DIY dog grooming (and when to call the pros)

 

dog tub

By Betsy Lane

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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10 high maintenance dog breeds

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

“High maintenance” doesn’t just mean your dog’s home away from home will be the grooming salon. It can also mean a dog who herds your children, routinely outsmarts you, or just wants to be by your side… All. The. Time. Let’s take a look at 10 lovable breeds that require some extra upkeep. As with any pet, educate yourself before you fall in love, so everyone can live happily ever after.

afghanAfghan Hound 

These regal-looking, athletic dogs sport long, flowing coats worthy of any human shampoo ad. Those luscious coats require some daily touch-ups, a thorough weekly brushing, and regular trips to the grooming salon.


beagleBeagle

These compact, short-coated dogs don’t require much grooming, but they are active and vocal! Unless you’re prepared to keep your Beagle busy with projects, training, and long daily walks (or runs), be prepared for considerable noise. This breed’s “singing” is a major reason their owners give them up for adoption.


Bichon Frise 3Bichon Frise

The perennial darling of the dog world, the compact Bichon has a big personality and loves being your constant companion. Bichons have hair, not fur, which means daily brushing and a monthly bathing and scissoring, often done by a pro. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


border-collie-667487_960_720Border Collie

Like most herding breeds, Border Collies enjoy working long hours, often barking instructions to their humans for good measure. The American Kennel Club describes BCs as “remarkably smart workaholics.” Be sure you’re up to the challenge of keeping your BC constructively entertained for its lifespan of up to 17 years!


cocker-spaniel-english-2415289_960_720Cocker Spaniel

 Those silky coats and extra-long ears mean extra TLC is needed: thorough brushing a few times a week, weekly bathing and trimming of the medium-length coat, and weekly checks of the ears (plus cleaning as needed). Many Cocker Spaniels see a professional groomer every 4 to 6 weeks.


german-shepherd-dog-2357412_960_720German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd is big, intelligent, alert, athletic, and loyal. GSDs also shed year-round and “blow coat” twice a year, leaving even more fur everywhere they go. GSDs are happiest working alongside their humans, so be ready to spend your spare time keeping your GSD pup busy. GSDs are also surprisingly vocal, having different “voices” for every communication need!


KomondorKomondor

The Komondor is a Hungarian livestock guardian breed. It has a corded coat that requires careful attention not only to keep it looking neat, but to prevent painful mats. Komondors can be wary of strangers, so get a dog trainer’s help building positive associations with a good groomer while your Komondor is still a puppy.


poodlePoodle

An honor student and varsity athlete, the poodle makes a great pet for owners willing to put in a bit of extra effort. Daily grooming is a must, and regular trips to the grooming salon will keep these magnificent dogs looking and feeling their best. ………………………………..


Puli copyPuli

Ah, the Puli! Those mop-like dogs with the hardworking yet playful attitude! And that corded coat! Like the Komondor, the Puli’s cords take considerable work to maintain. A good relationship with a capable groomer is a must, as a trip to the groomer can take the better part of a day (those cords take forever to dry).


yorkshire-2040656_960_720Yorkshire Terrier

The tiny Yorkshire Terrier’s long, silky coat requires daily grooming to look its best. From a daily clean-up of any “eye goop” to being sure the fur at the back end stays clean and clear of urine and feces, Yorkies are not easy keepers. Daily brushing to avoid tangles and mats should be preceded by a spritz of leave-in conditioner, and baths at least once a month are a must.


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Three unexpected things you need to know to keep your dog healthy

maltese in arms

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

We all know the basics of dog care – good food, exercise, regular vet checkups, and sound safety & training practices. But did you know about these three things that can have a big impact your dog’s health?

Getting to the bottom of anal glands

Let’s just get this one out of the way: Anal glands are two little sacs that sit just inside a dog’s anus. They’re filled with super stinky stuff that contains pheromones, and when your dog passes a (firm) stool, some of this material gets squeezed out with the poo. A generation or two ago, dog owners were encouraged to empty these sacs (express the glands by squeezing them) on a routine basis; this was often done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech—or even by brave owners themselves! Like most vets today, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, advises against fixing what isn’t broken: “If your pets don’t have anal gland problems right now, tell your vets and groomers to please leave them alone. Do not automatically express your pet’s anal glands.”  How do you know when something’s wrong? The most common signs are the dog biting at his or her bottom and/or scooting along the floor on his or her behind. If you see either of these behaviors, it’s time to call your vet.

