Derm Connection
"Grooming Techniques to.." in yellow font
Go Green in green text
by Dr. Cliff Faver
One of the big trends or fads right now is “Going Green.” Upon hearing this, many think about going digital versus printing paper copies, shutting off lights when not necessary, recycling or not letting the water run when brushing your teeth; essentially, we are talking about working to conserve natural resources. But, if we want to apply the concept to a grooming salon, what would that look like?

First, we need to think about the areas where we use the most resources in our salon. Probably the two biggest resources are water and electricity which, on face value, would be hard to consider cutting back on either one of those. The good news is, it can be accomplished! However, it often requires changing old habits and learning new techniques.

Let’s start by looking at how we are using our products…

If any of you have attended my lectures, we teach several techniques that would be considered “Green.” The first is frothing your product. There is a lot of confusion, speculation and bad information that goes around the industry about why to froth. Frothing, in simple terms, is just a way of mixing the product to form a foam that will stay on the coat to prevent waste of product which, in turn, minimizes water use.

Next, we need to address concentration. If a product is put on a pet in concentrated form, a lot of water is necessary to get the product to move through the coat with considerable amount of product going down the drain. Additionally, if we run the product through a bathing system and the bather is not conservative, there is also a lot of water—not to mention a lot of product—wasted. Done correctly, you can bathe a small dog with just half a teaspoon of product (amount varies greatly among different products and concentrations), and can even bathe a whole horse with three to four tablespoons of product. So, it’s important to keep in mind, the less product used, the less water it takes to rinse it off and less time is spent rinsing.
recycle logo
In order to take a more “Green” approach to that process, we would have to understand the science of what we are doing and then utilize a more efficient technique.
If we were to think about the most consumptive groom or process that is commonly done in a grooming salon, I would think of that Great Pyrenees deshed as one of my top considerations. It takes a lot of product, a lot of time and tons of water. In order to take a more “Green” approach to that process, we would have to understand the science of what we are doing and then utilize a more efficient technique.

Let’s start with what the most-used resources are. It takes a lot of water to wet a coat like that and tons to rinse it out. It often seems like an eternity to get the coat dry afterwards as you work all the loose hair out. What if we dropped the hair in the shampoo stage, leaving only the guard hairs to rinse and dry? How would that change the resources used and time spent?

If we understand that dirt and dry, hard sebum are what actually hold the hair in on these dogs, we can use the close (condition)-open (shampoo)-close (condition) process to our advantage. By using the correct type of conditioner to do the first close, we start the process by breaking up the oils/greases of the skin. Oils dissolve oils (grease dissolves grease) is a basic principle to understand. Shampoo—unless it is a harsh degreasing shampoo—is not very efficient at this. If it is harsh, then it will strip the sebum off the hair which makes it twice as hard to remove during the blow-out. If it is mild, it only removes a small amount of sebum which is usually not adequate.

We typically leave the conditioner on in the first close step for about 10-15 minutes, then rinse. We then apply our shampoo along with a little oil (creates slip), leaving it on for five minutes, which will remove the other part of the “glue” (dirt) that holds the hair in. With the use of a strong directed hose nozzle, working the coat from the top to the bottom in a “Z” pattern, you can often drop 80-90% of the coat right there in the tub during the rinse. It is so much easier to pick up that wet hair and drop it in the trash versus blowing it all around the salon and having hours of clean-up afterwards.

green trophy with recycling logo in the center
You win because you have less wear and tear on your body, and your cost (time being the most expensive) of doing the groom is reduced so you can make more money.
We then use a good hydrating pH-balanced conditioner to restore the moisture, minerals and nutrients to replace anything that might have been depleted through the shedding process. The conditioner can be left on for about 10-20 minutes, depending on the condition of the coat. Using the same nozzle and technique, you will drop more of the hair in the final conditioning.

You might be thinking, “Hold on Doc, you want me to spend up to 40 minutes doing all this? I can’t spend that much time!” But before you make that judgement, think about how much time you usually spend drying, combing out the dog and all the cleaning up afterwards. The glory of this technique is that the dead hair is already in the trash if you have done a good job up to this point. I have seen as much as an hour and a half shaved off a groom time (not including clean-up time) on a Great Pyrenees using this technique. The other great thing is that the dog is not ready to eat you because you haven’t been ripping and tearing hair out that was cemented in with sebum and dirt, causing them a lot of pain.

This is a win-win-win situation. Most importantly, the dog wins by not being as traumatized. You win because you have less wear and tear on your body, and your cost (time being the most expensive) of doing the groom is reduced so you can make more money. And, the last win is that we have met our goal of going more “Green” to save our resources (water, electricity, time, products, etc.) for future generations.

Dr. Cliff Faver graduated with a BS in Biology/BA in Chemistry before getting a Veterinary degree in 1987. He is the past owner of Animal Health Services in Cave Creek, Arizona and now the US distributor for Iv San Bernard products, teaches the ISB Pet Aesthetician Certification program, and speaks internationally on hair and skin. His passion is to merge groomers and veterinarians to aid in helping and healing pets. He is also a member of AVMA, AAHA, AZVMA, Board member with Burbank Kennel Club, and has served on Novartis Lead Committee, Hill’s International Global Veterinary Board, and a Veterinary Management Group.