So your Doodle got shaved, but you swear on your life that you brush them regularly. How could the groomer, then, warrant a shave down? Where’s the disconnect, and what can you do about it? Let’s talk about it.
Article reviewed by Carissa Gilbreath, Professional Pet Stylist of 11 years.
Table of Contents
- Are You Brushing Your Doodle Properly?
- Okay, But…Isn’t It My Groomer’s Job To Handle My Dog’s Coat?
- What Are Mats? Are Tangles And Mats The Same Thing?
- What Is The “Comb Test”?
- My Groomer Wants to Shave – Are There Any Other Options?
- What About Dematting?
- When is a Shave Down the Best Option?
- How Big, Or Extensive, Do Mats Need To Be To Justify a Shave Down?
- When to Look For a New Groomer
- Final Thoughts
Are You Brushing Your Doodle Properly?
“As a groomer, all I can say is if I had a dollar for every time someone said their dog wasn’t matted and it in fact was, I’d be rich.”
First thing’s first – are you brushing your Doodle properly? Are you sure?
Here’s a little story:
I wish I could tell you that it never happened again…but unfortunately the unintended short haircuts continued.
I convinced myself that I was brushing Chloe as often as I could (which sometimes meant only a few times a month), but obviously there was something I wasn’t getting.
And in my quest for knowledge as the owner of this site, the one thing I discovered was that if you’re doing it ALL WRONG, nothing – not even the best, most expensive dog brush on the face of the earth – will stop a groomer from doing what’s best for their four-legged clients…which sometimes means shaving.
As it turns out: there’s what you think is “brushing”, which is summed up nicely in this short video:
…And then there’s a powerful Doodle brushing method called “line brushing”.
If done correctly, it gives you back your power by completely preventing mats…and consequently, shave downs.
So if you brush your Doodle but they are still getting shaved, change your method – try line brushing. Here’s a tutorial.
Okay, But…Isn’t It My Groomer’s Job To Handle My Dog’s Coat?
This is not to say that groomers should expect their clients to come in with flawless coats. However, if you don’t brush your dog out before taking them to the groomer, it would be like dressing up as an 80s rocker and then going to the salon without brushing your hair.
That said, coat maintenance is your job as a Doodle parent. Styling the coat is the groomer’s job.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: always brush out your dog (all the way down to the skin) the morning of their groom. Yes, even if you did it yesterday, and even if your dog doesn’t have a curly coat.
This is because tangles and pin mats (tiny knots in the middle of the strands that can easily go between the tines of a brush or comb and get missed) can form very quickly and easily on Doodles. These can easily get out of hand and turn into the reason for a shave down.
So, brush them out before the appointment. This will ensure that they pass the “comb test” (more on this below) and that there’s less of a chance that your Doodle will get shaved due to tangles and matting. This will also make life easier for your groomer.
What Are Mats? Are Tangles And Mats The Same Thing?
Most groomers believe that tangles and mats are very different.
Mats occur when a large clump of hair becomes tangled and knotted around itself. A mat is different from a tangle in that mats commonly involve the hair going all the way down to the skin.
Mats occur frequently in dog breeds with curly, fine, or double coats. As such, Doodles are especially prone to matting.
Here’s a side by side showing healthy coat vs. matting:
Without getting too much into it, matting is extremely uncomfortable for dogs and can also pose some serious health risks. For more info, check out our Ultimate Guide on Removing Matted Dog Hair on Your Doodle.
What Is The “Comb Test”?
Before starting the groom – and ideally, in front of the dog’s owner before they leave the facility – many groomers will do what’s called the “comb test”. This is where they take a metal grooming comb to the dog’s coat and “test” areas all over the body to determine the extent of the tangles or matting.
They carry out this test by digging the comb deep into the coat (all the way down to the skin) and seeing how much resistance there is when they try to pull the comb back out through the coat.
The greater the resistance, the more tangles or mats there are. If they can’t pull it out at all, you’re probably looking at pelting.
One Doodle Doods reader, however, isn’t convinced that this test is accurate.
[The comb test] will NEVER pass on 80% of Doodles, because they have thick, curly hair at even a medium length, even if they are perfectly groomed and brushed at home.
Regardless, because so many groomers use this test to determine the outcome of the appointment, this is just another reason to brush them out before the appointment.
Again: make sure you’re brushing all the way down to the skin!
My Groomer Wants to Shave – Are There Any Other Options?
Part of a groomer’s job should be to educate and communicate with their clients. If they are telling you in advance that they need to shave your Doodle, they are a good groomer. (The opposite being that they just do it without letting you know at all.)
There are many levels of matting and tangles, and just as many ways to handle each of these levels, with different solutions that don’t involve pain.
As such, a shave down doesn’t have to be the only option*.
If you push back, and the groomer doesn’t offer another solution, here are some options:
- Tell them you’d like to take your dog home to brush them out yourself, and schedule another time to come back.
