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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

That's Your Opinion

Some of my readers may remember me talking about an appointment that I  made for a dog that I was warned was a bad biter.

I was told this by one of my long time customers.
She was talking about her neighbors dog.
This customer warned me that her neighbor would be calling me for an appointment, but that I should turn her away because the dog had bitten her, her daughter, her dog, and a couple of other people.

I had no reason not to believe this customer.
As I said, I have been grooming her dogs for a long time and she is a very good customer.

Her neighbor did call that same day.
She never mentioned that her dog had ever bitten anyone when making the appointment.

Yes, I made an appointment for her.
I was very curious about this dog.
I was also curious about whether the owner would admit that their dog was a biter when she brought it in.
I also love the challenge of grooming a problem dog.

I groomed the dog yesterday.

While the owner was filling out the information sheet, I greeted the dog in my lobby.
He did shy away from me at first, but I didn't get any bad vibe off of him.
He did stiffen when I picked him up, but he was also wagging his tail.
I tried to keep my energy very relaxed.
I didn't want him to realize that I was keeping a close eye on any signs that he would suddenly bite.
My other customer had warned me that he could be very friendly, and not give any warning before he bit.

After the dogs owner filled out the new customer information sheet, I started asking questions.
I asked several questions that gave the owner the opportunity to inform me of any problems with her dog, such as biting.

You might be wondering why I didn't just ask her straight up if her dog had ever bitten anyone.

I didn't for two reasons.
One~ she was gushing about how wonderful her dog was the second that I entered the lobby.
She didn't have one bad thing to say about her dog.
She was gushing a little too much.

Two~ I didn't, in any way, want her to know what her neighbor had told me.
I didn't want her to be even a little bit suspicious that her neighbor had told me that her dog had bitten anyone, or that she had recommended that I not groom the dog.

At this point it really didn't matter whether the dog had bitten anyone or not.
I had decided to groom this dog when I let her make an appointment.

He turned out to be a really good dog.

He was what I call 'a watcher'.

He liked to watch everything that I was doing to him, which for me is one of the signs of a potential biter.

So, I worked slowly and talked to him the entire grooming.

I told him everything that I was about to do.

Did I say that he turned out to be a very good boy.

He was a little touchy about having his nails clipped, but he never tried to bite me.

I really appreciate that my other customer cared enough to warn me about this dog.

She kept telling me that she didn't want me to get hurt.

Do I still believe that this dog did all of the biting that she said that it did?

Yes, I do believe her.
I do think that if this dog is approached the wrong way, it would fear bite.
By the wrong way, I mean sudden moves.

I certainly do not recommend that all groomers groom biting dogs.
Not all groomers have extra time to spend on a biting dog.
If you are a groomer that stresses too easily, you should turn away biting dogs.
An employer also should never make a groomer groom a biting dog if they are uncomfortable doing so.

At one of the events at Groom Expo this year, I had another groomer actually get mad at me for grooming biting dogs.
One of the reasons that I like going to Groom Expo is being able to talk to other groomers.
Only, there are other times that you meet groomers that don't mind telling you that they don't agree with how you groom.

I have to say that I was pretty disturbed after talking to these two groomers.
First, they asked about my prices.
I didn't mind telling them what I charged for a medium size dog.
They were very quick to let me know that I was 'cheep' compared to what they charge, and they seemed angry about it too.

This has always driven me crazy.

I notice it on the grooming boards from time to time also.
Groomers giving other groomers a hard time because they think that the other groomer is not charging enough.
Prices vary from state to state and even county to county.
I have had customers tell me that I am too high, and I have also had customers tell me that they were charged a lot more somewhere else.
My prices are basically the same as other groomers around me.
Both of the groomers that I was talking to were from higher income areas.

One of the two groomers that I was talking to really got upset that I was grooming biting dogs.

"You shouldn't be taking biting dogs," he told me firmly.
"I like the challenge of grooming biting dogs," I told him.
"Why?" he asked, looking at me like I was nuts.
"Because most of the time I have no problem with them, and the others usually stop biting by the second or third time that I groom them," I explained.
Now he was really disgusted with me.
"What do you do?" he said, very sarcastically. "Sprinkle them with magic fairy dust?"

He wasn't finished.

"If your prices were higher you wouldn't have to take everything that walked in the door," he said not even looking at me anymore.
"I don't have to take anything that walks in the door," I told him, with a smile on my face, even though I didn't feel like smiling anymore. "Most of my customers book a year in advance, and there is a two month wait for the rest of the appointments that are left."