Poisons! So much more than just chocolate.

Most dog owners know to keep their pups away from chocolate, but in fact coffee and caffeine are also toxic to dogs, because all three contain methylxanthines, which can cause everything from panting and excessive thirst to abnormal heart rhythm and even death. The poison experts at the ASPCA have compiled a list of more than 15 common food items that are toxic to dogs,  including xylitol (a sweetener hidden in everything from breath mints to peanut butter), avocado, citrus, macadamia nuts, and cheese (yes, cheese!). And while we’re on the subject, please put this number in your phone: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.

Mats: Much more than an eyesore.

We’ve probably all seen the “before and after” videos of miserable-looking dogs covered in matted fur–and the amazing transformation that comes after the dog receives some grooming TLC! Even in mild cases, we know matted fur doesn’t look good–but it doesn’t feel good, either, and can pose very real health risks to dogs. Dr. Julie Horton, DVM, says, “matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets,” including skin irritations, lesions, and even maggots! As if that’s not bad enough, mats collect debris, feces, and urine, trapping it next to a dog’s sensitive skin. Mats are a painful, unhealthy, expensive road nobody wants to travel—and they can be avoided with proper coat care. Get started by asking groomer about the best tools for your dog’s at-home maintenance, then augment that routine with regular appointments with an experienced professional groomer (every 4 to 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb). PetSmart® Grooming Salons take reservations online, have 1000s of locations, often have coupons, and always have a Look Great Guarantee!

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Where do I begin? Launching your successful career with animals

pet careers

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

You want a career working with animals, but how do you make that happen? What training do you need, and where can you get it? Where do you even begin?

Let’s get started by checking out three great options for very different animal-related careers: PetSmart Grooming Academy (for groomers), the Penn-Foster Career School (for veterinary assistants), and FetchFind Academy (for dog trainers).

If your ultimate goal is to be a dog groomer, be sure to check out the PetSmart Grooming Academy. The in-person training offered in this industry-leading program is rigorous and thorough, virtually guaranteeing you’ll graduate feeling prepared and confident as a groomer—whether you’re launching your first career or making a career change. Students and teachers alike have high praise for the program’s curriculum, its focus on safety, and the supportive training environment. (See this blog’s earlier posts for interviews with a trainer and two students.)

Maybe you aspire to working as a veterinary assistant. If so, don’t miss the Penn-Foster Career School’s online veterinary assistant program—one of just three such programs approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Why does that matter? Because a whopping 87% of employers reported being more likely to hire a graduate of a NAVTA-approved Veterinary Assistant program! Penn-Foster offers an award-winning staff and a convenient combination of self-paced online training and hands-on training at the veterinary clinic of your choice.

If you’ve set your sights on becoming a dog trainer—either teaching group classes, training dogs in a shelter or daycare environment, or working one-on-one with private clients—you need to know about FetchFind. Providing both online and in-person courses, FetchFind’s curriculum was developed by professional dog trainers working in diverse dog-training settings. You’ll build a strong foundation in FetchFind’s online Behavior Fundamentals course, then increase your skills and expertise via in-person courses such as Essential Training Skills and Advanced Academy. The program provides a thorough education in theories and techniques supported by current animal behavior research—and proven through decades of experience among FetchFind’s faculty and staff.

Ready to begin? Just pick a path, do some research, and start your journey today! Your dream career is out there. Go fetch it!

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Building a great career, step by step

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

Madi Correa - Dakota HandLike many dog pros, Madi Correa grew up with dogs. From an early age, she knew she wanted a career working with animals, and—like many people—thought that meant being a veterinarian. (For other career paths with dogs, check out FetchFind Monthly Pro.) Becoming a vet is still Madi’s ultimate career goal, and she has begun her journey by enrolling in an online veterinary assistant training program and attending PetSmart’s Grooming Academy. Recently, Madi took time out to answer a few questions about her training, work, and how all the pieces fit together to move her towards her professional goals.

Fetchy:  What brought you to where you are today, as a student in PetSmart’s Grooming Academy? Did you apply to a number of programs, or just this one?

