Canine curiosities your groomer knows

 

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Professional dog groomers get to know more dogs well than almost anyone, other than a veterinarian. This week, we spoke with Nicole Morris, Regional Salon Quality and Education Manager for PetSmart’s Great Lakes Region, and asked her what she’s learned that might surprise us. As usual, Nicole didn’t disappoint!  

Every pet professional picks up specialized bits of information on the job. For example, a pro musher will quickly learn that not all “Northern breeds” are created equal (not by a long shot). Vets learn that sometimes the fastest way to get a simple but stressful procedure done is to give the patient brief breaks. And dog walkers learn every client-dog’s preferences, from how they like to get leashed up to which fire hydrants provide the most fascinating scents.

Over the course of a career a groomer’s hands will cover every inch of thousands of dogs, from miniatures to giants, puppies to seniors, and super-relaxed to super-stressed. Because of this, experienced groomers have an inside scoop about dogs that other pet pros don’t usually have. Here are three of Nicole’s favorite fascinating facts:

Terriers pose one of the biggest challenges as far as temperaments for grooming. The terrier personality is “fight or flight” and when they don’t like having their nails trimmed, for example, they will try to get away from the groomer—and if that’s not an option, they may try to fight. Reading the behavior of a terrier and changing your technique/approach are crucial for both the terrier and groomer to keep everyone safe.

Many people bring their pups in for a groom because the dogs “smell.” One common culprit of a smelly pet is dirty ears! Pets ears should be cleaned regularly, especially if they have dropped ears, like spaniels and hounds. Look inside your pet’s ears regularly for redness, dirt, or discharge.

Did you know poodles shed? Instead of dropping the hairs onto your floor, they often fall back into the dog’s coat and, if not brushed out, can cause tangles and mats to form.

Because of their extensive contact with so many dogs, good groomers—those who pay close attention to the dogs in their care, understand canine body language, and know the unique characteristics of each breed or type of dog—have insights like these that are as fascinating as they are useful.

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The grooming process … or, “Why does a trip to the grooming salon take so long, anyway?!”

Dog groomer shaving West Highland Terrier

By Betsy Lane, MA

If you’ve been following our blog over the past few months, you’ve probably learned a lot about dog groomers, tools, salons and shops, and so on.  In this week’s post, we unpack the grooming process itself, to answer that perennial question: Why does grooming a dog take so darn long?

Even pet parents who have been taking their dogs to grooming salons for years sometimes wonder why the process takes so long. In this week’s post, Nicole Morris, PetSmart’s Salon Quality and Education Manager for the Great Lakes Region, shed some light on the matter.

“At our grooming salons,” Nicole says, “two to four dogs arrive within the first hour of the groomer’s day. The groomer spends 5 to 15 minutes talking with the pet parents about the dog’s health, behavior, goals, and so on.” This checking-in chat is important, so plan for it when you make your appointment!

Once the dog is checked in, work proceeds in five logically ordered steps:

Prep work – The groomers take care of the basics first: coat (shaving and/or brushing out), nails, teeth, and ears. Always brush your dog’s coat before the bath, to avoid tangles and knots!

Bathing – The bath itself can be quick or more intense, depending on the dog’s coat and any treatments such as conditioners or de-shedding. In any case, an extremely thorough rinse finishes things up.

Drying – The drying process is essential; coats need to be completely dry in order to stretch to full length and make an even cut possible. The dryers make many dogs nervous, so at times the groomer will towel dry the dog, or turn a fan down to low and let the dog air dry. Many dogs still benefit from a break after the drying process. Drying times can be less than 15 minutes for a Yorkie, but closer to 45 for a Goldendoodle.

Clipping and tidying up – Finally, we’re to what feels like the “haircut”! This is when the groomer trims and tends to every last detail, from nose to toes to the tip of the tail.

Bows and bandanas – Your dog is looking and feeling great, so why not top all that goodness off with something fun? Team bandana or rhinestone bow, anyone?

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What makes a great groomer great?