At this point I didn't care if I sounded like I was tooting my own horn, he had pissed me off.

What did it matter to him whether I groomed biting dogs or not?
And why did he automatically think that I was a struggling groomer just because my prices were not as high as his, and I groomed biting dogs?
I had never run into groomers like this before at Groom Expo.

I am very proud that I am skilled enough to work safely with biting dogs.
I certainly don't judge other groomers for not wanting to work on biting dogs.
I was not the least bit prepared for another groomer to get so upset and mean about the fact that I groomed biting dogs.

Sorry, that turned into a small rant. :/

Oh well, that's is why I own my own shop...I do it my way. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. When I was a new groomer, I HATED doing biting and difficult dogs. Who doesn't when you're still learning? But as I've gotten more experience under my belt and my confidence has gone up, I don't mind the biters anymore. As you said, a lot of the dogs that have bitten other people don't bite a patient, experienced groomer, and if they do try they eventually stop. Otherwise, you learn how to work around it. I have several naughty dog requests, and every time I groom them, I feel really good about the fact that I have grown enough to manage them.

    And yeah, prices really vary a lot, even around my big city. I've groomed Shih Tzus for everything from $40-60 just depending on where in the city I worked. I've never understood the anger about pricing. Maybe they think they're losing clients to the cheaper places? Who knows.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      It does feel so good when you get those biting dogs to trust you and not bite, doesn't it?
      Lisa, MFF

  2. Good for you! I'm glad you stood up for yourself. Sometimes groomers think they are better than everybody else. We eat sleep and poop just like everybody else. One is not better than the other.. :-)

    And I'm glad the dog wasn't a biter- i remember you posting that a while back.

    1. Thanks Laura,
      I hope that ALL groomers learn to work together some day. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  3. Whoops, Lisa. My "comment" was so long that it cannot be accepted.
    Bottom line: I've only been grooming for less than 6 months, and already it is an emotional roller-coaster!

    1. LOL
      Been there, done that too. It is so frustrating after doing all of that typing, and then it tells you that you typed too much. :/ I have gotten around that by copy/paste the last half of my post and posting two separate comments (the first part and a continuation) haha That way I didn't have to retype and condense my comment.
      So, if you feel like getting things off your chest again...I like reading. :) It is so hard sometimes finding someone who will listen to us and understand some of the things that we go through when grooming.
      I had a very good friend of mine look at me like I was totally insane one time when I mentioned that grooming could be very stressful. "How could playing with dogs all day possibly be stressful?!"
      Even after telling her some stories, I still don't think that she was convinced that my job was more than 'playing' with dogs. :(
      I am sorry that your first 6 months of grooming has been such a crazy time. Hopefully it will get better soon. Hang in there.
      Lisa, MFF

    2. I remember very well how stressful it was to be a new groomer. I have also dedicated a couple of blog posts entirely to what it's REALLY like to be a dog groomer. If anybody is interested, you can find those blog posts here: http://thewritinggroomer.blogspot.com/2012/07/day-in-life-of-dog-groomer.html and here: http://thewritinggroomer.blogspot.com/2012/07/what-its-really-like.html. Also, Lisa, I know you've read this before, but Anonymous might appreciate my recounting of the craziest customer I have EVER dealt with. That one is here: http://thewritinggroomer.blogspot.com/2012/07/craziest-customer-ever.html.

      Hang in there Anonymous! Grooming is tough work, but it is also a great job!

    3. Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for posting links to your blog. I spend so much time on my blog that I don't get a chance to read others very often, but I am going to try to visit them more often.
      One note..I could not get the 'what it is really like' link to come up.
      I also plan on following your other blog. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    4. Hi Lisa,

      I am "Anonymous". I even forgot to sign off!
      My story: I'm now working in a vet hospital, where I am the only groomer. I was their first "real" groomer. The nurses used to do the grooming. Their equipment is pretty crappy (no HV and I being my own scissors and trimmers). But all that I don't really mind. What I mind is that I have to answer to the head nurse and all others, and sometimes their attitude to grooming really drives me nuts. Their solution to difficult grooms is to get as many nurses as needed to restrain the dog. And sedation.

      The other day a border collie cross (Zoe) came in and the owner wanted to do #3 on her. She said to leave the feathers. No problem.
      Zoe was fine throughout, until I put the clipper on her legs. She would lunge at my face without warning. It might not be to bite, because all I felt was her nose ramming hard into my face. But anyway she was responsive to a firm voice. She would back off a bit, but she will lunge for my face again if I touch her legs. So I muzzled her to do the legs.
      Each time she tries to lunge at me I will give a firm NO and she will back off. I managed to do her front legs. Every time she is good I praised and cuddled her. She is actually a very sweet dog.
      But after a bit of clipper work down the back legs, she got very agitated. She would swing around and whimper each time I go near her back legs. No amount of soothing or coaxing could change her mind. She looked very scared, actually.

