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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Work WITH Them.....

....DON"T break them!

In a perfect world, all the dogs that we groomers groom would prance happily into our shops, or vans and jump into our tubs or up on our tables, standing like statues as we quickly and safely groom them.
And, they would love it!

Actually, if we think about it, we do have a lot of dogs that do like the grooming and are really good in the tub and on the grooming tables.

Then there are others.
The ones that we tend to remember more.

The ones that are fearful and and scared.
Others that may snap or bite.
Still others that are wild, crazy, and always in perpetual motion.

When I went to Grooming School, a hundred years ago, the instructor that I had taught the students that (we) the groomers must always be the alpha.
Never let the dog get away with anything.
Make the dog do what you want it to do, when you want it to do it, and how you want it to do it!

I didn't agree with some of her handling methods then and, after so many years of grooming, I STRONGLY disagree with the methods that she taught.

Gentle, praising grooming has always worked for me.
Gentle, firm handling with biters has always worked.
Gentle, slow, encouraging grooming has always worked with frighted dogs.

Trying to be 'the boss', being forceful and manhandling makes things much worse with a biter or scared pet.
It absolutely brakes the spirit of a silly, wiggly, happy-go-lucky dog.

I have seen it happen...


A little back story.....

Years ago I had a lady call asking if we would be willing to groom a dog that had been kicked out of other grooming shops do to biting.
She lived 40 minutes from the shop, but was willing to bring her dog if we agreed to groom him.

As I tell anyone with a biting dog, all we can do is try.

I did groom her dog, a large Cock-a-poo, with  thick Cocker type hair and very tight curls.
Yes, he did try biting me several times.
He could certainly be nasty.
He did not trust me in the least.
He watched every move I made, and let me know that he did not like his head fooled with or his feet.

I worked with him.
Can't say that I didn't call him a couple of names when he was being extra nasty and managed to bite me, but I didn't yell at him, hit him, or manhandle him.
I worked with him.
I talked him through grooming his face.
I worked slowly.
I always told him what I was about to do.
I did have someone firmly, but gently hold his head while I groomed his feet.
They were instructed to gently hold the head, behind the ears, with both hands and only tighten the hold when he tried to swing around.
Just tight enough to stop him from reaching me, but not too tight.
As soon as he stopped trying to bite, they were to relax the hold, but still hold till I was finished and I was able to slowly replaced my hands with the person holding his head.
Once I had his head in my hands, I would talk to him softly and rub his cheeks, very slowly releasing my hold.

I wanted the thing that he hated the most, grooming the feet, to end on a happy note.

Slowly, on a six week grooming schedule, he came to trust me and tolerate the grooming.
He never did care for his feet to be groomed, but he stopped biting.
I groomed him for many years, until he passed away last year.

His owner followed me through several moves in my grooming career.
When the owner started having a hard time getting her dog to our shop, because of her work schedule, we picked him up and took him home on our way home after work. (they lived 15-20 minutes from my home)

A few years before the Cock-a-poo passed away, his owner got a Goldendoodle puppy.
She is a very, very sweet dog.
She is also a very silly, happy-go-lucky, wiggly, large Goldendoodle.

As a puppy she was a handful.
It took her a little while to learn to be calm in the tub.
All she wanted to do was play.
She splashed shampoo by wagging her tail all the time.
She was perpetual motion on the grooming table just because she was too nosy and wanted to see everything that was going on.
Whenever you tried to get her to be still, she just wagged her tail harder and gave you big old kiss.

She was such a happy dog that you just couldn't get upset with her.
So we groomed her while she wiggled and wagged.
She was slowly growing up and getting better in the tub and on the table.
She loved coming in to be groomed.
She would burst out of her house to run and jump into our car.
She would run into the shop and go right to a kennel.
She would wag, wiggle and give kisses.

After the Cock-a-poo passed away, the owner chose to find a groomer closer to her home.
She has at least three grooming shops within 10 minutes of her house.

I will admit that we were a little bit hurt at her decision.
Okay, we were a lot hurt.
At the same time I kind of understood, she no longer had a dog that bit.
Her one remaining dog loved everyone, so anyone could groom her, right?
Her dog was a bath and trim on a thin wispy coat that didn't seem to grow past five inches.
The coat did tend to get those small natty type mats close to the skin, but they always brushed out fairly easily.

That was a year ago.

A few weeks ago the Goldendoodles owner called.
She wanted to know if we would take her back as a client again.
The Goldendoodle seemed to hate going to the groomer that the owner had been taking her to.
She did not want to walk in the door.
She cowered and put her tail between her legs when the groomer came out to get her.
The owner also did not like that the groomer never talked to her dog when she came to take her into the back room.
She also seemed down when the owner picked her up.

