The first time Cathy Shields took her Labradoodle to a groomer, he came home with a cut on his tongue.
"That kind of put me off" on groomers, said Shields, one of about 50 people who attended a seminar on dog grooming July 31 at All Paws Pet Center.
Shields said she started grooming her dog herself because of safety and cost concerns and came to the seminar to pick up tips from an expert.
"I guess I wanted to do it right," she said.
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David Emrich of David's Dog Spa, who operates out of Paws to Play, a doggy day care and boarding facility at 4710 W. Central, offered tips on techniques, tools and products and advised dog owners as to what they could do at home and what should be left to a professional.
Good grooming is essential to a dog's health, said Emrich, who recommends daily brushing, weekly ear checks, nail trims every week or two, and baths no more often than every other week.
Bathing a dog too often "will eventually strip the oil from the fur," he said.
Emrich demonstrated grooming techniques on four dogs with different coats — a long-haired Sheltie, a curly-coated poodle, a short-haired Labrador and a wire-haired Brussels griffon.
Using a slicker, a curved brush with fine metal tines, on Wyatt, the sheltie, Emrich showed how to get a dog ready for a bath.
He advised tackling any mats before the bath, because mats are "tighter and closer to the skin" when wet, making them harder to get out.
Work from the bottom of the mat, removing a bit at a time with the slicker, he said.
And if it's a large area of mats, that's a task that's better left to the experts, he said.
On Rusty, a poodle, Emrich showed the safest way to trim hair around the ears.
His secret is white medicated ear powder, which "illuminates the area" and allows the groomer to "get a grip on those hairs" to trim them.
Anyone who has a Labrador knows that they shed a lot, said Emrich, going over Dallas' yellow coat with a Furminator deShedding Tool.
The Furminator does not cut the hair but removes the dead undercoat and loose hair, Emrich said. It's not recommended for dogs like poodles that do not shed.
Trimming dogs' nails is a chore that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, Emrich said.
"It's awkward to learn. It just takes practice," he said. "You don't want the dog to bleed."
Demonstrating on Clifton, his Brussels griffon, Emrich said he uses clippers to trim off a bit of excess nail before using a Dremel rotary tool on low speed to smooth the edges.
"If you just start grinding away, you're probably going to hit the quick," he said.
Before grooming your dog at home, take time to set up the proper environment, Emrich said.
Have a nonskid mat for the dog to stand on, he said, and "even at home, proper lighting is important."
"For a good grooming experience," Emrich said, "you need a quiet area free from distractions — human traffic and dog traffic, phones ringing."
It's the same kind of environment he recommends dog owners look for in a professional groomer.
Ask friends for recommendations, and ask the groomer about training and experience with different breeds, he said.
Then visit the shop to see if it looks well kept and smells clean, he said, and whether it seems overcrowded with dogs waiting to be groomed.
"A dog can be stressed out sitting in a kennel for up to two hours," he said.
Emrich, who markets himself as "a gentle dog groomer," considers himself fortunate to operate at a doggy day care, where "potty breaks and play time are part of the experience."
After their bath — which includes a blueberry facial scrub to get rid of tear stains and "eye boogers" — dogs are toweled down, then dried gently with warm air.
"I'll get them almost dry, if they'll let me," he said. "Then I let them run around and play and dry naturally."
The challenge, he said, is "to keep them clean till they go home."
Emrich said he grooms an average of eight to 10 dogs a day, with a bath and trim taking an average of an hour to an hour and a half.
"It's not speed grooming," Emrich said. "I give myself enough time so I have the best opportunity to make the dog look his very best."