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, February 7, 2012

Tuesdays Tip #42 Gentle Grooming

Over the weekend I was watching the Creative Grooming from the Pasadena Groom Expo.
I spent a few hours watching the entire competition on-line.
I enjoy watching other groomers groom.
Everyone did a wonderful job.

There was one thing that bothered me.

There was one groomer who I have admired over the years for her many Creative Groomings.
I have seen pictures of her dogs and they are great.
I don't think that she has ever competed a Hershey, and I have never met her.
I will not say her name or tell the theme of her groom.
I will say that I was very disappointed while watching her groom.

What disappointed me?

Her treatment of her dog.

She was rough.

Believe me, I understand being under pressure on that stage.
You have so much to do in a short time period, but I never treated my dog roughly while competing.
None of the other groomers that were competing Sunday were rough either.

I have gone to many Groom Expos and some Intergrooms, and rarely ever see a groomer handle a dog roughly in the ring.
As a matter of fact, I have only seen groomers being rough in the ring three times that I can remember.

One was a major competitor.
I saw her being rough on several occasions.
Maybe I should change that...
I saw what I thought was rough treatment.
Apparently the Judges didn't feel the same way, because they were watching the same thing that I was, and nothing was said to the competitor.
That groomer is now a Judge herself.

The second time the groomer ended up being disqualified from the Judging because the Judges found sores on the dog from her rough grooming.

The most recent groomer that I saw grooming a dog roughly in the ring was this past September at Hershey.
This groomer was so rough that  three separate times, within a 15 minute period, groomers in the audience complained to the Judges about her.
The thing that bothered me the most was, that three separate times the Judges went up to this groomer and told her to stop handling the dog roughly, but they did not disqualify her.

Some may think that I am too tough, but I feel that by the third warning you are out!
Maybe she was allowed to continue because she was from another country and the Judges didn't want to look bad disqualifying her.
She went on to place.
I was not happy about that either, because even if they had let  her continue to compete, her treatment of the dog should have been taken into account when Judging her.

We even watched when she took her dog over to have the after picture taken.
She did not like the dog.
She got pissed at him because he would not stand the way she wanted for the picture.
I understand that this dog was most likely a dog that was supplied for her because she came in from another country, and she was not used to the dog, BUT that is no reason for being mean to the dog intrusted in your care.

It's funny, I tend to have a lot more patience with my customers dogs than I do my own dogs.
I do expect more from my dogs, because I  start training them for grooming very young.
I don't expect good behavior from my customers dogs, because most of them are so babied that they don't even know they are dogs.
So if I don't expect them to be good, I don't get upset at their behavior when they are bad.

I am talking in circles aren't I?

Anyway, I know that there are a lot of groomers out there that feel that they need to be 'the boss' when grooming.

I do not believe in letting the dog walk all over you.
I also do not believe in being 'the boss'.

The thing that has worked best for me over the years is...working together with the dog.

I learned this the hard way.

In Grooming School, I was taught 'the boss' way.
My teacher was rough...with dogs and students.
I was not rough like her, because even then I didn't care for the way she did things.
But, she did make me feel that I had to be 'the boss' at all times and make the dog do what I wanted it to do, no matter what.

For the next few years, when I had hard to handle dogs or dogs that didn't want certain things done, I played 'the boss' and forced the issue to get that dog done, know matter what.
Don't get me wrong.
I wasn't mean, but I would fight and fight with the dog till I got the groom done.

Then one day, I had a dog come in.
A Cocker.
A Cocker that hated to have it's nails clipped.
I fought and fought this dog.
It pooped and peed....and when it throw up I stopped.
I stood there looking at the dog, and I hated myself.

This was not what I wanted.
I wanted to make dogs feel good.
I wanted to feel good about making dogs feel good.

I am upset right now typing this.
I don't like remembering those days.
Those days of being 'the boss'.

I stood back that day and swore that I was not grooming that way anymore.
I was not going to fight dogs to groom them.
There had to be a better way.

There was.

I started working with the dogs.
I started working with each dog differently.
Because all dogs are different.
They come from different homes.
They have different personalities.
They deal with things in different ways.
All dogs can't be groomed and treated the same way.

So how do I groom now?

Gently...and firm when needed, and with respect to the dogs feelings.

I noticed a difference right away.
I was less stressed.
The dogs were easier to groom.

I make it a point to think about the dogs feelings.
If they are scared, I spend extra time helping them relax by talking, and rubbing them till I see and feel them relax.
If they are nuts or hyper, I am gentle but firm.
I like to talk them through things that scare them.
If they don't like the way I am doing something, I find another way to do it.

I like to hold their faces gently.

If they are moving while I am trying to scissor, I only tighten my hold as much as needed right then.

If they stop moving, I immediately relax my hold.

If they start moving again, I firm up my hold as needed.

I do not squeeze a face.

You squeeze my face, I am going to jerk away too.

I use whatever hold works for that dog.

Yes, it can be very annoying when you have a dog that constantly yanks their face out of your hand, but I just go back and try again.

I keep trying till I find a hold that they don't mind.

They eventually always stop yanking for me.

 I don't grab and yank legs.

I like to slide my hand down the back of the leg and gently pick it up.

I only hold it as firmly as I need to for what I am doing.

If they try to yank the leg away, I don't put a death grip on the leg and hold it until they stop yanking.

