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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Do People THINK That They See?

I have often wondered this while grooming.

Mainly because I groom in front of my shops window.

After years of grooming in rooms with no windows, I really like having my table next to the window.

The dogs like looking outside while I groom also.

I also don't have anything to hide when I groom.

There are sometimes when I am not so sure it is a good idea to groom in front of a window.

Like whenever I groom this guy.

I actually really like this guy, but he is not a groom that I look forward to.


Because he is so spoiled, and can be very nasty when he wants to be.

There is no rhyme or reason to what will set him off.

Yes, he will not hesitate to eat you alive if you do something that he does not like.

It can be something as simple as touching his belly, or foot, or tail, or...anything.

One minute he can be wagging his tail and the next trying to eat you, then wagging his tail at you again, pawing you to pet him.
Yes, his owner knows how he can be.
That is why he has a leash that says 'Bad to the bone' all over it.

Anyway, while grooming him last week, he went off on me.
I was almost finished grooming him, and only had his back feet and legs left to scissor.
He had been doing pretty good up to that point, just a little growling here and there, but that is not unusual for him. 
He likes to do a lot of talking while you groom him.

I slowly picked up his foot, (you don't do anything quickly with him) and started to scissor... and wham, he swung around and grabbed my hand in his mouth biting several times, get harder with each bite.
I grabbed him.
I grabbed him with both hands.
One on each side of his neck.
I grab him to stop him from biting.
Then I proceeded to tell him just what I thought of him going after me like that for no good reason.
I didn't yell at him.
I held him firmly, turned him to look right at me, and I told him that he was nasty and that I didn't deserve for him to go after me for doing nothing but scissoring his feet.
I told him to behave and grow up, and that I was not going to put up with that crap.
I said all of this to him in the best 'your in trouble Mommy voice' that I could do.

You could actually see his eyes go from the crazed, cujo look, back to those soft eyes in the picture above.
It is like looking at two different dogs.
The eyes soften, the tail starts to wag, and you can almost hear him saying; "oh, I am sorry, I didn't really mean it.
Unfortunately, once his bitting dog button has been pushed, you have to muzzle him to finish.
And all I had left to do was 5 minutes of work.

Okay, back to what I was writing this post about...

In the middle of my giving the dog a lecture, with my hands still on each side of his neck to keep him from biting, a car pulled up in front of my shop with a clear view of me holding this dog.

Believe it or not, in the middle of keeping him from biting and lecturing him, it flashed in my mind...'what in the world must these people, out in that car, think I am doing to this dog with my hands on his neck and an upset look on my face.'

I have often thought about what non-groomers, pet owners, see and think when they watch a dog being groomed.

I read a news article one time about creative grooming, where they had at least a dozen pictures of dogs from different creative grooming competitions.
I was blown away as I read the comments.
Most of the comments talked about how sad, upset, and humiliated the dogs looked in the pictures.
So much so, that I actually scrolled through the pictures again to see what in the world those were seeing that I wasn't.
I DID NOT see sad, upset, and humiliated dogs.
I saw happy, healthy, although very colorful dogs.

I have been in Petsomethings and heard people make comments as they watch the groomers groom.
"Oh, she is pulling that poor dogs leg."
" Look how she is holding the dogs head. That's mean." 
Those are just a few of the comments that I have overheard.

So what does a pet owner see?

Do they see a dogs leg being pulled?

Or, do they see what the groomer is actually doing?

Holding the leg firmly away from the body so that the armpit can safely, and clearly be seen to be clipped.

Do they think that I am pulling the dogs head backwards?

Or, do they know that I am gently holding the dogs head up so that I can see what I am cutting.

Do they also realize, that if this dog wants to move her head, she can very easily pull out of my grip.

Do they think that I am lifting this dogs leg out of it's hip socket?

Or, do they know that I only lift the dogs leg as high as each dog can tolerate.

That once again I need to be able to see what I am clipping.

Do they think that I am purposely hurting the dog while trying to pluck hair out of the ears.

Or, do the realize that it is something that a lot of dogs are not crazy about, but that I do it as gently and humanely as I can.

Do they know that I massage the dogs ears after I pluck them, and apologize to the dog for having to be the mean guy and pluck it in the first place.

Do they think that I am pinching this dogs ear?

Or, do they realize that I am gently holding that ear very still so that I only cut what I need to cut on the ear.

And, that I am praying that my hold will keep the dog from suddenly turning that same ear into my scissors at the wrong moment.

 Do they think that I am holding the face so tight that I am cutting off the dogs airway?

Or, do they realize that I am gently holding the dogs muzzle so that the dogs head stays still so that it can be scissored.

Do they realize that if you hold a dogs muzzle too tight that it will only make the dog struggle to get away, and that is not what we want.

Do they think that we are choking a dog because we have our hand around the dogs neck?

Or, do they realize that a groomer can hold a dogs neck to keep the dog still without squeezing, or choking the dog in any way.

Do they think that I am pulling and hurting a dogs tail when I wrap my hand around the tail to lift it?

Or, do they realize that wrapping your hand around the base of the tail and gently holding it up is a safe and humane way of lifting and holding the tail.

