September 1, 2014

Move over, doodles, there are new grooming challenges in town. Known collectively as “rustic breeds,” these dogs have some specific grooming needs that are important for savvy stylists to know about.

Keep It Simple

One thing that attracts fanciers of these breeds is the unkempt, natural appearance of their coats.

When it comes to grooming these breeds, “less is more,” said Sheryl Gaines, of New Jersey, who breeds and shows Spanish water dogs.

“This breed has a single coat, somewhat like a poodle, but you will find different degrees of curl and texture from dog to dog,” she said. “The coat can be described as ‘wooly.’“

Gaines keeps her show dogs in corded coats, but for pet groomers her instructions are simple.

“Take everything off one length all over,” she said. “If the dog is matted, use a 7F blade, nose to tail. If it is not matted and the owner wants a bit of length you can use a 4 or 5F blade.”

The problem is that groomers take a look at the whimsical faces of this breed and want to style them.

“No poufs,” said Gaines. “No long ears, no sculpted head, no brushing, no combing, no drying.”

On its official website, the Spanish Water Dog Club of America states, “The Spanish water dog should never be aesthetically groomed.” This goes against just about everything any groomer has been taught.

For the Spanish water dog pet, breed fanciers are adamant: Keep it simple. Put the dog on the grooming table, take every bit of hair off at the same length all over the body. Then wash, towel and let the dog dry naturally. For groomers who itch to create a “look,” this simplicity can be hard to grasp.

One hint given by Groom Team USA member and industry educator Kendra Otto is this:

“The key to properly maintaining many of the rustic coated breeds is the raking and combing before the bath,” said Otto. “This will keep the pet happier for the grooming experience. They’re also air dried to keep the curls. You want the breed to look messy and unkempt.”

Otto is featured in several educational videos produced by Learn2groomdogs showing the proper way to groom several rustics, including the pumi and the lagatto romagnolo. Groomers can purchase a subscription and watch Otto working on actual dogs while explaining the best techniques and tools to create the signature looks of each breed.

Know Your Limits

When grooming a rare breed that fits into the rustic category for the first time, don’t hesitate to admit that you are not familiar with the techniques necessary to create the correct look. Many pet owners will have specific grooming instructions that came from their breeder. If so, ask them to bring them in with their pet, and take time to read them over.

Also remember that help is at your fingertips. Each breed club has extensive websites that all include detailed grooming instructions.

For example, the Lagatto Club of America states on their website, “…The coat should be shown in a rustic style with no fluffing or blowing out. The coat should match the lines of the dog and the curls should be evident. The dog should have the appearance of the working dog that it is.”

The breed club for the Hungarian pumi offers that, “In order to achieve the characteristic corkscrews and curls in the coat, the hair is allowed to dry naturally. The coat must never appear fluffed and blown dry, obscuring the characteristic curls.”

The message is clear, put the blow dryer away. Tools that are helpful for styling these breeds are clipper blades that leave coats as long as possible, as well as snap-on combs and chunker-style thinning shears, all of which allow groomers to remove excess coat while maintaining the correct natural appearance that these breeds require.

Don’t be daunted if your appointment book has a rare and rustic dog on its pages. Simply do a little research on the breed. Learn what their standard calls for and brush up on the grooming requirements. Then put everything you know about grooming other breeds aside and plunge into the unique world of grooming rustics

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