The owner thought about asking for a different groomer, (apparently there were a couple to pick from) but she was afraid the groomer would get upset with her and want to know why she wanted the other groomer.
The owner was also not happy with the groom.

How do you mess up a bath and trim?

Yes, we took her back.
She was a good customer.
And, we liked that silly, wiggly, happy-go-lucky, large Goldendoodle.

The only thing was, that silly, wiggly, happy-go-lucky, large Goldendoodle didn't walk in the door.
A quite, head down, slinking behind her owners legs Goldendoodle walked into our lobby.

My heart sank as soon as I saw her.
What happened to her?
Who broke this sweet dog?

Thankfully, as soon as I started to talk to her, she came out from behind her owner and came right up to me, but her tail was only wagging a little.
Gone was that big, full of energy tail wag that made her whole butt shake back and forth.
Her owner was happy to see us again and see her dog so easily follow me back into the grooming room.

I put her in the tub to be bathed.
She just stood there with her head hanging.
What the he** happened to this Goldendoodle.

She didn't seem afraid, she just seemed.... broken.

I spent the whole bath praising her and actually trying to get her to play a little.
I just wanted to see some of the old girl back.
I got some small wags and few kisses but she just was not the same dog.

By the time I finished drying her, she seemed more relaxed and happier than when she first came in.
She was also more herself as Jess groomed her.

The owner was so happy to see her dog happily trot out from the grooming room.

I don't like to think about what the other groomer may have done to break this happy-go-luck dog of its playfulness.
Unfortunately I have worked with some of the groomers who feel they need to dominate a dog and make it stand still like a statue in the tub and on the table.
I didn't work with them long.

I guess my point to this long drawn out post is, work with the dogs you groom.
Don't break them.
You may have to groom differently with some dogs.
You have to take a little extra time to figure out what works for each dog.

If they are fighting for their face, or feet, ears, or legs try to figure out why.
Why do these areas upset them?
Are they arthritic?
Are they ticklish?
Do their teeth hurt from lack of cleaning when you try to hold their face?
Do they have an ear infection, or did they once have an ear infection and they still remember the pain whenever someone touched their ears?
Is your clipping pressure too heavy?
Maybe they don't like the way you are holding their leg up to clip.
Maybe you are holding their leg, or ear, face too tightly.
Maybe the sound or the vibration of the clipper scares them and they need an encouraging word.
Maybe it scares them when they see scissors coming close to their eyes because they don't see very well.
Maybe they are just scared and need someone to talk them calmly through the grooming.
Maybe they need someone to work slowly and give them time to process the grooming.

Maybe, sometimes it is okay to let a dog be a little wiggly on your table.
Maybe that wiggly dog could be gently trained to be still while grooming, because you will reward them by playing with them for a couple of minutes once the grooming is done, and end the grooming on a happy note.

When a dog fights about something I am doing to them, I try to put myself in their place and figure out why they are fussing.
I try a different hold.
I clip a different way.
I talk to them and reassure them that everything is okay.
I think about how I would feel if someone where pulling hair out of my ears, doing things to my feet, or holding my face still.
Would I be able to hold still all of the time?

In 30 years I have only had to refuse to groom two nasty dogs.
They were down right dangerous, and mentally had something wrong with them.
All of the others, and there have been many, were able to be gently trained to trust and accept the grooming.
It has worked for me.
It should work for every groomer.

Fighting a dog is only going to make it want to fight you back.

If a dog scares you because it bites, or it moves too much and you're afraid you will cut it, then refuse to groom it.
It is not worth the stress to the groomer or the dog.

If you know a dog gives you trouble, or is a wiggle worm on the table, book a little extra time with that dog to work slowly with it.
Charge a little extra for that extra time so that you do not feel stressed that you are losing time and money spending extra time.
Explain to the owner that you will do the best you can, and hopefully their dog will get better for the grooming. 

I am very confident that we will get this Goldendoodle back to her happy-go-lucky self in time.
She knows us and remembers that she enjoyed the grooming with us.
I would so much rather see her happy wiggle on the table and in the tub than that sad, head hanging, tail between the legs dog that I saw walk into my shop a couple of weeks ago.

She will be in again in a few weeks and I am looking forward to it. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Feeling Bad

I nicked a dog today. :(

I truly have no idea how or why it happened.
Well,  I know how.
I mean, I have always worried that I would accidentally cut this particular dog. 

He is one of my 'special cases'.
The very first time I grooming him he went for my face and just missed nailing my nose big time.
He was a quick, determined biter. 
Determined to draw blood.

After the first time I groomed him, I talked to the owners about bring him in on a regular scheduled so that he could get used to me and being groomed. 
I told them that my goal was to get their dog used to me and learn that he could trust me.
The owners listened to me and understood what I was asking.
They are great customers and have kept their dogs on a regular schedule since then.

