About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grooming an Unpredictable Cairn

About a month ago I had an elderly man walk in and tell me that the Vet up the road sent him to me.
I knew what that meant.
Just about every dog that this Vet sends me has some kind of issues.
Mostly biters.
I am not sure if they like me, or don't like me.  :p

Sure enough this man had a 3 year old Cairn that had not been groomed in close to a year.
He had been thrown out of a few shops and other shops would not groom him when they found out that he was a biter.
The man had to wait a month for this appointment, but he was just happy that I agreed to try to groom the dog.
I always tell an owner that I am willing to try, but I will not promise.

This man painted a pretty grim picture of his dog.
I had no idea what to expect.
I gave him my first appointment of the day.
I like to groom my problem dogs first thing.

His appointment was yesterday.
The owner and dog were waiting for me when I pulled up to the shop.

I gave the owner an information sheet to fill out, then turned my attention to the dog.

When I called to the dog, he came running right up to me with his tail wagging, but cautious at the same time.
My first thought was; 'your going to be unpredictable, aren't you?'

As I bent down to talk to the dog, his owner said; "He does not like to be picked up."

"Okay", I told him, as I prepared to pick the dog up.

When I have a potential biter, I always pick them up with one hand on the back of their collar to keep their head from being able to swing around at me.
I rub their back, slowly moving to their side, still rubbing, then I quickly slide my hand under the belly and pick up in one single, swift motion.
I try to do this quickly, before the dog figures out what I am about to do.

He was not happy that I got one over on him.
He started fighting right away.
I securely pressed him against my side, still holding his head away from me with the other hand.
I firmly squeezed him to me until he relaxed.
When he relaxed, I loosened the pressure a little.
When he struggled again, I applied the pressure again.
The pressure is just enough to hold on and be firm, not uncomfortable.

I could tell that this dog never let anyone pick him up.
It only took a few squeezes before he stopped struggling, but he did manage to reach my hand with his mouth, just as his owner was telling me that his dog had never really bitten anyone.  :)

So far I had found out two things about this dog.
1~ He did not like to be picked up, and had no problem letting you know.
2~ So far, when he bit, he did not bite hard.

What kind of biter was he going to be?

A fear bitter: A dog that bites because they are insecure and scared to death, not mean.
No. This one was certainly not scared of anything.

A vicious biter: A dog that goes after you for no apparent reason. He continues to go after you even when you stop what you are doing. He goes for blood.
No. He did not bite down hard, and stopped as soon as he didn't get the result he was looking for.

A inbred, mental biter:  A dog who bites for no reason at all. He gives no warning, and does not seem to understand what you are doing, or that you are not hurting him. He does not seem to be all there.
No. This little Cairn is a very smart dog.

The spoiled rotten biter: A dog that has not been taught any kind of manners, and has found that all he has to do is bare his teeth, growl, or bite to get his way.
Yes. You better believe that this is the type of biter this dog is.

I truly don't believe that he is mean. He is a sweet dog, but he is a brat, who has not been taught the right way to act by his elderly owner.
I have a feeling that when he was a puppy, he was very toothy, and found out really quickly that using his teeth got him what he wanted.
As a puppy everyone probably thought it was cute.

One reason that I like bathing dogs before the clipping, is that I can have my hands all over the dog without sharp instruments, and find out what the dog is touchy about.
I have found over the years that a lot of Terriers are touchy about their legs and rears.
This Cairn was no exception.

The minute I started washing him, he planted his rear down and tight to the tub, keeping his eye on me whenever I came close to that area.
I went ahead and soaped him up sitting down.
I soaped up his head first, moving down his back and sides, slowly working to the rear.
I continued on to rub his legs, very slowly, while he was still sitting, and watching.
He must have decided that I was okay, because he eventually stood up on his own.

One phase of the grooming done.

He did pretty good, but he is still not sure about me.
I also pick him up, hold and hug him every once in awhile.
He is still not sure what to make of that.

How was he going to deal with the HV?
I was not sure if he had ever had one used on him.
I turned the dryer on, and held the hose off to the side.
I wanted the dog to get used to the sound of it before I pointed the air at him.
I put one of my hands on the side of his neck with, and then put the dryer on his back leg.
He freaked and tried to swing around.
I pressed his head away, and told him he was alright without ever stopping the drying.
He only tried to bite a couple more times.
By the time I got to the other side, he was no longer trying to bite.
He even let me dry most of his head with the HV.
So far, so good.

Time for the groom.
His Dad did not care how I groomed the dog as long as he got groomed.
He told me to do whatever I could.

Because I am trying to teach this dog manners, and at the same time get him to trust and respect me, I decided to do the Cairn style.
Well, at least something like the Cairn style.
My goal was to get him as close to a Cairn cut as possible.
It certainly will not win any awards.

One of the main reasons that I decided to do the cairn clip was, because I did not want to fool with his legs anymore than  I had to.
I did not think it would be a good idea to try to take clippers down his legs since he was so touchy about them.

