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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dog vs. Groomer

There are a few different grooming forums that I like to follow.
I mostly just read, I rarely post.
I am a little gun shy.
About 11 years ago, when I first discovered my first groomers forum, I was excited to read all of the information, and post answers to questions, or ask questions, or just leave my own comment.

I thought, this is wonderful!
Finally, a place where groomers can talk to each other without feeling threatened that someone would steal their customers.

Well, that only lasted about a month.
After another groomer ripped me a new one, about my opinion on clipping double coated breeds, I decided to keep my opinions to myself.

Welllll...I guess so.

I will admit that I don't deal well with criticism.
I know, I know, so why am I writing a blog?
I can still get comments on a blog.
That's true, but my skin has toughened up a little over the years.
I still don't like to be criticized, who does, but I try not to take things personally anymore.
I don't always succeed.

My main reason for writing this blog is to help other groomers.
Mostly with visual help.
I love to read, but some grooming blogs that I have tried to follow get way too technical, and make some things seem why harder than they need to be.
Plus, I love looking at grooms that other groomers have done.
I also learn best by watching.

I came up with the idea for this blog after reading a recipe blog that I follow.
The author of the recipe blog uses a lot of pictures to show how she makes her recipes.
One day I was reading and looking at all of the pictures, and I thought, it would be neat to have a grooming blog where you could look at pictures of dogs being groomed from start to finish.

So here I am.

Anyway, I got off track.  :)

I wanted to write about something that I have read about on a couple of the groomers forums that disturbs me.
Occasionally, I read a post about a groomer asking how to deal with some of the dogs that they are grooming.
Some answers will talk about the kinds of restraints to use, or how to take charge of the dog and let them know who's boss.

I don't believe that there is any one way to deal with  dog.
Every dog should be dealt with on an individual basis.

For instances....

This old girl is sweet ,but she is feisty.

She has no problem letting you know when she does not like what you are doing.

She will use teeth to tell you how it is.

So, how do I deal with her?

I talk to her a lot, even though she can not hear very well anymore.

When I am doing things I know she does not like, I tell her what I am about to do before I do it.

You think I am crazy, right?

I am, but that is beside the point.

Do dogs really understand what 
I am telling them?
I don't know for sure, but I know that this has always worked for me.
I tell a lot of my dogs what I am going to do before I do it.
Maybe on some level they do understand.

What do I do when she bites?

Okay, now you are really going to think that I am crazy.

It depends on the type of biter that they are. 

~The nibbler: this dog does the quick little bite just to say 'I don't like what you are doing'. Then they turn their head anyway and act like they didn't do anything.
With these dogs, I give an over exaggerated gasp, and then, in a very shocked, low, drawn out voice, I say; "what..did..you..do?"
I don't yell.
I don't scold.
Just the tone of my voice seems to make these type of biters rethink biting.
I also go right back to what I was doing, or never stop what I was doing.
Once I finish, I overly praise the dog.

~The hard biter (but does not brake skin): These types of dogs are also quick biters and look away. They just mean it more than the nibblers. They also have the potential to bite worse as the groom progresses.
With these types of dogs, I have found that you need to be firm but understanding. I work hard to earn the respect of these dogs. I have found that a lot of these types of biters seem to be testing you to see what you will do when they bite.

So, what do I do with these dogs?

I ignore them.
Yes, you read that right.
I don't say anything.
I do not react.
I continue what I am doing.

If I see the head coming around again, I will hold up whatever I am grooming with, use it like I am pointing my finger at them, and say in a very firm, authoritative voice; "I don't think so. I am not hurting you, and you better rethink hurting me."
I have found that this works best when said in a low, firm matter of fact tone of voice.
You must not sound mean, but you must sound in charge.
When the dog lets you finish what you were doing without trying to bite again, praise them in a calm and proud voice.

~ The 'I am going to draw blood on you if it kills me' biter: This is the type of dog that gives no warning, and they intend to draw blood with the first bite, and will continue to bite even if you pull away from them.

Thankfully, I don't have too many of these type of dogs come in.

First, let me say, that there is no law written anywhere that you have to groom a dog like this.
If grooming is your livelihood, you can not take the chance of a dog bite putting you out of work.
If you have a boss that insists on you grooming these type of dogs, I would remind your boss that if you are seriously bitten, you will sue them for your hospital bills and your lost pay. Also, inform them that their workmens comp payments will go up, because you will file a claim.

I have never let any of my groomers knowingly work on a biting dog.
It is my choice to work on them as the owner of the shop.
I am the one who will take the risk.

These type of dogs have to be handled firmly, but with respect.
Respect those teeth.

If you get angry with an angry dog, it will get you nowhere.
I treat these dogs the same way I would a non biter, till they bite me, or try to.
At the same, time I am very aware of their body language. 

Warning: The description below is what I do. I do not advise any groomer to be as crazy as me. If you do decide to groom a biting dog, take all the precautions you need to. If you feel more comfortable with a muzzle on for the entire groom, then do it. Make sure that it is a safe and humane muzzle.

With this type of dog, if it bites me, I do stop what I am doing to get out of the way.
Then, I immediately take that dogs face between my hands, look him straight in the eye (while my husband stands in the background telling me to get my face away from the dogs face) and say, in a very stern voice; "I don't think so buddy. I am being nice to you and I expect you to do the same with me. Now I better not see or feel those teeth again. You may get away with that crap at home, but you will not get away with it here."

