If you have a fluffy little dog or are thinking of welcoming one into your world, regular grooming is required. While some dogs love to be pampered by a groomer, others get quite anxious about it. And then there are the endless shampoo options and grooming tools. We sat down with Angie Bolchoz, an expert pet stylist in Charleston, South Carolina. Angie was kind enough to share tips to better the grooming experience for you and your dog, and she shared some of her favorite grooming products.
How long have you been grooming dogs, Angie?
I’ve been a pet stylist for just over twenty years.
How did you get started in the grooming business?
While working as a receptionist for a veterinarian in Charleston, I was asked to help their groomer bathe dogs. When the groomer noticed that I was ambidextrous she asked if I wanted to learn how to groom. The answer was yes. Along with grooming training, she taught me so much about working with dogs. It wasn’t until after she left that I learned how highly-respected she was in the grooming community. I feel so blessed to have been trained by someone with her knowledge and skills.
We hear from a lot of pet parents who have dogs that anxiety when it comes to grooming. What advice would do you have to help make grooming visits easier for little dogs?
I always suggest some physical or mental stimulation before a grooming appointment. That could mean a walk, a game of fetch or a few minutes playing with their favorite toy. That little bit of activity usually helps the dog relax. Of course, if you have an especially nervous dog, it won't reduce 100 percent of their anxiety, but some sort of exercise will help reduce stress. Regular grooming by the same pet stylist helps as well. Constantly switching groomers won’t help a nervous dog get over their grooming anxiety.
Are there certain things people should avoid doing prior to a grooming appointment?
Remember, dogs feed off emotions. So if you get worked up when it’s time to take your dog to the groomer, your furry friend will sense that. So try your best to remain calm yourself. Staying calm and relaxed will help put your pup at ease as well.
Would the same advice apply when bath time rolls around?
Yes. Exercise your dog before bath time. If you bathe your dog in your bathtub, bring him or her around the tub and maybe put a treat on the edge of it. If your dog hops into the tub on his own, don't add water, just love and praise him. Do a little at a time if possible. When you do put your pup in the tub, remember to stay calm yourself. Repeat your dog’s name and tell him or her what a good dog they are. Some dogs will never be okay with a bath, but in time most dogs will slowly realize it's not as scary as they initially thought.
While we’re talking about baths, do you have a favorite shampoo for small dogs?
My favorite everyday shampoo for dogs with a normal coat isClean Start Clarifying Shampoo by Chris Christensen.
I know there are many pet parents who love oatmeal shampoos. In my 20 years of grooming dogs, the only one I can really recommend isAnimal Pharmaceuticals’ Aloe and Oatmeal Shampoo. It has a wonderful scent that doesn't fade away in a day.
Universal Medicated by Vetoquinol is a long time favorite of mine for dogs that don't necessarily have a skin condition but have the potential for a perfume reaction.
If your little dog is prone to skin infections, I highly recommendDuoxo Calm.This gentle shampoo helps soothe and relieve itching and inflammation caused by allergies.It has worked miracles with everything from staph infections to yeasty or red irritated skin. If your dog has ongoing or persistent skin allergies or infections, consult your vet as he or she may suggest an antibiotic or weekly medicated soaks.
What about conditioners?
Full coated dogs definitely need a conditioner. My preference isAvocado Mist by EQyss Grooming Products. It’s a spray-on, leave-in conditioner that works well, has a great scent and it’s safe to breathe. I also loveGlo Coat by Top Performance because it leaves a beautiful shine and it’s excellent for de-matting.
One thing to keep in mind with conditioners, if your dog’s skin is oily, just condition the ends of the hair.
Any shampoos to avoid?
I avoid all of the fragrance shampoos you find in the big pet stores. I prefer shampoos and conditioners that aren’t packed with damaging ingredients. Always read the ingredients before putting anything on your babies skin.
What about whitening shampoos for white dogs? Do they really work?
There are so many whitening shampoos on the market, but I'm not a big fan. Many of them don't work and have chemicals I'm not comfortable putting on an animal.
If the main issue your trying to correct with a white coat is tear stains, I recommend Vet Classics products, which are only sold through veterinarians. My clients have been pleased withVet Classics Tear Stain Chews and I likeVet Classics Tear Stain Liquid that can be used to target trouble spots, like around the eyes.
What else can pet parents do to clear up and prevent tear stains?
There’s no simple fix for this, but some.things you can try are replacing any plastic bowls with glass, stainless steel or porcelain bowls. Bacteria loves plastic, and believe it or not, can cause discoloration of saliva and tears. If possible, avoid food and treats with artificial coloring. You can also try using only filtered water for your dog. Each dog is different and what works to reduce tear stains for one dog may not work for another. It’s even more challenging for homes with multiple dogs.
What are the essential grooming items you would suggest to someone welcoming a long-haired breed into their home, or someone wanting to grow out their dog’s coat?
I’d start with a wire-bristled brush and a metal, medium-coarse comb. What I like about the metal combs is they’re able to get through the entire coat, unlike a comb or brush with soft tips.
Matting can be a problem with longer coats. My go-to de-matting tool is theSafari Long-tooth De-Matting Comb. It’s a great quality tool and you can order it on Amazon for under $10.
To trim your dog’s face, I suggest scissors with rounded tips to prevent any accidents around the eyes. You’ll also want nail clippers.
Most importantly, daily brushing is key to keeping hair from matting and tangling. Get on a good schedule and stick to it. Daily brushing is a great way to give your dog a little extra love and attention.
We know you love all dogs. Is there a particular breed you like to groom more than others? Maybe one that allows you to show off your creativity?
I really have a hard time choosing a favorite breed. I love the full coated dogs because it’s so rare to get to work on one because most people keep their coats short. I also love any dog with a pattern. I do enjoy taming a thick, out of control coat, like on a Sheltie. It feels good to hear a pet owner tell me it's the first time they don't have tumbleweeds blowing across their floor.
Last question. Do you have any memorable grooming stories you’d like to share?
I’ve worked on so many great dogs over the years and have many happy grooming memories. There is one Pekingese that stands out for me. This Pekingese came in once a month for his entire life. One day I was giving this sweet and very old Pekingese his regular haircut when his head slowly begins to sink down. I lowered the grooming arm, which I always keep loose, even lower so it wouldn't be tight on his neck.
His head sank further and I lowered the arm again. A few minutes later this dog is laying on the table and his pushed face slowly lowers and touches the table. My heart dropped because again he's very old and I had a terrible feeling something was wrong. But, just before I snatched him up to rush him to the hospital side of the animal clinic, this Pekingese starts to snore. He just decided it was time for a nap. I didn't have the heart to wake him so I sat there and let him enjoy his nap before finishing his grooming.
Aw. What a great story Angie. This has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for all of the helpful information you shared. I’m sure it will be so helpful to many of our readers.
Thank you for inviting me to share my knowledge. It’s always a pleasure to help pet owners provide even better care for their fur babies.
If you have questions for Angie, you can contact her viaemail. Or, leave a comment on this blog.