Thursday, December 2, 2010

Retrieving a Lost Dog -- MINE!

Well, November was a month of wild adventure. I dislike adventure intensely. I am a stolid, boring homebody, a blue jeans and yoga pants wearing stick-in-the-mud, and I eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich every single day without getting tired of them.
On the day of my brother’s wedding, when both my husband and I were members of the wedding party, one of our Schipperkes became startled, slipped her collar, and ran away from our friend. She was lost for thirteen days. We were able to get her back only through the enormously stubborn efforts of everyone involved, and the kindness of total strangers.I just wanted to write a quick note about what we did during our search and which strategies worked the best.
We searched, and searched. We went into backyards, under decks, behind sheds, in open garages and under cars. We braved swamps, parks and ravines. We went out at dusk, full night, noon, and at 4 a.m. We shone flashlights, rattled food dishes, crinkled potato chip bags, called, whistled, and squeaked toys. We walked our other two dogs all over the area until their feet were sore. We drove, in case we were scaring her on foot. We had friends and family, kind strangers, clients who went out with their dogs to attract her, people I haven’t talked to in years out driving around trying to find Cleo.
Try finding a small, black, lightning-fast dog in an area with huge properties, no fencing, hydro fields, ravines, increasing cold, and rain, rain, rain.
We put food out on the property that she ran away from, to the delight of a neighbourhood cat.
We tried hiring a search dog on the third day. This would have been a great idea except that we have three dogs and all of their stuff is stored together. We attempted it anyway. The dog tracked beautifully; sadly, it was one of our other dogs. We simply could not provide a good enough scent article for the search dog to use. I recommend the service. If it had worked it would have saved us a lot of grief.
Inform the Internet and the World
I emailed my entire Contact List, everyone we knew on Facebook, placed ads on Kijiji, Craigslist, and any other classified website we could find. We notified the Schipperke club, and the Canadian Kennel Club. We posted on many lost pet sites including: (seems to be hard to get working for some people, but they try to help you) (for Toronto Animal Services updates)
Many of the people I know are also dog people, and they told all the dog people they knew, and so on and so on. We also emailed all of the humane societies in southern Ontario, and all of the dog walkers in York Region. We telephoned all of the pet stores and veterinarians in the area. We bothered Animal Control repeatedly.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Our friends made perhaps one million flyers and wallpapered the area with them. Their energy was unreal. We received a call from the Milton Humane Society with an excellent idea. They recommended making signs from foam-core boards, using large black lettering and a simple message (LOST: SMALL BLACK DOG, PH#), and posting them at the major intersections around the area. It was these signs that got us our first phone calls of sightings. Cleo had already left the area we had been searching so intensely.
Cleo was running from everyone she saw, even at a distance. Very few people were close to her. She was staying near houses though. Once we started to get sightings, it was clear that while she was staying in the area, it was hard to predict where she would be. Since she wouldn’t respond to people, we had to resort to traps. We rented raccoon live traps and placed them on some properties where she had been seen a few times. As far as we can tell, she never went there again. We were stumped.
After a dry spell, we started to get more calls, this time from across the road. Cleo had entered a ravine and went up and down, covering a great deal of distance in a short time. She even entered yards that were fenced, finding tiny rabbit holes to move in and out. We moved the traps, but missed her again.
Finally we got several consistent calls that she was in a neighbourhood only a couple of streets away. One of my clients was even out searching for her and saw her, only to have Cleo run again. She seemed to be staying in a particular circle this time. The next day we had calls that Cleo was on a particular property within the circle that she had visited before. I saw her myself for the first time on that property, from a distance, but she ran. Dad and I set up the raccoon traps and a coyote trap that our friend had been able to borrow. We baited them with Pizza Nova Meat-lovers pizza.
The next morning she was there. My hysteria wasn’t pretty. Cleo was fine, foot pads a bit sore and a spot on her nose where she must have tried to get out of the cage. She didn’t even lose weight.