- Sometimes it’s hard to tell how bad the tangles or mats are on a dirty coat, especially if the coat is super dirty, dense, long, curly, etc. Ask them if they would be willing to bathe and blow dry your dog to see if it can be easily dematted. (Sometimes with a good conditioner, a high velocity dryer can blow minor tangles apart so it’s easier to brush out. By the way: NEVER bathe a matted dog at home unless you have a high velocity dryer!)
- Ask them if they can spot-shave only where the mats are, and style the rest as you want it.
*A shave down is the only option for pelting.
What About Dematting?
As we learned, mats and tangles are not the same. If there are a few tangles (not mats), one solution is to use product and tools to get them to come out easily, with NO pulling or pain.
Dematting, however, is not one such solution.
Dematting is a procedure done to rid the coat of mats. Dematting typically involves a lot of pulling, and therefore can cause the dog a lot of pain and discomfort.
It is possible to find a groomer who offers dematting as a service, however, most groomers operate on the principle “humanity over vanity.” This means that they will do what’s easiest and best for their doggy clients over making them look pretty “at all costs”.
That said, most groomers will not demat a dog beyond 15 minutes. They believe it’s cruel. It can also destroy the coat and actually exacerbate the matting.
Also, depending on your dog and their temperament, even just a few tangles can make or break a groom. If the groomer knows your dog and knows their behavior, and they historically have misbehaved during the grooming process, they likely won’t tolerate dematting.
After all, groomers want their dogs:
- To have a positive experience
- To like being groomed
- And to leave happy
Hurting them through dematting will not achieve this.
Additionally, dematting adds time. Imagine walking into your hair salon and saying “I know I said just a haircut today, but I need color, too.” They would probably ask you to come in another time.
Likewise with groomers, dematting simply might not fit into their schedule for the day. You might think that it only takes a few extra minutes, but understand that when you compound that with every single dog that walks into the salon (where most of them are Doodles nowadays), it adds up to a lot of time and a lot of wear and tear on groomers’ bodies and tools.
This is why you should be honest when booking the appointment – allow them to be aware of your dog’s coat condition ahead of time so they can fit it into their schedule.
Also worth mentioning: for those of you who don’t know anything about grooming a dog, in order to keep a Doodle’s coat long, the coat NEEDS to be completely brushed out. To achieve those longer lengths (anywhere from 3/4-inch to 2 inches or longer), groomers use what are called clipper combs. When the coat is tangled or matted, clipper combs physically cannot go through the coat. They get snagged and cannot clip the hair.
This just adds to the point that if a groomer hasn’t allocated time in their schedule to brush or dematt your dog, shaving is really their only option.
When is a Shave Down the Best Option?
Look, most groomers will outright tell you that they hate shaving dogs down. They love doing nice haircuts that the owners are proud to namedrop. Word of mouth is a business maker.
But most times, dematting isn’t worth it. Groomers don’t enjoy hurting dogs. Dematting pulls out hair. The more pulling, the harder time your dog will have. And with Doodles, the honest-to-God last thing you want is your dog to be aversive to grooming.
That said, groomers operating on the principle of “humanity over vanity” will not demat a dog beyond 15 minutes. When the matting is that extensive, that’s when a shave down is the best option.
How Big, Or Extensive, Do Mats Need To Be To Justify a Shave Down?
The last time I dematted one behind her ear, it was about half the size of the one above, and still took me over 20 minutes to get out.
So, I wouldn’t be surprised if even a single mat this size gives most groomers grounds to shaving your dog.
Unfortunately, a visible mat this large almost always indicates that there are more of them. In this case, the mats soon become too overwhelming to deal with, and so *shave* they go.
When to Look For a New Groomer
Most groomers are really just trying to look out for your dog.
That said, as one groomer put it: “Shaving a dog who doesn’t warrant shaving is pure laziness.”
If you believe in the beat of your heart that your Doodle’s shave downs have been completely unjustified, you may be better off finding another groomer.
You might also want to find someone new if the last one shaved your dog without your consent. We all value communication, honesty, and making informed decisions, right?
Mobile grooming services are great options as they are usually owner-operated, and you (and your dog) will be able to develop a better relationship with them. However, having a groomer come to you is considered a luxury service, so just be aware that the starting price will be higher than a brick and mortar salon.
Regardless, be sure to call around and ask all your big questions upfront to find the best fit.
I hope this article has helped you understand why your Doodle keeps getting shaved, and what you can do to change the outcome of their grooming appointments. Ultimately, I’d like for this type of content to help bridge the gap between Doodle owners and groomers, help us to understand each other, and to bring us all to a point where we can stop the blame game.
The information on this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional groomer advice. Always seek the advice of your groomer, veterinarian, or other qualified animal health provider with any questions you may have.