Groomer with a dog

by Betsy Lane, MA

Many—perhaps even most—dog groomers don’t start out thinking grooming will be their career. Successful groomers enter the field from all sorts of backgrounds. Many come to this work out of a deep love and commitment to animal welfare. Others get curious about the career when they bring their own dogs to be groomed. The paths to grooming are so diverse, it begs the questions: What do these professionals have in common, personality-wise? What attributes make a great groomer? And, could this describe you?

Nicole Morris, PetSmart’s Salon Quality and Education manager for the Great Lakes Region, provided her insights. A former professional dog groomer herself, Nicole knows this work inside and out, and has seen countless new groomers succeed. Here’s what she thinks they have in common:

Groomers need to be compassionate.

“The #1 quality all great groomers share is compassion.” Groomers need to be able to work well with pet parents from all walks of life, and with all different types of dogs. Some (parents and pets!) will be nervous or anxious. Some will bring in a dog with a health issue they might not even have noticed. Whatever the case, the groomer “has to be able to walk them through it,” Nicole says. And they need to do it with compassion and professionalism.

Groomers need to be patient.

Many pet parents are nervous, especially the first time they visit a salon (or a new groomer). “Especially for the Millennial generation, many of whom don’t have kids, the dog is their kid. Dropping the dog off at the salon is like dropping your kid off on the first day of preschool. [The pet parents] want to know the entire process,” Nicole says–and the groomer needs to be able to explain the process quickly but thoroughly, helping the pet parents relax.

Groomers need to be extroverted (in some ways).

When new clients arrive for appointments, the groomer needs to jump right in, engage the clients, and ask questions about some unusual topics, like poop, fleas, hair mats, and so on. As a groomer, “you have to be a little bit of an investigator,” Nicole says. Groomers also need to be extroverted enough to be good team players; they “need to be willing to ask for help—or to jump in and offer it proactively to another groomer who might be struggling.”

Groomers need to be detail-oriented.

Finally, great groomers are extremely detail oriented. They see the details, and feel motivated—compelled, even—to ensure every detail is just right.

Does this sound like you? If so, why not consider a career (or a new career) in dog grooming? PetSmart’s Grooming Academy is just one option, and it’s a great place to start exploring!

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Setting your dog up for success at the salon

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I get treats for going to the salon?! What are we waiting for – let’s go!

by Betsy Lane, MA

Most of us would love a day of pampering at a spa. Many dogs… not so much. A trip to the grooming salon involves many unfamiliar experiences and a certain amount of sensory overload from the sights, sounds, and smells of the salon. These “firsts” can be challenging for a dog—and we haven’t even talked about the grooming itself yet!

Many “firsts” are difficult for dogs, so it’s worth our time and effort to be sure they go well. As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We want to ensure our dogs get a stress-free start at the grooming salon, so they won’t be stressed by routine procedures like being bathed, brushed, clipped, or having their nails trimmed and ears cleaned.

The two most effective ways to help our dogs accept being groomed are (1) start slow and (2) offer lots of rewards.

Food is usually your best bet here. Choose something soft, smelly, and small, so you can give out a bunch of little pieces without filling your dog’s belly. Diced hot dogs, cheese, chicken, filet mignon, salmon—you name it. Discover what your dog absolutely LOVES, put a bunch of that in a baggie, tuck it in your pocket, and head out the door.

Your first trip to the salon will just be a social visit—much like stopping to chat with a friend you run into on the street. “We always encourage social visits to build positive associations,” says Alyssa Serafin, PetSmart Salon Leader. “Just come in, say hi, get a treat, and leave.” These baby steps help your dog become familiar with the salon environment, from the ambient noises, lights, and smells to the sometimes shiny, slippery floors.

Remember those treats in your pocket? Be generous with them! Watch for every brave, curious, relaxed, or happy thing your dog does and reward the heck out of it. Your dog walks past the sliding glass doors? Yay! Treat! Happily approaches a customer pushing a shopping cart? Yay! Treat! Acts curious and friendly towards the salon staff? Yay! Triple treats!

This technique (which has decades of scientific research supporting it) is called “positive reinforcement,” and it’s how we get more of the behaviors we want. As Alyssa says, “Start slow and make it easy for the dogs, and they’ll do better in the long run.”

Sure, you might make a few trips to the salon before any real grooming happens, but that’s a small investment of time that can pay off in a dog who’s reasonably happy being groomed for the rest of his or her clean, healthy, gorgeous life.