What We Learned
  • Make sure your dog can’t get out of her collar or harness.
  • Microchips are only helpful if your dog is caught.
  • Cleo is a gentle, friendly, affectionate, cuddly dog who likes regular meals and sleeping under the covers. We would never have predicted that she would be a runner and a hider. You can’t tell what your dog is thinking.
  • When you are searching for a lost dog, bring a cell phone and change of clothes, especially shoes and socks.
  • The Dollar Store sells great rain ponchos.
  • Mud smells funny in swamps.
  • Traps work. Dogs like pizza.
  • Hope your friends are as determined and resourceful as ours.
  • People are, with very few exceptions, very kind and amazing and willing to help.
  • Those very few exceptions can help to stiffen your resolve with outrage, just when exhaustion is kicking in.
  • Never give up, even though you feel like it’s impossible. Never give up.
Thank you to everyone who helped us or offered to help, whether it was through searching, advice, website help, encouragement, spreading the word, positive thinking and prayers. We are very, very grateful.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Random Advice For Aspiring Groomers

Things You Need to Know About Being a Groomer, Totally Off the Top of My Head
  • Toenails will always end up in your bra (if you wear one) and in your hair. You may want to jump up and down and all around before you go home.
  • Never chew gum while grooming unless you want to floss at the same time.
  • Never wear your favourite anything to work. I once even had a puppy eat one of my earrings. I declined to wait for its return.
    • A subset of this would be to avoid light colours and wear a protective apron or smock. Some products like Qwik-Stop will stain fabrics, as will some animal bodily functions.
      • A subset of that would be to not spend too much money on your protective apron or smock. It will, guaranteed, get snagged or snipped or clippered. Pockets always catch on corners and rip. I don’t even know why they have them. The only thing that ever ends up in them is nasty hair and occasionally dog poop.
  • Have a set of undergarments strictly for work. Hair weaves into the fabric no matter how well they are washed, making them a bit prickly for other wear.
  • Regular coffee mugs are unwise. Use travel mugs with a lid unless you want to be horrified when you reach the bottom of your beverage.
  • If you have sensitive skin and eyes think twice about wearing make-up to work. It attracts all the fly-away hair to your face. It can actually drive you insane.
  • The humidity and blow-drying will ensure that you never have a good hair day for long at work.
  • If you can’t wear make-up and your hair doesn’t look great, wow clients with your smile!
  • Always put the lid back on everything immediately. Dogs find it highly amusing to knock over open containers.
  • Always buy the most expensive shears that you can afford to drop on the floor.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why In-Home Mobile Dog Grooming?

An in-home mobile dog grooming service is, in my opinion, ideally suited to two particular groups of people. That is not to say that others would not find the service convenient and beneficial, because I believe they certainly would.  For example, I have busy clients who work from home and are happy to be able to conduct their day without interruption. Others simply like my grooming style. However, there are also those whose pets may, for whatever reason, find leaving the home difficult, inconvenient or stressful. Then there are those owners who themselves have the same challenges.

Many pets are not suited to the scheduling requirements and hustle and bustle of regular grooming salons. Often the most efficient schedule for the salon requires a longer stay for the dog. Some salons can arrange “Express” appointments, but some can not accommodate that request. For safety’s sake, most salons will cage the pets. I don’t disagree with these arrangements as they are often necessary for the business, but they are not ideal for some dogs. Very young or old, ill, sensitive and nervous pets may find a traditional salon stressful. Many are not crate-trained and dislike the cages. This can make some dogs noisy, which can in turn stress others. Some dogs are uncomfortable or fearful in the car, or have motion-sickness.

I have a number of customers who are perfect representatives of the second group. One customer is recovering from surgery. Another is very pregnant with twins. A customer who works shift work was just eating their “breakfast” as I arrived. One poor lady is hobbling around in a boot cast after breaking her ankle. A family’s little girl gets wickedly carsick every time she gets in the vehicle. A few of my older clients don’t drive or are becoming uncomfortable driving. Some clients have had an unfortunate negative experience at another salon and prefer to observe their dog’s haircut, or at least remain nearby.

These clients are able to have their dog groomed in the comfort of their own home by a groomer who does housecalls. They can still wear their “comfy” clothes. They don’t have to call a taxi, twice. They don’t have to get up at 9 a.m. to bring the dog to the groomer after getting home at 6 a.m. They don’t have to make two car trips with a carsick child. They can be confident that their dog is safe.

In-home mobile dog grooming is perfect for these customers. Is this service right for you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Getting Wet

You can’t be too dainty and be a successful dog groomer. As I mentioned before, grooming comes with a high Yuck Factor. There are bad smells and bodily functions, oozing and stickiness. It is hairy, hot, and humid. A groomer generally doesn’t have a good hair day for long. Most especially, you can’t mind getting wet. I have had days where I end up wet clean through, even down to my socks.

