Or “How to Choose the Groomer that‘s Right for You and Your Dog”
We've all been there – pulling a reluctant dog into a groomer’s studio – dealing with small puddles of urine left behind by a dog who simply does not want to get on the table....or watching in pity as two or three groomers are forced to hold a dog down while they brush out and trim his fur.......
Or maybe, we haven’t all been there.....but I have, and so has Bear.
For humans, taking a bath or a warm shower is an act of relaxation – a time to wash off the dirt and the stress of the day, and an opportunity to bask in warmth. For a dog....not so much. For most dogs, the act of jumping into a tub for a lather and a rise, followed by a blow dry are not acts that follow the patterns of their natural instincts. In fact, for the most part, we bathe our dogs to make OUR lives more comfortable.
True there are some breeds that require regular bathing and trimming in order to live comfortably (or risk looking like overgrown mops), but most large dogs are perfectly content to remain un-shampooed and dog-musky for the duration of their lives. In the wild, dogs bathe in the summer by standing around in lakes or shallow ponds. And extra grooming is taken care of either through the use of their own tongues and teeth, or by the tongues and teeth of fellow pack mates – you would be hard-pressed to get a wolf into a bathtub.....
For the most part, I would recommend that dog owners take the time to bathe their dogs themselves once a month, or as their dog’s breed requires. This sort of forces us to put some time aside exclusively for our dog and allows the opportunity for bonding, play, cuddles, kisses and snuggles. However, if you as a dog owner MUST take your dog to a groomer (I do once a year to help manage Bear’s post-winter coat....not a feat I can handle on my own) there are a few things to look out for when selecting the person or establishment that will be taking care of your dog:
#1 Training and Experience
You need to screen out the yahoo who picked up a pair of clippers and then put an ad on Craigslist, claiming to be an expert groomer. Ask how your prospective groomer got her training. She may have taken courses or learned her craft through an informal apprenticeship. Membership in a trade group such as a Dog Groomers Association may be a good sign; most DGAs offer classes and require testing before it certifies a member. (Note, though, that the testing isn't done by an independent body such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.)
#2 Clean, Calm Shop
You can compare this with how you’d evaluate a vet’s office. In the nature of things, there will be occasional mess: hair on the floor around a dog being groomed, or a super-anxious or un-house-trained animal may have eliminated. Look for frequent sweeping and prompt cleanup. No dogs lingering in soiled cages, please. Yes, there will be some barking, but I would hesitate if I heard loud music blaring from the speakers – loud, jarring noise contributes to stress in animals.
If the shop handles both cats and dogs, the species should be caged well away from each other, ideally in separate rooms. Barking dogs scare most cats; the groomer who takes that into consideration is a groomer mindful of the comfort of animals she’s responsible for.
#3 Hard-to-Handle Dogs
Ask how the groomers respond if a dog struggles, growls, or snaps. You don’t want to hear any variation on “We do have to get tough with some dogs,” or “We just show them who’s boss.” Confrontational, coercive responses have a high probability of making matters worse – both escalating aggression in the moment, and making the dog’s response to grooming and other handling worse in the long term.
You really, really, really don’t want to hear a groomer tell you that they give sedatives unless these are provided by the dog’s guardian and prescribed by a vet expressly to help the dog remain calm for grooming. By all reports, sedation by groomers is disturbingly common. It also constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine without a license: illegal, unethical, and dangerous.
Many or most groomers will use a “grooming noose” to help restrain a dog on the grooming table. This is okay, as long as dogs are never left unattended even for a moment. The loop should tighten only to a pre-set extent, so a dog who struggles isn't actually being choked.
The best responses to your question about a fractious dog will mention gentleness, giving the dog a break from the grooming session, not rushing the process, distracting the dog with treats or rewarding him with treats when he tolerates handling, and stopping if the dog is overwhelmed.
#4 The Groomer Should Have Questions for You, Too
A good groomer will want to give your dog back to you looking just as you hoped he would, so she should ask exactly what results you’re looking for. Because she also wants to make the experience as pleasant for your dog as she can, she should have lots of questions about him, too: How old is he? Has he ever been to a groomer before? Does he have any sore spots, injuries, or other painful conditions, such as arthritis? How are his hearing and sight? (A dog who can’t hear or see well may be easier to startle.) What shape are his teeth in? Is he touchy about having any of his body parts handled? Is he crate trained? (A visit to the groomer’s is much easier on dogs who are at ease resting in a crate or kennel.) Is your dog relaxed and friendly toward other dogs? (If you let the groomer know of problems in advance, she may be able to kennel him away from the other groomees, so everybody can relax.)
Ultimatley, before you leave your dog with his groomer, make sure that he (or she) is comfortable with the environment. The act of being groomed by a stranger is stressful enough on your pet, you want to make sure that you take all the steps necessary to minimize the impact of that stress and leave your dog feeling refreshed and happy when all is said and done.
Questions sourced from PetMD
Keep your Tails Wagging