Golden Retriever Grooming Tutorial

Blow Drying


Questions & Answers with Joanne Lastoka


Ok Joanne, what’s the proper method of drying a dog from the skin out? My guys are doing lots of swimming this week, its hot, humid, and now starting to rain again. I don’t want hot spots, but do want to exercise my dogs in the water. Last time I dried a dog I did it wrong and had feather mats big time.


It is hard work Mike, even with a good cool forced air dog dryer or livestock dryer, that’s why most groomers, both at vet clinics and in private businesses don’t dry the dogs totally. They stop at damp dry and crate him/her to “air” dry before sending the dog home. Drying the dog completely is really important, both to prevent the dog from getting “hot spots” (acute moist dermatitis), and in case of a show dog, you don’t want the dog laying on damp coat & pressing his coat into the waffle design of a crate, or creating unsightly cowlicks here and there!

Often if the owner feels beneath the hair, close to the skin the dog will still be damp. I’ll describe drying the dog in stages. Dogs that have never been dried with a forced air dryer before should be allowed to get used to the sound & “feel” of the drying SLOWLY and with great care and patience by the owner/handler. See “Puppies” below, instructions can be modified for older dogs as well! Your lap is the best place to dry a very young puppy, and a grooming table with arm is the choice for a dog of 3 to 4 months of age and up.


When working with young puppies, I do recommend getting them accustomed to being dried with a human blow dryer on the low/cool setting by bathing and drying them every few weeks from the time they are about 7 weeks old. I begin with the puppy sitting in my lap, and then start the dryer holding it a bit of a distance away from them, until they get “used” to the sound of it. Move the dryer around, as it makes different noise with the motion needed to dry the pup. Towel dry the puppy as well as possible. Then with puppy still held securely in your lap, and with lots of calm voice encouragement, begin drying the puppy starting with the rear end. To do their tummy, hold the puppy with his back to your chest, while he is sitting in your lap, and blow the warm air on his tummy as you continue to talk to him! Rub and massage the puppy with your fingers gently as you blow him dry. Be sure you are not using a heat setting that is too hot for puppys’ gentle skin, it should be the low/warm or cool setting only!!!! Also, please read the NOTE below about working around face/head & ears.

Older puppy or adult:

Drying Instructions for BodyCoat

Note: when working around the face & ears, you need to work carefully using the diffused nozzle or removing the nozzle completely, and avoid blowing directly in ears or eyes. I usually hold the ear flap tightly to the head with my free hand, and cover the eyes with my hand as well. Human hair dryers can be used for the head area in particular, but remember, they get quite hot, even on the “warm or cool” setting. I don’t recommend using a human hair dryer for that reason; most dogs just can’t stand putting up with the heat or the extended amount of time necessary to actually get then dry.

My personal method of choice for blow drying a dog with a forced air dryer, is to begin with the dog quite WET, having done very minimal towel drying. I then begin with a once over, using the concentrated or full force air nozzle, first doing the rump (croup) and tail area (important…see “Feathering” below), then jumping to the head, neck, body to remove most of the really saturated water from the coat. I’ve not yet done any feathering.

Next you begin again but this time at the dogs top skull.

**Now it is important to blow the water away from the skin by blowing against the growth of the hair, with the concentrated air flow nozzle, using small circular motions. Move slowly, working from one end of the dog to the other. Once you’ve accomplished getting the greatest share of the water off the dog by doing this, and following the instructions below for drying the dogs’ Feathering, you will go back & do it again but you will switch to the wide (diffused) nozzle or no nozzle on the dryer and using your free hand, rub constantly as you continue to blow. If you use your fingers (my choice instead of brush), the dog gets a wonderful massage, and you WILL feel when it is totally dry. It truly is not necessary to worry about brushing the dogs’ top coat flat during this process. Brush between your first and second “round” of blow drying so that the opposite end of the dog that you are working on stays flat, and brush again when finished.


When you are working with the dogs feathering, you do NOT want to be working in a circular motion with either of the nozzles , or you will succeed in tying the feathering into lovely knots (mats) in a matter of seconds! This includes the dogs “bib or mane”, front, rear and belly feathering. For feathering, I use the largest most diffused nozzle or no nozzle at all.

I begin by holding the longest hair out of the way with my free hand, and drying in sections carefully using steady blowing and no circular motions, using the slow speed if you have a multi-speed dryer. Specifically for the rear legs: hold a handful of the long feathering up with your free hand, and dry the portion closest to the hock first, then let a bit more feathering down, and again dry by blowing straight down onto it. I continue working from the lowest feathering on the leg, toward the top near the tail. I am still blowing from the skin out, and frequently brushing as I go. Same thing for the dogs underside and bib, use the diffused nozzle and blow straight and carefully, and brush often.

The Tail

The tail should be brushed/combed carefully before you start attempting to blow it dry. During the initial “shooting off” the excess water, you should be holding the dogs tail straight down toward the table or floor, and blowing the top of the tail only and blowing in the direction of the growth of the hair which is from the tail set toward the tip of the tail. Later, when you have come back to work on this area again, use the diffused nozzle, or no nozzle and dry both the top and bottom of the tail from the skin out, carefully, with the straight blowing technique NOT circular motion.

Pay special attention to getting the croup (rump) and tail set area, both above the tail, around and underneath the tail set and well down the thickest part of the tail, very well dried to avoid getting a “cold” in the dogs tail. I personally do two trouble spots first when grooming my dogs, and this is one of them that gets special attention for that reason. A “cold in the tail” is quite painful for the dog, very unsightly & pitiful looking, and just needs time to go away. Easily diagnosed, as the tail will look like it “died, or was broken” and it just hangs straight down about 4 inches out from the base of the tail.

The other area I pay special attention to is the area at the back of the skull at the occiput where the hair on the head meets the neck. This often will curl up and forward toward the head in a unsightly way, if it is not totally & completely dried and brushed flat when you first start drying the dog.

When I believe I have the dog well dried, I will then start at the dogs head, with no nozzle on the dryer hose, and essentially “brush the dog with air” in the direction the hair should lay. When I’ve completed that, the dryer is shut off, and I comb & brush the dog for the final time. Any trimming that next touching up would be done at this time. I then have the dog “air dry” more, either with supervision in the house, or with supervision outside for another half hour to avoid their laying down and crimping/pressing hair!

The whole process, will usually take me at least 1.75 hrs. per dog, and longer if I am working for a “show” finish. When I am finished, the dog is DRY, from the skin out. If your dogs are NOT prone to hotspots, if you blow them dry using these instructions, but don’t get them totally dry, just make sure they stay active whether inside the house, or outside so they continue to “air dry” before curling up to snooze. The purpose is to be absolutely sure they are extremely dry, before laying down and pressure “setting” their coat in a undesirable way. This is most important of course, if you are preparing a dog for the show ring ahead of time, i.e. the night before if you are unable to reach the show site in time to do a full groom before ring time. Now days, most successful Golden handlers do a full blow dryjust prior to their ring performance if at all possible.