This dog was one of only two dogs that I had to muzzle to groom.
But, I worked with him.
No one touches him but me.
Slowly, very slowly, I was able to groom parts of him without the muzzle.
Eventually I only needed the muzzle when I  was clipping and scissoring his feet.
It took several years.

I haven't had to use the muzzle at all for his last four groomings.
He still goes after me once in a while, but he is a senior now and not as fast as he used to be.
Plus, I am always on alert with him. 
I know his trigger points.
I know his body language. 

My biggest fear while grooming this dog has always been that he would bite my clipper while it was running and cut up his tongue, or bite my scissors and slice his mouth. 

So, what happened today?

He was in a pretty good mood today.
He only went after me once.
He had let me clip an scissor his face without getting upset.
He does not usually like me holding his head still to scissor close around his mouth, but today he just sat there and let me scissor away.
Even the hairs under his nose, that he usually sucks into his mouth and wont let me touch. 

I had clipped his body, and scissored his legs up.
I was ready to turn him around and finish his other side, I just wanted to run the blade of him one more time.
I lifted his front leg and took the blade down his chest.
The blade suddenly caught and I quickly pulled it away.
'Hmmm, has he got a wart there?'  I thought to myself.

I lifted his leg again to get a better look at the chest.
There was a teeny, tiny red mark, and no wart.

Oh crap!

I couldn't believe it.
I was using a new #5F blade.
I have never had a #5F blade catch on a dogs skin before.

It was a tiny V cut about the size of a sesame seed.
Yes, that small.
It was only the top layer of skin that was cut.
It did not bleed.

The most amazing thing of all?
This dog that is so sensitive about everything didn't even notice that I nicked him.
He was too busy watching out my window.
He likes watching out my window. :)

Did I say that I couldn't believe it?

I can't even remember the last time I nicked a dog with a blade.
I kept going over it in my mind.
I checked the blade, although I had used it on several dogs already with no problems.
The blade seemed fine.
I still took it out of the rotation just in case.

My guess....is that even though I had lifted the leg so that the skin was tight over the chest, he is a senior dog, his skin is thinning with age and not as tight as it used to be.

I am very thankful for my quick reflexes.
I have made it a habit to always pull the blade away at the least feel of any type of resistance.
Even when I know the resistance might just be a mat.
I never force a blade through.
I credit this habit for the nick being so tiny.

Still in all, I felt and still feel terrible.
I feel like I must have not been paying attention enough.
Still can't believe that a #5F blade caught the skin on a flat area of the dog.

I am very thankful that the dog did not feel anything.
I worked way too hard to get his trust.

I told his owner what happened and apologized.
He was very understanding.
I did not charge for the groom.
It has always been my policy not to charge for a groom if the dog is injured in any way.
Even if it was an accidental injury caused by the dogs sudden movement.
I will also pay Vet bills if the injury calls for a Vet visit.

The owner thought that I was nuts for not charging him.
Especially after I showed the nick to him and you could already hardly see it.

That's okay.
I know I am nuts.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Still Feeling Bad

Every once in a while something happens during your work day that just sticks with you.
You have a hard time forgetting.
You replay the moment over and over again in your head trying to see if you could have done something different.
Only sometimes the thing that happened was so unexpected that you had no time to think, all you could do was react.

That is what happened yesterday.
I reacted.
Pure reflex.

I know.
You are thinking 'what the heck is she talking about here?'

Let me start from the beginning.

Yesterday I was pretty much finished for the day.
I had just walked to the front counter to put a file away when a woman walked in.
She asked me if I could clip her dogs nails.
She said that she had just gotten the dog off of Craig's list last Saturday.
She also asked if I could trim up around the dogs eyes and the rear.
The dog was around one year old and the woman thought that the old owners had home groomed the dog because the hair was so chopped up.

I told her that she could bring the dog in and I could do the nails and trim while she waited.
I did ask her what breed the dog was, she said; "He is a French Poodle."


The dog she brought back in was a medium sized Poodle/ Bichon cross.
Yes, its hair had most certainly been hacked to pieces.
I guessed that the previous owner had been afraid to scissor around the eyes because the hair was still long there.

The new owner had the dog on a leash and also had a winter coat on it.
I could tell that the dog was scared.
I took the leash from the owner and started talking to the dog.
He was very scared and every time I tried to pet him he darted away.
I asked the new owner if she knew if the dog had ever been professionally groomed.
She was not sure but did not think so.
I didn't think so either.

I continued to softly talk to the dog and tried several times to pet him, but he wanted nothing to do with me.
I next tried to just pick the dog up.

For frightened dogs like this one, I pulled the lead forward to keep his head away and reached my arm under his belly to scoop him up.
This technique works for me 98% of the time.

