A Day in the life of a Groomer – an interview with Jackie Lewis
1st June 2019

We offer three different types of swims. Puppy Fun Swims – available for puppies after they’ve had their first or second injections, all the way up to a year old. Adult Fun Swims – available for any dog over a year old. And Medical Swims.

So Puppy Swims? Is this just for fun?

Actually there is a bit more to it than that. Puppy Swims can really help with the growing pains puppies often experience. Sometimes, their bones grow too quickly and the muscles can’t catch up with how fast the dog is actually growing. A fun swim is a great confidence booster for a puppy, it gets them used to socialising and being touched. And being bathed before and after their swim contributes to another life experience in their early months. It’s also a very good way of getting the excitable energy out of your puppy. And with vets advising us that it’s not a very good idea to over-walk or run your young dog a structured swim is a sensible alternative. It’s especially good for your large breed dogs as Vets are encouraging us not to over-exercise large breeds, because it can cause too much jarring on their joints. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise, therefore you can build up muscle without putting any excess stress on their joints.

So an older Dog? How could they benefit from a swim?

I think every owner knows when their dog starts to slow down and isn’t quite as joyous as they were when they were in their early years. Swimming sets off the endorphins around the body again, so if you have an older dog who seems to have lost their desire to play with their toys; have a mad half hour, a swim could give them a new lease of life. Non-weight bearing exercise can help an older, maybe overweight dog safely build up its fitness again. It also helps with arthritis in older dogs. The benefits are endless for dogs of all ages.

And medical swims – how do they differ?

To start with, we need a vet referral and the dog’s medical history before we start swimming them. This allows us to check for any underlying problems, like heart murmurs, diabetes, epilepsy.
Once we get the go-ahead, from the Vet, we can focus on getting them into the pool, where I will do a top-to-toe assessment. I always have a good feel of all the dog’s bones, its muscles, and once it is in the pool how the dog is swimming. You can feel every little click, in the stifle or in a hip. You can feel little grinds if they’ve got arthritis in the hips. So during that first session I’m feeling for everything that’s going on with the dog.
I find our smaller pool easier for medical swims, it allows you to be more hands on with the dog; you’re not having to chase after the dog for metres and metres up the other side of the pool. You can concentrate on what is important. You’ve got the dog in the one position, you can do different patterns in the pool. As long as you’re there with the dog; hands-on, for him to do the swims, you can pinpoint different muscles groups to improve any kind of arthritic problems, cruciate problems, and any signs of spinal issues.

What are the most common medical cases you deal with?

Cruciate ligament and Hip dysplasia are both conditions we see a lot of. Both conditions require the build-up and repair of muscles without putting pressure on the ligaments or joints.

Luxating Patella – swimming stabilises the patella joint by building up the muscle – you will often see a small dog hopping along on its back leg but within a few swims you can actually see the dog walking again. It’s very rewarding.
It’s the same with the Spinal Swims. I’ve had dogs that have come in with a fibrocartilaginous embolism and the dogs have been totally immobile. They’ve had no feeling in their back legs whatsoever. You put them in the pool; do a few swims with them and after the first two or three sessions, you can start to see the dog walking on its back legs again.

I was going to ask you what are the best bits of the job but, I think, you’ve probably answered that.

Definitely, I love the Spinal Swims. Obviously just swimming with dogs all day, every day and doing what you love for a living is amazing. It’s the only job that I can ever see me wanting to do and I would never want to change it. But, definitely the Medical Swims. I mean, the Fun Swims are great. Yes, I do enjoy the Fun Swims, you get to see your regular customers weekly, monthly, fortnightly. But, certainly, for me, it’s the Medical Swims where I get the most enjoyment out of it because you can actually see what you’re doing week on week.

Are there some dogs you can’t swim?

If a dog has been vomiting, or had sickness and diarrhoea then we can’t swim them. If they have skin problems like ringworm, mange, or an open wound, again we couldn’t swim them.
You can’t swim a dog that’s massively obese because, that would put too much stress on the heart. But I would say to anyone who is concerned give us a call and we can always work with you to get your dog to the point where they can come in for a swim.

Are there some dogs that don’t take to swimming?

It’s all about how you introduce the dog to the pool. The first session will only last for about five minutes or so, and then we bring the swims up to 10 minutes, 15, 20 and then up to the full 25 minute swims. Again, if they are quite nervous, it’s always good to get to know the dog before we put the dog in the pool. So, I will also play tennis balls with them, in the shower room. Get them used to you first. I’ve only been bitten once in nearly 10 years, so it’s a good record. It’s all to do with the tennis ball! If you can make the dog feel as comfortable as possible, swimming in the pool will be a great experience for them. Gain that trust first, and then you’ll have no problems after that.
It’s also interesting that some dogs who have been used to swimming at beaches and in the river can be a bit nervy in the pool for the first time. When they’re on a beach, they’re in charge of when they go running in and out of the water so it is a very different experience for them in the pool. So, again, we just have to build the dog’s swims up gradually.

Can Hydrotherapy really help with obesity?

As with humans weight is a tricky subject. I don’t exactly run a fat club for dogs but I can help with weight reduction and setting a dog on a path to a lower weight and improved health. Vets want the dogs to be at their slimmest, which is definitely a good thing for the dog. But you can always tell the owners don’t want their dog to be like a stick insect, basically, to be too lean and too thin. As with humans it’s all about the quality of life for our canine friends. So we’ll we do a diet assessment. Find out what food the dog is fed, how often it gets fed; if there is a lighter version of the dog’s food. We can then put them on a weight loss programme. We weigh the dog every week, when it comes in for its swim and with the new diet and exercise we should see an improvement.

Are there any bits that are not so great about the job?

Looking like a drowned rat all day! And I get a red nose so it’s not a nice look. But that’s why I’ve been in the job for so long, other than being wet all day I love it. It’s a great way for me to get fit, as well as the dogs. I’m just back from maternity leave so hopefully, in time, the baby body might go back to the way it was before. But, no, I’m trying to think of any downsides, other than the sogginess all day. Oh! Putting a wet wetsuit on, that’s definitely the worst thing in the morning. I never get used to putting a wet wetsuit on. It never fully dries out from the day before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *