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, October 18, 2012

Grooming Puppies...My Way


I Love grooming puppies!!

Well, to be honest...I Love grooming puppies most of the time.

Every once in a while you can get one that is down right scary/dangerous to work on.

Most of the time they are fun to groom.

At least I think so. :)

I like to get puppies in for their first grooming as young as possible, after they have had their puppy shots.

The sooner that a puppy starts getting used to being groomed, the easier the grooming will be, and the sooner they will accept the process.

For many breeds, grooming can not be avoided.

Their coats demand care and regular grooming to keep them healthy.

When a customer calls, asking about how soon they should have their puppy groomed, I always say "as soon as possible."

My goal, when giving a puppy it's first groom, is to make the grooming as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

Some puppies will be scared.

It is a new experience.
Scary water, scary dryers, scary brushes, scary clippers/scissors.

Scary, scary, scary.

I work to make the grooming as comfortable and relaxing as possible.

When I have a puppy so relaxed that they fall asleep while I am grooming them...I am happy.

This is the way that I give puppies their first groom.

 The puppies first grooming is very important.
Not only for the puppy, but for the groomer also.
The first grooming sets the puppy up for a lifetime of grooming.
You must  make the first grooming as pleasant as possible. 

I start by telling all puppy owners that I will only do what their puppy will allow.
I will not force anything on them.
Now, that doesn't mean that I am going stop every time they get upset about something.
It means that I am going to work with the puppy to get them to accept the grooming process, and realize that it is nothing to be scared of, and that it will not hurt them.
But, if I have a puppy that is down right petrified of something, I will not push it.
I will groom as much as I can, then I will recommend to the owner to bring the puppy back in a few weeks to work with again.

I have to say that I rarely ever have to do that.
Most puppies are really good for their fist grooming.

Another thing that I tell owners before I groom their puppies...

I have found that most puppy owners come in asking for the dreaded 'Puppy Cut'.
Most owners want just a little hair off, or about half of their hair off, which usually requires hand scissoring.
I always inform the owner that I will do the cut that they want as long as their puppy is up for it.
I let them know that hand scissoring requires a very well behaved dog that does not mind standing still on my table for awhile.
I tell the owner that it is asking a lot of a young puppy to get a full hair cut, much less a hand scissor cut.
I talk most of my first time puppy owners into letting me bathe, blow dry, brush, and give a light trim.
The light trim consisting of, trimming up around the eyes, the feet,  and rear.
Sometimes trimming the outline too.

I will try to do the hand scissor, or clip as long as the puppy is ready for it.
I never promise a full cut on a puppy.
I always tell the puppy owner that it will be entirely up to their puppy whether or not he/she gets a full haircut.

Most owners are very agreeable and understand that you are looking out for the best interest of their puppy.


I have a puppy to groom.

Now it is time for me to take a breath and get myself mentally prepared for that puppy.

If you are already stressed out from another dog that was acting up, or took you a lot longer than you expected, you must take a few minutes to gather yourself and get into a good frame of mind.
This isn't very hard for me, because puppies just tend to put me in a good mood anyway.
I love training them for grooming.

Be honest with yourself, if you do not have the patience to work on puppies, you should avoid grooming them if possible.

If time allows, I like to play with the puppy a little before I start to groom it.
I want to get to know the puppy a little, and I want the puppy to get used to me to.
Playing with him/her may also help to get some of that puppy energy out.
If it is a very scared puppy.
I will hold it for a while, then put him/her in to a kennel to chill for a little while, while I work on another dog.
Every 10 minutes or so I will go over and open the kennel door and pet and sweet talk the puppy for a couple of minutes, then close the door and walk away.
I will do this a few times.
I want the puppy to realize that the kennel is a safe place, and that it is okay for someone to open the door and reach in for them.
That nothing bad is going to happen when that kennel door is opened or closed.

Every time I talk to the puppy, it is in a soft, gentle, baby type of voice.
If the puppy is very scared, my voice stays very soft and soothing.
If the puppy is happy and playful, my voice is still soft and soothing,but I add a little squeaky playfulness to it.

Think I am nuts yet?

It works for me. :)

Bathing the Puppy:

Put the puppy in the tub.

Tell him/her how good they are doing, and tell them that they are going to be okay.

Let the puppy sniff around the tub a little bit so that he/she can realize that everything is okay.

When you wet the puppy down, make sure that the water is nice and warm. (not hot)

I like to aim my sprayer away from the puppy, and let the water run for a minute or two so that the puppy gets used to the sound of the water before I actually spray it on the puppy.

Keep the water pressure low at first until you see that the puppy is okay with the water and not scared of it.