    5. Her back legs were still untidy, but I thought that she has had enough of my firm voice for one day. I didn't want her to start hating getting groomed even more.
      So I called the owner and told him about this, and he said all right. He would pick the dog up right now.
      And because I have to report almost everything to the head nurse, I told her about this, too.

      Now, the head nurse has an attitude of "to avoid trouble with the big bosses" wherever possible. She decided that I should try doing Zoe's legs one more time, even though I have told her the owner said he was all right with it.

      Probably the head nurse was afraid that the owner would complain about the untidy groom, and she would get into trouble with the big bosses. So, she said that we should try to groom Zoe again. So she took Zoe out from the cage. She muzzled Zoe and then held Zoe's head while another nurse held Zoe's back part. I was hesitant, because I could see Zoe looked scared. As I approached Zoe with the scissors, Zoe was so scared that she peed.

      At that point, I put my foot down and told the Head Nurse that I was not going to do it. The Head Nurse said OK, but told me that when the owner come, I was to try to do Zoe's legs in front of him again. To PROOF to the owner that it was not the groomer's fault.

      Anyway the owner came just then and I took Zoe out. He was very fine with the groom and was more concerned about Zoe being stressed out just now. Zoe was all happy by this time, of course.
      At this point the Head Nurse came out to let him know that we could not groom Zoe very well because she is stressed, so stressed that she peed.

      The owner was very very upset about this. He would rather we stop when she is stressed out. He told us she was a rescue dog, and she has certain issues with people touching her back legs. His wife who brought the dog in in the morning did not tell me any of this, of course :/

      I don't blame the Head Nurse. She has had to deal with many many crazy owners, and she has to answer to the big bosses. I'm sure the big bosses are not nice to deal with, if they have caused the Head Nurse to have this attitude of avoiding trouble at all costs. She was actually trying to cover my butt, too. Maybe she was thinking if the owner complained about the groom, the big bosses would blame me, too.

      But anyway that day I was very very upset that the owner was so upset. I can still see his face now.
      I was very upset that I did not put my foot down earlier, before the last attempt that made Zoe pee.
      I would rather upset the owner with an untidy groom than upset the dog, but obviously the vet practice's attitude is the opposite. If the owner was not happy, he was welcome to take his business elsewhere. I do not want to be the one that makes a dog that upset just to get her looking pretty. But then, it is not my business, so I have no right to say or think that. That's why I was very very frustrated.

      Maybe this long long story seems like such a minor thing. But that day I was very upset. I had never made a dog that upset, even those difficult one that I have had to muzzle for parts of the groom.

      But anyway, I do still like my job. Especially on days when I get sweet, sweet dogs. Or when a dog that has always been sedated did not need to be sedated when I groomed him.

      Thanks for letting me vent here, Lisa!

    6. Hi Ana,
      I have to say that your post disturbed me. The more that I read, the more upset I got for you and the dog. I give you credit working at a Vet. My second job as a groomer was at a Vet/Kennel. I had only been grooming for a year and was a replacing a long time groomer who had been very fast. I had to hear all of the time...so in so did it this way...so in so did it that way. It made me feel very insecure about my job.
      On top of that, the Vet upstairs would make me take dogs that I had turned away, because I didn't think I had time to do them that day. They closed at 5pm and you had better be done all of your dogs. One day a woman called wanting to get her Newfie in on the same day. I said 'no'. She called the Vet. He called down and told me to do the dog.
      Things like that drove me crazy.
      One day I came in and the clipboard with the customers from the day before was sitting on my table. One of the customers names was all crossed out. You could tell that someone had crossed it out angrily. When I asked about it, I was told that it was crossed out because I was not going to be paid for that dog, because the owner was upset about the dogs topknot not being poofy. (I would leave when I was done and was not there when the owner picked up the dog) The dog was a Poodle want-to-be, and had very thin, straight hair on it's head. I didn't have the skills back then to get any kind of poof. Not sure if I could have done it today either. My boss did not know enough about grooming to take up for me and explain that the dogs hair was too thin and straight to make it poofy. He just got mad at me because, the customer got mad at him. It is hard when you don't have another person with grooming experience there to back you up.
      The last straw was when I groomed a sedated dog. You had to do everything before they woke up. You groomed them laying down, so the grooms where never very tidy. Well, my boss thought that a Schn that I groomed was too untidy, and HE (not a groomer) decided to get the dog out and tidy it up. I was so mad at him that I turned my back on him and continued grooming the dog I had on my table.
      I don't know what made me turn around, but thank God I did. My boss had put the dog on a noose, trying to get the partly sedated dog to stand up so that he could get to the untidy hair. The only problem was, the dog could not hold up his head. It was strangling! I yelled at him. He did not even realize that the dog was dieing. Thankfully for him and the dog, The Vet was able to resuscitate the dog.
      Soooo, you can understand the flashbacks that I had while reading your comment.
      To be continued in next reply...

