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, January 24, 2014

An Answer For Beth

A fellow groomer left a comment for me the other day asking for some advise with grooming.
I was about to reply when I thought that other groomers may run into the same problem, so I thought that I would answer in a post for everyone.

Here is the comment that Beth left me the other day:

I was hoping you may be able to give me some advice. I tried to groom a 7 month spoodle yesterday. It was her first grooming. She was very bouncy and scared of the clippers. I managed to get her used to the sound of the clippers and she licked some peanut butter of the clipper handle but whenever I actually went to pick up the clippers to groom her she was determined to jump off the table. She keep trying to jump out of the tub when I bathed her too. I am a very newbie groomer and would appreciate some tips! I tried calming her down but she hardly stops moving and when I held her face to clip she shook her head from side to side violently. I don't want her to get traumatized but to realize that grooming isn't bad.

First of all, my answer to Beth's question is purely the way that I deal with difficult dogs.
I am sure that there are other techniques that work for other groomers.

Unfortunately, it does not help the groomer, at all, that this Poodle was brought in for it's first grooming at 7 months old.
The best scenario for this Poodle would have been for her to have her face and feet shaved at eight to twelve weeks old.
Then regular grooming's every 6 to 8 weeks from then on.
So, at 7 months old, this Poodle should have already experienced grooming at least four times.

When I have a customer bring me a dog that is over 6 months (or several years) old before it comes in for its very first professional grooming, I immediately inform the owners that I will do the best with the grooming that I can, but it may not be perfect.
I explain to the pet owner that the groom experience for and older puppy, (or dog) is much more fearful than it would be for a very young puppy who is right in the middle of experiencing all kind of new things and tends to accept their first grooming along with all of the other new things in their life.

By 6 months a puppy is already 10 years old in dog years.
There are not too many new things going on in their life now.
They are already starting to get settled in a routine, and grooming was not part of it.

Yes, the old way of looking at a dogs age was wrong.

They have a new, supposedly more accurate calculation for the way dogs age. 

I explain to the pet owners that it may take the pet a few groomings to get used to the grooming process.
I also explain that I will only do what their pet will let me do, because I want to make the grooming process as pleasant as possible for their pet.
I am telling the pet owner all of this for one other reason also....to help me out.
To take some of the pressure off of me.
To help keep me from getting stressed out trying to do 'the perfect groom', and everything the owner wants on their scared, nervous dog that they waited way too long to bring in for its first grooming.
If I am stressed, the dog will be stressed.

That is the most important thing.....for me, the groomer, not to feel stressed while doing the first groom.
The groom will be hard enough for me just to get the dog acclimated to all the new simulations that it has never experienced before.
The last thing that I need to worry about is if the cut is perfect.

Here is a list of some of the things that I do to help a dog accept the grooming.

~ Before any grooming, I hold, pet, hug, and talk to the dog, letting the dog get used to me, the new, unfamiliar person he/ she was suddenly left with. 

~ I rub my hands all over the dog, while talking playfully, but at the same time I am testing out how the dog feels about me touching each part of their body.

~ I like to turn the water on in the tub, spraying away from the dog, giving the dog time to get used to the sound of the water before it touches them.

~ If the dog appears to be really skiddish and nervous, I will wet my hands and run my wet hands over the dog first. Then with the water on very low, I will very slowly wet the lower back leg. If the dog starts to dance around, I just follow, keeping the water on the leg and talking to the dog calmly petting and reassuring him/her that the water is not going to kill them. 

~ keep working slowly, only moving faster as they start to trust and realize that I am not trying to hurt them.

Some dogs are very quick to trust and accept what you are doing, some take a lot more time.

Clipping and Poodle face for the first time:

I recommend, if possible, that groomers invest in one of the cordless clippers such as the Wahl Arco, Chromado, or Bravura.
The reason I say this is because these clippers run very smooth and quiet.
It is hard enough to get a dog to accept the vibration of a clipper on their face, feet, or body, much less a clipper that is loud and raddles.

A quiet, smooth clipper really helps when clipping a face.

I like to get the Poodle used to me handling their face by rubbing my hands all over their face before any attempt to clip.

I rub the sides of the face, and around the eyes and muzzle, getting the dog used to me holding their face.

