About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grooming an Unpredictable Cairn

About a month ago I had an elderly man walk in and tell me that the Vet up the road sent him to me.
I knew what that meant.
Just about every dog that this Vet sends me has some kind of issues.
Mostly biters.
I am not sure if they like me, or don't like me.  :p

Sure enough this man had a 3 year old Cairn that had not been groomed in close to a year.
He had been thrown out of a few shops and other shops would not groom him when they found out that he was a biter.
The man had to wait a month for this appointment, but he was just happy that I agreed to try to groom the dog.
I always tell an owner that I am willing to try, but I will not promise.

This man painted a pretty grim picture of his dog.
I had no idea what to expect.
I gave him my first appointment of the day.
I like to groom my problem dogs first thing.

His appointment was yesterday.
The owner and dog were waiting for me when I pulled up to the shop.

I gave the owner an information sheet to fill out, then turned my attention to the dog.

When I called to the dog, he came running right up to me with his tail wagging, but cautious at the same time.
My first thought was; 'your going to be unpredictable, aren't you?'

As I bent down to talk to the dog, his owner said; "He does not like to be picked up."

"Okay", I told him, as I prepared to pick the dog up.

When I have a potential biter, I always pick them up with one hand on the back of their collar to keep their head from being able to swing around at me.
I rub their back, slowly moving to their side, still rubbing, then I quickly slide my hand under the belly and pick up in one single, swift motion.
I try to do this quickly, before the dog figures out what I am about to do.

He was not happy that I got one over on him.
He started fighting right away.
I securely pressed him against my side, still holding his head away from me with the other hand.
I firmly squeezed him to me until he relaxed.
When he relaxed, I loosened the pressure a little.
When he struggled again, I applied the pressure again.
The pressure is just enough to hold on and be firm, not uncomfortable.

I could tell that this dog never let anyone pick him up.
It only took a few squeezes before he stopped struggling, but he did manage to reach my hand with his mouth, just as his owner was telling me that his dog had never really bitten anyone.  :)

So far I had found out two things about this dog.
1~ He did not like to be picked up, and had no problem letting you know.
2~ So far, when he bit, he did not bite hard.

What kind of biter was he going to be?

A fear bitter: A dog that bites because they are insecure and scared to death, not mean.
No. This one was certainly not scared of anything.

A vicious biter: A dog that goes after you for no apparent reason. He continues to go after you even when you stop what you are doing. He goes for blood.
No. He did not bite down hard, and stopped as soon as he didn't get the result he was looking for.

A inbred, mental biter:  A dog who bites for no reason at all. He gives no warning, and does not seem to understand what you are doing, or that you are not hurting him. He does not seem to be all there.
No. This little Cairn is a very smart dog.

The spoiled rotten biter: A dog that has not been taught any kind of manners, and has found that all he has to do is bare his teeth, growl, or bite to get his way.
Yes. You better believe that this is the type of biter this dog is.

I truly don't believe that he is mean. He is a sweet dog, but he is a brat, who has not been taught the right way to act by his elderly owner.
I have a feeling that when he was a puppy, he was very toothy, and found out really quickly that using his teeth got him what he wanted.
As a puppy everyone probably thought it was cute.

One reason that I like bathing dogs before the clipping, is that I can have my hands all over the dog without sharp instruments, and find out what the dog is touchy about.
I have found over the years that a lot of Terriers are touchy about their legs and rears.
This Cairn was no exception.

The minute I started washing him, he planted his rear down and tight to the tub, keeping his eye on me whenever I came close to that area.
I went ahead and soaped him up sitting down.
I soaped up his head first, moving down his back and sides, slowly working to the rear.
I continued on to rub his legs, very slowly, while he was still sitting, and watching.
He must have decided that I was okay, because he eventually stood up on his own.

One phase of the grooming done.

He did pretty good, but he is still not sure about me.
I also pick him up, hold and hug him every once in awhile.
He is still not sure what to make of that.

How was he going to deal with the HV?
I was not sure if he had ever had one used on him.
I turned the dryer on, and held the hose off to the side.
I wanted the dog to get used to the sound of it before I pointed the air at him.
I put one of my hands on the side of his neck with, and then put the dryer on his back leg.
He freaked and tried to swing around.
I pressed his head away, and told him he was alright without ever stopping the drying.
He only tried to bite a couple more times.
By the time I got to the other side, he was no longer trying to bite.
He even let me dry most of his head with the HV.
So far, so good.

Time for the groom.
His Dad did not care how I groomed the dog as long as he got groomed.
He told me to do whatever I could.

