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, March 24, 2014

"Good Luck"

"Good Luck"  is not what a groomer wants to hear right before they take a dog back to be groomed.
That is what was said to me this past Saturday....several times.

Let me start at the beginning.....

We had a return customer on the books who had also added another new dog the appointment.
The return customer came in carrying her sweet, very hyper little dog.
Behind her followed two young ladies with a very matted Shih-tzu that trailed behind them on a leash.

After taking the returning customers dog in, I turned my attention to the Shih-tzu.
Cautionary vibes were already coming off of this dog.

"He is a mess," they told me. "He does not like to be groomed."
"He was cut really bad when he was a puppy during his first hair cut."
"As he ever bitten another groomer?" I asked.
"He doesn't bite." "He has had bad experiences." "No." All three gave a different answer at the same time.

I came around the counter towards the dog.
As I took the leash from one of the young ladies, they all started to back up away from the dog.
Certainly not a good sign.

As I bent over to pick up the dog, I pulled the leash towards me to help keep his head from swinging around if he tried to bite.
My hand was within two inches of his body when he lunged.
I heard all three young ladies gasp.
I kept his head towards me, quickly slid my hand under his belly and scooped him up before he knew what was happening.
I tucked him under my arm and pressed him tight to my body.
The young ladies were still standing back.

The Shih-tzu struggled for less than a minute then settled into my body.
I guess sometimes it pays to be on the soft plumpy side.

Don't get me wrong, he certainly was not accepting his fate.
I could feel every tensed up bone in his body.
He was more than ready to defend himself if he felt threatened.

This Shih-tzu was 6 years old, and it was my guess that that was about how many times this dog had ever been groomed in his life, maybe less.
They knew he had to be shaved and they wanted him shaved....everything off.

I told them that I would work with him and do what he would let me do.
I told them that I would most likely not try to use a muzzle because of his short face.
"The last groomer tried to put a muzzle on him and was really mean about it." one of the young ladies informed me.
My only answer to that was; "He needs someone to take their time with him and work with him."
"Good luck..."
I ignored the comment."I'll do what he lets me do. I won't force it."
"Good luck..." one of the young ladies said again.
"He is letting her hold him," another said. 
"I will call you when they are ready to go home," I told them, turning to go back behind the counter.
They all started to walk out of the shop.
"Good luck...." I heard one of them say as they walked out the door. 

Multiple "Good lucks".....what was I in for?

This little matted Shih-tzu was scared out of his mind.

Had anyone ever taken the time to work with him?

Some of his mats were very bad and tight.

He was so dirty and smelled so bad.

I put him right into the tub.

His belly and the mats in between his back legs were very tight and soaked in urine.

Oh, did I mention that he is not neutered?

The bath took a little while.
Not surprisingly he freaked when I turned the water on.
I set the water on low and just let it run over his back till his brain realized that the water was not hurting him and actually felt good.
The water coming off of him was dark brown.

He was pretty good about letting me soap up his body and legs.
I think it felt good to him to have his legs messaged.

The face was another matter.
That took some time.
I would get him to trust me a little, then he would suddenly freak out again.
Normally I would wash the face at least twice (three times for a really dirty, smelly face), but I felt that more than one washing would be pushing it.
He only pulled away twice while rinsing his face, and I was proud of him for that.

 This is how I dried him.

He was holding on tight to my shoulder.

I am not saying that it was the smartest thing that I have ever done.

He had tried to bite a few times in the tub.

Letting him rest on the shoulder was awful close to my face in case he tried to bite again.

Never said I was the smartest cookie in the box.

 Letting him hug against me for the entire drying process seemed to do the trick.

He was still very scared but never tried to bite.

I just got lucky, right?

Maybe all of those 'Good lucks" were working. lol

I am not even sure how to describe this little Shih-tzu's reaction to the clippers.
Freak out is not strong enough of  description.

This dog is 6 years old.
He should not be that terrified of a clipper.
What the heck had someone done to him?

I treated him like a new puppy being groomed for the first time.
I let him smell the clipper.
I turned it on and held it next to him till he relaxed.
Then I put the body of the clipper against him, letting him get used to the vibration.
He tried to run, but I slowly followed till he stood still and realized that the vibrating monster was not going to eat him.
Once he accepted the clippers on his body he did pretty good letting me clip the body.
He also let me clip his front legs, although he did freak a couple of times and lunged for my face twice.

It actually turned out that he was more talk than action.
He had an opportunity to nail me once when I did not move my hand fast enough.
Teeth touched my skin but he did not even try to draw blood.
All his fusing and snapping seemed to be a scare tactic of his.