Madi:  Actually, I started out studying human psychology and then criminal justice—but once I decided to pursue a career with animals, I knew I only wanted to work here, because when I asked the vet techs at my pets’ clinic for advice, they spoke so highly of this program.

Fetchy:  What was your first job here?

Madi:  I started as a bather. Then, after just a few months, I unexpectedly had the chance to be assessed for the grooming program. There were 17 applicants for only 6 slots. The assessment process was challenging, but I did really well, and got in!

Fetchy: On a typical day, about what percentage of your time is working with animals, and what percentage is with people?

Madi: It’s about 80% animals and 20% people. I like that balance. As long as we’re busy, it’s good!

Fetchy:  Your ultimate career goal is to become a vet. How will what you’re learning here benefit you in a veterinary clinic?

Madi:  One part of our training is learning to recognize the signs of stress in dogs, and learning these and [more generally] how dogs might react or behave in different situations will really help. Even if you start out as a dog bather, or just want to be a better dog owner, you’ll be better prepared knowing the critical signs of stress.

Fetchy:  What’s one thing you’ve learned in this program that surprised you?

Madi:  I’ve brought my own dogs to groomers [for years], but I didn’t think about all the aspects of grooming and the different considerations for different types of dogs, different ages, and so on. But now I get it!

Fetchy:  What makes a person successful in this work? What advice do you have for others who want to succeed?

Madi:  You have to love the work, even when it’s challenging. I enjoy it so much, and really feel like I am where I’m supposed to be!

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A sense of community and family in the grooming salon

Larissa Vaughn - Dakota handBy Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

Pet lovers the world over dream of having jobs that involve working with animals, but a lot of those dreams remain just that. Perhaps it’s because they don’t know what kind of careers exist in the pet industry, or wouldn’t know where to begin to get the right training. But there are a lot of educational opportunities out there, from online programs like FetchFind Monthly Pro to physical academies to on-the-job training and apprenticeships. For Larissa Vaughn, a lifelong animal lover, turning a passion for animal care into a profession as a dog groomer for a large specialty pet retailer was a smart career move.

By the time Larissa Vaughn was 10 years old, she tells us, she was “that kid”—the one who knew every dog in the neighborhood, and gave them baths just for fun. Not yet thinking of dog grooming as a career, Larissa started out as a nanny. Her clients loved the way she worked with their children—but also appreciated the way she handled their dogs. In fact, one of Larissa’s nanny clients first encouraged her to look into a career as a groomer, and called the family’s dog groomer to recommend Larissa! Before long, Larissa was helping out at that groomer’s independent salon, where she worked for two years before enrolling in PetSmart’s Grooming Academy.

Larissa loved the structured opportunities the Grooming Academy offered its students. She appreciated the fact that all students study for 60 days and groom 125 dogs before being accepted into the Pet Stylist Development Program. Upon graduating, Larissa knew she was well prepared to groom all types of dogs safely and efficiently. Larissa notes that PetSmart’s grooming process is faster and more effective than the process she used in the independent shop where she got her start. “Bathing, grooming, drying—everything’s done for a purpose, and the purpose is safety. If you do it right, you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and you’re getting dogs done faster, too.” That’s good for business as well as for the dogs, who have more time to spend with family, playing with friends, or learning a new trick!

Larissa has always valued community. “The salon is a little community of encouragement and helpful feedback from more experienced colleagues,” she says — a point demonstrated a moment later, when a colleague popped in to share a fun story about the dog he’d just groomed. This sense of community and encouragement isn’t unique to Larissa’s location, she explains. “You go into [any PetSmart] salon and think, ‘Yep! That’s a PetSmart family!”

Larissa also applies her creativity, precision, and love of animals to her study of illustration, and is considering becoming a medical/veterinary illustrator. From grooming to drawing, it all starts with observation and a deep understanding of anatomy, function, and movement. Whether grooming dogs or drawing them, Larissa strives to create a work of art every time!

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From cashier to confident groomer to company leader

Laura Conway, District Academy Trainer_1

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

You may envision a career with grooming scissors in hand rather than the headset in your corner cubicle. But how do you actually make that transition? There are a lot of educational opportunities available in the pet industry, from online education like FetchFind’s Monthly Pro program to physical academies to on-the-job training. Sometimes those opportunities become available at the most unpredictable time. Here’s a look at the career path of someone who simply wanted part-time, seasonal work but is now a district manager for a large specialty pet retailer.