Because I am trying to teach this dog manners, and at the same time get him to trust and respect me, I decided to do the Cairn style.
Well, at least something like the Cairn style.
My goal was to get him as close to a Cairn cut as possible.
It certainly will not win any awards.

One of the main reasons that I decided to do the cairn clip was, because I did not want to fool with his legs anymore than  I had to.
I did not think it would be a good idea to try to take clippers down his legs since he was so touchy about them.

He did not mind the clippers on his back.
He was most touchy about moving him on the table, standing him up, and grooming his rear.
I had to get a little creative to clip his tail.  :)

My husband took video of the whole groom, so I spent last night editing 43 minutes of grooming down to 10 for You Tube.
You will see the video jerk sometimes because my husband hates it when I work on biting dogs, and he jumps every time he thinks they are going to go after me.  :)
He also can not stand when I put my face in the dogs face.

Yes, I do that a lot.

It drives him crazy, and it really makes him mad when I do it with a biter.
I am not going to say that I will not get bit in the face.
I have had a couple of close calls over the years, but it works for me.
I believe in looking a dog right in the eye and having a talk with them.
I want to see what they are thinking, and I want them to see me.
I know that a lot of trainers would argue with me about this, but it has always worked for me.
Now, if we were talking about a guard dog or a police dog, that would be a different story.

Don't look too closely at him.  :)

He had sticky outies, but overall he looked passable.

I really think, that if his Dad brings him in regularly, he will stop biting altogether.
Click here if you would like to see the 10 minute version of the groom.

Isn't he cute?

He is 14 weeks old, and he is a potential biter if his owners don't start training him now.
His Mom brought him in for a bath and trim yesterday.
He was biting everything.

Teeth everywhere.
Biting my comb, brush, clippers, scissors, fingers.
Most were playful bites, but I noticed that if he didn't get his way, the biting would become harder.

I talked to his owner and they are working on the biting.
We will see how he is for his next grooming.


I do like Terriers,  but they are a hard headed breed with a mind of their own, and they don't mind letting you know what is on their mind!  :)

Oh, I am happy to report, that by the time I took the Cairn up to his owner, he no longer minded me picking him up and carring him around.
He was very relaxed in my arms. 

Score one for the groomer.

Happy Grooming, MFF

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday's Tip #26 Clipping Underarms

Clipping the underarms on some dogs can be very simple.
On other dogs, it can be a nightmare.
Especially on dogs that seem to have underarms that are bottomless pits.
Then add some matting to the equation, and clipping the underarm can be frustrating as all heck.

Have you ever lifted the dogs arm to clip the arm pit, you have a nice clear view, it's a quick, simple clip, you put the arm back down and....there's a bald spot?!
But, you only clipped the hair in the armpit, why is there a bald spot?
Because the skin moves and stretches as you lift the arm.

In Grooming School I was taught to shave every piece of hair out of the armpit, as close as I could get it.
I am sorry to say that in the early years, I sent quit a few dogs home with bald spots behind their front arms.
Boy, did it really show up on black dogs.

Again, it was hard to get out of that mentality that I had been taught, to shave those armpits close no matter what.

Now-a-days I only skim armpits.
Of course, there are times when a dog is very matted, or there are tight mats in the armpits, that I have to shave the armpit close.

No two armpits are the same.

Some are deep, some are shallow.
Some have tight skin, some have loose skin.

 Even with her armpit covered with hair, her pink skin shows through already.

If I shaved her armpit the way I was taught in school, she would have a large, pink bald spot behind her arm once I was finished.

I do not lift the leg up and out.

I just lift the leg upward, and carefully twist the elbow towards me, just enough to expose the armpit.

I do this with short legged dogs also.

I use the #15 blade setting on my cordless to start skimming off the long hair in the armpits.

I like to only skim the top layer of hair off and leave the armpit fuzzy.

I use my thump to lightly pull the skin around the arm a little, to reach the hair that is in the deepest part of the armpit.

No bald spot.

This is the easiest side for me to clip, because I clip with my left hand.

When I turn the dog around, I have to clip the other armpit a whole different way.

Again, because I am left handed, I have to approach this front leg differently to clip it comfortably.

I approach this leg from the front of the leg.
I also use my thumb to stretch the skin around the elbow, and reach the hair in the armpit.

I do lift the leg up and out for this leg, but I only clip the top of the armpit, because the skin will go back down once I put the leg down.

If I clipped the hair in the lower part of the armpit while the arm was up, it would leave a bald spot once the arm went back down.

When I lift a leg up and out, I concentrate on clipping only the upper part of the armpit.

Good grief, did that make any sense?
I know what I am trying to say.
I just don't seem to be able to describe it.