He did not want me to do something, or was scared of something so he snapped, but did not really want to bite. (if that makes any sense)
I think that he has gotten so used to people backing off when he snaps that he used snapping as a way to get people to leave him alone.

The mat around one of his back legs was so tight.

This mat was wrapped all of the way around the leg and was starting to cut off the legs circulation.

He was so good letting me clip this mat off.

I really think that he knew I was trying to help him.

For a little while I was afraid that I was going to have to send this dog home without grooming the head and face.
He wanted absolutely nothing to do with me scissoring around his eyes and head.
So I spent a while massaging his head and face.
At first he would cringe as I rubbed his cheeks and head.
He once again lunged for my face when I tried to rub my fingers under his eyes.
I didn't stop, I just kept rubbing and softly talking to him.
Eventually he started to relax.

I continued to rub and then sneak a snip of the scissors.
Rub, snip, rub, snip.

The face wasn't pretty.

It was actually pretty choppy.

I could not get any closer to the eyes.

I was proud of him though.

I was kind of proud of myself for getting any of his face done. lol

He even let me do a little more scissoring after this picture to shape up that beard more.

I didn't push it around the eyes, or the top of the head.

Do you notice anything different about this dog?

 His nose?

He is the first dog I ever remember seeing in person that had a split nose.

I am sure that there is a technical name for this, but I don't know what it is.

I assume that it is considered a birth defect.

Anyway, I got a #7F through him.

I did not shave everything off like the owners wanted, because there was absolutely no way I was going to get a clipper anywhere near his head and face.

I was not about to force it.

I want him to trust me, not be scared of me and the grooming.

I practically begged the owners to bring him back to me again for regular groomings so that I could continue to work with him.

They were extremely happy with his groom and they did make another appointment for May....I hope that they keep it.

It is so rewarding when you can get such a petrified dog to trust you, even if only a little bit.
I really hope that I see him again. :)


  1. Oh my goodness, he looks so much happier!

  2. How lucky this pup was to find you!!! He has to feel so much better. Poor little guy. I hope they start bringing him regularly so he doesn't have to suffer like that again.

    I just found your blog from the Poodle Forum and I'm so glad I did. :) We just welcomed a standard poodle puppy into our lives and I'm doing the grooming. I'm having a blast so far and our puppy has learned quickly to love grooming (hotdog bits help. ;) I read your post about how to get dogs used to clippers and used a lot of those tips in getting Polly used to the clippers. I unfortunately made her tail into a palm tree before learning how to properly judge how far to trim. Luckily it'll grow back before long. ;)

    Anyway, sorry about the long comment. Just wanted to let you know you had a new reader and I'm loving all of your posts!

    1. Hi Becky,
      Congratulations on your new standard. Love, love, love them! I have three. Have fun with him. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  3. Very nice! I have only been a groomer for two years. I have done dogs that everyone hates and avoids and I find them to not be so bad after all and I feel proud of myself too when I finish them. Do you ever though have dogs that you cannot groom? Or just a particular dog may not be too horrible in general but mentally exhausts you?

    1. Hi Nicole,
      I have only ever sent two dogs home.
      One was a very aggressive Scottie that I was not experienced enough to handle at the time. (only grooming a couple of years) I could most likely groom him now.
      The other was a Chow that lunged from the ground for my face as I was walking him into the groom room. Didn't even try with him. Every spidey sense I had was screaming 'this dog is down right dangerous!' I listened to my gut.
      As for your second question....yes, yes, yes!! I have several dog that exhaust the hell out of me every time I groom them. lol
      Lisa, MFF

    2. Thanks for that! Lol- some days I feel on the verge of tears but they easily get outweighed by good dogs and days.

  4. I would hate to be lied to. It sounds like these ladies didn't downright LIE, but I think they knew he would bite. I think some people think you won't even try if you know he'll bite, but geez! I give TOO much info when people ask me about how my dog is with grooming. "The groomer says he does great. He's pretty nervous in new places, but he's never snapped at anything" or "she does great for me, but she's never been professionally groomed. I wouldn't put it passed her to bite if scared enough"

    1. Hi,
      I think that you are right, people are afraid if they tell me that their dog may bite, or has bitten before, I will not groom the dog for them.
      even the sweetest dog will snap or bite if they are scared or feel threatened. A good groomer will understand that.
      Lisa, MFF

  5. Happy doodle ownerMarch 27, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    I am about to become "owned" by a a labradoodle who is essentially a rescue. At 2 yrs old he has only been to a professional groomer once and that was a bad experience (groomer who automatically muzzled all large dogs). I hope, hope, hope my groomer is as patient and caring as you! She likes my current doodle but I know the one about to arrive hasn't been groomed at all since fall and I am dreading what he will look like and need. But reading how caring and patient you are gives me hope that Murphy will have the same type of great experience. Thank you for providing peace of mind and confidence to caring owners as well as groomers! I am so glad you are back!

