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. :)


  1. Thank you for treating your dog clients with respect and love. I hope the poor Goldendoodle comes out of her shell, what terrible things she must have experienced and witnessed.

  2. Hi I'm new to grooming and in the process of learning, I volunteer 1 day a week at a salon, looking to take a 20 day course as soon as I can 😊. I absolutely love your blog and find it so interesting. Your tips are great and pics are a bonus too but I wondered if you have any videos on you tube as I can't seem to watch the ones you put on here? Xx ps: I love your gentle approach x

  3. Thank you! I wish everyone could understand this. I was trained that being calm and gentle was the best way to groom a dog, especially fearful, biting ones. Some of the people I work with now are of the git 'er done mentality and have no connection to the dog while grooming. It stresses their dog and myself to hear them keep scolding the screaming dog on their table. I hope your message encourages some people to try being a bit more compassionate while grooming.

  4. Thanks for this interesting post on dog grooming.

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  6. I deal with this same issue all the time, and customers are dumbfounded at the fact that I can groom their previously "nasty" dogs without major incidents. I would love to share this on my facebook page, with proper credit given of course, if that is ok with you. I feel that too many groomers are in a rush and forget that dogs, just like people, all have different personalities and need to be handled differently. You put into words what I have been trying to explain for years.

  7. THANK YOU AND THANK YOU AGAIN!!! I am a groomer and I was having tears of sadness and happiness while reading your story. The way you think and your approach are exactly what I think and what I like to do. Working with children for almost 25 years and now with dogs I like to think that it is kind of the same approach in different aspect. Thank you for all the good care you are providing to our furry friends. Keep posting it does help lots of groomers and dogs. I always like to use the rule RRR - Respect - Relationships - Result -

  8. Thank you for your post. Recently i brought two small dogs, and i don't know how to treat them. Your post may help more. Expecting more in the next post. Thank you :)

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  9. You are amazing. Thank you! for sharing your work, wealth of knowledge and experiences on this wonderful blog.

  10. Thank you for sharing & for all of the insight combined with tender loving care that you extend to your doggie clients. They are so very innocent & vulnerable. Doggies are eternal babies & deserve to feel safe, cared for & understood. I hope groomers that weren't taught these things and/or that didn't realize the simple little changes they can make now to create a happy rewarding experience for the dogs that come to them & for themselves. I hope they will find it easy to implement these valuable ideas into their own practice. I imagine that you have touched & helped a lot of people with your post & all will be better for it. I feel better knowing there are groomers like you for the many innocent doggies who need you. Thanks again.

    From a protective doggie owner.

  11. Great! The way you think and your approach are exactly what I think and what I like to do....
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  12. Thank you so much for sharing this work. Being new to this industry I find your experience very useful.

  13. I've definitely dealt with my share of difficult dogs during the grooming and spa process, and what I've learned over the years is to be flexible and patient.