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How to get what you want from your dog groomer

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by Betsy Lane, MA

When you get a haircut, you want to walk out looking and feeling great—and you want the same things when your dog goes to the groomer! In this post, we’ll look at how to get the look you want at the grooming salon and what to do if you’re not satisfied.

A successful trip to the grooming salon leaves you, your dog, and the groomer all feeling great—but, just like with human haircuts, things don’t always turn out the way you thought they would.

How can you maximize the chances of your dog being runway-ready after a trip to the salon, and what should you do if things veer off course?

That’s what we asked PetSmart Grooming Salon Leader Renee Fuentes and her team of professional dog groomers. Lucky for us, they shared five terrific tips for successful trips to the salon.

  1. When deciding on length, groomers can start by taking off half the length of the coat, then check to see if you’d like a bit more taken off. “We can always take off more, but we can’t put it back on,” they note.
  2. If your dog’s coat is badly matted, shaving the coat might be the only choice. In this case, the groomer should be willing and able to show you what to do at home to keep your dog looking and feeling terrific between salon visits. And remember, “You can stop in the salon between grooms for brush-outs or baths, which will help the skin and coat grow back and avoid the need for shaves.”
  3. If the salon’s shave chart—which shows different blade lengths (3, 4, 5, 7, etc.)—confuses you, a groomer “can do a little pre-shave in an inconspicuous area to show what the 4 would look like compared to the 5, and you can see the difference in how much of the coat comes off.” Feel free to request this, if it’s not offered.
  4. Remember to tell the groomer if you like short ears, long tail, and so on. “Pictures always help, too, as does hearing about the pup’s lifestyle and health.”
  5. When you check out, the groomer should ask how you like the cut. If there are things you’d like to discuss, it’s often best to take your dog outside to go potty, and then come back in for any adjustments. Renee adds, “I’ll add a note about their preferences to their file, so it’s perfect next time. PetSmart Grooming Salons have a Look Great Guarantee, as well.”

Here’s to every dog looking and feeling great after every trip to the grooming salon!

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Skunked!

Skunk kit

by Betsy Lane, MA

The days are getting shorter, temperatures are beginning to fall, and the animals outside are getting bolder as they single-mindedly prepare for winter’s chill.  Just when you think it’s safe to go for a nice evening walk… SKUNKED!

So, that funny-looking black-and-white cat wasn’t a cat, after all—and you have the stinking-to-high-heaven dog to prove it. What do you do now?

Growing up in California, skunks were an integral part of every summer. Back in the bad old days, treating a skunked dog meant clamoring around for gallons of tomato juice, endless cleaning up of said juice, and—adding insult to injury—discovering your dog still smelled horrible! Everyone was miserable, and there was little to do but wait for the stench to dissipate… which usually happened right about the time the dog got sprayed again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Most dogs are surprisingly slow to learn that chasing a skunk never ends well. This means we, as dog guardians, have had a whole lot of opportunities to figure out what works to get that nasty stink out of our furry friends. The recipe below is cheap, easy, and effective. I keep the ingredients in a bag in the pantry, right by my back door—so I can grab it and use it on the dog outside, with the hose. (Better yet, put it in a small plastic bucket.) I marked the bag “SKUNK KIT” and put instructions inside, in case I’m lucky enough not to be the one doing the de-skunk-ifying (hope springs eternal). This system is so easy, the trickiest part is remembering to restock the kit after using it.

Of course, you can always take your skunked dog to a professional groomer—PetSmart has salons in more than 1,000 locations across the country—but give this a try in the meantime. I think you’ll be surprised by how effective a 5-minute bath with this concoction can be!

Skunk kit

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 quart hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
  • 2 teaspoons dish soap (preferably Dawn)

I also add a teaspoon measure and a ¼-cup measure, plus an absorbent towel or two.

Instructions:

Combine the baking soda, peroxide, and soap in a bucket or bowl. Add up to a quart of water (just reuse the peroxide bottle) to make more solution as needed for a larger dog. Saturate any stinky fur, avoiding eyes and nose. Let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse well with clear water and towel dry.