I start wetting them down from the hind end and move my way up, slowly, to the head.
I have also found that if you put the sprayer right up against the body so that the puppy can't hear the spray hitting their body, that they seem to accept the sprayer faster.

I talk, talk, talk while I am soaping up the puppy.
I talk in a tone of voice like I would as if I were playing with the puppy.

 This puppy did not want to keep all four feet down in the tub.

That was okay with me.

She was much more comfortable standing up with her front paws in my hand.

By letting her stand the way she wanted, she actually stood very still and let me rinse her off.

So work with the puppy.

Be prepared to get wet.
Be prepared for the puppy to whine, or cry.
Be prepared for the puppy to try to get away, and jump out of the tub.

If the puppy is really scared and has not calmed down by the time you are ready to rinse off the shampoo, keep talking in a calm, soothing voice.
The important thing is, don't stop. 
If you have to slow down, fine.
Try turning the water pressure down lower.

The main thing is to talk that puppy through the bath.
It may take a few baths for the puppy to accept it, but the most important thing right now, with the very first bath, is to get the puppy through it as pleasantly as possible.

I think one of the most important things during the bath is to try very hard not to get any water down the puppies nose.

Believe me, I know how hard this can be sometimes with a puppy that may be tossing it's head all over the place.

I like bring the sprayer up from the neck and move it slowly towards the face.

Always be prepared to quickly pull the sprayer away if the puppy turns it's head suddenly towards the sprayer.

If the puppy does happen to get water into its nose, let the puppy put its head down to let the water run back out, let him/her shake their head and sneeze if they need to.
I also like to take the towel and wipe their nose off.

After the bath, I like to wrap the puppies up in a towel.

I hold the puppy in a towel while I turn on my HV dryer to let the air warm up a little.

This also gives the puppy a chance to get used to the sound of the dryer while still being safely cuddled in a towel.

Drying the Puppy:

Most of the puppies that I dry with the High Velocity Dryer get dried while in my arms and up against my chest.

Some will hide their wet heads in my neck, under my hair.

That's okay, because lets face it, that big, noisy dryer can be pretty scary to a little puppy.

My HV dryer is also a variable speed dryer.
So I start out with the air pressure on a low setting.

I also start drying the puppy on its back leg, as far from the head as possible.

I am constantly talking to and reassuring the puppy that everything is okay, and that the big old dryer is not going to hurt them.

I keep my mouth right by their ear so that they can hear the calmness in my voice over the loud dryer.

Most of the time, by the time I finish drying the first back leg, the puppy is already starting to accept the dryer and is no longer scared of it.

I slowly work my way up to the head.

I fold the ears closed, or press them close to the head to avoid getting any air into the ears.

If the puppy is absolutely petrified of the large High Velocity Dryer,  of doesn't want the big dryer around its head, I don't push it.

I will dry the puppy with a small hand dryer.

Again, I let them press against me if that is what helps them to be still and feel safer.

The Trim:

By now, hopefully the puppy fully trusts you, and you know exactly what to expect with this puppy for the rest of the groom.

I like to let the puppies smell all of the tools that I am using before I start working on an area.

When scissoring around the eyes, I let them smell the scissors.

I will also lay the closed scissors up against the corner of the eyes, so that I can see if the puppy is going to stay still when I try to scissor, or if he/she is going to freak out when they see the scissors coming towards their eyes.

I also see what is the best hold when trying to scissor around the eyes.

Some puppies will let you hold their beards, but I have found that most puppies feel most comfortable when I cup their chin in the palm of my hand.

It is not the best hold, because the puppy can very easily pull away, but most don't pull away with this hold.

I also like to relax the puppy by gently rubbing between the eyes before and while I am scissoring between the eyes.

I also let the puppies lay down while scissoring them if that helps them sit still while scissoring around the eyes.

Anything that helps them sit still while trimming around the eyes.

If they want to sniff and check out their feet, or privates, to make sure that they are still there, that is okay too.

It is better to let them get it out of their system then fight them about it.

Most of the time they will sniff, check things out, then forget about it, and you can get on with the scissoring.

Remember, you want them to feel relaxed, not scared.

If you stay calm.

They will be calm.

And yes, I am still talking to them.

Hmmmm, maybe that is why they are always falling asleep on me.

If you have to use a clipper on a puppy for the first time because it is matted, turn the clipper on without a blade on it.

Hold the clipper close to the puppy and let the puppy get used to the sound of the clipper.

Let him/her sniff it too if they want to.

Next, take the clipper (still on, without the blade) and hold the body of the clipper against the puppies body so that he/she can get used to the vibration of the clipper.

