Hmm…Not so much!
- Runny poop
It’s fair to say that nobody likes this. Unfortunately though it does happen. Solid poop is fine – no issues there at all. But runny poop…especially if the dog is already bathed and dried but then might need another wash which usually neither the dog nor the groomer wants…is generally one of the least pleasant things you want to happen in your salon.
Icky. That’s the best word I can think of to describe slobber. I can cope with most things but for some reason I just can’t with drool and slobber. Especially if it gets on my scissor handles or drips onto my clippers. Or, what happened the other day – a dog who was panting during his groom turned his head quickly and some slobber flew off his tongue and landed on my face and mouth! Proper gave me the boak!
- Sore feet and a sore back
Unfortunately, this is only going to get worse as I get older. It took me ages to find the right shoes with the correct support that helped with being on my feet all day. Tables and baths at the correct level for my height has made a world of difference too. Some days though, I do end up with legs that feel like lead, stiff knees and lying on the floor at home trying to stretch my back out. More on this is the “overweight/obese dogs” section!
- Matted coats
I have had a wee rant about matted coats elsewhere however I know they are not going to go away. What I can do is act in a way that is in the best interests of the dog and try to inform and educate the owners about the correct coat care for their chosen breed or mix of breeds. Unfortunately, there are no magic fixes when it comes to dealing with matting. Prevention is better than cure. Effective brushing and combing at home between grooms or maintaining a shorter style are the only way. Yes, detangling sprays and fancy gadgets can have their place but the basics of brushing a coat out as often once or twice a day if required is what it can take to keep a dog in a full healthy coat. It is not the groomers’ fault if your dog needs to be clipped short because of excessive matting – just saying.
- Cleaning up after a really satisfying de-shed/blow-out
Not only does your bath area end up looking like there has been some kind of fur-and-water-based explosion, when you blast dry a shedding coat, the fur gets literally everywhere; inside drawers, underneath beds, inside cupboards, it sticks to the walls and ceiling! I have known it to take a couple of days before I stop finding floof from a particularly heavy de-shed in random places around the salon. The more you try to sweep it up, the more it just moves around and floats away. What is always fun is when I forget its all in my hair and I go out to reception to greet clients looking like, well, I don’t even know what! Dog grooming is all about the glamour!
- No-shows & late pick ups
I am confident that most groomers would say this is one of the most annoying parts of daily salon life. We know that things happen. We know that life takes over, people are busy and have a million and one things to think about so a grooming appointment might be forgotten about. But at the end of the day, we are trying to make a living and a missed appointment puts a dent in that. Two or three no-shows in a week can make a huge difference – especially if that groomer has staff wages to pay too. This is why most groomers have a 24 or 48 hr notice period – it is so that we can offer appointments to someone else who might be on the waiting list.
As for late pick-ups, this becomes tricky when you are working on your own with back-to-back appointments. Even with e.g., leaving 15 mins between appointments, if an owner is late to collect their dog and the next dog has arrived on time its difficult to make a start on that dog because, guaranteed, as soon as they are in the bath, soaped up and soaking wet, the previous dog’s owner will arrive. Dogs cannot be left unattended in the bath or on a grooming table. So, if I find myself in that situation, my priority is the safety of the dog that I am currently working on. I will get that dog bathed and rinsed so that they can be safely and comfortably taken out the bath before I go to return the previous dog to their owner. Its that simple.
- Crusty eye bogies
Apart from being smelly and an incubus for bugs and bacteria, crusty eye bogies must be so uncomfortable for the dog. Too often they have scabbed onto the skin underneath and when removed (either by loosening them during the bath or having to cut them off) the skin is red and sore and irritated. Some breeds are more prone to discharge from the eye. These breeds also tend to have shorter muzzles and skin folds around the eye area making it even more likely that debris will build up. All it takes is a wee wipe, once a day, with a baby wipe or damp cloth, to keep they eye area clean and healthy.
- Being bitten
This is an unfortunate reality however it should never be taken as an expectation. I have heard people say that groomers should “just expect to be bitten”. No. If a groomer is badly bitten, or even mildly, depending on where that bite is, it can put them out of action for weeks. And yes, it does tend to be the smaller breeds who are more prone to biting. I have known a chihuahua put a hole through a groomers bottom lip!
There are so many reasons why a dog will bite. It is an escalation. Grooming for some dogs is just too much to handle. Or their signals have been mis-read or ignored in the past and so they feel they have no option but to bite to make it stop. Therefore it is especially important to let dogs adjust gradually when they are new to being professionally groomed or if they just find the whole thing really difficult. Overwhelming a dog for the sake of a haircut is never going to end well.
- Overweight/Obese Dogs
I am not here to fat shame. We don’t do that to humans OR dogs. This is about logistics. Any dog who is overweight, no matter the breed, is more difficult to work with. Dogs can get stressed so easily that their heart rate shoots up and for an overweight or obese dog this is even more of a worry. Their joints may be affected and so they are less steady on their legs or have less range of motion in their joints. They may have trouble standing for more than a few minutes making access to their bum, hygiene area and tummy really difficult for the groomer.
There is not much that can be done if a large breed dog who is also overweight doesn’t want to stand up, or turn around, or lift their paw for nail trimming. Trying to safely maneuver an un-willing, potentially uncomfortable 40-50kg dog is bad for your back, your knees, your shoulders and your mental health. (Every salon needs a ready supply of caffeine and chocolate).
And chances are, the areas of coat most needing attention are the areas that the dog routinely cant or won’t let anyone near – the bum and back legs, tummy, groin, legs.
“Ah, but Emily, you have belly straps and other things to help a dog stand” I hear you say. Yes, while we do have belly straps and cradles etc., they are to be used for safety, not to force a dog to stand. A dog who doesn’t want to stand will just try to lie down anyway – regardless of whether a belly strap is there or not so they just end up squashing their tummy against the strap and/or compressing their throat on the neck restraint!
So basically, what I am saying is this. Dog groomers can only work with the dog in front of us to the best of our abilities and in the best interests of that dog. We cannot risk personal injury trying to achieve a good groom when it is unrealistic for that dog. And we cannot risk the health of a dog for the sake of a haircut.
- The “but you play with puppies all day” narrative
Oh yes, there are those days when you think “I can’t believe I am getting paid for this!” when you have a wee tiny floof-ball puppy in for an introduction. However, more often than that you are picking dried, crusty poop off a dog’s bum thinking “I can’t believe I am doing this.”
Being a dog groomer is hard. Its using very sharp implements around a living, breathing, unpredictable animal. It’s when you find a lump on a dog and need to tell the owner. Its seeing a heavily matted dog come in and the owner asking for “just a trim.” Its hearing that one of your clients’ dogs has passed away and you just know the grief and heartbreak they are going through. Its feeling sore, exhausted and burnt out but knowing you will go back in the next day and do it all again. Its investing time and money in good equipment and ongoing training.
Yet, you cannot be a dog groomer and not love it. It’s not about money (a lot of groomers are on not much more than minimum wage), it’s not about idealised notions of playing with puppies all day, its not even about having a cute salon and being your own boss. Its about making a positive difference to the lives and welfare of the dogs whose owners trust you to care for them.