There is a special kind of dog that either has a peculiar sense of humour or a keen sense of fair play. This type is determined that the groomer should be as wet as the dog or the bath is incomplete. They will shake frequently, continuously or, in the case of the smarter ones, strategically. They can not be deterred by a gentle hand on the shoulder or by lifting up one front leg. The dog might be as large as a Newfoundland or as tiny as a Yorkshire Terrier but the size is irrelevant. The big ones can drench a large area with a good shake and the smaller ones learn to slip the grooming restraint and leap into your arms or climb your body when they are at their wettest.

However, I will say that some of my worst and wettest days have been my own fault. I have lost count of the number of times I have dropped the shower nozzle and had it whip around like a wild firehose. Sump-pump style bathing systems are even worse and can make an impressive mess in just a few seconds. Why is it that we always try to catch the hose rather than turn off the water?

In-home grooming has offered a new and exciting way to soak myself. I have been in a great number of bathrooms, most of which are far nicer than my whole house. Many people have renovated their bathrooms to include spa-quality walk-in showers. These huge enclosures have rainfall showers, wall mounted jets, and handheld showers. All of them. In one. I have stood and stared at a half-dozen knobs and dials. Finally, convinced that I have figured out the controls, I make a bold choice, grab the handheld nozzle, turn on the water, and twist a knob.

Generally what happens next is that I am standing directly under the lovely rainfall shower as it comes on. I fumble with the controls, panicked, dodging, dripping, as the dog retreats to the corner of the shower (which can be several feet away in some of these bathrooms) and laughs its head off.

I’ve learned to bring a lot of towels and wear quick-dry clothing, and that's why the ponytail was invented anyway.
Artwork copyrighted by Christopher Cowley, Windchill Studios.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bichon Frise pet styles

Because curly coats are so much fun to scissor, I have ended up with quite a few Bichon Frise clients over the years. Most pet styles are based on show grooming but are modified to suit the lifestyle of the dog owners. Bichon Frise show clips have changed quite a bit since I began my grooming career. The style has gone from a huge bell type head with long ears to a round head with invisible, incorporated ears, a "bubble" of hair over the eyes, and a neck crest. The current Bichon clip accentuates the expression of the breed by highlighting the dark eyes and nose. It is also a lot of hair for the owners to maintain. As a result, most clients request the Bichon look but without the hair. That can be a challenge.

Hairstyling preferences are also a question of taste. Some owners simply prefer long ears, or want short faces to avoid drippy beards. Some groomers are very rigid about breed styling, and are determined to groom only to the breed profile. I have always felt that my job is to do my best to provide the owners with the clip they want, as long the coat is in the condition for me to do so, and provided it does the dog no harm. The real trick is in interpreting exactly what the owner wants, as their definition of "short" or "long" and mine may not jive. I like to suggest to people that if they see a photograph of a style they like, they should show it to me just as you would your human hairdresser. A photograph at least gives us a visual mutual starting point. This has always worked well for me, with the exception of one time where the lady brought me a photograph of a West Highland White Terrier and wanted her Bichon's head to look just like it. I'm still not sure what my goal there was supposed to be, but it reminded me of the time I brought a photo of Meg Ryan to the hairdresser and the rib-cracking sigh he gave me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In-Home Grooming: Where do you bath the dog?

“Where do you bath the dog?”

This is usually the first question people ask when they inquire about in-home grooming. The answer is pretty simple: wherever you want! So far I have used bathtubs, jacuzzi tubs, walk-in showers, laundry tubs, and kitchen sinks. As long as the dog can fit comfortably and safely in the space, I will use it and I come prepared.

  • I bring my own bathmat with me to avoid scratching the tub and to keep the dog from slipping.
  • I use a hair-trap over the drain.
  • I have knee-pads for kneeling.
  • I have a hose that attaches to most laundry faucets.
  • In other areas that have no spray hose, I use my Secret Weapon.
  • I bring my own towels and shampoo.
  • I dress appropriately and don’t mind getting wet.
  • I wipe down and clean up the area when I’m done.
Your dog gets a professional, quality bath in the comfort of their own home and I do my best to leave the room as I found it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Questions Answered

"Hello Cousin, Regina my Cockerpoo (more poo than cocker) gets matted easily, I bought clippers to be able to shave her and ,as you suggested above, start new. She is VERY curly and I can't seem to get the clippers to glide through her hair. What am I doing wrong?"

Ha! What a great question! I have the lovely long-winded answer I promised you.

Many people purchase commercial pet trimmers with the laudable intention of grooming their pets at home. Nearly as many end up discarding those trimmers in frustration and returning to their regular groomer with a hangdog expression and a patchy looking pet. The problem is that there can be more than one problem. The equipment, coat type, and coat preparation all combine to create an impossible situation for the pet owner.

Pet trimmers of the type you can purchase in Walmart are not usually powerful enough to handle a matted or dirty coat. The motor can often heat up and the blades may drag. Trimmers may also have an integrated blade that does not detach. It can be replaced, but not sharpened. To have a longer clip you will have to use a plastic snap-on comb. These combs will not pass through any tangles or matts and will contribute to the frustration. These trimmers can be great once the coat is trimmed off and you can use them to maintain the style.

More expensive, professional grade clippers are more durable and powerful. They also have the option of using a wide variety of detachable blades of different lengths. The blades can be sharpened when they are dull. You can often find a used or refurbished set of professional clippers for a reasonable price.

If you have a set of professional clippers and are experiencing difficulties it might be because of the blades. I have found that new blades come with a residue on them that renders them dull straight out of the package. To remove the residue you will need to immerse the blade in a special blade wash, and sometimes the stuff is so hard to get off you will have to repeat this several times. Because of the friction from the high speed at which they move blades also need to be oiled before each use. Only a small amount of oil is required or it will get all over the dog. A blade that has been used for some time will heat up, hot enough to burn. The blade wash can also be used to cool the blade down.

The type of coat you are trying to clip can be a challenge. Fine coats or undercoat can get trapped between the cutting edge and the main part of the blade. If even one hair is between the two surfaces the blade will jam. To add to the fun, some blades just tend to be prone to jamming and some do not. I have one magical 7F that works on any coat, and three more that each respond badly to a different type of coat. That is another reason why the pet trimmers with non-detachable blades can be a problem. It isn’t easy to clear a jam in the blade. With a detachable blade that is jammed, remove the blade from the clipper. Slide the cutting edge to one side without removing it entirely. Blow on the blade and use your fingers or a toothbrush over the comb and cutting edge to remove any trapped hair. Slide the cutting edge entirely to the other side and repeat. Replace the blade on the clipper and give it another go.

Finally, you mentioned that Regina’s coat is very curly and that she needs a do-over haircut. With a matted coat you need to clip under the matt line. You can not clip over the top. This means you will probably end up with a very short haircut. My go-to blade for a shave-down is a 7F. Most clipper kits come with a 10 which is quite short but fine for the purposes of a do-over. You will not be able to use any snap-on combs if there is matting. I like to wash the dogs before I clip them because I find it is easier to clip a clean coat. If you can use a forced air dryer to blow dry the coat that can help to lift the matts away from the surface of the skin. A clean, dry, straightened coat will be easier to clip.

You may need to make a starting point if the coat is very matted. With extreme care!!! slide a pair of scissors between the shoulder blades and, using tiny snips, create a small line following the spine. Only close your scissors if you are sure you have hair and not skin. Once you have that starting point you can use your clippers. Matted coats don’t clip off cleanly and you have to move slowly. I find it works best if you work the clipper in a “U” shape. Don’t force the clipper through or you might nick the dog, and be mindful of the blade temperature.

I hope this was helpful to you. Let me know if you have any more questions and I’d be happy to help!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Importance of Grooming Your Dog

Wow. Who knows when this poor little Lhasa Apso was last groomed? Lhasas are not a shedding breed, so if their coats are not brushed and combed out properly, mats can form very easily. When mats get wet, through rain, snow or bathing, they tighten until they form a felt-like strength. Moisture can cause bacteria and fungus to grow causing hot spots or even worse infections. The dog's skin is stretched tightly underneath the knots, and her blood recedes. It is then impossible to brush out the dog without torturing her and damaging her skin. The only prudent course is to "strip" the coat off, and allow her (and the owners) to start over.

What a difference! The poor little Lhasa has been "stripped" on a #15 blade. That is just about the closest blade that we can use, but it was necessary in order to clip below the mat line. As you can see, the coat came off all in one piece, which indicates just how tightly the coat has woven together. Hopefully her skin, as the blood rushes back to the surface, will not suffer any irritation. Let's also hope that her owners will do a better job of maintaining her coat this time! Non-shedding breeds should be groomed every four to eight weeks depending on the owner's lifestyle and commitment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Return of Supergroomer

The Supergroomer believes that I can lift and move nearly everything I encounter, dogs and furniture especially. She is responsible for my getting stuck on the stairs with a full sized mattress, although I have to say that I could have made it all the way up if the mattress had had a decent handle in a reasonable location.

Since Supergroomer scorns assistance, I have picked up many big dogs without help. I have found that with good form, most dogs can be lifted onto the table or into the tub. I actually tend to lift almost all dogs this way, regardless of their size. Standing perpendicular to the dog, facing its side, I will bend my knees and squat. I reach one arm under the dog’s chest, between the front legs, and place my hand on the shoulder. The other arm reaches under the dog’s abdomen, between the hind legs. I hug the dog to me closely to prevent wiggling and stand up, keeping the dog’s spine level. It is important to bend the knees and not deadlift the dog. It is also vital to avoid twisting and turning. For the dog, a level and close to the body hold will keep them calm and safe.

Beware a panicky dog who still attempts to wiggle and flip around while you are holding them. The torque can cause you to twist your spine. A “helper” dog can also give a little hop, jarring your spine or giving you an accidental headbutt. A very well-behaved dog will often offer to put its front feet up on the table or tub edge. If the dog cooperates and doesn’t change her mind because she thinks it’s funny, you can lift up her back end. Remember to bend your knees.

When I lift or carry a particularly big dog in this way I usually hear a chorus of, “No wonder you have a bad back!” It is true, I do suffer from sciatica and pinched nerves in my shoulder and neck. I would like to point out that the neck and shoulder issues actually come from scissoring and brushing. The sciatica is entirely my son’s fault. I did not develop my back problems until I was a pregnant groomer.

The horrible hormones of pregnancy cause a woman’s joints and ligaments to loosen up and, I suspect, mutate. (I did not enjoy pregnancy, not one little bit.) Loose joints were combined with the lifting, bending, stretching and twisting that normally accompanies grooming, but now occurring with a belly in the way, and the ever increasing weight of my son bouncing happily on my sciatic nerve. One of the most miserable experiences of my pregnancy was not with a large dog, but sitting hunched over my belly trying to groom two tiny little Yorkshire Terriers that I couldn’t quite reach. I ended up with quite a painful back problem that did not abate once my son was born. I tried chiropractic care and it did help somewhat, but I decided to reduce the number of large dogs I was grooming.

On a day when I was running the mobile grooming business and my son was about two years old, I stopped by to have lunch with him at my mother’s house. I bent to pick him up, a little sideways I guess, the way you do when you are going to swing the child up on to your hip, and WHAM! Something snapped in my low back. I actually managed to carefully put my son back down, and then I hit the ground in considerable pain.

Because Supergroomer believes in keeping a stiff upper lip, rub dirt on it, keep the blood flowing, and all that stupid stuff, I finished grooming my scheduled dogs for the day. I’m not sure how, because the mobile vehicle had quite a big step up to get in the back. I went home, took many pills and went to bed. The next day I could barely move. I couldn’t groom for about a week. I could barely do anything for about a week. I couldn’t get in and out of the truck. Going to the bathroom required a serious commitment because it hurt so much to sit down and get up. My husband offered to get barbeque tongs so that I could pull up my pants. I got stuck in our big claw-foot bathtub because I couldn’t make the big step out.

Grooming is very hard on the body and mind. Supergroomer makes it harder. I really have learned from my experiences though I still lift big dogs and my son, who has grown much larger. I listen to my body, and try to keep it strong and fit with yoga, running, and strength training. And I buy a lot of Advil.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where can I groom a dog at home?

As much as I am enjoying my Mardel table and as easy as it is to carry, do you know what is even nicer? Not carrying a table. I’m still trying to master not bringing absolutely everything that I’ve ever owned with me “just in case”, so having one less thing to carry is terrific. Fortunately what I have been telling dog owners for years is true; one of the best places to groom a small dog is the top of the clothes washer or dryer. Chest freezer height is also very comfortable. I am about 5’ 7” so if you are a little bitty thing or Andre the Giant you may disagree with me. The laundry room usually provides a power source that is equal to any equipment I use.

I have also used a few workbenches, bathroom counters, and kitchen counters and they were all quite convenient. Obviously the goal is to find a raised surface that is a comfortable height. I bring a bathmat with me to provide a non-slip, easy to clean surface, but the whole area that you are working in should be easy to clean as well. You don’t want a lot of doodads that can get knocked over by the dog or the blow dryer. Make sure there is adequate light so that you aren’t squinting in the dark.

Brushing, combing, and trimming the nails on any sized dog is much easier if they are raised up on a non-slip surface. Grooming on the floor or in your lap provides too many avenues of escape. It also can be difficult to see what you are doing and awkward to reach all the areas you need to reach. Those with larger dogs could try a picnic table. Make sure you do not leave your dog unattended while he is on the raised surface. You don’t want them jumping off and possibly causing an injury.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Comb that Combs

I worked with a young groomer who was struggling to improve her finishing work. She had trouble with her blades snagging when she was using clipper combs or getting a smooth finish when scissoring curly coats, and her straight coats often looked choppy. “Comb up!” I would tell her when she asked me for help, and I would go over with my comb and show her. My comb would catch in the coat, indicating that she needed to comb the coat out more thoroughly before she could proceed.

“But I did,” she insisted. I would go back over the coat again with my comb and show her how to properly comb out and comb up the coat. I was confused because she was a good groomer, not sloppy at all, but she didn’t seem to be able to comb a dog properly. It didn’t make any sense.

One day when I went over to help her, I forgot to grab my comb. “Here, use mine,” she said. I picked hers up from the table and tried to run it through the coat. To my surprise, it sort of slid over the top of the hair instead. No matter what I tried, the comb didn’t seem to, I don’t know, comb! I looked at it closely and it resembled my own in many ways. It was metal, sturdy, with a combination of fine and coarse spaced teeth. Very normal. It just didn’t bloody work!

Since then I have encountered mysterious combs like this a few more times from different manufacturers. There is nothing that outwardly distinguishes them from other combs, but there must be something about the finish. The poor victim who is trying to use the dud comb has no idea that life could be so much easier.

Many people believe that coat care is a one step process and consists of one tool: The Brush. This is incorrect (and often they are using the wrong brush anyway). The brush and the comb are used together, and it is the comb that tells you if you have done a good job. If you can not get a comb through the coat, all the way to the skin, brush and comb again. I like to use a combination comb with fine and widely spaced teeth because I find it to be efficient. The wide teeth are used to find and pick apart matting, and also to fluff the coat. As my combs age the outside teeth on either end bend because of the way I use them to break up a tangle. The fine side of the comb is for finishing, making sure that all the tiny matts are out.

A combination comb can also be used effectively on a shedding dog, and with some coats are more useful than any brush. The coarse side cards through the coat, pulling out the bulk of the undercoat. The fine side can find any thick patches that remain and remove the finer fluff. I offer as Exhibit A, Cleo and the product of three minutes with my combination comb. (Cleo is blowing her coat right now and we will repeat this process every couple of days until she looks like a smooth coated dog. No kidding. Every year, twice a year, she does this and every time I am shocked. My other two don’t do this.)

I highly recommend the Chris Christensen Buttercomb #000. It seems expensive for a comb, but it is very effective and lasts for years. Compare it to your current comb and you will probably switch. Any comb that is comfortable in your hand and effectively passes through the coat will do though, whether it costs $2 or $40. Make sure you can hold it comfortably or you won’t use it and will have wasted your money anyway. I have another comb that looks identical to the Buttercomb but its back is squared off. It makes it very uncomfortable to grasp and gives my hand a cramp. Some cheap plastic handled combs will also break apart leaving you with a handle and an impossible-to-hold-on-to remainder.

Remember when you are combing to stretch the skin of the dog slightly and to support in your hand any matts that you may be trying to break apart. You do not want to yank and pull on the coat of your dog and have them suffer a miserable experience. Brush, and then comb, then repeat. Use the tools together and use them often. You will find it much easier to maintain your dog’s coat.