When Laura Conway became a cashier at PetSmart, she was a college student looking for a part-time job during vacations. While she loved the team and the company, she never imagined she would complete PetSmart’s Grooming Academy and ultimately become a District Grooming Academy Trainer! Laura’s professional opportunities expanded from her original cashier role when her store needed additional help in the salon, and she learned how to bathe dogs. She soon learned all the salon basics, and found that she loved the fast-paced salon environment.

Six months later, with her supervisor’s encouragement, she enrolled in PetSmart’s Grooming Academy—an intensive, 4-week program during which students learn grooming skills, styles, safety, customer service, and more. Academy students groom 200 dogs as part of their training! The program is rigorous, but it helps students graduate feeling comfortable and confident as new groomers. Laura values this and the company’s commitment to continuing education, noting that “grooming is an industry that keeps changing, so I’m still learning things. There are always new groom styles coming out, like Asian Fusion, and the company held a demo for us with a famous groomer in that style.”

As both Home Office Associate and Field Office Associate, Laura works in a corporate setting at the PetSmart headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in the field, where she interacts with customers and associates. Laura enjoys this business travel as well as traveling on her vacations; as a 10-year PetSmart employee, she enjoys four weeks of paid vacation each year—a luxury she would miss if she ran her own salon.

There’s a lot Laura loves about this job: the travel and benefits, and the fact that it combines her love of animals and grooming with her passion for teaching people new skills. But what means the most to her might surprise you: “I like the structure, the safety focus, and the corporate values, which are very focused on the customer,” she says. “That’s something I would look for as a pet parent in the grooming salon—somebody who has set rules and can be a trusted partner to groom my pet.”

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How to keep the fur from flying

how-to-control-dog-shedding1

By Sandie Lee

We love our canine companions, but we don’t love those doggy-generated fur-bunnies scooting across the living room floor, clinging to our furniture or sticking all over our clothes. Plus, who hasn’t found a stray piece of dog hair in their dinner? Unfortunately, when we have the dog, we also have to take the shedding hair; it comes with the territory. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to combat all that flying fur.

Start with a high quality diet

The old adage “you are what you eat” can be said about our dogs as well. Nutrition plays a huge role not only in your dog’s inner health, but in its outer [hair] health as well.

If your dog’s food is primarily comprised of fillers such as corn, wheat, and by-product meals, then your dog will most likely have dry, flaky skin and lots of shedding hair. One of the ways to combat shedding in dogs is to feed them high-quality dry kibble that has real meat as the first ingredient. By incorporating a good quality canned food to your dog’s dry kibble you can up its moisture content by 78 % (dry food only has 10% moisture). This is an excellent way to ensure your dog stays hydrated. Plus, make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.

A good balance of essential fatty acids and oils in the diet is very important. They can help your dog with the dry skin that often accompanies a dull coat and shedding problems. A high-quality dog food will already have EFAs in the recipe, but your vet may recommend other supplements such as fish or flax seed oils. If you’re adding liquid oil supplements to your dog’s diet, start slow! Adding too much oil at once can lead to digestive upset.

Giving your dog an occasional treat of people food can also help his coat. Good healthy choices for your pooch include eggs, carrots, apples, lean cooked meat, all-natural peanut butter (make sure it isn’t sweetened with xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs).

Regular grooming is key

All dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis. This not only nabs those loose hairs before they fall out, but it also stimulates the circulation and distributes the natural oils in your dog’s skin to help keep its coat shiny and healthy.

Designate at least one day a week to brush your dog, and spend enough time to get all the loose hair, untangle the matted bits, and check for any skin abnormalities. Don’t know what brush or grooming tool to use? Here is a short list of the basic brush types:

Bristle brushes look similar to the brushes we use. They are best for short-haired and smooth-coated dog breeds such as chihuahuas and greyhounds.

Slicker brushes have tiny, tightly-packed, short wire pins, usually set onto a rectangular base with handle. These are good for many dog breeds with medium or curly hair, including retrievers and spaniels.

Rakes also contain pins and should be purchased with pins roughly as long as your dog’s fur to ensure that it adequately thins the undercoat. The rake works well on dogs with long hair and thick undercoats, such as collies and German Shepherds.

