I think all new groomers have a rite of passage when it comes to trying to please their clients and de-mat a pet that, in hindsight, should never been put through the ordeal. It’s a steep learning curve. We want to make our clients happy, but we haven’t learned to say NO in a manner that is tactful, educational, and fosters a long-term relationship. When I started out 15 years ago, I spent two days de-matting a very patient and tolerant Briard. Today my limit is 10 minutes.
Professional pet groomers don’t become groomers because they like to torture pets by de-matting. On the other hand, we don’t shave pets because we’re lazy or out of spite. A shave down is not pretty, nor is it good for business (unless it is the client’s preferred choice of hair trim) . No matter how careful you may try to be, with all the tools, products, and professional tricks at hand, de-matting is very uncomfortable and often painful. In my professional opinion, no pet should have to endure more than 10 minutes de-matting, as it only makes visiting the groomer an unpleasant experience. An animal cannot rationalize that it must tolerate de-matting in order to please some level of aesthetics, it only knows that it hurts. The customer and the groomer have to come to a middle ground of understanding by communicating the realities of the individual’s maintenance. Every pet’s needs are different, even within the same breed or litter-mates.
Some pets are just born with knarly, poor quality, greasy hair, or are natural slobs. Many pets just never see a brush or comb at home in between grooms. Other pets give their owners a hard time and the owner just gives up. Whatever the reason, a groomer cannot fairly undo months of indifference or neglect in a couple of hours. An experienced groomer will interview the client and their pet to find out what their grooming expectations are and based on the pet’s health, hair quality, and lifestyle, will make suitable recommendations.
When a matted pet comes into my salon for the first time it is not uncommon for the owner to request, “Just shave out the mats.” The shaving, rather than ripping it out with a comb, I am in complete agreement with. The leaving a mohawk strip of unmatted but greasy dandruffy hair down the back, I am not in agreement with. Nor a patchwork of hair vs. shaven spots. It looks ridiculous, like a epic battle with a lawnmover. It is best to shave the body down so the hair can regrow evenly and attractively. A regular bathing and combing scheduled is immediately suggested to avoid the necessity of shaving in the future.
All pet owners should learn this equation: loose hair + dirt/grease + moisture = mats.
Actively questioning the client’s pet grooming expectations or assumptions will often bring to light gaps in Disney ideals vs. maintenance reality. Keeping to a regular schedule keeps every pet loveable (i.e. clean, attractive, reduced shedding, smelling good, and a pleasure to pet) and happy (i.e. feeling good, clean, and free from discomfort) which makes living with pets all the sweeter.