That’s it! Don’t forget to restock the kit!

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How to find a great groomer

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Kara Gossage and Coby of the PetSmart Groom Team at the All-American Grooming Show 2017 Wire Coated Breeds Competition. 

By Betsy Lane, MA

Help! Your dog needs to be groomed, but you don’t know where to turn. How do you find a great salon—and avoid the not-so-great ones? If the thought of handing over your dog to a virtual stranger and coming back a few hours later makes you break out in a cold sweat, read on. Renee Fuentes, PetSmart Salon Leader, is here to share some expert advice for pet parents who haven’t yet found a groomer who makes them and their pets happy.

As it turns out, finding a groomer isn’t all that different from finding a human hair stylist. Many people start looking for a groomer at dog-friendly areas or events—or even while on walks. Watch for dogs that have a look you like, and ask their owners where they take their dog for grooming. Pay particular attention to the dog’s head, especially on dogs that look like yours. “The details will set a cut apart,” Renee says, “especially the shape of the head, ears, and face. Ask for a referral if you like what you see on another dog, especially of your dog’s breed.”

The next step is to visit the salon in person. Renee suggests looking for someplace clean, bright, friendly, and professional. It should smell nice, there shouldn’t be clumps of old hair lurking in the corners, and the animals should not look too stressed. Ask which of the groomers at the shop most like to groom your type of dog; groomers should be versatile, but often have a favorite type of dog (Yorkie, Newfie, shy, puppy, senior, etc.). Renee also suggests casually asking who sharpens the shop’s blades—since these should be sharpened about once a month (for efficiency and safety), any reputable salon will be able to tell you who their sharpener is. And when it comes time for your first appointment, you can bring photos of styles you like, just like you might with your own hairstylist.

What about a small, private shop versus a larger salon? Renee says there are pluses and minuses to either choice. “Private shops can be calmer and slower-paced, which can be good for scared, anxious, or older dogs,” she says, “but larger salons often have better systems in place for air filtration and so on—like PetSmart’s UV lights in their ventilation system, which kill a lot of the germs you might worry about elsewhere.”

Finally, remember that making a few fun “social visits” to the shop to say hi and get used to the smells, sounds, and so on, will help every dog—and potentially worried owner—feel great about a doggy spa day!

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National Dog Day is August 26, 2017!

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By Betsy Lane, MA

The dog days of summer are drawing to a close, and National Dog Day is heading our way tomorrow, August 26! This American holiday celebrates all dogs—young and old, hero and couch potato, purebred and mixed breed. National Dog Day also has a mission to increase people’s awareness of adoption as an option when adding a new pet to your family. Whether or not you’re thinking about adopting, or have already adopted a new dog (perhaps in one of the many Clear the Shelters events this month), we’re sure you’ll want to do something special to celebrate the dogs in your life!

Alyssa Serafin, PetSmart Salon Leader, recently took a few minutes to share her thoughts on how to celebrate. For newly adopted dogs, Alyssa stresses that a trip to the grooming salon can make a dog feel great, especially if it’s done right. Taking a bit of extra care with newly adopted dogs, Alyssa says many pups seem to leave with the attitude that “they know they look great, feel good, and get to go home to a fun new home with a family that loves them.”

With any first-time visit to a grooming salon, Alyssa recommends taking it slowly. She encourages low-key social visits to make good associations with the shop. “Start slowly; just come in and say hi, get a treat, and leave. The third or fourth time, make an appointment and leave the dog for just a minute or two, maybe for a nail trim or ear cleaning. Make it easy for the dogs in the beginning, and they’ll do better in the long run.”

For dogs comfortable with salon pampering, Alyssa notes that many owners like to get creative with nontoxic chalk coloring for ears or tails, or even a new “hairstyle” (poodle with a Mohawk, anyone?). Sports fans and kids love the temporary “tattoos” offered—spray-on stencils of NFL and MLB team logos and other designs.

Alyssa says, “Dogs are family members. We know your pets are your babies, and once they’re in our care, we treat them as if they were our own. We look forward to seeing the same dogs over time, and building connections with them and their human parents.”

Ultimately, it is exactly that sense of connection that every pet deserves. And that is something worth celebrating, on National Dog Day and every other day of the year!

