Center in Manhattan Beach, Calif.: “Thinking of
your dog as behaving badly predisposes you to think
of punishment. Thinking of your dog as struggling to
handle something difficult encourages you to help them
through their distress.”
It’s easy for us to become frustrated with a dog that
is wriggling, pulling away, snarling and even biting.
However, it helps to remember that the dogs are probably
nice when not being asked to do things they don’t
understand. Groomers can help the dogs feel comfortable
instead of coercing them into compliance—although
sometimes that is all that works.
Evaluate the environment from the dogs’ viewpoint
and see what can be done to alleviate their anxiety.
Noise abatement is huge. Is there a way to separate the
bathing and drying area, where most of the unpleasant
noise occurs? Can noise reducing insulation be added
or acoustic panels hung on the walls? If you have an
unstoppable barker, can they be separated or scheduled to
move in and out quickly?
Dogs that cannot see each other are often less stressed,
so look for ways to keep four-legged clients visually away
from each other. Dogs walking past crated dogs can
cause a lot of ruckus. If the dogs can’t see each other,
that’s reduced by a lot. Give crated dogs something to
do besides bark at passersby. Radio or television noise
masking sounds can be a great distraction for many dogs,
and a stuffed Kong or bully stick—with the owner’s
permission, of course—can make them ignore the rest of
the world for a while. Lowering the lighting levels in areas
away from workstations can help reduce stress, too.
Preventing or reducing stress can also come in the form
of supplements. While I do not recommend working on
a sedated or tranquilized animal except under the direct
supervision of a veterinarian, there are mild items that
can do just a bit to help animals keep their self-control.
Many groomers use flower essences or essential oils to
alleviate stress for everyone in the salon. Rescue Remedy,
a Bach Flower Essence, is very popular with both humans
and pets. Earth Animal’s Calm Down is another remedy
that can keep a pet’s anxiety level down with just a few
Multiple essential oils are available from groomers that
started using them in their salons and now sell them to
other groomers. Some sites are full of information on
which of these are safe for pets and how best to diffuse
them in the environment. Barbara Bird, popular author
and grooming educator for many years, has compiled
bbird.biz. Show Season’s K9&You Essential
oil blends were developed by Bird, who advises that “essential oil users need to learn about
safety profiles, as well as favorable talking points of the oils they use. ‘Natural’ does not
always equate with ‘safe.’” Mellow Pet is a good one to try for salons.
Remedy+Recovery from Cardinal Pet Care offers a Calming Lavender Mist, a gentle
spray that can be spritzed onto the pet’s bed or area before or during a visit to the
groomer. King Kanine has CBD oil, which has become popular for many uses, including
Remember that any remedy—no matter how natural or benign—is still affecting a pet,
whether by inhalation, orally or another method. Make sure you have permission from
the owner or sell it to them to administer at home. Many of these work best before the
stress begins, so a retail sale to the customer may be best in any case.
If an animal has reached a point of utter frustration to a point where it isn’t able
to listen or respond to what you are asking, a 15-minute break may be all they need
to regroup and handle it. Honestly, if the dog is that upset, I’m willing to bet that the
groomer will benefit from a break as well.
Managing difficult behavior often depends upon tools and equipment, and groomers
are fortunate to have a lot of options at their disposal. Grooming shows, trade magazines,
and online groups and forums for professional groomers can help us keep up to date with
what’s available and how well it’s working.
The folks at Happy Hoodie created a soft, expandable, terrycloth type fabric band with
gentle compression that relieves anxiety and calms dogs. It muffles the noise of a force
dryer, provides a distraction and helps the ears dry much more quickly on most breeds.
When I realized how much it quieted dogs, I started using it while trimming nails with
a fair amount of success. No sit supports that encourage dogs to stand without being
uncomfortable (a pool noodle with a slit cut in it to pop over the bar helps), quieter dryers,
table mats for secure footing, slings and muzzles can all help manage difficult behavior.
Muzzles can be very comforting for some dogs, as they are stressed by the conflict
of knowing biting is unacceptable versus wanting to object to what groomers must do.
The muzzle can reduce that conflict by taking the biting option away. Sprayers for the
bathtub that are less noisy can help as well. Aqua Comb’s sprayer also washes from the
skin out, saving time and washing thoroughly, as well as providing a massage that helps
fearful dogs relax.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Probably one of the most useful tools I’ve found is the Groomers Helper. Although I
don’t use it as recommended on every dog, it’s proven invaluable when I do need it. It’s
a restraint system that works like cross ties on a horse. The dog wears a grooming loop
around the neck as usual, but it has a metal ring attached at the bottom that allows it to be
tethered to a clamp on the grooming arm by a system with a quick release.
Ask any groomer what their two fears are and they will tell you it is getting bitten or
hurting the pet they are working with,” says Chuck Simons, developer of the Groomers
Helper from the namesake company located in Margate, N.J. “The Groomers Helper
puts both of these to rest, and makes every individual job on the table safer and easier for
the stylist and the pet.”
Restraining the dog using two points removes the pressure from its trachea, which is
a high-risk area for injury if a dog is struggling against the noose. It restricts the dog’s
movement without holding it tightly, and the dog’s head isn’t in an uncomfortable
position, so most dogs accept it pretty well. The dog can’t move around enough to reach
the groomer as easily, spin in circles or drop its head. Some versions include the invaluable