I hope that the pictures do a better job than my writing does.  :)

I will also pull the leg forward to get some stubborn hairs that I can't seem to reach any other way.

Don't cringe, but I also use my scissors to get hair that is still on the underarm webbing, that I don't want to use the blade on.

I really don't recommend using scissors on the armpits.

I only use my scissors when I have a very good dog on the table, and if I really think that I need to.

The armpit is cleaned out, but still a little fuzzy, and no bald spots.

Just the way I like it.

My main tip today is; don't ever blindly clip an armpit.
No matter how you have to lightly pull the skin, or lightly twist the leg, make sure that you can see everything that you are cutting at all times.

Also, when clipping out tight mats, stretch the skin as taunt as you can so that the skin is firm and not loose when you are trying to clip under the mat.

Whenever I have to shave very close under the arms, I let the owner know.
If there were mats, I show them the mats.
I also tell them that there is a slight possibility that the friction from the arm moving back and forth, when the dog walks, could cause clipper irritation.

As groomers, we understand why an armpit may have to be shaved close, but an owner needs an explanation.
Hopefully one they will understand.  :)
I try to keep my explanations short and sweet, and to the point.
I also tell owners everything that I need to say before I bring their dog up to them.
Once they see their dog, they are not listening to a thing you say.  :/

Lately, I have even taken pictures of things that I want to show the owner, and I take my digital camera up with me, and show them the pictures before I bring their dog up.
Most of the time, it is insane to even try to show an owner something on the dog when it is being picked up.

I hope that some of this was helpful.
Who knew armpits could be so frustrating?
Only a groomer could understand.  :)

Happy Grooming, MFF

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sometimes Vet's Drive Me Crazy

Actually, it's more than sometimes.

 I have been grooming this Wheaton for awhile now.

For about the last three groomings or more, I have been telling them that I thought their dog has an eye infection.
I am very careful to let owner know that 'I think', because if I say that I am sure, and they tell their Vet that 'the groomer said she has an eye infection', the Vets get upset and think that I am diagnosing an animal.

I had to tell them the last three times the dog was groomed, because it seems to take people three or four groomings before they seem to hear what I am saying, and take their dog to the Vet.  :p

To be honest, I am not even sure they took the dog to the Vet because of what I told them, or they just happened to be going for something else.

Anyway, when they came in for a grooming last week, the first thing the owner told me was that the Vet cut off the fall over their dogs I because of an eye infection.
He said it like he had know idea his dog had an eye infection.

The owner also told me that the Vet said, that the fall caused the eye infection, and even though the fall was how groomers wanted to groom the dog, the fall was causing the infection, and the eyes should be kept clear from now on.

The groomer wants the dog groomed like that?!
I do what the owner asks for.
I am always telling customers that they do not have to follow the breed standard groom, and that they should have their dog groomed the way they want it.

Do these owners really forget that they were the ones who asked for the dog to be groomed the way I groom it?
Well, that was a minor thing.
I just chalk it up to another stupid comment that a Vet makes about something they know nothing about...grooming.

But, that was not all.
I have also been saying something to this owner about the dogs skin.
A few groomings ago I noticed a couple irritated areas, and dark flaky skin.
I also told the owner that they should see their Vet about the skin.

After the owner talked to me about the eyes, he said; "oh, by the way, the Vet said that those dark flakes on her skin were just a little dry skin."
Then their Vet sold them that good old expensive bottle of Vet shampoo.  :/

Ya know, I know that I didn't spend years going to school to become a Veterinarian.
I know that I don't have a couple of diplomas on my wall.
And, I don't ever presume to diagnose a dog.

BUT, I can tell when something is simply dry skin and when it is something more.

This skin problem is all over this dog.

I have watched it spread over the past few groomings.

There are spots of thick, flaky skin with raw, irritated, gooey skin underneath.

I have seen this before on other dogs, and most Vet's give an antibiotic for a skin infection.

Actually, I have seen this skin condition diagnosed as a couple different things, depending on the Vet.

That is another frustration.

I washed the dog in the Vets shampoo.
Of course there wasn't enough left in the bottle, so I used some of my medicated and let the dog soak.

While she was soaking, I take a fine tooth comb and gently comb out as much of the flakes as I can.

These types of flakes rarely HV out of the coat, they cling to the hair.
They also turn gooey after the bath, and when you try to brush them out they mush into the hair and make the hair oily looking.
So I try get get as much of the flaky skin off while the dog still has shampoo on them.
Then I shampoo them again a second time.

I am sorry Mister Veterinarian, but I do not agree with your diagnosis.

 There are sores on this dogs skin.