Do they think that I am squeezing their dog when I tuck its head under my arm to clip the nails?

Or, do they realize that I am letting the dog hide its head under my arm because the dog does not like watching when its nails are clipped.

Do they know that this hold is like a hug, and calms a lot of dogs down when they are having their nails clipped.

 Do they think that we are mean because we hold a dogs chin hair when we groom the face?

Or, do they realize that holding the dogs chin hair does not hurt and helps us to keep the head still enough the scissor safely around the eyes.

Do they realize that once again the dog can pull out of our grip at any time.

I will admit that when I have a dog that I have to muzzle because of biting, or I have a dog that likes to fight a lot on my table, I will close my curtains on my window.

I don't want a passerby to look in my window just as a dog goes nuts on my table and flips all around, because all I can think is that they think that I am the one flinging the dog around the table.
They do not realize that  all I want is the dog to be standing still.
The last thing that a groomer wants is the dog to be flopping all over the place.

It also amazes me how many pet owners think that muzzling a dog is a bad thing.

Sometimes is it very necessary to muzzle a dog.

 A groomers grooming career could come to an abrupt end if bitten badly.

Used correctly, a muzzle is a safe tool for a groomer to use on a dog.

The problem is, when someone sees a muzzle being used on a dog, and the groomer is not able to explain why it is being used, people jump to their own conclusions.

For some reason they seem to like to think that it is the groomers fault that the dog is biting in first place.

I got very upset when my curtain was open for people to see me grab that dog from biting me.
Even though I knew that I was not hurting him, I certainly didn't want them to think that I was hurting him.

Isn't it a crazy world when you always have to worry about what other people are thinking?
I am always very careful about the way I am handling a dog.

This post is one of the reasons why I don't let owners stay with their dogs while I groom them.
For one, I feel that the owner distracts their dog from paying attention to me while I am grooming and I feel that that is a safety issue.

The second reason?.......all of the above pictures.

A single grooming would take forever if I had to stop and explain every hold that I had to use on the dog.

Okay, I am done rambling.

I am still going to groom in front of my window. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I spent 5 years grooming at a PetSomething, and I hated working in a fish bowl for all of these reasons. Yes, we would get complaints from people who thought we were being too rough with the dogs when we really weren't. People would get REALLY upset. I worked in a strip mall for 2 years facing a window, but luckily there wasn't a ton of foot traffic in front of the store. I am SO happy to work in a windowless room now. There are far fewer distractions for both the dogs and myself and I don't have to worry about what people are thinking about how I am handling the dogs.

    Kudos to you for not letting that worry distract you from grooming the way you need to in order to get the job done.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Five years! I don't know how you did that. I always feel sorry for those groomers when I go in to buy my dog food. There always seem to be people standing at the window, or inside at the counter. That would drive me crazy.
      Lisa, MFF

    2. Hello, Lisa. This might be long-winded...but here goes. I wanted to thank you. I recently discovered your blog, and have been enjoying it very much. I will even go so far as to credit you with my decision to stay in the grooming world! A few weeks ago, I typed into my computer "groomer burnout", because oh boy...did I have it. I have been grooming for 14 years, at one of those "PetSomething's" stores. I have had many offers for jobs at private salons, but I just can't give up my benefits (plus paid vacation and sick time as a bonus). I deal with the frustration of windows, bosses who know nothing about grooming and have outlandish expectations, bad company decisions, breeding groomers to care about quantity over quality, caring nothing for furthering grooming education (other than $$ figures) over/under charging, horrible customers, working with HORRIBLE shampoos and conditioners (hydrosurge products only), lack of respect from groomers for working at 'PetSomething'...not to mention the stresses of actually grooming. I reached a breaking point. My health is suffering because of my job (back, wrists and knees are shot). I used to be known in our salon as the large dog groomer..the scissor 'queen'..the one who can calm a nervous dog..,the patient one. There was nothing better than scissoring a chow or any large double-coated breed to me. Now, my work has gone downhill so much so as a nail trim on a lab will bring me to tears. I have even lost my ability to scissor well. Your blog has reminded me to further my education to succeed! I have been doing things the same way for so long, a change-up is in desperate need. New equipment is out there to buy, new techniques which don't make your hands and fingers go numb. Sounds silly, but you have reminded me how much I actually love the job, even with all it's frustrations. I plan on purchasing lots of new equipment I have seen you use, and am planning on my FIRST expo next year! So, again, I just wanted to thank you. Your page has helped me concrete my decision...and I love reading about your experiences that we all share!

