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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Knowing When to Quit

There are times when a groomer needs to know when to stop grooming a dog.

One is knowing when you are finished scissoring on a dog.
When to stop knit picking and put the dog away.
I still struggle with that one sometimes.
Some dogs you just feel like you could scissor all day and not get them smooth, or all of the sticky-outies. :)

Yesterday was different.
It was not a matter of  knit picking on a cut.

It was a matter of 'was I going to be able to groom this elderly dog?'

This elderly, biting dog.

This elderly,can be vicious at times, biting dog.

I have been grooming this little lady for a very long time.

We respect each other.

I respect the fact that she will not hesitate to go after me if I do anything that she does not like.

She respects the fact that I am nice and gentle with her grooming, so she rarely goes after me.

Until recently.

She is about 84 years old in people years, and she no longer tolerates being handled much.

As you can see in the picture, she suffers from 'dry eye'.
Her eyes crust up very badly.
Her owners were able to control the crusting better until recently.
She no longer tolerates anyone fooling with her face.

When her owner dropped her off yesterday, they said that she was biting more than ever.

As soon as I saw her I was not sure at all whether I was going to be able to clean up her eyes.
This mixture of eye crust and medicine sticks like glue to the hair and skin around the eyes....and she can not stand to have her hair tugged on in anyway.

Note: I am going to stop here before I show anymore pictures.
This note is mainly for any non-groomers that read my blog. In the next series of pictures you will notice that I am holding this dog by putting my hand around her neck. As groomers know, this is a way to hold a dogs head still and keep them from biting you without hurting them. When I pick my pictures to put on the blog, I try to pick pictures that give the best visual of what I am describing, or trying to show. Unfortunately, the pictures are frozen in time, and people can not really see the action.
My hold around her neck is just below the jaw line. The pressure of this hold is light.  I am not in any way, shape, or form choking her. (Believe me when I say,  if I was hurting this little lady in any way, she would be going after me big time.)

The very first thing that I do with her is put her in the tub.

With nice warm water, I put the sprayer on a gentle shower setting and place it right up against the top of her head so that the warm water can gently run down over her eyes.

I am holding her head up to keep any water from going into her nose.

She actually enjoys this.

I think that she likes the feel of the warm water running over all of that dry crust.

My goal is to have that warm water soften up all of that dry crust.

The crust on this side of her is face is so thick and large, that at this point, I have know idea how I am going to get this off of her.

I know she is not going to tolerate me fooling with this mess.

I can already see the some blood and puss under this big piece of crust.

So far so good....she hasn't gotten upset with me yet.

Next, I very, very slowly and gently rub some medicated shampoo on the crust.

I can't tell you how slow I have to move around this little lady.

If she even thinks for a second that I am going to pull on that crust, she will not hesitate to use the four teeth she has left and eat me.

I don't care what anyone thinks...when a dog with little to no teeth bites you....it still hurts like heck.

 I very slowly and gently work my finger with medicated shampoo on it, under the crust.

My goal now is to try to lift the now softer crust away from the skin just enough to cut the crust away.

My other problem here is that I have to rub extremely gently and slowly, because what teeth she still has are so rotten, that too much pressure against her mouth will hurt.

So far so good.

I have gotten most of the crust lifted away from the skin.

Except for that big piece on the other side.

I am still putting warm water on that piece waiting for it to soften up more.

While waiting, I will try to scissor some of this crust away from her eye.

She is still very calm.

Believe me...I am watching for any sign of stress.

And, for any sign that she is starting to get pissed with me.

"Good girl...lets get this nasty stuff off of you."

"You are doing so good."

"I know....I am almost done."

 "Doesn't that feel better?"

"Now lets try to see what we can do with that big mess under your eye."

I tried to touch that big crusty piece to see if it had softened up enough to pull away from the skin.

She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way she was going to let me fool with that big piece of crust.

This is why I hold her head and neck the way that I do.

She was not able to reach my hand.

I still had to rinse the shampoo off of her face, but she was pissed now.

She did not hesitated to give the sprayer a couple good bites before she calmed down and let me finish rinsing her face. 

Let me just say that it was killing me to give up on her face.
The thought of letting that yucky piece of crust stay on her face was driving me crazy.
At the same time, the thought of getting an elderly dog upset was killing me even more.

So, for the first time ever, I gave up on that eye crust.

  I have to use my little hand dryer to dry her, because she no longer tolerates the big dryer.

I dried her head as best she would let me.

That eye crust was hardening up again.

It was driving me crazy.

I had managed to move the crust way from her skin just enough to get a blade under it.

Five seconds.....

Five seconds...that is all that I would need to take my clipper, with a #10 blade, and clean up under those eyes, and swipe that big piece of stinky crust right off there.

Five seconds.....