    7. ...see, I talk too much

      I think that it is time for you and the head nurse to have a little friendly sit down. You did exactly the right thing when you stopped and called the owner. I would have done the same thing. I have found that owners really appreciate it when you show concern for their pets feelings. I have not EVER had a customer get upset that I didn't do 'the perfect groom' after I explained to them their dogs stress.
      What would that head nurse have done if that dog had gotten injured, or so stressed the second time around that the Vet had to medicate it? She would have had a he** of a lot explaining to do to the owner who you had already called AND her boss. I was so afraid that your story was going to end very badly.
      I also think that the Nurse offered too much information. Was it really necessary to tell the owner that the dog got so stressed that it peed. She may have thought that she was proving her point to the owner, but obviously he didn't see it that way. He started having visions in his head of things that didn't happen (like his dog hanging from the ceiling) and got very upset. You never know what goes through an owners imagination. I have actually had owners say; "You don't tie them down to groom them?" when I tell them that I don't even use a grooming loop.
      Ganging up on a dog is the worst thing that people can do to a dog that is already upset. I feel that there should never be more than two people. One to hold a head, or distract the dog while the other does what needs to be done. It has always worked very well for me.
      Sorry, I have very strong opinions on how dogs should be handled. I can get carried away.
      Oh, one other thing. If a dog shows me signs that they really object to clippers on the legs, I calm them down then I just just scissors. I have noticed that a lot of collie, Shepard, Spaniel type dogs do not like the clipper run down their legs. (with most of these types of dogs I don't even bother with the clipper) I do one of three things. I try first with taking the clipper down the leg with a very light, slow touch.(I find that a lot of groomers are very heavy handed with the clipper), or I skim the clipper down the leg taking off most of the hair, or I just scissor. It depends on how much the dog fusses.

      Have I lost you? I do talk too much. :) I feel your pain, because I did like my job at the Vet/Kennel, there were just some things that drove me crazy.
      Follow your gut. If you feel that you should not push a groom, DON"T. If you did continue, things could go VERY wrong. Maybe if you put it like that to the head nurse she would understand and work WITH you. She has to understand that you are a professional groomer and you do know what you are doing.
      Thanks for sharing your rant. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    8. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for the reply. Yes, I think working at a vet is mostly not an ideal place for a groomer, unless you happen to get a boss that puts as much importance on it as he does on the vet medicine side.

      Yes I also thought that the Head Nurse offered too much information. I would have just said that the dog was upset, but not going into details. Only if a dog is physically injured, then I would let the owner know everything.

      I actually used the scissors on Zoe's legs. That was how I managed to do the front legs and part of the back legs. But she is very scared of even the scissors hovering anywhere near her back legs. She probably had some very bad experience before.

      I don't know why but many of the dogs at this vet seemed to have required sedation. I have done a few that had needed sedation in the past (with another groomer/ nurse), but they were actually pretty all right when I did them. Not the easiest, but not horribly terrible.
      I was just looking through my appointments for this week and reading up their files. Tomorrow alone I have 3 dogs that have always needed sedation (I have never done these dogs before as I have only been working here for 3 months).
      I don't like to think that the previous groomer/ nurses who groomed these dogs were too willing to use sedative. Because surely everyone would rather not sedate a dog unnecessarily, right? I keep thinking that surely these dogs must have some horrible habit of biting etc, that they have had to use sedation almost everytime.
      Well, I will know when I try to do them without sedation tomorrow :)


