A Brush With Success
Despite ever-changing grooming fashions, groomers must still prioritize their basic tools by investing in quality brushes that keep pet coats and skin healthy.
Though creating a beautiful look makes pet parents happy, proper grooming techniques are the foundation of optimizing coat strength and skin health. The cornerstone of this foundation is a collection of brushes that allows groomers to satisfy basic grooming needs before they create stylish looks that play into pet parents’ desires to have fashionably coiffed animals.
As the grooming market becomes saturated with different tools, it seems the selection is becoming crowded with novelty items. With all the fluff surrounding brushes for pets, groomers must be able to sort through the hype and choose products that are safe and effective, a task that can be challenging for even the most seasoned groomer. As Sarah Jahnke, owner of Milwaukee’s EmBARK! Pet Spa, explains, her method for choosing brushes includes a simple selection process.
“I usually look for quality when picking out a new brush,” Jahnke says. “Definitely quality over price. I like my brushes to last more than a year; some of my current brushes I’ve had for multiple years. [I need] a gentle brush for sensitive skin, but also a brush that can go through a thick coat. Also, I need a brush that’s not going to break coats.”
When working with animals, groomers are not able to verbally discuss sensitive areas and pain tolerance. It is the responsibility of pet parents to disclose any skin sensitivity or coat issues before an appointment, but the groomer must be prepared to encounter unforeseen problems with a thoroughly stocked collection of brushes. As the vice president of sales and marketing at Bass Brushes, Joel Weinstein has learned about these challenges through speaking with groomers about their most basic, yet crucial, supply needs.
“Animals are just like people; they have different tolerance levels to the textures of brushes,” Weinstein says. “The groomer, in their expertise with pet parents’ help, determines the dog’s tolerance level. We always make our brushes in soft and hard versions, offering the same model in different variants. For an animal with very short hair, you would use a pure natural bristle brush, depending on its tolerance, as the firm bristle might be too much.”
As groomers become more familiar with their clients, they will learn each animal’s individual quirks and preferences. While this relationship is built over time, starting with the appropriate brushes to ensure pet comfort will benefit all parties and establish a groomer’s reputation within the community as a professional who is prepared to work through an array of grooming issues with animals that have varying levels of skin sensitivity.
Some pet parents might be cautious about using a slicker brush on their pets, but this product is an undisputed necessity and a coat-salvaging wonder tool when used properly by professionals. With the changing seasons, groomers face different challenges as coats shed and regrow. Many groomers agree that while the grooming approach might shift with each season, the brush kit remains the same. Each tool is used in a manner appropriate with the specific time of year to address different issues. As Valerie Durante, owner of Village Groomer in Fruitport, Mich., explains, her basic tool kit comprises standard professional-grade brushes, but the benefits of these staples are crucial for maximizing overall pet coat health.
“Typically, the short-haired, smooth-coats and double-coated breeds shed more during the spring and fall months,” Durante says. “The carding tool, rubber curry and slicker brush are a plus in removing excess hair from the coat. Dead coat removal has several benefits—it stimulates new hair growth, improves skin circulation and relaxes the pet.”
While her spring and fall focus is on uncovering the healthy fur that lies beneath, Durante’s faith in her slicker is unwavering throughout the year.
“The most common fur issues that I encounter when brushing pets are matting and shedding,” she says. “The slicker brush, when used correctly, will easily break apart mats with no discomfort to the pet.”
Manufacturers see the slicker brush as a primary tool upon which they can improve. By taking a reliable grooming product and elevating it through innovative designs that afford increased ease when working on clients, brush makers tap into a need for solutions that afford greater efficiency without compromising quality.
“Flexible brushes and self-cleaning slickers are the latest innovations in the grooming world,” says Eric Pelland, general manager for Resco Pet Products. “Resco also has some brand new designs releasing in 2018. As a manufacturer, groomers are our lifeblood. Constant communication on the latest pet fur and health trends are what help us continue to innovate in an ever-growing industry.”
The relationship between a groomer and customers must include open lines of communication. Too often, pet parents might become frustrated if they feel their instructions to a groomer are ignored, but these demands might be impossible to meet if grooming maintenance isn’t performed at home between salon visits. Though pet parents aren’t expected to use certain professional-grade tools that could be dangerous to an animal if handled improperly, groomers should discuss safe, effective grooming brushes for home use.
“Boar bristle brushes work best for skin and hair,” explains Carmen Slaven, marketing manager for the Conair Pet Products Division. “The boar bristle brush stimulates skin and keeps hair shiny and healthy. Regular grooming scheduled for pets at the salon and daily brushing at home with this type of brush ensures a healthy coat.”
A Partnership in Grooming
The demand for grooming brushes centers on a few basic tools, and while professionals trust these products, manufacturers want to show groomers that they can create a better tool. Though it might not seem possible to improve upon something that already solves the most common grooming problems, manufacturers are committed to developing a better brush. Part of this strategy is incorporating the most useful aspects of evolving trends into product development, while still maintaining the classic characteristics that drive demand for brushes.
“The demand for not only human-grade, but professional human-grade, brushes—I think that is what they are looking for,” predicts Weinstein. “Bass Brushes has been well known for 40 years on the human side. We know human brushes, but what is happening now in culture, what was once a liability in how we had to earn our credibility in the pet business, it is now an asset.”
Regardless of the brush that groomers use, without consistent, clear communication with pet parents regarding proper grooming, professionals will be forced to spend more time compensating for customers’ failure to regularly maintain their animals’ coats. By opening this discussion, groomers are also creating an opportunity to generate higher revenue in their salons by offering brushes for purchase.
“The best advice to groomers regarding proper brush care is to train your human customers,” advises Pelland. “In fact, sell brushes out of your salon and teach your customers to use them. The pet will be healthier because of it, and your next grooming session will be a breeze.”
Success in the grooming field can be difficult to maintain, as professionals must please both the customer and the animal client that is receiving the service. In the age of social media and online reviews, one negative customer opinion can create a setback in business. Incorporating brushes that allow groomers to gently work through fur issues, while maximizing pet comfort and coat health, is an investment that helps safeguard the reputation of a salon through quality service. gb