I used to take my dog to a grooming salon and she would be there for hours. I used to wonder why it took so long. Since becoming a groomer myself I have realised how much work actually goes into making a dog look fantastic. Bearing in mind that we are dealing with an animal that may or may not stand still on the grooming table or one that likes having a bath to one that hates water. Some are quite indifferent to the hair dryer or blaster noise and others that hate the noise and have to be hand dried with towel. Below is a typical groom where the dog is completely happy with the process.
To start with I have to build a trust with your dog by talking to him and letting him know that i'm not going to hurt him. Getting him used to the new environment that he's been left in, with new sounds and smells.
First comes the bathing. Your dog has two washes to make sure his is really clean to the skin and that half the park his been playing in has been washed out. This takes a bit of time as I have to be careful not to get water up his nose or shampoo in his eyes and I make sure that his bottom and paws are washed thoroughly.
After a quick towel dry in the bath removing excess water he is then taken to the grooming table. Here he is dried thoroughly and brushed. Once he is dry I comb through the coat again to make sure there are no knots. If I find a knot I will spend some time trying to brush it out depending on how bad it is. I prefer to try and brush out all knots rather than cut them out, after all you wouldn't want your dog returned with bald patches!
When he is free from knots, I start clipping to the required length requested. Afterwards, I will trim the fur on the pads, under his front legs and around his sanitary area to stop knots from forming between grooms.
Then comes the scissoring. I will trim around his feet, shorten the hair on his legs to balance with the body, trim his tail, and finally shape the required style on his head and face.
Lastly I will check his ears to make sure they are clean and as hair free as possible. I will check nails and trim them if required. The rule is, if the nails do not touch the floor then they do not need trimming. Dew claws that are never used are checked to make sure they have not curled into the pad and causing discomfort.
Now the groom is complete he receives a spray of cologne to make him smell gorgeous and a complimentary bow on his collar.
Your dog is then ready to be collected!
The above shows you how a groom should be, however......not all grooms are that straight forward!
Starting with the bathing. A lot of dogs tend to be o.k with washing the body but when it comes to rinsing their heads they will move their face away trying to get away from the water which is why I need to make sure water does not enter the nose.
The drying process is very noisy and a lot of dogs are nervous. Some do not like the velocity of the blaster so I have to adapt to the dogs needs and will try the blaster on a very low velocity and remove the nozzle so that it's more like a hair dryer. If the dog becomes used to it I will gradually turn the velocity up, however some do not like it at all so I may only use the hair dryer and if he is still not happy then towel drying might be the only option. As you can imagine, towel drying takes a very long time but needs to be done before clipping or scissoring can commence.
Most dogs hate having their legs brushed or touched, especially the front legs. They tend to pull them away when they are being brushed or trimming the fur on the pads of the feet. So I have to be patient, constantly talking to the dog and reassuring him that I am not about to remove a toe!
Dogs tend to be fine with the clipping although some may not like the vibration but scissoring a style around the head and face is a different story! All groomers work with sharp instruments on a moving target so I have to be extra careful when the dog decides to move his head suddenly. I need to be extremely cautious around eyes, tongue and ears and for this reason there is a need to hold his head still. Grooming can require you to 'think outside the box'. What works for one dog may not work for another and so I have to think up different approaches. The main aim is to constantly reassure the dog so they have a happy experience.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the 5 animal needs are:
I offer a comfy, clean and washable bed placed next to clean drinking water to make your dog at home.
With the owners permission I offer natural treats to promote good behaviour and sometimes, just because :-)
Dogs are never held in cages or crates and I give them as much room to move around without the risk of injury.
Dogs are groomed on an individual basis so there is never another dog in the room.
I will never purposely injure or cause pain to your pet. The guilt and upset a groomer has when they accidentally cut a dog is unbearable. Most groomers, myself included are in this profession because we love animals and the last thing we want to do is hurt them.
I hope this has given you an insight into how much work goes in to making your dog beautiful. How much a groomer needs to adapt to the dogs needs to make them comfortable and hopefully enjoy the experience. Aggressive, disabled and overweight dogs take a lot longer because of heavy lifting, use of supports to help alleviate discomfort and most of all patience and understanding, they might also require two groomers.
I once groomed a dog that had 7 slipped discs! Imagine the pain that poor boy was in. I had to groom him so carefully, using a hip support and making sure not to aggravate the problem but he was as good as gold and that makes it all worth while :-)