afraid of storms may suddenly become afraid of storms as they age.



Here are how these normal, senior dog issues can impact the grooming process:

  • Dogs that have dental disease may be sensitive about having their muzzle held.
  • Dogs with kidney disease may need to drink water while at the salon and be taken out to go to the bathroom to avoid having an accident.
  • Dogs with endocrine diseases, such as hypothyroidism, may lack hair in some areas, they can be heavier than normal, and they may not move well.
  • Older dogs have warts and growths that groomers need to watch out for to avoid cutting them or accidentally removing them.
  • Diabetic dogs also need water and will need to be taken to the bathroom.
  • Mental changes can make dogs confused, this may make the grooming process unsettling to them. You need to move slowly and be patient.
  • Senior dogs are often losing their eyesight. If you move to quickly you can frighten them, and they may try to bite due to being afraid.
  • Senior dogs are often losing their hearing. You need to be careful not to accidentally “sneak upon them.”  You will need to make noise and make sure the dog is aware of your presence.
  • Senior dogs often develop movement issues, such as arthritis. You may not be able to move them the same way you did years ago.  They may need more assistance getting into a tub or onto a grooming table.

Some senior dogs have no issues with grooming, they are healthy and move well even though they are older.  Others are not so lucky.  You should make every effort to make the grooming procedure as easy on these senior dogs as possible.



Having an electric lift or hydraulic grooming tables and tubs can help keep the senior dog (and you as a groomer,) comfortable.  Senior dogs do not always appreciate being picked up, sometimes they are obese or large due to endocrine issues and this awkward shape and size can make lifting them difficult for both the dog and the groomer.


Padded belly straps are available.  These can help support dogs who aren’t able to stand in the tub or on the grooming table.


Unfortunately, a muzzle may need to be used on a confused senior dog to complete the grooming process.


A groomers helper device can be used to keep a dog’s head near the grooming arm.  It can be used in combination with a belly strap to keep a wobbly dog safely on the table.


Using an anti-fatigue mat or pad on your grooming table can help keep senior dogs comfortable and allows them to grip the table better, preventing them from slipping.


Yes, allowing a senior pet to take a break is a useful tool!


Grooming senior pets by appointment, so they can come in, be groomed, and go in when they are finished, can relieve a lot of stress versus keeping a senior pet in a grooming salon the entire working day.


There are times that it may take two people to groom a senior dog.  One person may need to help hold and support the dog, while another does the groom. Senior dogs can be wobbly and risk slipping off the grooming table, so having a second person can help prevent this from happening.


It may be easier for you to groom a dog while it is standing up, a senior dog may be better off being groomed lying down.  It may even be necessary to dry or groom a large breed senior dog on the floor.  While this is not ideal for the pet or the groomer, it may be the most comfortable way for the dog to be groomed.


Obese dogs face many of the same struggles senior dogs face when it comes to being groomed. A dog is considered overweight if you can’t easily feel their ribs while pressing on the side of the dog’s body. When a dog is obese it’s lifespan will also be reduced.  The extra fat can cause problems for a dog’s bones, joints, digestive organs, and lungs.  Obese dogs have an increased risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and bladder stones.  They are also less tolerant to heat and humidity. Obese dogs will tire quicker than dogs that are a healthy weight, and they are often lethargic.

Here is how dog obesity can affect the grooming process:

  • Obese dogs will not be able to stand as long for the bathing or grooming process.
  • If an obese dog has diabetes it may require water while being groomed and need to be taken out to the bathroom.
  • If an obese dog has arthritis you will need to be careful moving him during the grooming process, being especially aware of problematic areas such as hip, shoulder and ankle joints.
  • You will need to be even more careful when using a kennel or cage dryer with a obese dog, they are far more susceptible to heat stroke.
  • When an obese dog has heart disease or hypertension (high blood pressure,) they are at a greater risk of having a serious problem if they are too stressed out while being groomed. They could have a heart attack or possibly pass out.
  • Obese dogs may have pressure sores from laying around excessively with extra weight on areas that they lay on. You will probably see pressure sores on a dog’s elbows or point of rump.



Having an electric lift or hydraulic grooming tables and tubs can help keep the obese dog (and you as a groomer,) comfortable.  Obese dogs can be difficult to pick up because it’s difficult to get a good grip on them, and the fat is wobbly making it easier to drop an obese dog.  Obese dogs do not always appreciate being picked up.