He did not mind the clippers on his back.
He was most touchy about moving him on the table, standing him up, and grooming his rear.
I had to get a little creative to clip his tail.  :)

My husband took video of the whole groom, so I spent last night editing 43 minutes of grooming down to 10 for You Tube.
You will see the video jerk sometimes because my husband hates it when I work on biting dogs, and he jumps every time he thinks they are going to go after me.  :)
He also can not stand when I put my face in the dogs face.

Yes, I do that a lot.

It drives him crazy, and it really makes him mad when I do it with a biter.
I am not going to say that I will not get bit in the face.
I have had a couple of close calls over the years, but it works for me.
I believe in looking a dog right in the eye and having a talk with them.
I want to see what they are thinking, and I want them to see me.
I know that a lot of trainers would argue with me about this, but it has always worked for me.
Now, if we were talking about a guard dog or a police dog, that would be a different story.

Don't look too closely at him.  :)

He had sticky outies, but overall he looked passable.

I really think, that if his Dad brings him in regularly, he will stop biting altogether.
Click here if you would like to see the 10 minute version of the groom.

Isn't he cute?

He is 14 weeks old, and he is a potential biter if his owners don't start training him now.
His Mom brought him in for a bath and trim yesterday.
He was biting everything.

Teeth everywhere.
Biting my comb, brush, clippers, scissors, fingers.
Most were playful bites, but I noticed that if he didn't get his way, the biting would become harder.

I talked to his owner and they are working on the biting.
We will see how he is for his next grooming.


I do like Terriers,  but they are a hard headed breed with a mind of their own, and they don't mind letting you know what is on their mind!  :)

Oh, I am happy to report, that by the time I took the Cairn up to his owner, he no longer minded me picking him up and carring him around.
He was very relaxed in my arms. 

Score one for the groomer.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. That's awesome news, Lisa! And I think the little Cairn looks awfully damned cute. (Is this where I mention I don't have my glasses on?!) I'm KIDDING!! He looks great, and more importantly he looks peaceful and calm. For a terrier who's just been groomed. We had our one and only Scottie in yesterday, and there was no blood. Major victory. For everyone.

    Happy Canada Day, Happy Independence Day, Happy Long Weekend!!!

  2. thanks for this! I had two of these in one day this week and they just wear me out. I love your kind and patient attitude towards the more difficult dogs, a great reminder in not losing my "cool".

  3. YOU did a FABULOUS job with that cairn!! I do a lot of the same tecniques you did on him with dogs I work with. I hope that new groomers get to watch how you handled him and learn how to groom gentle but firm!!

  4. Bev,

    Hahaha, You should have left your glasses off. I saw all kinds of hair I could have scissored when I was posting the after pictures. I am glad the Scottie ended your week on a good note.
    Happy Canada Day!


  5. Deb,
    Thanks, but I am no saint. There have been plenty of times that I have had to step away from a dog and count to 10 to keep my cool. I not only had to talk to the dog sometimes, but to myself also. :)
    I had three of these dogs this week. You definitely have to get into a certain mind set before you start grooming these dogs.
    Your not kidding about it wearing you out!
    Lisa, MFF

  6. Anonymous,
    Thanks, I wish that you tube was around when I started grooming, and that I could watch grooming videos to help me learn. I hope that the video helps some groomers understand that you don't HAVE to manhandle to groom a difficult dog.

  7. i have a bad habit of doing the same thing in the face if the dog is naughty. i also have a bad habit of doing it because i'm constantly smelling the dogs i don't want no where to not smell nice face or muzzle included! a lot of times the muzzle is harder to get the smell out than the butt.

  8. You are such a gentle soul, I wish we had someone like you to do our puppers!

  9. proudpitbullmom,
    lol I know what you mean. I can't stand it when a dogs face smells.
    Lisa, MFF

  10. dawt,
    Thank you so much! That is the nicest compliment.
    Lisa, MFF

  11. I have to say this was familiar to me on many levels, and I not only appreciate your humor and accuracy in describing the categories of pets that bite. This was not only a good laugh for me (and my husband as I HAD to show him this) it was also a very well put together blog on the grooming of this finicky pet, I really love this one! You're the best.

  12. Hi Serena,
    Thanks! I do like grooming the biters. I like the challenge of trying to understand why they bite, and working with them to hopefully, eventually accept the grooming without biting.
    I am glad you enjoyed this post.
    Lisa, MFF

  13. Owner of 2 Toy PoodlesJanuary 7, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    I just chanced upon your blog and watch the video...
    I really have to let you know You are GREAT! What you did was AMAZING, I really admire your patience towards these dogs that bite. I supposed each step you do, letting them know you're not going to hurt them, brings them closer to be a better dog, esp for their next grooming.
    Keep up the excellent work!

  14. Thank you! One of the things I love the most about grooming, is teaching the dogs to enjoy the grooming, and that it can make them feel good. :)
    Lisa, MFF

  15. we saw that video on the cairn talk forum, it is spectacular. we know how difficult that is, what an achievement.

  16. Hi Anonymous,
    Thank you for the compliment. He was in today for a grooming. He is still a work in progress, but he'll get better. :)
    Lisa, MFF