 If they struggle while I am rubbing their face, I hold on, (not too tight) just enough to hold on.

If they twist and turn their face, I twist and turn with them, all the while still massaging their face.

I do not let go of the face until they settle.

They settle....I let go and praise.

Then I repeat until they let me pet and massage the face without yanking away.

Next comes the clippers.

I turn the clippers on without the blade and hold it away from the dog to let them get used to the sound.

If it is a very nervous dog, I will press the body of the clipper to the dogs body first, to help him/her get used to the vibration of the clipper.

If the dog yanks away, I follow and keep pressing the clipper lightly against the body until the dog realizes that the vibration is not hurting them and stops moving.

For some dogs, it only takes seconds for them to realize that the vibration is not hurting them, other dogs it takes a while longer.
Every once in awhile, when I have a dog that is truly petrified, I will hug them to my body while pressing the clipper to their body, till they relax and realize that the clipper is not hurting them.
Once they have settled, I will slowly start to rub the vibrating clipper all over their body so that they can see it is not going to hurt them.
All of the time I am talking to them and praising them for doing so good.
Yes, even if they haven't been being very good.
Once they have accepted the clipper vibration on their body, I slowly move up the neck to the face.

Hopefully, by now the dog is a least a little accepting of the vibration of the clipper, but may still fight for the face.

I like to start with the clipper against the dogs cheek, but not too close to the ear.

Again, if the dog yanks away, I follow, holding the face with one hand.

I only hold as tight as I need to, but not too tight, just tight enough to hold on.

As soon as the dog stops trying to pull away, I loosen my hold but, do not let go.
Once the dog stops struggling against the vibration of the clipper on its face, I slowly start to move the clipper around the face, everywhere that I plan to clip.

You may find that you get the dog to accept the clipper on one side of the face only to have them freak out again on the other side.
Just do the same on the second side as you did on the other.

Once they seem to be accepting the clipper, put the blade back on your clipper and again press the body of the clipper against the face.
If the dog is not fighting, slowly start to clip.
Praise, praise, praise!

Once you finish clipping one side of the face, really praise the dog before moving on to the second side.

I have to say that this is one of the areas of grooming that the groomer has to train themselves.
They must train themselves to stay calm while a dog is struggling and freaking out.
They must train themselves to have the patience it takes to work slowly with the dog.
They must train themselves to know when to stop if the dog is so frightened and un-accepting that it may hurt itself or the groomer.

Okay, for some reason I feel like I am just rambling and nothing I have written is making any scents.
I hope that I have explained myself in a way that is helpful.

Beth, as for the dog trying to jump off of the table, check out 'The Groomers Helper'.


  1. Thank-you! This is very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question :) I was feeling a bit discouraged but I feel better now :) I will have to give it another go.

    1. You're welcome Beth!
      Thanks for the question. Don't get discouraged. A dogs first grooming can drive even the most experienced groomer to drink sometimes. lol Hang in there. You can do it!
      Lisa, MFF

  2. I saw the Groomers Helper at a trade show in Wheeling this last fall. The system seems expensive, but after checking it out, the parts are made VERY well and the design is very functional and adjustable to the size of dog you are working on. This will be one of my next purchases in the next year. :) Thanks for the tips on getting older dogs used to clippers. This is something that I deal with regularly because I am a new groomer and tend to handle dogs that are rescues or animals that have been "ruined" by a commercial groomer. <3

    1. Hi Puck,
      Every groomer that I have ever heard talk about the Groomers Helper has been very happy with it. Not sure what you mean by a 'commercial groomer'.
      Lisa, MFF

  3. In addition to doing pretty much the same things that you do, Lisa, I also let them smell everything first. I show them the clipper, the brush, the comb, etc and let them get a good sniff. :) I like to let them see another dog being groomed too, it seems to help!

    1. Hi Cindy,
      I forgot to mention that! I also do the same thing and it does seem to help also. Smelling the tools seems to help them realize that it will not hurt them.
      One other thing I didn't mention, because I thought everyone would think that I was nuts is, I tell the dogs what I am going to do before I do it....works for me. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  4. Thank you for this advise! I too am a newbie at grooming. I'm always looking for better ways of helping the dog relax and be at least tolerant of what I'm doing :). As always, I love your blog and get so happy when I see a new post.