Padded belly straps are available.  These can help support dogs who aren’t able to stand in the tub or on the grooming table.


A groomers helper device can be used to keep a dog’s head near the grooming arm.  It can be used in combination with a belly strap to keep a wobbly, overweight dog safely on the table.


Using an anti-fatigue mat or pad on your grooming table can help keep obese dogs comfortable and allows them to grip the table better, preventing them from slipping.


Since senior dogs are at risk of becoming too warm, using a box fan in front of a crate to dry one will be safer than using a kennel or cage dryer.


Obese dogs may need a break during the grooming process.


There are times that it may take two people to groom an obese dog.  One person may need to help hold and support the dog, while another does the groom.


It may be easier for you to groom a dog while it is standing up, an obese dog may be better off being groomed lying down. It may not be possible to get an obese dog onto the grooming table.  It may even be necessary to dry or groom an obese dog on the floor.  While this is not ideal for the pet or the groomer, it may be the most comfortable way for the dog to be groomed.


Unfortunately, part of being a dog groomer involves dealing with parasites.  While there are many parasites that affect dogs, groomers tend to see dogs with fleas and/or ticks.



The BEST course of action is to find out about a dog having parasites when they are on the phone scheduling their grooming appointment.  When this happens, you can ask them to go to their veterinarian days before their grooming appointment to get their veterinarian’s recommended treatment for whichever parasite is present.  This helps keep the grooming salon safer for all pets that go there.



Fleas are the most prevalent parasite groomers deal with.   The lifecycle of a flea lasts anywhere from 18 days to 20+ months.  There are volumes of products available to pet owners to prevent fleas from getting on their dogs.  In the grooming salon, the best way to rid a dog of fleas is to put it immediately into the tub and apply flea and tick shampoo, or full-strength regular shampoo.  The flea and tick shampoo will contain ingredients to speed up the killing of the fleas, regular shampoo will suffocate them if left to soak on the dog for about 15 minutes.  You should apply flea shampoo according to the directions on the label.

When applying flea shampoo, put some around the ears and under the tail of the dog first.  This will help prevent fleas from hiding in the dog’s ears or rectum.  Then apply the flea shampoo to the rest of the dog and allow the dog to soak according to the directions.

Rinse the shampoo and then follow with what you would normally wash the dog with as well as conditioner.

If the dog is completely matted, you may need to pre-clip the dog prior to the bath.  This is unfortunate as it will require you to be diligent about cleaning as you go and preventing other dogs from being exposed to the fleas.  You will want to pre-clip as quickly as is safely possible, put all of the hair into a trash bag, sweep the area, empty the contents of the sweeper into the trash bag, and dispose of the trash bag outside of the salon.


The use of flea dips used to be common.  These dips have been around since the 1870s when people started using dips made for cattle and sheep on their family dogs.  Flea dips you can find today contain Pyrethrum, an insecticide.  For these to work they have to be mixed and applied very specifically.

Most of today’s grooming salons and veterinary offices have quit using flea dips.  The flea control products available from veterinarians work better, and safer, for most dogs.



Luckily, with today’s tick prevention products that are on the market, groomers are seeing fewer ticks.  Some of these products kill the ticks after they bite the dog, so you may find one or two still attached.

The best way to remove the tick is with tweezers or a tool called a tick key.  It’s important to remove the entire tick, and not accidentally leave the head of the dog.

If a dog comes in to be groomed and has many ticks, it will be best to soak it in a flea and tick shampoo according to the shampoo’s label.  If a dog is infested with ticks it would also be appropriate to require the owner of the dog to get flea and tick control to treat the dog and re-schedule the appointment at a later date.  A dog that is infested with ticks may need medical attention prior to grooming.







Most dogs behave reasonably well for the grooming process, but there are a few that can be difficult.  Dogs biting is usually the first type of difficult dog a groomer will think of, but there are also dogs who wiggle, move, and spin.  Others are cage aggressive but totally fine for everything else. There are dogs who passively urinate.


  • As we discussed in the animal behavior section of lesson one, using a muzzle and a Groomer’s Helper ™ device will help protect you from being bitten.
  • Having a co-worker distract the dog with a treat or just talking to the dog can be helpful.


