Making grooming a “TTouch®” easier

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By Betsy Lane, MA, Guild Certified Tellington TTouch® Practitioner for Companion Animals

Even if you’ve never heard of Tellington Touch, learning this one simple technique will help your dog become more tolerant of handling—at home, at the vet’s office, and at the grooming salon.

The Tellington Touch (“TTouch®”) method, created by famed horsewoman Linda Tellington-Jones, offers anyone who works with animals a unique and effective way to encourage the behaviors we want while enhancing our interspecies communication and deepening our bond. TTouch is a well-established training method that includes groundwork exercises, body wraps, and dozens of pleasant, novel touches.

For now, let’s focus on one simple TTouch technique that helps increase any dog’s comfort being handled in the common “problem areas”: paws, mouth, and ears. These body parts get handled the least during daily activities, resulting in wariness (at best) when they must be handled by someone—especially someone other than the owner, in a setting other than the comfort and safety of home.

As a TTouch Practitioner since 2008 (and in training for two years before that), I have found the “raccoon” invaluable in helping dogs get comfortable being handled. (Many TTouches are named after animals; this one is called the “raccoon” touch because it resembles the small, precise hand movements raccoons make.) The technique is easy to learn, and can be used on all of these challenging body areas.

The raccoon touch is a circular touch. The circles are tiny and light—like you’re gently touching your closed eyelid. When doing raccoon touches on the mouth, it is often most comfortable to rest the dog’s muzzle on one hand while you make slow, small circles with the tip of your index finger on the other (see above). Start at the hinge of the jaw, outside the mouth, and work forward towards the nose. If your dog is wiggly and the circles feel too fussy at first, begin with simple, gentle stroking along the sides of the mouth (from the nose back), adding a small circle at the end of each stroke. When working inside the mouth, making circles on the gums, use one fingertip and keep a cup of water nearby to moisten your fingertip.

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To work on the ears, rest the thumb of your dominant hand behind the dog’s ear, near the base. Keeping your thumb in this spot, use the tips of one to three of your fingers (whatever fits and feels best to you) to make a light circle about ½” in diameter right where your fingertips would naturally touch down. Slide your thumb softly about ½” to an adjacent spot and repeat, working along the base of the ear(s).

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Handling a dog’s nails and paws is frequently difficult and requires patient practice. To work the raccoon touch on a dog’s feet, begin where it is reasonably easy for the dog to be touched, which may be up the leg a few inches. Slowly and casually work your way down onto the paws (fur side and pad side) and each nail, making tiny circular touches with the tip of your index finger.

Practice raccoon touches a few times each day, in sessions lasting just two or three minutes each. As you practice, keep your mood positive, breathe calmly, and speak reassuringly to your dog. If you’re frustrated or hurried, take care of yourself first and then work with your dog.

Let your dog’s vet and groomer know you’re working on increasing your dog’s comfort being handled, so they can support your training by giving your dog a break if she gets stressed. Any good professional groomer, like the ones at PetSmart Grooming Salons, should understand this project and enthusiastically support it.

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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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Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

How to find a great groomer

AA Grooming Show 081117 - Petsmart winner Kara Gossage
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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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

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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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

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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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

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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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

Why does my dog roll in the grass?

ryan clover

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Ahhhhhhhh…. Is there anything that looks more luxurious than a dog having a good roll in the grass (and don’t you wish you could join them, sometimes)?

But why DO they roll in the grass? There are a few reasons for this:

They’re trying to get rid of that scented shampoo you inflicted on them. Let’s face it – what smells good to you may not smell good to your dog (unless it’s bacon). There’s nothing like an enthusiastic roll through some goose poop to neutralize that freesia-jasmine-vanilla concoction that is overwhelming your dog’s olfactory center.  If your dog always rolls in the grass right after a bath, you might want to switch to an unscented shampoo.

They’re itchy. There’s a difference between rolling for the joy of it and rolling to alleviate a persistent itch caused by allergies, dry skin, or a flea/tick infestation. If the rolling is a common occurrence (in the grass or at home on the rugs), take your pup to the vet to make sure there’s not an underlying cause.

They’re obsessing.  Occasional rolling is normal; constant obsessive rolling is not. If you see this happening, replace that behavior with some fun distractions and recall commands.  If the behavior continues without any underlying physical cause, talk to a trainer or veterinary behaviorist.

Bottom line – rolling in the grass, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but what’s on the grass can be. Fleas, ticks, parasites, bacteria, and pesticides can all be lurking, and you don’t want your dog – or anyone in your family – to get infected or ingest any of these things. Make sure to wipe off paws and coat before going back into the house, and keep an eye on the behavior. As always, take your dog to the vet if you suspect anything is amiss either mentally or physically.

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Want to learn more about canine behavior? Check out Behavior Fundamentals Online!  It’s a detailed, science-based look at dog behavior, how dogs learn, and an all-encompassing survey of the world of dogs!