  5. Hi, I've been finding your blog to be very helpful. :) Like Beth, I was hoping that you could give me some advice about clippers. I know that you have already listed some of your favorites but I was hoping that you could point me to the best clipper for me and my dog. I have a 3 lb teacup poodle. Her hair is a little fine and not as curly. She get's scared very easily by loud noises. I have never groomed her before so this will be my first. I wanted clippers that would be light, easy to handle (good for first-timers), and quiet. Also something that would be good for her size(I'm not sure if that matters or not). I know that's a lot to ask for in one clipper. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Hi,
      The clippers that I mentioned in this post are light weight and pretty quite for a clipper. The 5 in 1 blade is great and can be used with the Wahl 5in1 medal comb attachments. That way you don't have to but a lot of different size blades.
      Three pounds, wow. Such a tiny face and feet. Can be very scary to clip. If her hair is fine, I would use the #10 or #15 setting for her face and feet. The clip combs on her body unless you prefer to scissor.
      Lisa, MFF

  6. hi, i have to say that I have been reading through your blog this evening and feel so inspired. I have only been grooming for 15 months now and changed my career at the age of 44 (previously in marketing), to do something i would love :-. I decided when i was at college that I wanted to be a stress free, gentle and caring groomer, who took time with each dog to make them feel settled and happy with the process. I wasn't taught this in college but have gone with my gut instinct and after reading some of your blogs I am chuffed with myself for approaching grooming in a different way, the way you have suggested in your blogs, taking time, no rush, be clear with your client, be firm but not heavy handed, don't stress... thank you for putting reassurance in my head, i'm not in this for the money, its all about my furry friends, best regards to you and your family :-) sarah, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, uk. x

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Wow, how brave are you. Congratulations on your new career! Unfortunately, some pet owners and misbehaving dogs keep grooming from being totally stress free, but luckily most of the dogs make grooming worth while. Listen to your heart, you sound like you will make a very good groomer.
      Lisa, MFF

  7. Hello Lisa
    Were you peeking in my window early Monday morning? I had a 6 month old standard poodle for the first time and well, it was a nightmare. I was told she had been groomed 8 weeks before. You would never have known it. The moment she got out of the car I KNEW this was going to be tough. I wish I had read your blog before this poodle arrived. I tried the cordless shaver and she nearly jumped out of her skin, off of the table and left me in the dust. She was scared of EVERYTHING.
    I did my best and told the owner this, who seemed happy with the job. I trimmed the hair away from her eyes (which owner asked for.) and trimmed all over to even her out and lightly down the legs. (also requested) Her back side? You would have thought I injured her or something, as touching her tail or back end was NOT happening. Remember, I had never met her before. Her nails? NOT A CHANCE< NO HOW. 2 hours later we were done. I had accomplished what I could and explained how and why of everything. 3 days later, owner sends me a scathing communication that she HATED the cut and I never really did anything. Well, guess what, I have pictures before and after and I had a family member present who can attest to what went on.
    I sent a message back explaining how to manage a scared puppy and emphasized how it's important for this puppy to learn that grooming is not going to hurt her. Gentle grooming, handling and time and patience would help.
    Owner NOT pleased and will not be back.
    Wow, that stung. (by the way, first time poodle owner)

    1. Hi,
      Sometimes first time poodle, or pet owners can be the worst. It is very sad when they do not listen to us when we try to explain things. The puppy was 6 months old, and had been groomed 8 weeks before? So, why did she come to you? What happened to the first groomer?

      I would look at it this way.....you have dodged a bullet....I have a feeling that this customer would have turned into a PITA customer. She is happy when she leaves and you explain everything to her, THEN decides to ignore everything you told her and complained??

      Yes, I think you should look at it in a better light. Let her be another groomers problem. Until she burns through all of them and does not have any place left to take her dog. It is sad.
      As long as you knew that you did the best you could on such a skid-dish puppy, don't beat yourself up over losing this customer. Good luck to the next groomer. :/
      Lisa, MFF

  8. loved the pics and info. I must be blessed with a dog that doesn't squirm too much, he actually even likes the blow dryer =)

    Thanks, will

  9. I love this post.The dog on the photo is adorable.