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What hair of the dog says about your pet

PUBLISHED: 09:37 14 September 2012

Dog salon
Louisa with Charlie and her awards

Dog salon Louisa with Charlie and her awards

Archant

There’s a lot more to a poodle’s fur than just a couple of pom poms around the feet, as Anna Dubuis discovers…

Poodles are renowned for their pom poms which mark them as one of the curious-looking pets in the dog world.

But the ubiquitous leg warmers have a greater purpose than being purely for show.

Louisa Tandy, from Louisa’s Dog Salon in Gravesend, explains that all dogs are bred with some sort of job in mind.

“Poodles originated in Russia and Germany and were water retrievers, retrieving game from the water. Their wet fur would get very heavy so the owners shaved it all off,” she said. “But in the winter the dogs would suffer arthritis in the joints so they left the main coat on the body to keep vital organs warm and left poms of hair to help protect the joints from the cold.”

This traditional style has continued beyond the poodle’s purpose and is now the standard way to maintain their coat.

Other grooming styles depict the varying roles dogs were bred for.

The Westy and the Terrier, Louisa explained, were bred to help on farms and catch pests.

If the hair on their backs was short they could get down burrows easily, but keeping the hair on the faces would protect them from a rodent’s attack.

Shitzus have a long cut as they were bred as hand muffs to sit in people’s laps and keep them warm.

Louisa has been a qualified dog groomer for twenty years and has won numerous awards for her scissor skills.

Always an animal lover, she gave up veterinary nursing college to look after pets “when they were happy rather than ill”, and headed off to the London Academy of Grooming to train.

In 1991 the dog grooming industry was fairly unregulated and anyone could start up a salon. Nowadays, it has become a serious trade with three levels of grooming qualifications on offer. Levels one and two are bathing and drying and level three is a styling certificate.

The top qualification is the Higher Diploma which takes about five years.

Louisa has this one, as well as being a member of the Guild of Master Groomers which is run by the British Dog Groomers’ Association.

The dog grooming world has a reputation for its eccentricities, although Louisa treds carefully.

She said: “You have some extremes where people spend thousands of pounds on outfits. There is a lady who shaves the coats off and knits the dogs jumpers. Nowadays you see a lot of people with toy dogs buying push chairs to keep them clean but at the end of the day dogs get dirty.

“The people I mix with have a much more normal outlook on dogs. They understand that dogs are dogs and not humans, though it does take over your life a bit. Obviously my son comes first but we are mad on our dogs.”

Grooming competitions are a large part of the business, where an expert panel judges the person on the way they handle the dogs, their scissor technique and their styling.

“It’s all about making the best of the dog’s features. If a dog has pretty eyes you want to show that off or if it is too long in the body you need to know how to work with that.”

Louisa has appeared on Sky One’s Liza and Hueys Pet Nation for which she dyed a poodle’s hair purple (using special dog hair dye) and cut its coat into quite an incredible twister shape.

Around the world, creative grooming, which involves dyeing dogs’ hair and often making them look like other animals, is getting more and more competitive.

However Louisa isn’t so keen on the canine fancy dress contest.

“I have done that before but it is not something I’m too keen on. I like my dogs looking like dogs.”

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