    1. Thank you Happy doodle owner,
      Congratulations on your new addition. If your groomer is good with your other Doodle and she understands the history of your new Doodle I am sure that she will work with him. I have had some really big groom jobs with Doodles, but so far I have not met one that was not good for the groom.
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Hello Lisa
    you did a terrific job on MR Good Luck/funky nose. WOW. I have a tiny toy poodle who is very fearful of the bath, dryer, clippers, you name it. I hold her much like you did the Shih Tzu but she is to tiny, she's like a slippery bar of soap and she twists and twirls in my arms! somehow we get her dried and she starts to calm down!
    HOW DID YOU GET THRU THOSE LEGS? Good Golly (what blade did you use?) I've had legs like those at the shelter when an unfortunate soul needs some help...sometimes I can get it, sometimes I can't.

    *Would you ever consider doing a VIDEO of some parts of your grooms? Your pictures are terrific and explanations are inspirational and educational. I'm glad you are back to blogging!
    We have missed you!

    1. Thank you Unknown,
      I have thought about doing some videos on different types of grooms. I have a lady on my waiting list right now with an extremely hypo rescue toy poodle. She brought the dog in for me to meet, and..oh my! That little dog is beyond hyper. He will most defiantly be a challenge. I am thinking about videoing his groom.
      I used a #5f blade on the dog in this post. On dogs that are not crazy about the clipper on their legs, I use a light touch. Using too much pressure on the legs can really upset some dogs. When working the blade under mats, I will use only the corner of the blade not the whole blade. I do had several dogs that I can not use a blade on the legs at all. I scissor those legs.
      Lisa, MFF

  7. Wow, you did great :)

  8. I once heard "May the force be with you" :) it was hard not to laugh!

  9. you're awesome!

    1. Thank you, but I am just doing what I love to do. :)

  10. Lisa,
    I wish I could find a groomer like you in town, we have two terrible ones. My 8 year old sammoyed poodle rescue bites when scared but never to hurt or to draw blood. I explained this to the first groomer in town and told her I could put a muzzle on him and I would get the face at home. She refused to see him. The second groomer insisted my dog was a bichon. I now shave him while someone tries to distract him with a toy, so he isn't scared. He has improved though, the first clip took 8 hours in 4 two hour sessions, we are now down to 3 hours with minor upsets.

    I would really enjoy your insight on something. He hates his tummy buzzed, for scared dogs how do you handle the tummy? One note: we also had to fix when we got him at 7 years old.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Steph,
      I am sorry that you are having a hard time finding a groomer willing to work with your dog. It sounds like you are doing a pretty good job.
      By tummy, I am assuming that you mean his belly, around his private parts. Make sure that you only use a #10 or #15 blade in that area. You also want to skim lightly, don't press into the skin. You also want to make sure that the blade is sharp and not snagging or pulling the hair.
      If he does not like you to lift his leg, try gently holding on to his two front legs, stand him up on his hind legs, and carefully clip the belly while he is standing on his hind legs. If you only get a little clipped at a time, that is okay. Praise him and just keep trying a little at a time.
      I like to give them belly rubs after clipping. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  11. I'm so happy to read how you handled this difficult dog. I am getting back into grooming again. I used to groom at a shop where the two groomers I learned from were quite rough with the difficult dogs. i eventually gave up grooming for a couple years because I did not like how the dogs were treated and thought that was the only way those dogs could be groomed, and I couldnt do it. I have missed grooming and decided to get back into, but I will be on my own. I love your style of grooming and your blog! Thanks :)

    1. Hi,
      Congratulations on getting back to grooming. Hopefully this time around will be a better experience for you.
      The owner of the Grooming School that I went to was not very nice with the dogs either. Thankfully I moved on to another grooming job where the animals were treated better. I just felt that there had to be a better way.
      There is a very upsetting video out there that two very well known groomers did on grooming a difficult dog. I got so upset watching how they handled this dog that I could not watch the whole video. They did not make any effort to work WITH the dog at all. It was just tie him up, stretch this leg, stretch that leg, avoid the teeth, laugh at the dog when it gets upset. Still upsets me even to talk about it. These are two very well known groomers with instructional videos. This is what they are teaching other groomers...sad.
      Good Luck. Good, caring groomers are always needed. :)
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      Lisa, MFF

  12. I am laughing at your description of the ladies back away. You should write a home town mystery. This is so good!