When a dog comes in for its first groom, I assess the condition of its coat. This is usually done while giving it lots of kisses and cuddles. As we’re stroking the dog, we’re also feeling the coat to make sure that it’s not knotted and matted. If the dog’s a bit nervous then, obviously, we would back off and allow it to come round in its own time, rather than force ourselves on it. But with dogs that are friendly, it gives us a good opportunity to feel all over its body, while it’s bouncing around and having a great time saying hello to us. I then ask the owner if there are any medical problems like skin issues. While checking the coat I am also looking for little friends that might be visiting. Owners don’t always realise their best friends have fleas, and can get quite a shock, especially if they sleep in the owners bed!
How would you decide how a dog needs to be groomed?
At the end of the day, it’s the owner’s dog. I don’t have to look at it 24 hours a day but the owner does, so I’m quite happy to do exactly what the owner wants, as long as the dog’s coat’s is in the condition that it needs to be for what they’re asking for. We can give them opportunities to look at pictures and see what styles their dogs would suit. But I usually ask owners ‘What bits do you like on the dog? Because I’ll keep the bits that you like and we can get rid of the bits that you don’t like.’ But, at the end of the day, the owner is the person who decides on what needs to be done, not the Groomer.
But are there times when you’re asked to groom a dog a certain way and you think ‘There’s no way I can actually do that’
Yes, there’s are times when people will ask for something I know won’t work. A recent example is where a customer asked for their German Shepherd to be clipped off. Now, yes, I could clip a German Shepherd off but, I know it will look horrendous and not suit the dog. So I would try and talk them out of it. But, if the owner is insistent then my approach would be to suggest we do it in stages. Take a little bit off at a time and go from there? Rather than take the whole coat off. Again it depends on the dog’s coat and whether it’s suitable.
What if a dog has a badly matted coat?
Grooming out a matted dog is not fair on the dog. We will try our best but if the dog is badly matted I will explain to the customer the situation and why I don’t feel able to do it. I have a matting form for the owner to fill in so they understand I will do what is in the best interest of the dog.
Are there things you can do to stop this happening?
With some breeds you need to brush them every day and although some owners do, they might not have the right equipment. This is why we run a master brushing class where owners can learn how to brush their dogs properly with the right equipment.
Some owners will find brushing their dog difficult, but occupying the dog while you’re brushing it, and not attempting to brush the dog all in one go, is a good start. Do a leg; give him a treat, come back 10 minutes later, do the other leg; give him a treat. This way they’re not having to stand still for an hour, while you’re brushing them out. Also, check with your Groomer about what is the right equipment. ‘Am I using the right brush? Am I using the right comb?’ Each dog needs different brushes and different combs.
You can get special de-matting, de-tangling, sprays that you can use after the dog’s been groomed. It will help you to keep on top of your dog’s coat and keep it in good condition. But the coat already has to be in pretty good condition for that to work, But, really, at the end of the day, it’s just brush and comb, and putting in the time and effort.
Another tip is, if you are bathing them at home, don’t rub them dry with a towel; squeeze them dry.
What do you do if you’ve got an aggressive dog?
Just because the dog’s aggressive, or what people presume is aggressive, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Very often the dogs are frightened. They may never have been groomed before, they’re not sure; they’re away from their owner. So it’s finding out, mainly by body language and handling them, whether they’re reacting to the fact that they’re frightened.
And there’s different ways of handling them. Again we use the same method as mentioned above, picking a leg up, quick brush, giving them a treat. I’ve been known to dangle a chew stick over the arm of my grooming table so it occupies the dog while I’m brushing it. I’m not a big fan of using muzzles, I prefer to use an Elizabethan Hood. The collar that is used after an operation; I find that it reduces the level of stress for the dog. It also means it can’t bite me! But it also means the dog’s not restricted while it gets used to the idea of being groomed. We will talk to it and stroke it; pick legs up and treat it without it having to have a muzzle on.
What do you like about your job?
The best bit of the job is the variety, I really enjoy that each day is different and that I get to make dogs feel much better in themselves. It’s great to meet new people and catch up with regular customers.
What don’t you like about your job?
Not a lot really, there are days when a big dog comes in, that is casting its coat, and I get covered in a white film of dead skin. Not a great day! Probably the worst bits are having to keep repeating yourself to an owner. The dog keeps coming in, in the same condition every single time, and the owner isn’t listening to what we’re trying to tell them. But in general I’m lucky, I get up every day and look forward to coming to work.