So how do I tactfully tell the owner that I think they need to get a second opinion?

Simply like that.

Show them some of the worst spots and tell them that they need to get a second opinion.
I am always very careful not to come straight out and say that I think a Vet is wrong.

Boy, is that hard sometimes.

I also don't think it helps sometimes that I get rid of most of the dry flakes, and that when I get the hair nice, soft, and fluffy again, that the owners think that the Vet shampoo worked, and the dog is fine now.

In my perfect dream world, my customers and The Vets listen to me and take my advice.
Oh, and they respect what I do.  :)

Happy Grooming, MFF

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grooming By The Book Or...


When I was in Grooming School, it was stressed to the students that you had to groom a certain way.
Poodles got their faces and feet shaved with a #10 blade.
All dogs were clipped before the bath.
All dogs were cage dried.
Style cuts were 'by the book'.
By the book means, the way the School taught you.
 The only breeds that I learned in school were Poodle cuts; Lamb, Retriever, Town & Country, Puppy Cut, and the Springer cut, Airedale, Schnauzer, Cocker cuts.
I never saw or touched a Bichon when I was in Grooming School.

When I graduated, I was sure that I knew what I was doing, till I got my first job out of school.
The groomer before me had been fast, so my new boss ( a none groomer) could not understand why I was not as fast as the previous groomer.
I was also scared of taking dogs too short, so I tended to leave them on the longer side.
If someone sent a dog back, it was almost always because I didn't take their dog short enough.
That was frustrating.

Then someone came in one day and wanted me to clip their Cocker in the style cut, but they wanted the legs and skirt short too, just not as short as the back.
That can't be right.
That was not the way I was taught.
A Cocker Cut left full legs with beveled feet.

I left the legs and skirt too long.
The owner brought the dog back two times before I did what they wanted, which ended up being a Cocker pattern, #10 on the back, and #4 on the legs and skirt.
The dog was cage dried.
I remembered thinking that the legs looked awful.

I would also have customers ask me to clip their Cocker all over short, but don't shave them.
For years I stood there and told people that we could only clip a Cocker with a #7 blade or shorter.
I would actually stand there and tell them that I could not leave a Cocker longer then a #7, AND I truly believed that, because it was what my teacher told me.

I do Puppy cuts on Cocker's all of the time now.  :)

I don't groom anything like I groomed when I first started.
I almost never groom by the book.
I am sure that Show groomers would cringe if they saw how I groomed some full breeds.
I also know that there are a lot of groomers out there that believe in grooming by the book no matter what.
They will even go against what the owner wants, because 'that is the way the dog is supposed to look'.
I have heard some heated arguments over this topic before.
Some groomers believe that if you don't groom a dog the way the breed standard calls for, you are not being a professional groomer.

I disagree.
I am a Professional Groomer.
I am a Professional Pet Groomer.
You are a  Professional Groomer if you know and care about what you do.
You are a Professional Groomer if you respect the pet.
You are a Professional Pet Groomer if your #1 concern is for the comfort of the pet, and your #2 concern is to give the customer the cut they want as long as it is possible.

I know that 99% of my customers would not be able to keep up with some of the full style cuts on their dogs.
I groom for the customers lifestyle.
If a customer does not have the time to brush their long haired breed out everyday, then I recommend a medium or short clip to make it easier for them to take care of their dog.
I also groom for the dogs comfort.

It is fun to get a beautiful, full breed dog in and do the standard style clip.
It is fun to challenge yourself ounce in a while.
But, to me, everyday Pet Grooming means that you have to be prepared to groom a little differently.
To work with what you have.

I remember once that I went to a seminar about the 'correct' way to groom a Bichon.
I watched the demo.
I took notes.
I paid attention to all of the angles.
I watched closely how the head was done.
The 'true' Bichon head has always been a problem for me.

I came home all excited.
The next full coated Bichon I had on the books was going to get the 'correct' Bichon cut.
That Bichon turned out to be a Bichon that I had been grooming for a long time.
He had a really nice coat to scissor.
I was very happy with the body when I finished.
I could not do the 'true' Bichon head because the owner refused to let me cut the ears.
The next day I got a call from the owner.
She wanted to know why her dogs legs were crooked (the angle in the hind leg), and why wasn't the butt round, and why did I leave so much hair on the back of the neck?

It was a disaster.
She wanted me to groom the dog the way I always did.
I have found that everyday pet owners are not crazy about the exaggerated angles that are done on some of the style cuts now.

Schnauzer and Scottie owners don't want the long eyebrows.

Bichon owners want long, stringy ears.  :(

Yorkie owners can't take care of a long, flowing coat.