If the puppy jerks away, keep moving with the puppy, keeping the clipper against the body until the puppy stops trying to move away.

They will eventually realize the the vibration is not hurting them.

Remember, you are still reassuring them in a calm, soothing voice.

Now, put the blade on the clipper, and slowly start to clip giving them time to get used to the blade vibrating down the back.

Talk to them and work them through the clip.
Don't worry about the first clip being perfect.
If the clip does not come out as nice as you would like it to, be honest with the owner.
Explain that because it was their puppies first clip,  and because their puppy is still learning to sit still on the table, the cut may not be as smooth as it should.
Tell the owner that you did not want to stress their puppy out trying to get every hair.
Let them know that the cut will get better as the puppy gets used to being groomed.

As long as that puppy goes home relaxed, all your hard work was worth it.

That same puppy will be better the next time, and will get better with each calm, soothing grooming.

As for charging for puppies...

I don't have special puppy prices because they are small.

I charge the same price that I would charge if the dog was full size.


Because puppies take a lot of extra training and time.

I spend more time on a puppy than I spend on a regular groom.

I know that I have said it several times in this post, but I must say it again.

It is very important to make the first grooming of a puppy as pleasant as possible.

Most of the time I have found that puppies are a joy to work on.

Unfortunately, you will get those puppies that make you want to pull your hair out.
They will frustrate you to the point of making you feel like crying.
They will scare the living beegebees out of you, twisting, turning, and fighting for everything.

One day you may get puppies like these two.

Don't get me wrong, they are very sweet puppies.

You would think after 28 years of grooming that I could easily handle these two, right?

Let me tell you, after using every trick in the book, begging, and pleading, with these two, for 45 minutes,  just to let me scissor around their eyes.

At one point, I found myself laying my head on my table wanting to cry, while the puppy was trying to find my face so he could lick me to death.

 Yes, I got them done.

They did not look great.

They actually were not to bad for letting me scissor about a 1/2 an inch off of their coats.

It was scissoring the faces that tested every bit of patience that I ever had.

So, I did the best I could for their first time.

I have groomed them several more times since the first time and they are much, much better.

It only takes me 10 minutes to groom their heads now. :)

That is how I groom puppies.

It works for me.

Do what works for you.

Do whatever it takes to make a puppies grooming as pleasant as possible.

Don't worry if you have to leave something undone the first time.
Most owners understand when you explain that it is in the best interest of their puppy.
And if they don't....then maybe you don't need them as a customer.

If you stress out  while grooming a puppy, the puppy will stress out too.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I enjoyed this post. But since I'm not a groomer, even though I read every word, I think it's because of all the puppy pictures! ;)
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Jacki,
      :) Thanks for reading when you could have just looked at the puppies. lol It is hard to pass up looking at those puppies, isn't it? :)
      Lisa, MFF

  2. Great blog post, as usual. I do many of the same things you do, with a few exceptions.

    We don't have any kennels, for starters, so we have to do puppies straight through the same as every other dog.

    I don't like to encourage the puppies to cling to me because I don't want them doing it their entire lives. I still use all the baby talk and hold them (gently) the best I can with my free hand. I just makes me crazy when dogs are trying to climb up my chest, on my head, and/or leap over my shoulder off the drying table, so I really don't want to encourage that.

    And the pricing is interesting. Every place I've worked has charged a lower price for puppies up until 6 months. Yes, they do take longer to groom than an adult, but it tends to encourage people to bring their puppies in more frequently when they are young so they can get used to it. It can be frustrating at the time, but I always figure it's worth it down the road when the crazy puppies grow up to be well-behaved adults because they were trained early and often.

    A lot of great info here for new groomers; I wish I had found something like this years ago when I was a new groomer. :-)

    The Writing Groomer

  3. Thank you for the speedy post! I'm still not 100% sure what I should do with puppies that bite though :( most of the puppies that I get are 5months and up, and either haven't been groomed before or been to several different groomers. Any suggestions for nippers?

  4. Yay, I did most of the stuff :) The only thing I'm not sure about is the gnawing. What should I do if they gnaw on me? I coddle them on the table though, then they slowly peel themselves off me (eventually). I'm really happy about this post though, it's so helpful!

    1. Hi Zhitong,

      Sorry to take so long to reply.
      I was going to answer your biting puppy question here in the reply, but as I was thinking about what to tell you, I realized that my reply may be too long for here.

      I feel another post coming on....

      Yep...Grooming an biting puppy.....

      I'll get to that as soon as I can for you.
      I already have a new What would you do for tomorrow. :)

      I am glad that this post was helpful for you.

      Lisa, MFF