    3. Hi,
      Wow, I am not sure what to say. Burnout...that is the worst. I have gone through a couple of them. So bad once, I almost closed up my shop. I just wanted to walk away.
      I am so happy that you will be going to an Expo. It really helps to boost you back up. To be able to talk to other groomers, away from work, without the drama.
      I have gone through those times of feeling like I could not remember how to groom right anymore. I had to give myself some serious talks. I simply do not understand why crop stores do not give their groomers the tools that will help them groom faster and better. I will always give Best Shot shampoo and HV dryers credit for saving my wrists and allowing me to still groom the big double coated breeds. My knees..the anti-fatigue mats have really helped. I have two of them at my table, one on top of the other. :)
      Enjoy that Expo, and thanks for reading my blog. I am so happy that it has helped.
      Lisa, MFF

    4. I've worked at my petsomething for 10 years now. I still love it. If you know how to actually handle the animals you won't get complaints. I would get bored not being able to look out a window. Quit being a baby

  2. Great post! Some of the holds we do as groomers certainly must look horrible to someone who doesn't know any better.

    1. Thanks D!
      Sometimes there are pictures that I don't use on my blog, because I think that someone will look at the way I was holding the dog and think that I was hurting it. Crazy isn't it?
      Lisa, MFF

  3. Wow, I have been grooming for about 5 years now and I 100% agree with every word you have said in this post. Also have thought about all this as well while I groom. Thank you for posting and letting others know they are not alone in thinking about what other non-groomers see and think.

  4. I am so happy I have found this. I am having burn out really bad, and I have no support. I have my own shop and its getting to the point I need two of me. I have been a salon manager at both petsomething stores and both salons were very busy. I knew I would do well on my own, but its much different when your the one having to hire. I know how hard it is to get good help, and sometimes it feels its much easier doing it yourself. But myself is'nt enough anymore. The phone rings every day with 3-6 new customers wanting to come to me becuase I do their friends dog. I just want to feel grateful, insead of saying Leave me alone when the phone rings.

    1. Hi,
      First, congratulations on being so popular and such a good groomer! I have been where you are. You are happy for the business, BUT you secretly wish that you didn't have quite so much. I also totally understand about hiring. Grrrrr. When I first started hiring, I thought that everybody who wanted to work with animals cared about them just as much as me. Boy, was I wrong. Good groomers were SO hard to find.
      Take a breath. Don't feel like you have to get every dog in now. If people have to wait for you, they have to wait. If they really like you and the way you groom their dogs they WILL wait.
      Once I built up my business and started booking out 3 or 4 weeks, my regulars had a fit when they could not get a next day appointment like they used to. Some even got mad and went some place else. Well, just about everyone of them came back and to top it all off they started to book their next appointment before they left the current appointment. :)
      Think about hiring a part time bather instead of another groomer. So much easier to train. A bather could also help answer phones if you would like. This would help free up some time to take an extra dog or two. BUT remember....do great grooms, take great care of the dogs, and give good, friendly customer service and your customers WILL wait for an appointment with you. If they are too impatient to wait, then let them go elsewhere. It sounds like you will have no problem replacing them. Good luck and hang in there. Oh also, remember to take a day just for yourself once in a while to help refresh yourself.
      Lisa, MFF

  5. That is a very good article - seems the public ought to be reading it. I groom housecall and most often the owner is right there. The dog is fine because it's not hoping to go home. I feel it is a service that helps the public understand what does go into grooming. I also generally don't groom biters though a few have snuck into my practice. One thing I love is that after research I do feel that plucking ears is not good for the dog and have stopped that practice entirely, which helps since as I said the owner is often right there. I worked in the fishbowl and didn't care for that so much though on rare occasion a dog would be distracted by the people on the other side of the glass and I could get some clipping/scissoring in during that time. I have one dog who is so bad about getting it's face clipped that the owner 'must' go inside and wash or at least play with dishes. The dog is such a little piggy that it stares at their kitchen window thinking she's feeding and I swoop in on the dog's face.

    1. Hi Leah,
      I give you all the credit in the world for doing housecall grooming. I have to be honest, I could not stand an owner standing over my shoulder while I groomed.
      I have done a little housecall grooming on a few elderly dogs that I did not want to leave home. Each time the owners stayed out of the room. :)
      Very clever idea to get that dogs face scissored. lol
      Lisa, MFF

  6. I have never thought any of those things! I am told my current dog Peanut is very well-behaved during grooming. My previous dog, Buttercup, I usually groomed myself at home but a couple times took her to the groomer and she did not do well for me or for the groomer. I also know that when I go to pick Peanut up from the groomer, if there are any final finishing touches I request, she wiggles and squirms like crazy because my presence distracts her. If I were there the whole time the groomer would have a heck of a time trying to get her to hold still!

    Plus, having groomed my own dog, I know how wiggly they can be and how awful it is to cut them if they turn just as you're closing the scissors. Holding them still is important.

  7. Just wanted to say, You put that very well!! I have been in front of a window for 20 years and you explained it very well. Kudos to you

  8. I work at a pet something in a fish bowl and the absolute worst is when a dog freaks out for something as simple as touching it's foot, brushing, etc. and then you look out the window to see a customer's face in total disgust of what they are seeing while you are just trying to keep the dog from hurting itself/you. Many times you know they are thinking that you are torturing the dog, when really it is just throwing a fit because it may not be getting its way.

  9. With regards to being so / too visible from the outside: could it be a solution to put reflective film on the window ?
    Most of the better ones give then visibility from the inside out, but from the outside a passer by would only see his own image.

    General comment: I am a pet owner (Portuguese Waterdog) but also the ex-husband of groomer.
    From both viewpoints I can only say that I very much respect your views (and rants), and hope that you may long continue to groom the way you do.