Julie Harris: Stress-Free Grooming is a Partnership
The aim of any qualified groomer is to provide a stress-free environment in which a dog can be groomed, but that’s the easy bit! What takes knowledge, skill, and oodles of patience, is dealing with a dog who themself is not confident and sees every new experience as a challenge to overcome rather than an adventure to be enjoyed.
This requires training much the same as any other training you will do with your dog, be it toilet training or fetching a ball. Having a confident, well-adjusted dog, who is relaxed in every situation doesn’t just happen on its own. These experiences have to become familiar and with familiarity comes understanding and then confidence.
It sounds simple, just take your dog to the groomers. But in reality, this is often an area of familiarisation that is overlooked when fur babies are puppies.
Owners often wait until a dog needs a full groom or a nail clip which may, depending on the breed, be close to being a year old. Introducing a teenage, or older dog to a new environment can be an assault on their senses with so many new smells and sounds. It is better to start early and take regular trips to the groomer while your dog is young and learning all about life. Just like any other training, being at the groomers needs to be fun with lots of positive reinforcement.
Look for a local, qualified groomer at the same time as you look for a vet for your puppy. Give them a call and ask if you can book your puppy in for groomer socialisation or a puppy pampers session.
How do groomers provide a stress-free environment?
A friendly atmosphere is important for both your pet and you. If your dog feels that you are relaxed and smiling, they will feel more confident. Nowadays most salons are open plan, and this gives a dog something to look at and engage with as well as having small distractions to capture their attention.
A cool salon with air conditioning is great in providing an environment with a stable temperature, meaning dogs don’t have to respond to changes that can potentially generate stress.
Qualified groomers have been specifically trained in maintaining and responding to the welfare of your dog and have many tricks up their sleeves including appropriate handling, calming sprays, and massage techniques. Groomers will also adjust the tools and equipment suitable to working with your dog, and of course, very important, are the cuddles that are freely available.
How can you help?
Your pet will be looking to you for encouragement and reinforcement when any new experience is encountered. If you are nervous or unsure about what the grooming process entails, then put in a call to your groomer prior to arriving at the salon. Your dog will pick up vibes from you, so make sure you allay any worries ahead of time to ensure you arrive with confidence. Your dog will pick up your mood and copy your confidence.
Before you arrive at the Groomer's, make sure your dog has been to the toilet. Groomers expect little accidents in the salon so this is not so much for their benefit, as it is for your dog. It can be stressful and uncomfortable if they need to go to the toilet and upsetting for them if they make a mess. This is easily avoidable with a quick walk before they go into the salon.
Leave plenty of time to get to your appointment. Avoid running late and getting flustered as your dog will pick up on this and that all-important handover to the groomer will be rushed making your dog uneasy. When you do handover your dog, make sure you are relaxed and leave without a fuss. Tell them “You’ll see them later” or similar in a positive way.
Ensure your groomer knows about your dog’s likes and dislikes so they can handle your dog and manage the groom in a way that promotes their confidence. Things like ticklish feet, avoiding patting the head, soreness on a paw. Any information, no matter how small, can help avoid upsetting a harmonious grooming experience for your dog.
What does your groomer know to help?
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. There are over 200 registered breeds and lots of breed combinations. Your groomer knows how to safely handle long legs, short noses, drop ears, long tails, cow hocks - the list is endless. Trained groomers also know about breed traits; why terriers don’t like their feet being touched, why rectangular dogs get nervous on tables, why some breeds suffer more than others with separation anxiety when their owners leave and why some dogs love that bath and others are agitated by the dryer air whipping around them. These are all very common situations in a grooming salon and a qualified groomer has knowledge and ability in dealing with all these situations plus many more.
Remember, a dog that is confident in a grooming situation will have a stress-free experience. Confidence comes from training and socialising and the owner’s manner and tone of voice. Your groomer will use their vast knowledge of different temperaments and breed traits to work with your dog so that it has the very best experience while in their care.
The positive payback is that a clean, well-groomed dog always gets loads of attention and cuddles. Grooming your dog is a win-win for everyone!
For more great tips on grooming take a look at:
Julie Harris Dog Grooming Education was founded to share Julie’s knowledge with groomers and owners alike with the goal of creating harmonious relationships that benefit dogs and the care of their skin and coat.