  • Using a Groomer’s Helper ™ can help keep dogs from wiggling and spinning. Sometimes using a belly strap is useful too.
  • When grooming a wiggly dog, it’s important to try to maintain composure and not to get frustrated.
  • Safety is a concern when grooming a dog that is moving around a lot. If the owner is fine with grooming the dog short, a shorter blade such as a #10 or #7 is safer than using a longer blade. If they want the body left longer using a guard comb to clip the body of a wiggly dog is safer than using a longer blade.
  • When scissoring a wiggly dog thinning shears are safer to use than straight or curved shears.


  • Use an x-pen to contain an aggressive dog
  • Put a cage aggressive dog in a lower crate while keeping a leash on the dog. Keep the end of the leash out of the cage so you can lead the dog out of the cage when you need to.
  • To get small, cage aggressive dogs out of a crate you can often throw a towel over them and scoop them out of the crate, or wear leather anti bite gloves to reach in and get them out.
  • Don’t require cage aggressive dogs to stay in the salon for an extended period, try to schedule them so their owner can pick them up immediately when they are finished.
  • Groom cage aggressive dogs straight through so you never have to put them in a cage.


Passive urination is an indication of submission for dogs.  Some dogs will squat and pee when you go to reach for them.

  • Keep dogs who passively urinate in cages on grates, so they don’t get urine on them.
  • Take the dog out for a bathroom break before starting the bath or groom.
  • Have a towel ready to slide under the dog if you are in a circumstance where the dog urinating is not avoidable.
  • Groom dogs who passively urinate straight through, so they are not in the salon for an extended period of time.
  • Have patience for this dog, over time and with trust they may no longer passively urinate.


Grooming dogs with disabilities require special care and understanding.  These dogs still need to be groomed.  The most important part of grooming dogs with disabilities is to be patient.


It is quite amazing how well a dog can still get around on three legs, however, they can become unstable, and this is especially true when they are visiting  unusual territory.  It’s important to help keep these dogs stable and comfortable.  You may want to use a belly strap or have a second person help support them.  If they are matted or requiring extra time, allow them to rest when you see they are becoming tired.

Dogs in this situation benefit from being groomed straight through and not having to stay in a salon for an extended period.


The biggest concern with a blind dog is it slipping off the grooming table.  If you use a grooming loop as well as the Groomer’s Helper ™ you can prevent this from happening.  Many of these blind dogs have adapted quite well.  When they are on the table if you take the foot closest to each edge of the table, going through this will all four feet, and “show” them where the edge is by moving the foot, taping it on the table, until it taps off the table, this can give them an idea of their boundaries.

Keeping a hand on a blind dog at all times can help them be more comfortable, and aware that you are there to help.

Be aware that partially blind dogs can be spooked by quick movements.  You’re best off to move slowly, make noise, and let them know where you are, and where you’re moving to.  This can help prevent them from becoming snippy or biting.


When grooming deaf or partially deaf dogs it is important to let them know where you are, and where you’re moving to at all times.  When a deaf dog is uncomfortable they can lash out and bite.  Deaf dogs can be alerted by vibration, smell, and sight as to your presence.

Keeping a hand on a deaf dog at all times can help them be more comfortable and aware of your presence.  It is important not to startle a deaf dog, when a dog lacks its hearing it has one less form of defense and may bite if startled.


Just like humans, dogs can suffer from dementia.  They can become confused, unsure of where they are, what they are doing, and very afraid.  Grooming a dog with dementia requires patience.  It is best to keep a hand on them at all times.  If they are trying to bite from the beginning, you may want to try using a muzzle or a Groomer’s Helper ™.  Sometimes, dogs with dementia may panic when connected to a Groomer’s Helper ™, so if this is the case detach them and don’t use it.  If you need to muzzle a dog with dementia but don’t feel it’s safe to restrict them with a muzzle, you can put a large Happy Hoodie over their head, sticking out in front of their face.  If they turn to bite the hoodie will fold in front of their mouth.

When grooming a dog with dementia the important thing is getting them clean, trimming their nails, and tidying them up a bit.  It is important for owners, and groomers, not to set the expectations for the haircut too high.  It is best for them to come in frequently, for short periods requiring a small amount of work.

Quiz 4


Short Essay:  Research grooming difficult dogs and explain in a half to full page ways to mentally help yourself stay patient and calm while working with difficult dogs.





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