A fellow groomer left a comment for me the other day asking for some advise with grooming.
I was about to reply when I thought that other groomers may run into the same problem, so I thought that I would answer in a post for everyone.
Here is the comment that Beth left me the other day:
I was hoping you may be able to give me some advice. I tried to groom a 7 month spoodle yesterday. It was her first grooming. She was very bouncy and scared of the clippers. I managed to get her used to the sound of the clippers and she licked some peanut butter of the clipper handle but whenever I actually went to pick up the clippers to groom her she was determined to jump off the table. She keep trying to jump out of the tub when I bathed her too. I am a very newbie groomer and would appreciate some tips! I tried calming her down but she hardly stops moving and when I held her face to clip she shook her head from side to side violently. I don't want her to get traumatized but to realize that grooming isn't bad.
First of all, my answer to Beth's question is purely the way that I deal with difficult dogs.
I am sure that there are other techniques that work for other groomers.
Unfortunately, it does not help the groomer, at all, that this Poodle was brought in for it's first grooming at 7 months old.
The best scenario for this Poodle would have been for her to have her face and feet shaved at eight to twelve weeks old.
Then regular grooming's every 6 to 8 weeks from then on.
So, at 7 months old, this Poodle should have already experienced grooming at least four times.
When I have a customer bring me a dog that is over 6 months (or several years) old before it comes in for its very first professional grooming, I immediately inform the owners that I will do the best with the grooming that I can, but it may not be perfect.
I explain to the pet owner that the groom experience for and older puppy, (or dog) is much more fearful than it would be for a very young puppy who is right in the middle of experiencing all kind of new things and tends to accept their first grooming along with all of the other new things in their life.
By 6 months a puppy is already 10 years old in dog years.
There are not too many new things going on in their life now.
They are already starting to get settled in a routine, and grooming was not part of it.
Yes, the old way of looking at a dogs age was wrong.
They have a new, supposedly more accurate calculation for the way dogs age.
I explain to the pet owners that it may take the pet a few groomings to get used to the grooming process.
I also explain that I will only do what their pet will let me do, because I want to make the grooming process as pleasant as possible for their pet.
I am telling the pet owner all of this for one other reason also....to help me out.
To take some of the pressure off of me.
To help keep me from getting stressed out trying to do 'the perfect groom', and everything the owner wants on their scared, nervous dog that they waited way too long to bring in for its first grooming.
If I am stressed, the dog will be stressed.
That is the most important thing.....for me, the groomer, not to feel stressed while doing the first groom.
The groom will be hard enough for me just to get the dog acclimated to all the new simulations that it has never experienced before.
The last thing that I need to worry about is if the cut is perfect.
Here is a list of some of the things that I do to help a dog accept the grooming.
~ Before any grooming, I hold, pet, hug, and talk to the dog, letting the dog get used to me, the new, unfamiliar person he/ she was suddenly left with.
~ I rub my hands all over the dog, while talking playfully, but at the same time I am testing out how the dog feels about me touching each part of their body.
~ I like to turn the water on in the tub, spraying away from the dog, giving the dog time to get used to the sound of the water before it touches them.
~ If the dog appears to be really skiddish and nervous, I will wet my hands and run my wet hands over the dog first. Then with the water on very low, I will very slowly wet the lower back leg. If the dog starts to dance around, I just follow, keeping the water on the leg and talking to the dog calmly petting and reassuring him/her that the water is not going to kill them.
~ keep working slowly, only moving faster as they start to trust and realize that I am not trying to hurt them.
Some dogs are very quick to trust and accept what you are doing, some take a lot more time.
Clipping and Poodle face for the first time:
I recommend, if possible, that groomers invest in one of the cordless clippers such as the Wahl Arco, Chromado, or Bravura.
The reason I say this is because these clippers run very smooth and quiet.
It is hard enough to get a dog to accept the vibration of a clipper on their face, feet, or body, much less a clipper that is loud and raddles.
A quiet, smooth clipper really helps when clipping a face.
I like to get the Poodle used to me handling their face by rubbing my hands all over their face before any attempt to clip.
I rub the sides of the face, and around the eyes and muzzle, getting the dog used to me holding their face.
If they struggle while I am rubbing their face, I hold on, (not too tight) just enough to hold on.
If they twist and turn their face, I twist and turn with them, all the while still massaging their face.
I do not let go of the face until they settle.
They settle....I let go and praise.
Then I repeat until they let me pet and massage the face without yanking away.
Next comes the clippers.
I turn the clippers on without the blade and hold it away from the dog to let them get used to the sound.
If it is a very nervous dog, I will press the body of the clipper to the dogs body first, to help him/her get used to the vibration of the clipper.
If the dog yanks away, I follow and keep pressing the clipper lightly against the body until the dog realizes that the vibration is not hurting them and stops moving.
For some dogs, it only takes seconds for them to realize that the vibration is not hurting them, other dogs it takes a while longer.
Every once in awhile, when I have a dog that is truly petrified, I will hug them to my body while pressing the clipper to their body, till they relax and realize that the clipper is not hurting them.
Once they have settled, I will slowly start to rub the vibrating clipper all over their body so that they can see it is not going to hurt them.
All of the time I am talking to them and praising them for doing so good.
Yes, even if they haven't been being very good.
Once they have accepted the clipper vibration on their body, I slowly move up the neck to the face.
Hopefully, by now the dog is a least a little accepting of the vibration of the clipper, but may still fight for the face.
I like to start with the clipper against the dogs cheek, but not too close to the ear.
Again, if the dog yanks away, I follow, holding the face with one hand.
I only hold as tight as I need to, but not too tight, just tight enough to hold on.
As soon as the dog stops trying to pull away, I loosen my hold but, do not let go.
Once the dog stops struggling against the vibration of the clipper on its face, I slowly start to move the clipper around the face, everywhere that I plan to clip.
You may find that you get the dog to accept the clipper on one side of the face only to have them freak out again on the other side.
Just do the same on the second side as you did on the other.
Once they seem to be accepting the clipper, put the blade back on your clipper and again press the body of the clipper against the face.
If the dog is not fighting, slowly start to clip.
Praise, praise, praise!
Once you finish clipping one side of the face, really praise the dog before moving on to the second side.
I have to say that this is one of the areas of grooming that the groomer has to train themselves.
They must train themselves to stay calm while a dog is struggling and freaking out.
They must train themselves to have the patience it takes to work slowly with the dog.
They must train themselves to know when to stop if the dog is so frightened and un-accepting that it may hurt itself or the groomer.
Okay, for some reason I feel like I am just rambling and nothing I have written is making any scents.
I hope that I have explained myself in a way that is helpful.
Beth, as for the dog trying to jump off of the table, check out 'The Groomers Helper'.