Deshedding tools are specifically designed to get rid of the excess undercoat. These come in various forms and should be used on heavy-coated breeds at least twice a year.

Giving your dog a bath can be a huge help when it comes to controlling shedding, as the hair is loosened and whisked away by the water and by the post-bath rubdown. However, too much bathing can irritate your dog’s skin, dry it out, and actually lead to more shedding. Ask a professional groomer or your vet about the appropriate bathing schedule for your dog’s breed or breed mix.

Then, there are the fleas. These nasty little critters can not only spread like wildfire throughout your entire home, but the itchy bites also do a great job irritating your dog’s skin and adding to the amount of hair that sheds. Make sure to treat your dog for fleas in the spring and fall to prevent them from using your dog as a feasting ground.

“Love me, love my dog…”

The vacuum cleaner is your best friend

Most house guests probably don’t appreciate that layer of dog fur on their clothes after they leave your home, unless they themselves have a shedding dog. To keep the furballs to a minimum, invest in a good quality vacuum, preferably one that specializes in pet fur (they tend to have extra suction power).

Grandma may have had the right idea when she covered her furniture in plastic; the pet hair slides right off. However, today we may cringe at the thought of the sticky, sweaty covers that made sitting on Grandma’s sofa a challenge. The good news is that now there are many nice furniture protectors that are designed for the wear and tear of having a dog. Even a nice throw blanket on Fido’s favorite spot can prevent lot of hair from getting on your sofa; plus, it can be easily laundered or shaken out when it becomes a mess.

Don’t forget car seat covers! How many times have you been embarrassed when you have to unexpectedly give someone a ride and they end up sitting on your dog’s “hairy” seat? This isn’t fun, so invest in some cool seat covers (or even just a giant beach towel) for your car.

One last tip: this may seem obvious, but getting rid of the hair as soon as you spot it can save a lot of time in the future. Keep a few pet hair removers scattered throughout the house so you can always find one when you need it.

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sandie-lee-writerSandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons – winter and not winter! Her husband and pets, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day to help bring awesome content to her readers.

 

Low-Stress Handling — What Groomers Should Know About This Hot Niche Market

Dog grooming

By Nan Kené Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP

Low-stress handling is becoming a big trend in the veterinary community, with more and more facilities committing to teaching, rather than forcing, dogs to cooperate with needed vet care.

Following that trend is the grooming community, and while it’s still a nova, humane handling is making inroads on its way to full stardom. As this movement grows, so does a well-needed niche market that groomers can glom onto and build reputations as gentle groomers.

Dog trainers that deal with behavior cases readily confess that one of the more challenging behaviors to modify is sensitivity to touch and handling. This is especially true once a dog or puppy has had one or more negative experiences with things like grooming or rough handling during vet visits. (Is this torture?)

For some dogs, it can take only one scary experience to become “hand shy,” or worse. This can quickly grow to the point where the dog feels a need to lash out at hands or equipment as a way to protect themselves from perceived danger. Sadly, many of these same dogs then advance their reactions and often have to be anesthetized for routine care such as nail trims, de-matting, and ear cleaning. This risks the dog’s life, and further perpetuates the handling and grooming issues, as the dog still has to be restrained during the anesthesia process.

Benefits of proper touching and handling

It’s sometimes hard for humans to remember that dogs are a different species, and therefore communicate differently. As humans, we approach life in a species-specific manner, as do canines, and it’s important to keep that in mind any time you approach a dog during grooming or any handling.

Humans are frontal in our approach to one another — we stand vertically, we have hands with opposable thumbs, and we communicate with the spoken language and physical gestures, particularly when things are painful or scary for us.

Dogs, on the other hand, are horizontal— they rarely approach each other from the front, they readily protect their paws from injury given that it could incapacitate them, and they too communicate with one another in their own language, which includes growling, snapping, and biting if they really need to make a point.

Adding to the complexity of these differences are the learning experiences when dogs are forced to endure routine handling during vet visits or grooming. This can make a dog even more sensitive to being touched or handled when compounded with our mixed messages when we arbitrarily offer human behavior towards them.