That is my lecture to them.
They get only one chance to redeem themselves.
They bite again, for no good reason, the muzzle goes on.
I only use the muzzle for the things they don't like having done.
If they are good for other parts of the grooming, the muzzle comes off.

I actually like working with some of these types of dogs.
It may take a few grooming's, or in some cases, it has taken a few years, but I eventually get these dogs to except the grooming without biting.

Not every dog is the same kind of biter or bites for the same reasons, so they must all be worked with differently.

This dog is sweet and super affectionate.

When grooming this dog, I can not praise him, I can not pet him, I can not talk to him while grooming.


Because, he would be all over me wiggling, kissing and trying to play with me.

I put him on the table, give him a quick rub down, let him wiggle and kiss for a minute, then I tell him in a business like voice; "okay, time to get to work,"
I turn him, stand him up and get to grooming, and he stands there good as gold...
...As long as I don't talk to him or make eye contact.
If I forget, he is all over me trying to play.

Once I am done, he gets another quick rubdown and kisses before I put him away.

This little guy is very shy.

I give this guy a ton of loving through out the entire groom.

The more I praise him and pet him, the more I see him relax.

Even though I have been grooming him for a few years, I have to do the same thing every time he comes in.

Then you have some dogs come in that are just down right petrified of everything.

They need to be babied all of the way through the grooming.
You must talk softly, and encourage them to slowly stand or turn.

You must take the extra time to praise them and earn their trust.

 Then you have dogs that are lovable but crazy.

They act like you have hot coals in the tips of your fingers every time you touch them.

They smash themselves to the back of the kennel.

They shake and tremble no matter how gently you work on them, or how much you talk to them.

All you can do is work slowly, and constantly reassure them that they are not going to die.

Then there are all of the great dogs that stand on your table and let you do anything with them, and are an absolute pleasure to groom.

There is so much more to grooming then meets the eye.

If only all of those owners who think 'you just play with dogs all day' only knew the work and talent that goes into grooming so many dogs, with different personalities everyday.

As a groomer you must be prepared and versatile enough to change up your grooming habits to work with each dog as an individual.

~Climbing  off my soap box now.~

Not sure if I will have time to blog tomorrow.

Wow, I just realized that today was supposed to be Tuesday's Tip.
All I can say is that you have to forgive me.
My head is spinning with all of the things that I still have to do to get ready for Groom Expo.

We will be leaving after work on Thursday.
I will be taking tons of pictures, and will blog all about it next week.

I hope that I have not bitten off more than I can chew.
I will be going on stage for Creative with a totally white dog.
I will be doing all of the coloring on the stage.

What am I thinking!
I have it all timed out in my head, I just hope it all goes the way I imagine it.
I am scared, but excited at the same time.
Right now my goal is to just finish her in time, and not be standing there with an unfinished dog.

I will post Creative grooming pictures Sunday night or Monday at the latest.


Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I too was blasted! Oh well. I just love your soft and gentle way with dogs..and your blog.
    It seems to me on some forums we groomers like to put up a tough front. Tough with the customers and tough with the dogs, I just am not that way.

  2. Lovely post! Good luck this weekend! ^o^ <3 Abigail

  3. I constantly get criticized at work on everything. I think its just the other groomer being jealous because all of the dogs I do, the owners love my work. I love your blog and read every post, especially because the pictures and I think your advice has really helped me improve. :)

    Thank you!

  4. Deb,
    I do wonder sometimes if some of the groomers really do what they say that they would do on those forums. I know that sometimes I can give good advice then have a hard time following it myself. :)
    I am sorry that you were also blasted. I feel that we are all entitled to our on opinions. I will continue to read the forums, and my poor dogs will have to listen to my comments about some of the posts. :)

  5. Mittens,
    Thank you! I had a blast at Groom Expo.

  6. Lauren,
    I am sorry that you have to deal with that kind of work environment. Been there, done that, it is no fun. All I can say is, when that other person brings you down, just remember, that it is the owners opinion that counts. If the owners and dogs are happy, you are doing a great job!

    Lisa, MFF

  7. This post sorta reminds me of myself! I confuse a lot of my past coworkers by how much I talk to my dogs on the table, they think I am talking to them. Even now where I work a new job it took them a good month to stop responding everytime they heard me talk. (i'm the only groomer.) The way I feel is when these dogs are at home I bet they get talked to like we do ours at home? At least I hope so! So I will talk to my dogs hoping it calms them. I do think it works. I also have different ways of talking to different dogs depends on how they act ect like you do. I think it helps make them more comfortable even the snippy ones. I dont like to work in silence and I feel it could possibly be frightening to the dog. Some stranger just poking and proding all over their body. Would would want that?! I do have a few dogs I muzzle because they lick to much no matter what I do their tongue gets close so I have to muzzle them for the front feet to keep them safe from themselves.

  8. Proudpitbullmom,
    Don't ever let anyone tell you that talking to the dogs is a waste of time. It always helps, even if just a little bit. :)
    Lisa, MFF

  9. I love your blog. I talk to my dogs just like you, and it does WORK! I rarely get bit and my dogs always (almost) come back to me when the customer picks them up. ;)

  10. Hi Anonymous,
    Thank you, I am really glad you like the blog. Keep talking to those dogs!
    Lisa, MFF