Not this time.
This little guy was so quick and wiry that he jumped right over my arm and danced out of the way.
Okay, fine.
I was going to try something different.

So, I straightened up.
I still had the dogs leash in my hand.
I turned toward the new owner to ask her to pick up the dog, and that is when it happened.

The dog was about two feet from me when he charged.
Yes, he charged.
He charged so fast.
He charged, jumped up and bite me just above my knee cap before I even had a chance to register what he was about to do. 

I knew he was scared, and even got the vibe that he may be a fear biter, but to charge me when I was no longer trying to touch him?
That I did not expect. 

But charge me and bite me he did.

Then I did something I still feel horrible about.

I reacted.

As his teeth made contact with my leg, I automatically took the leash that I was still holding and yanked him away from me.
He was between me and an end table that sits between two chairs in my lobby.
As I yanked him back he hit into the end table.

His new owner grabbed him up immediately and ask me; "Did he get you?"
My answer; "Oh my gosh, is he alright?! I am so sorry that he hit the table!!! I just didn't expect him to lung like that!"
"He is fine, he is fine. Did he get you?" she asked again.


He barely broke skin through my pants, but he bit down really hard.

The green circle was his mouth, the bruised area makes it look bigger.

Funny how at the moment that the dogs new owner asked me that question, I suddenly felt the intense pain in my knee.
Boy, did it hurt, but I was still in disbelief.
Disbelief that he had charged me like that, and especially disbelief that I had yanked him back into the end table. 

I felt so bad.

I asked the owner to turn the dog towards her so that he could not see me and then slowly slipped my hands under the dog next to the owners arms and told her to let go.
Then I quickly brought the dog up into my arms.

Now, please don't think that I am totally stupid.
Believe me, the thought did cross my mind that this dog would twist in my arms once he realized it was me holding him and go for my face.

I quickly brought him close to my body keeping him low around my waist so that I could gently drop him to the ground if he went after me again once he realized that I was the one holding him.

So, what did he do when he realized he was in my arms?

Absolutely nothing!!!

He looked at me and settled right down.
I still felt like crap.
I kept picturing him hitting the table.
But, I was relieved that he had calmed down considerably.

Now, how would he be on the table.
Would he be a little land shark?
Did I mention that he was not neutered?

He was still a little scared.
Still the potential of a fear biter.
He was not crazy about having his head held to be scissored, but some soft sweet talking cured that.
He was great for having his nails trimmed.
He didn't care in the least that I was fooling with his feet.
He also had a pretty nice coat even if it was all chopped up at the moment.
He just needed someone to work with him and get used to being groomed on a regular bases.

When I took the dog back up to his new owner, I told her to find a groomer that would work with her dog to help it learn to like the grooming. 
I was sure that she would not want to bring her dog back to me after I yanked him into the end table, even though it had just been reflect reaction to him biting.

She did want to bring him back to me and set up an appointment right then and there.
I was very happy.
I know he bit me and yes, it still hurt today.
But, I want to work with him.
I have a feeling that if this new owner does bring him regularly he will turn into one of my favorites to groom.
It will just take a little time.

And yes, I fully expect that he may try to bite me again till he gets used to me.
I won't be caught off guard the next time.

Plus I owe this little guy some extra lovin'  to make up for my reflexes.
I still feel bad.
I didn't mean for him to hit the end table, he didn't hit hard, and he was fine, but I still feel bad.
I don't ever want to hurt a dog.
Even if it hurt me.

I can't wait to see how he does for a full grooming.
I'll update then and tell you how he did. :)


Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Winners...

...of Groom Expos Creative Grooming Competition 2015

** NOTE: To anyone who lands on this blog entry that does not agree with creative grooming, I suggest that you move on and not even bother looking at this post. This creative competition is a one day competition that lasts for a few hours. The dogs are given a break during the grooming so that they do not have to stand on a grooming table for the entire time. The rules are strict and the colors used are pet safe. These dogs are very much loved by their owners (the groomers). They live like any other well loved dog. They run, they play, and they sleep most of the day away. AND they do not care if their hair is a different color. They DO love the attention they get from being colored.

 Here are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.


 Groomer: Christine Trovato

Theme: Who Let The Dogs Out


This groomer made her Standard Poodle into an Airedale. 


1st Side


2nd Side


Groomer: Cat Opson

Theme: Scooby-Doo



1st Side


2nd Side



Groomer: Angela Kumpe
Theme: The Mermaid


1st Side
 Then she turned her dog around for the first time for everyone to see.

2nd Side

A Mermaid laying across the top of the dog with her hair flowing down the dogs back leg and the tail over the dogs head. 

I wish that I could have gotten a picture from above the dog.

There you have it!
Another year of Creative come and gone.
What a  great job everyone did.