If they yank their foot or leg out of my hand, I pick it up again.

I usually don't have to do this anymore than a couple of times, because I do give a firm 'stop' or 'no' when they yank their leg out of my hand.

They almost always give up after a couple of times.

Then I tell them how good they are.

I always think about the way that the dog is feeling.

If they don't like me lifting a leg high.

I lift the leg to where they are comfortable and move my body to get to what I need to.

I even clip bellys when the dog is laying down if it is the  most comfortable way for the dog.

I approach my grooming as a challenge to find ways to groom a dog comfortably.
I don't want grooming to feel like a war between me and the dog.

There are always going to be dogs that are not a joy to groom, no matter how hard you try to  work with them.
There will always be dogs that upset you, and you have to walk away from to calm yourself down.
There are always going to be dogs that you need to be firm with through the entire grooming.

Firm does not mean rough.

I don't let my customers dogs get away with misbehaving.
I work with them and train them for my grooming.
I am not worried about how they are at home.
I teach them what I expect of them while I am grooming them.
I respect them and their feelings, and in return I get their respect.

With some dogs it takes several groomings with me for them to learn and become good dogs on the table and in the tub.
Other dogs caught on really quickly.

I don't care what any trainer or other groomer says.
Grooming gently works for me.
I successfully groom a lot of dogs that other shops have refused to groom.
I truly believe that it is because I work with the dog.

I really came close to erasing the part of this post where I talked about the Cocker, that was a time that I don't like to admit to, but  it is also the day that things turned around for me.
I realize that there may be new  and old groomers out there that were taught the same as me, or think that they have to be 'the boss' of the dogs.

You can still be in charge of what you are doing, and still be a gentle groomer.
If dogs fight you a lot, take a step back and see if it is something that you might be causing, or your way of grooming might be causing.

There is nothing wrong with telling a customer that you were unable to clip all of the nails, or scissor around the eyes as good as you wanted to.
Explain to the owner that it was stressing their dog out, but that with time you will work with their dog at each grooming to get them to except all of the grooming.
Every owner that I have ever had to tell this to has understood and thanked me for caring about their dog.
If they didn't, I would not want them as a customer.

Okay, climbing down off of my soap box now.
I am not a perfect groomer.
There are always things that I need to work on.
I do work very hard to be a gentle groomer. 

It may sound childish, but I do want the dogs to like me. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I've never heard someone speak about grooming like this, the exact way I feel about pet handling. I'm now your biggest fan. :)

  2. I can tell from all your posts that you are a gentle groomer. When I'm grooming I often think of a posts you have written regarding different topics. I feel the same way you do regarding how I treat dogs...thanks for this!

  3. Hi Deb & Serena,
    Thank you for your nice words. I was a little worried about this post. It is hard to admit your faults, but that was many, many years ago. I work hard everyday to be a good groomer, and do the right things for the dogs put in my care. If we can't treat the dogs right and respect their feelings too, we should not be groomers. :)
    Lisa, MFF

  4. Great post! You are correct.. you can't bully or train all dogs in the few hours you have them in your care. I learned quickly that some just need to think they have the upper hand.. then we are all happier. That is terrible about the competition groomer.. I've only watched a couple of competitions, but certainly would expect they would be judging your treatment of the dog the whole way through the groom! Sickening.
    There is a groomer that infrequently works where I work.. she learned the "BULLY" way, and I cringe when I'm in the room with her and a dog that doesn't see it her way. Same with old dogs.. she always cranks each dog's leg up high to do nails.. even if they may be just fighting due to pain. We make sure we don't schedule any of them with her anymore. :(

  5. I have been reading through your posts, and I keep coming back to read previous ones! It's great to read about your experiences. I am so glad that there are conscientious dog groomers out there like you! I've always had dogs, and I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been surprised by how some 'professnals' treat animals. I really think that people forget why they groom in the first place, they get lost in the job I guess, and forget that they probably went into it because of their love of animals. Pretty soon you can see them trying to clip as many dogs/cats as can be scheduled in a day, nevermind that the animals may stress, or need a more gentle approach. Well, I finally braved it and I've groomed all my pets myself. I especially enjoy your posts it's pictures! Very useful and interesting! Best wishes.

  6. I agree D, it is very hard to work with someone that just doesn't seem to get that they are working on animals that have feelings and can be hurt. They think; 'I am the boss and you're going to do what I say whether you like it or not.' I hate that kind of mentality in the grooming world. I am sorry that your boss keeps someone like that and that you have to work with them.

    Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for reading my blog. I am glad you enjoy it. I think that one of the biggest problems with grooming is that most groomers are paid by commission. As they get faster at grooming they tend to get caught up in grooming as many dogs as they can to make as much money as they can and they forget to take time with the dog.
    It is not always the groomers fault either. Some bosses tent to push groomers to do more dogs a day than they are comfortable doing so that their business can bring in more. If the groomer doesn't groom enough dogs they are out of a job. There are a lot of good groomers out there, you just have to weed through some of the bad ones to find them. :) Thanks again for reading my blog.
    Lisa, MFF

  7. i want all my new groomers to read this post and well pretty much your whole blog. i love it and beleive in what you are doing. -Linz

  8. Hi Linz,
    WOW! What a nice complement. Thank you very much.
    I am glad that you like my blog, please keep reading. :)
    Lisa, MFF