Doing the Dirty Work

Grooming dogs and cats is a very physical job, and professionals especially appreciate products that work the first time.

"Effectiveness, ease of use and exceptional results" are key attributes that professionals are looking for in shampoo, conditioner, and skin and coat products, said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing for John Paul Pet in Ventura, Calif.

Professional groomers agreed.

"Everyone wants a product that works," said Lindsay Sabanosh, manager of Walter’s Pet Styles in New York. "Having to bathe a dog three or four times to get the dirt and grime off their coat is impractical."

In particular, Sabanosh said she looks for products that "cut through the buildup and leave us with a coat that is silky and manageable."

"Dirt and grime is one of the biggest challenges of living in NYC," Sabanosh said. "Dogs are walking through who-knows-what in the streets every day."

In addition to wanting shampoos that "fully clean dogs without having to wash them multiple times," Susan Delaney, owner and groomer at All About Grooming in Haskell, N.J., said she wants customers to enjoy the products after they have been used.

"When a customer tells me their pet smells and feels good, I know that the product is doing the job," she said.

In line with effectiveness, products need to provide a solution for each pet, said Shannon Moore, a certified master groomer who has owned and operated her own grooming salons and is now director of grooming and education at Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas.

"Not every pet that comes into the grooming salon has a normal, healthy skin and coat," she said. "We are looking for products that will help provide relief to the pet, to improve the skin and coat, and help it return to a natural, healthy state.

"In addition, professional groomers are focused on products that will help provide a level of comfort, whether it is to soothe sore muscles; help relieve dry, itchy skin; or even help provide stress relief for pets visiting the grooming salon," Moore said.

Aside from wanting effective products, professional groomers want safe, pure, gentle, and earth-friendly shampoos and conditioners to use on their clients, according to Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla., which acquired the Pet Head brand of grooming products last year.

Fragrance is also important. "When it comes down to it, we focus on function and then recommend choosing for scent," said Zack Grey, owner and founder of The Urban Pet, which has four locations in Southern California.

Popular scents in his grooming salons are green tea, mango and eucalyptus. Because some clients like a particular after-bath spray scent, his groomers find that scentless shampoos and conditioners are a helpful option, as well.

New Products

Groomers ultimately want shampoos, conditioners, and skin and coat products that work well on dogs and cats and are safe both for humans and pets, professional  groomers said. For this reason, natural ingredients and botanicals are big this year, with the newest offerings combining both.

Espree Animal Products launched several products for professional groomers this year. At SuperZoo in Las Vegas in July, the company introduced Allergy Relief Avocado & Aloe Shampoo and a complementary spray, Espree Allergy Relief Avocado & Aloe Spray. The pair is designed specifically for allergen-sensitive pets, Moore said.

"This powerful combination of avocado, aloe and pomegranate seed oil works effectively to flush out allergy-causing particles," she said, adding that "fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins work to soothe, hydrate, and heal damaged skin and coat."

Also introduced in July, Espree’s Oatmeal Baking Soda Spray is formulated to help soothe itchy skin and control odor, Moore said.

The human side of the grooming category has seen an influx of charcoal-based products, and the pet industry can expect to see similar products. Espree plans to debut a line of charcoal-based products in Q4 2017. The line includes a charcoal shampoo, conditioner and mud bath designed to purify the skin and coat and give pets a spa experience, Moore said.

New from John Paul Pet is Lavender Mint Shampoo and Lavender Mint Detangling Spray. The paraben-free products contain extracts of tea tree, lavender and mint to calm and soothe while reducing skin irritations, the company stated.

In January 2018, John Paul Pet plans to introduce Wild Ginger Shampoo and Conditioning Spray.

"Both are botanically based and share names with best-selling Paul Mitchell products for humans," Dial said. "We took an excellent shampoo and conditioner and pH-balanced it for pets.

"We are also launching more shampoos and conditioners in gallon sizes," she added.

An Evolving Category

Possibly the biggest evolution the pet industry has experienced is the transition of animals from family pet to full-fledged member of the family. As such, it’s no surprise to many in the pet grooming industry that the trends seen in human hair care are showing up in pet grooming.

In the decade since John Paul started creating shampoos and conditioners for pets, the company has seen a shift toward natural, botanically based products.

"The trend in human products is also leaning toward natural," Dial said. "Pet parents want what is best for their pets and follow the trends they see in their own products."

Part of the focus on natural ingredients is tied to increased consumer demand for products pet owners perceive as safer than what was available in the past.

"Since I entered the industry [more than 30 years ago], there has been a seismic shift in groomer and consumer preferences toward safer, more natural formulas," Cobb said. "Groomers today want to know exactly what goes into the shampoos, conditioners and pet care products they use—not only to ensure they’re treating their four-legged clients right, but to earn the trust of their customers. Thanks to the continuing humanization of pets, this trend toward kinder, gentler grooming supplies has been growing for a long, long time."

During her 12 years as a professional groomer and as owner of All About Grooming, Delaney said she also has noticed that many pet shampoos and conditioners contain ingredients similar to those in the human versions.

"I noticed that there are so many new scents and purposes with a lot of the shampoos that are on the market," she added. "There are always new techniques coming out that you can do with all products, but I like to keep it simple and use what’s best for the dog’s coat."

Groomers now have many more product choices, and Moore reported seeing increased "use and selection of premium pet care products."

"There used to be a limited selection of shampoos and conditioners for the professional groomer and the consumer to choose from," she said. "Today, there are products geared toward providing solutions for pets such as allergy relief, senior care, anti itch, color enhancing, odor removal, coat care and so on. There is an increasing demand for providing natural, wholesome solutions that are effective for the professional as well as the consumer."

Clean Kitties

For professional groomers whose clientele includes the feline kind, reading labels and understanding ingredients becomes critical. With the current trend of natural and botanically based grooming products, aromatherapies and essentials oils can come into play.

Experts agree that because cats cannot process all the components of essential oils, groomers need to use caution with shampoos, conditioners, and skin and coat products used on kitty clients.

Cat groomers also want products that work the first time, Sabanosh said.

"It is rare for us to see a cat that goes outside here in NYC, so we are looking for something that is gentle but also gives a good, deep clean," she said.

In addition to wanting shampoos that clean well the first time, Delaney said she likes to give cats the same care as the dogs.

"Cats always do well with a finishing spray at the end of the groom," she added.

Most of the cats groomed at The Urban Pet are being bathed for hypoallergenic reasons, Grey said.

"Perfume-free shampoo is best for them because cats groom themselves so much," Grey added.