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DIY dog grooming (and when to call the pros)

 

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By Betsy Lane, MA

All dogs require grooming. If you have a healthy, short-coated dog, grooming might consist of weekly brushing and/or combing, and a monthly nail trim and bath. But if your dog has a high-maintenance coat, fast-growing nails, or a tendency to roll in things you’d rather not discuss, you’ve probably realized you can’t do all your dog’s grooming on your own.

Elizabeth Gibbs, District Academy Trainer at PetSmart Grooming Academy and a member of the PetSmart Groom Team, says owners who are interested in grooming their own dogs can often manage brushing and combing, nail trimming, and bathing at home, with trips to a grooming salon every couple of months (or as needed).

Brushing and combing should be done at least weekly, and more often won’t hurt. Elizabeth recommends getting a slicker brush in a size appropriate for your dog (she likes this brush by Top Paw) and a good comb (she likes this comb, also by Top Paw). A quality detangling spray is essential for many dogs’ coats; she uses this spray by CHI on her own Poodle and Yorkipoo.  If your dog resists being brushed or combed, start with very brief sessions (a minute or two), and encourage your dog with soothing praise and yummy treats.

Nail trimming should be done monthly, using a sharp, high quality nail trimmer like these from Millers Forge. A quality product makes a huge difference both in ease of trimming and getting a nice, clean edge on every nail. Many dogs dislike this procedure, but will tolerate having a few nails trimmed at a time; you don’t have to do them all at once. Ask a groomer, vet, or vet tech to be sure you know how to trim your dog’s nails safely before you begin!

Bathing should also be done regularly, but the timing will vary a lot depending on your dog. It takes a dog’s skin six weeks to go through its lifecycle, so many dogs do best with a bath every 4 to 6 weeks. Elizabeth recommends an oatmeal shampoo (like this shampoo by CHI), or a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs with allergies. You can also use a conditioner (like this conditioner, also by CHI) if your dog has a longer, fuller coat.

What’s the #1 thing Elizabeth wishes owners would quit trying to do at home? “I wish they’d stop cutting mats out of their dogs’ coats! First of all, it’s too easy to cut the dog, and then your dog has a gash in it. And second, owners often end up cutting a big hole in the middle of their dog’s style, leaving us no option but to shave the coat. Often, we can get the mat out by brushing, or we can find a way to fix the problem with the professional tools we have in the salon.”

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SuperZoo 2017

Groom Team

At the end of last month, I attended SuperZoo 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada—and I’m happy to say that what happened in Vegas won’t be staying in Vegas this time!

In fact, a major goal of my trip was to bring back insights and exciting new ideas to help make FetchFind the most useful, current, go-to web destination for all of you who love being part of this booming industry and awesome community.

SuperZoo is North America’s premier pet-industry show, drawing more than 1,000 exhibitors and nearly 20,000 industry professionals from around the world to explore and celebrate anything and everything related to pets. The show is designed to help pet professionals build better businesses, and it was truly inspiring to share four days with so many people as passionate as I am about being a positive force for pets and the pros who serve them.

I was super excited to spend time with the PetSmart Groom Team. Other than taking my dogs to be groomed, I’m pretty new to the dog-grooming universe, and it was totally eye-opening! The PetSmart team was supported by a large and energetic cheering section, and the sense of community and support was palpable—as was the competitors’ pride in their individual and team talent. Clearly, these groomers aren’t just going to a job every day—they love their work and couldn’t wait to demonstrate their world-class skills in the show’s thirty (!) dog-grooming competitions—including one just for rescue dogs.

The groomers at SuperZoo enjoy quasi-rock-star status, and it is 100% deserved! They are artists by anyone’s definition.

The whole SuperZoo experience was amazing, and I’d encourage anyone in the industry to attend it at least once. Having been intimately involved in this industry since I was in college, I know how easy it can be to feel isolated at times—which is why I’m so big on building networks and working together. But once you attend SuperZoo, you’ll know you’re not alone—not one bit—in your passion for pets or your professional commitment to making their lives as great as you possibly can.

Here’s to seeing even more of you at SuperZoo next year!

Feeling inspired,

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

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