Some owners want everything shaved off so that the dog doesn't even resemble the breed standard.

 They want their Pomeranians to look like lions.

They want all of the beautiful feathering cut off of their Goldens.

They want Mohawks on their dogs.

They want beards cut off OES, Schnauzers, and Wheatons.

 They ask for Poodle type feet on OES, Cockers, and Shih-Tzus.

We as Professional Groomers have to figure out how to do what our customers want.
We have to educate our customers.
We have to make decisions everyday about what would be best for the dogs.

I remember working with a groomer for a short while that was known as 'The Poodle Groomer'.
This guy had one heck of a reputation for doing beautiful grooms on Poodles.  
He also had one heck of a following.
I can tell you that I was very intimidated.
I didn't want him to watch me groom.
I enjoyed watching him groom a Poodle though.

As good as he was at grooming Poodles, I very quickly found out that he was not very Professional.
He turned out to be what I call a grooming snob.
He could put out one heck of a great Poodle groom, but he couldn't or wouldn't do a nice job on a simple clipdown.
If the dog he was grooming was not a Poodle, he could care less how the groom turned out.
He put down almost every dog he groomed.
Even some of the Poodles if they did not have good breeding.
He was also very unreliable.
His appointments had to be rescheduled a number of times because he didn't show up for work.
Worst of all, he was not very nice to the dogs, they had to stand like statues.
I remember being very disappointed by this so called famous groomer.

I had a dog this week that I have had to make decisions about what is best for her grooming.
She was an Apricot Standard Poodle.

This Standard gets groomed about every 3 months.
Mom tries to groom her a little in the meantime.
As you can see, her face has been chopped up, and of course there is the good old chopped up holes in the topknot.

Her Mom likes her face and feet shaved.
Because of her coloring and pink skin, I made the decision not clip her face with a #15.

I clip her face before the bath with a #7f blade.

My grooming teachers would be screaming at me right about now.

I clip the face with the grain first to take off the bulk of the hair.

Then I go over the face against the grain with the #7f.

If the dogs skin is really sensitive, I will only clip the face with the grain.

Because this is a long tooth blade, you do have to be careful clipping around the eyes and lip line.

 I do touch up the lip line with the 15 blade.
I only go with the grain and use a very light touch.

 I also clip her feet with the #15 blade instead of my #30 like usual.

I don't feel that her feet can handle the #30 blade.

I also clip her feet before the bath.

When bathing her, I wash her face and feet with Medicated shampoo.
I put the medicated on first so that her face and feet can soak while I am soaping up the rest of her.

The face still looks shaved, it is just slightly fuzzy.
But, there will be no clipper irritation.

Her ears were also chopped up.

So I had to shape them as best I could.

The tail.
What can I say?

Mom wants a Pom Pom.

Mom did some of her own scissor work.   :/

Mom cut so close to the end of the tail, that I don't know how she didn't cut off the tip.

I thought about only clipping the traditional band, and letting the rest of the pom pom grow back, but that is not what the owner wanted.

I did the little puff at the very end of the tail just like the owner wanted.

I can't imagine how many groomers would be cringing if they saw this.  :)

I kinda like it, even if it does look silly.  :0

As for that hole in the topknot...

I did the best  that I could.

It's still there. 

The hole.

It's still there.  :(

I took the topknot short and tight.


...it's still there.

Oh well.

As Professional  Pet Groomers, we see so many different types of dogs everyday, all with different lives and various types of coats.
As Professional Pet Groomers we have to decide what is best for each of our four legged customers.
It will not always be 'by the book', but that is okay.
Our judges are the customers who pay us to do a job.

I would love to become a Certified Master Groomer, but I have never had the time.
I don't feel any less a Professional Groomer because I don't have CMG after my name.
I show up for work everyday.
I treat my customers very well.
I treat the dogs like they were my own.
I do the best job that I can everyday no matter how the dog behaves, or how bad their breeding is.
I educate my customers whenever I can.
I treat all of the dogs with respect.

I am a very Professional Pet Groomer.
So if sometimes you feel intimidated by another groomer, remember that as long as you are doing the best job you can, and are willing to continually learn and make your grooming better, you are a Professional Pet Groomer.

One other thing, when watching some of the grooming competitions, I sometimes wonder how good some of the groomers up there on stage are when they have to groom a dog that is not show quality, that wiggles the whole time you groom it, and that has crappy hair.

Don't get me wrong.
I admire their talent.
They do wonderful grooms, but there are a lot of groomers out there that never compete, and they do wonderful grooms everyday.

Be proud to be a Professional Pet Groomer!   :)

Happy Grooming, MFF