    9. Hi Ana,
      At the Vet/ Kennel that I worked at, I was told that the groomer before me sedated a lot of her dogs, because a sedation groom was charged a lot more and she got a higher pay. It is very sad, but must have been true, because I handled every dog that she sedated BEFORE I would let them sedated it for me, and only about 10% of them really needed to be sedated. Some others only needed a muzzle for part of the groom.
      I have always heard that Vets have it pounded into them at school about how bad a dog bite is, but are not given any education on how to handle dogs. All my Vet has to see is one little lip curl or hear a small growl and on goes a muzzle. I know that there are a lot of groomers that do the same thing. I once talked to a groomer that worked at a shop that muzzled EVERY dog. The dogs were met at the door with a muzzle. I still can't believe that people let them groom their dogs. She could not believe that I groomed dogs without a muzzle.
      It is up to you and your safety, but maybe they would let you handle and evaluate these 3 dogs temperaments before they sedate them. You may have a calming personality that those dogs do well with, where as the other groomer may have been heavy handed, or just didn't want to take the time to work with the dogs.
      Good luck, you sound like a very caring groomer to me. I just hope that the people that you work with will let you work the way you want. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    10. Hi Lisa,

      The first two times I got dogs that needed sedation, I did not question the previous groomers' judgment and sedated them. Both times were a very bad experience for me.
      For the first dog, the sedation did not change the behaviour at all. It might have made it worse because the dog seemed very defensive. He looked a little sleepy but was quite alert and would still fight like crazy. And no amount of coaxing could get through to him. He was a very nice dog when the owner brought him in, so I wonder if he might actually be easier without sedation. Maybe next time.
      The second dog was a very old one that came in already medicated (by the owner). She said she chose to sedate the dog because the experience is too stressful for the dog. The vet gave the dog another injection. She was sleepy, but not totally knocked out. When I was clipping the ear, she suddenly jerked awake and I ended up giving her a cut along the edge of the ear. Her being sedated put me in a false sense of security and I should have been more careful. It was only a small cut that only needed tissue glue and the owner was very nice about it, but that was the first (and hopefully only) dog I ever cut and I was bawling my eyes out that night. Sedation that does not knock the dog out completely is horrible. The dogs jerk suddenly and you cannot predict their movements.
      So since those two times I always ask the owners if they want me to do the dogs without sedation first. Usually the dogs' files will write if they had to be sedated because they bite or are moving too much, so I can kind of know what to expect. So far the few I did were OK. They probably only had to be muzzled for the nails.
      One of the dogs I did, the owner said it would be impossible to do the dog without sedation as the dog nips even when the owner tries to brush her. But the dog was actually OK and responsive to a firm NO. And the owner actually sounded quite disappointed when I told her that the dog was actually quite all right without sedation :/
      But anyway there were only two dogs today that had needed sedation. The owner said they were "crazy dogs". They were cocker spaniels and you would not believe how matted they were. Their ears were matted SOLID and biiiiig (ears bigger than head!) and I could not tell where the matt ends the ear begins. Their feet were so matted that it was like they were wearing boots.
      I tried doing them and they were actually OK until I tried clipping the matts on the ears and the legs. They could not stand any kind of tugging on the ears and would jerk very violently. That was when I decided it best to do them under sedation. I now have a phobia about cutting ears, can you tell... Anyway the matt was too bad to groom safely on an un-coperative dog. Very sad, really, because if only the owner would just take a bit of time to brush them, I think they would be OK to groom.
      The sedation used on these two dogs totally knocked them out, so it was done quite fast and very safely.
      P.S. At my work place the groomer does not get paid for the sedation.


    11. Hi Ana,
      I agree with you! I hated working on sedated dogs. The place that I worked at actually knocked the dog out, not just mild sedation. You had to get the groom done before the dog woke up and you also had to keep an eye on them to make sure that they continued breathing. HATED IT!
      You are right, it is a false sense of security. Some dogs would fight going under, which just made them very limp and wobbly. Much more dangerous to groom.
      Since customers don't seem to want to listen to us, the Vet that you work for should be telling that lady with the Cockers about how harmful it is to her dogs to let them mat up that badly. Of course they are going to get upset when their ears are clipped. Their poor ears are probably so sore from carrying the weight of those mats around for so long. If she had them groomed more often, the grooming would be much more pleasant for her dogs, and they probably would not need sedation. You did the right thing.
      I refuse to let any of my customers give their dogs any sedation before they come to me. I don't have a Vet in house and am not prepared to take care of a sedated dog if something goes wrong.
      I give you all the credit in the world for working on those sedated dogs.
      As for the lady with the dog that didn't seem happy about you not sedating her dog, she is most likely one of those crazy people who likes dramatics and likes telling people that her dog needs to be sedated. I know that it sounds silly, but I bet she is one of those crazy people. :)
      Hang in there. You are doing a great job. I enjoy your comments. :)
      Lisa, MFF