Unfortunately, she will know longer allow the clippers anywhere near her face.

I was able to clean this side up fairly well with the scissors.

It has to be done very slowly.

She will let you scissor and scissor and then suddenly she will snap.

That is her sign for..."your done, I've had enough!"

 I had clipped her body, and scissored her face the best that she would let me.

That big piece of crust was still there.

I couldn't stand it.

I visualize the owners taking her to the Vet.

Them holding her down while the Vet shaved that crust out with a #50 blade.

It was driving me crazy.

I knew that I could get it off more gently if she would only let me.

I kept asking myself...should I try again?

She is old.
She has had enough.
I had had enough.
I have to work so slowly with her, that a grooming that should take no more than an hour from start to finish, had taken me two hours.
A half an hour just spent on washing her face.

Did I try one last time?

Of course I did.
What can I say...I am pathetic.

Now, to take up for myself, she was doing really well.
She was not pissed about anything.
And, she was feeling so much better with a nice hair cut and most of her face cleaned up.
So, I had my daughter pet her to distract her.
I picked up my clippers and took a quick swipe under the eye.
She jerked away but did not bite....good sign.

One more swipe and that crusty piece would be off!
I waited a few minutes to give her time to forget about what I was doing, and then, one more swipe.

Got it!!




The face still had gooey puss under the eye.

At least the crust was gone.

There was no way that she was going to let me try to clean up that puss.

I had to quit.

I had to let it go.

 It certainly wasn't one of my best grooms.

It killed me to let her go home with her face still messy.

For a 17 year old elderly dog, it was more important that she stay calm and go home happy.

At least that heavy crust is no longer hanging under her eye. :)

I will say, that if she had not let me take those last two swipes with the clipper, she would have gone home with that crust still on her face.

I would have quit...no matter how much it bothered me.

I would have just had to get over it.

Who am I kidding...it is still bugging me that I let her go home with puss on her face.

✂ Happy Grooming, MFF ✂


  1. She looks great! I'm sure she was feeling better after that wonderful groom. I'm sure it bothered you to not be able to do as much as you could have done IF she had the patience to tolerate it without injuring you, but I still think she looks fabulous. I hope her owners appreciate your hard work.

    From a non-groomer perspective, maybe it's because I've shown dogs before or have been reading your blog for awhile, I could tell you were holding the bottom of her jaw. It didn't really look like in any pictures that you were "choking" her. Regardless, it was a good disclaimer in case this was someone's first read. The dogs that come to see you are lucky!

    1. Thank you Jacki,
      I have noticed from comments on youtube videos, and other sites with pictures that a lot of people see what they want to see. I read comments about 'poor dog' but that is not what I see. I am glad that you agree with the disclaimer. That is the world that we live in now. :(
      Lisa, MFF

  2. This is so helpful. Just on Monday I had two very difficult dogs.

    One was an ancient shih tzu with terrible eye boogers that needed to be shaved and a stopped up butt due to matting. The owner was very understanding and I was able to get the old pup very clean, and shaved down... all except for the muzzle. I felt terrible not to be able to finish the muzzle, but I did not want to stress the pup out any more than I already had and I had all the main concerns addressed.

    The second was another shih tzu mix (of course) that several other groomers had refused service to (of course the owners didn't tell me until they picked him up and I voiced my concerns). The dog was excellent for everything except clippers or scissors around his face. I did the best I could, but was left exhausted and felt awful about the ordeal.

    1. I know exactly what you are saying Marge,
      Shih-tzus and their faces can be a nightmare. They do not like their chins held, they do not like the scissors around their eyes. Don't even get me started on their tongues. A Shih-tzu can drain you and frustrate you faster than any other breed. :p
      Lisa, MFF

  3. Oldies do require a lot of patience! you did great job!
    I noticed on one of the pictures that it looks like that she has lots of green buildup on her teeth. A lot of times when dogs have bad teeth that hurt they become very sensitive about their faces. It might be the case with her. I always check teeth condition when I have a pup that is fussy about their faces and refuse to trim their faces unless owners take them for dentals.

    1. Thank you,
      Her teeth are very bad, but her Vet said that she can no longer be put under to have her teeth cleaned. She is well into her teens. Her owner understands that I do the best that I can, because working on her face can be painful for her.
      Lisa, MFF

  4. oops,I meant to also say that one of my own dogs, who is about 16, no longer tolerates grooming like she used to. I just trim up what I can and leave the rest scruffy looking!

    1. Hi,
      For years I hand stripped my terrier mix. I would hand strip the gray hair off of her back and she would be left with a beautiful, jet black, velvety coat. She let me do that until she was about 16. The next three years I just let her gray coat stay. The hand stripping got to be too much for her. She was my heart dog. :)
      Lisa, MFF