Regardless of why or how a dog builds a sensitivity to handling (or anything else), it’s always a shock when someone’s sweet dog all of the sudden turns into Cujo and growls, snaps, or bites during the course of handling, petting, or grooming. No matter how shocking, it’s important as a professional to respond, not react, if a dog displays any of these behaviors, and even better to be proactive to prevent the fear in the first place. If a dog has resorted to using one of these stronger statements, you can be sure that communications have broken down somewhere along the line.

Some professionals might be inclined to just “make” the dog accept grooming and handling, but that not only puts the welfare of the dog in question, it increases your risk for getting bitten, and all the while making the sensitivity stronger.

Even when dogs have had a steady course of positive experiences with handling, it’s still beneficial for groomers and support staff to sustain and maintain good handling experiences for each dog they encounter. If for no other reason than to offset any potential negative experiences in the future, this ethical approach to handling dogs helps minimize everyone’s stress levels.

Luckily, with some simple techniques, training can become the bridge for helping dogs relax more with grooming and to overcome issues that might already in place.

In addition, the good news is that you don’t have to have a long training background to help dogs be more comfortable with grooming; you only need to understand more about dogs and behavior. Working with a positive, certified trainer can teach you the basics, and by doing so, you will be building an alliance that can send you more business.

Building that niche market

The majority of people want their dogs handled with care and kindness, and those that want to work on helping their dogs be less stressed with grooming are going to be willing to pay extra for you to go slowly and build trust.

The problem is that most people have no idea what takes place in a typical grooming session. While most groomers are professional and know their craft well, they are taught a lot of restraint and “get it done” techniques that can lead to the aforementioned sensitivities. Sara Scott, a groomer in Salt Lake City, offers a service where the owners are able to watch her groom for an extra fee, and she can show the owner how she strives to be as gentle as possible with the dog. That extra fee covers the additional time spent, but gives the owners the assurance that their beloved dog is in good hands.

Scott works with a number of trainers who also refer to her when they have more difficult handling cases, even for things as simple as baths, because they know she will not undo any of the work they are doing to help the dog be more comfortable with handling in general.

Setting your own policy about how you will go about grooming dogs is another easy way to enhance your business. If you decide that you will only use gentle methods of grooming, you can set your prices higher to begin with and market yourself as a specialty groomer up front. Then, by learning techniques that help dogs relax with grooming, not only do you get a dog that is able to cooperate with you (making grooming easier), you have techniques that you can then offer to teach other groomers or give classes to owners that teach them to keep up with their pet’s grooming in a positive way. For example, Sara Scott offers classes such as “Untangled,” how to keep mats to a manageable level, and “Stable on the Table,” which helps dogs learn to be steady and accept touching and handling while on the grooming table.

All of these ideas add to the revenue stream, and even give you a way to profit from selling things like brushes, combs, and other related equipment and products that the owners can buy to keep up with what you have taught them.

Creating “Buy In”

Likely, the most difficult pushback of instituting this sort of plan will be from busy grooming shops that are used to production grooming where time is money, but if you can demonstrate how doing this can actually increase the revenue by helping make the venue “the place” to go, and where they specialize in humane handling, post-grooming support, and education, the pace can slow down and the revenue can increase.

Being an expert in that arena can also put you in front of the local news cameras as filler content for morning news shows, which are always looking for new things to offer their pet-friendly audiences. It can be a pretty impressive piece when a dog offers his paw for a nail trim!

Working with trainers who have certifications in behavior and training, such as those from the Karen Pryor Academy’s Certified Professional Dog Training program, is an excellent place to start, and groomers such as Jennie Willoughby (who owns Waggin Tails in Moorpark, CA), have taken the course to augment their business and train their groomers how to use training techniques that make it easier for the dogs.

Conclusion

Looking at low-stress handling as an option to augment your current or new business is not only is beneficial for the dogs, it’s a wonderful way to help you grow a niche market that provides solid traction into the ever-growing community that wants their pets groomed with as little stress as possible. And that foothold equals additional income when you work with training and behavior experts via referrals and by building your reputation as the groomer who wants to take grooming to the next level.

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Nan Kené Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP, is the owner of Whole Dog Training and author of “Chill Out Fido!: How to Calm Your Dog”. Nan is a Certification Instructor with dog*tec Dog Walking Academy in San Diego, and also serves as Faculty with the Karen Pryor Academy.

This post was originally published on January 25, 2016.