Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: The FURminator: My Hero

Not that long ago I had lunch with a writer friend of mine, and we got to talking about my ten thousand animals.  She suggested that I use a furminator on our dogs to help strip out their winter coats and help prevent mats that might form too close to the skin and eventually cause serious sores.  She used a big one on her horses, and extolled the virtues of the might furminator to me while we had salad.  I was intrigued, but her description of the price tag made me flinch and file it under the category of pipe dream/luxury item.  I was under the impression it was an electric thingy, too, for whatever reason, and decided that I'd just shave the dogs if needed.

Then yesterday I ran into a friend of mine at Petco and she recommended it too (she uses a small one on her cats) so I caved and looked at them.  They're
not electric.  I got a medium one for long-haired dogs for my dogs.  I'm glad I didn't get the large one partly because of the extra money, and partly because although it might have been worth it on the big sections, the larger comb would have made it harder to work on their legs and stuff.  And I was happy that it wasn't as expensive as the one my friend used on her horses.  Size makes the difference, it turns out.

Finn had way more undercoat than I realized he had.  Working with the regular undercoat puller I use, I would have cleaned up his hindquarters in a few minutes and considered my work done.  But running the furminator over his supposedly-clean back was enlightening.  Yikes.   I pulled almost as much undercoat off of him as I did Brian, Brian the Fluff Generator, Brian the Puffy Source of Endless Hair, Brian the ... you get the idea.  

For full-time (or in our case, mostly full-time) outdoor animals, pulling out the undercoat isn't just a matter of neatness or appearance.  Those old undercoats hold a lot of dirt, and way too much insulation value for our increasingly warm temperatures.  I'm really glad I helped Finn rid himself of it before August. Heck, if I hadn't pulled it, it might have hung around until his winter coat came in and shoved it off within reach of our normal brushes, and by then the dogs would have been dangerously filthy, even with baths.  It's just too hard to wash that stuff out, even using the awesome rubber brush to help work the suds in down toward the skin.  

Brian had some mats in his fur that I buzzed off so that I could save him some tugging prior to using the tool.  He hates having his mats pulled.  (So far I haven't let them go so long that they end up matted close to the skin but they are clingy ...)  It turns out that I shouldn't have buzzed them after all.  The furminator pulled out the remaining smaller mats very easily and Brian never gave me the 'owie mommy' look he does so often when I'm using a standard undercoat puller.  I ended up not shaving much around his seat and pulled the mats with just the furminator with no trouble at all.  It's kewl, though.  His tail looks a little funny right now, but he'll be fully feathered in no time.

Getting that undercoat out turned out to be especially gratifying in Brian's case.  Both dogs had dirty undercoats, but Brian's hair is a different consistency than Finn's more labrador retriever-like fur.  The dirty undercoat pulled free of his guard hairs and an almost pristine white summer undercoat.  It was almost as good as giving him a bath.  Combing with a nice bath, he'll be in excellent shape to endure the heat we'll most likely experience in August.  These dogs do really well in very cold temperatures, but tend to suffer in anything over 75 degrees F.  The last two years I've taken Brian to get shaved, and this year I planned to shave him myself (after buying a spacer--the one I like to use on him broke) but now I wonder if it might not be unnecessary.  I think just keeping him groomed, and taking him to the river on 90+ degree days, will be sufficient.

The girl sat down and (very gently) furminated Wizard, our big, fat, very happy and formerly feral tiger tabby shorthair cat.  He loved it.  As an experiment I ran a nice cat brush over him.  We didn't get much.  We ran the furminator over it and pulled lots of undercoat and dander along with it.  They have small ones for cats, but I think that we'll use the one for our dogs on the cats as needed, being careful not to push because the teeth on the one we have are sized for long-haired dogs.

Furminators are expensive, but I think they're worth it.  Now that I have one, I don't see any reason to visit a groomer, which will pay back the worth of the comb by next summer, and that's for an ultra-minimalist grooming schedule (once a year.)  

One minor note about the instructions.  They suggest bathing your animal first and letting it fully dry before using the comb.  In our case, I think it makes more sense to use the comb as a kind of dry bath.  And then, when we get around to a big, wet, soapy bath, we won't have to try to clean old, wooly undercoat hair that shouldn't be there in the first place.  And that undercoat really hinders getting the soap down to the skin and makes rinsing that soap out much more difficult.  

Half of Brian's pile.  The rest is outside.  Bear in mind we brushed him last week to get the worst of it off.

Also, because they're pricy, I suggest that folks living within a budget to shop around and maybe investigate getting a used one if possible.  If you do get a used one, be sure to clean it thoroughly and disinfect it in case the animal it was used on had a transmittable disease.  I don't usually recommend a particular vendor, but in this case, Amazon has one of the best prices for new ones available.

I'm happy with the tool.  The dogs enjoyed the attention, and are tons cleaner, lighter, and cooler.  Wins all around.

Update:  Carey is still not home.  We made some calls and put up ads on Craigslist.  We also left some fliers around town.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  Thanks for your well-wishes.

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