Always keep an emergency pair of shoes!

So, there have been many times that my shoes and feet have got soaked at work. Whether that be from an over-enthusiastic shake from a dog in the bath, or them refusing to keep their wet ears inside the bath so they drip water all over my feet, or walking my own dogs on the grass outside in the rain.

And many a time I have popped my shoes in the tumble dryer to dry them off. Spending all day with cold, wet feet is not ideal in any situation.

However today, i might have left them in a wee bit too long and heated them to the point of becoming, bent, rigid and……basically almost melted. So I had to grab the only other shoes I had which were my bright yellow plastic sandals that I keep in my wee microcamper!!

Moral of the story…..if you don’t want to end up rocking your yellow sandals and socks look at work, keep a spare pair of emergency shoes handy. Always.

It’s all about the glamour!

Change is Good. Dogs are Awesome

You might have noticed that there have been some changes to the Wagging Tails Website lately. I am actually really excited about this because, in the spirit of full disclosure, the website is something I have neglected in the past, putting most of my focus on the Facebook and Instagram pages.

Dont get me wrong, these are a staple of running a small business and are where most of my content goes and is seen. But it has long been a part of my plan to build an online resource for anyone to go to to learn, interact, shop and be part of a community.

We now have this blog where I want to share a bit of what goes on in the world of a dog groomer. I will be also be sharing “How to…” videos via our You Tube channel to help you care for your dog between grooms. We have an online shop where you can pick up some gorgeous shampoo, or a new brush for your dog. We even have our exclusive “Peace Love & Dogs” range that is being developed. And our latest addition, the Owners Gallery. A place for you to share photos of your doggies and tell everyone what makes them the best dog in the world!

In essence, dog grooming is about celebrating dogs; their health, wellbeing, history and tradition, their personalities and their invaluable role in our daily lives. Where would we be without our dogs? In my case, I would be in a much darker world.

So lets celebrate our dogs! Large, small, floofy, not floofy, 4 legged, 3 legged, old, young, crazy, cute, grumpy, wise, derpy, speedy, not speedy! Every one of them is the best!

What I love about dog grooming vs…Hmm…not so much. Part 2

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.

  • Slobber

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.

That’s it.

What I Love About Dog Grooming v. hmm….not so much! Part 1.

I love the variety that being self employed and being a dog groomer brings. Genuinely, no two days are the same. But as with any occupation, there are always aspects that we like better than others. Also, there is so much more to being a dog groomer than people often realise. So, I thought I would give you my Top 10 “Loves” and my Top 10 “Hmm…not so much!” of dog grooming. This is going to be a two-parter!!

Part 1Loves

  • Working with dogs (obvs)

This is a no brainer really and I will be completely honest, I prefer working with dogs to working with humans. What’s not to love? The play time? The cuddles? The sing-a-longs in the bath and conversations about the gossip from the dog park? The nose boops? You couldn’t do that with human co-workers. Not if you wanted to keep your job anyway!

  • Independence & autonomy

Self employment has its share of draw-backs but what i love is being totally independent and knowing that any decisions I make are for the benefit of my business and clients. So if you see me wandering around talking to myself, just ignore me – I am having a staff meeting with myself!

  • Cleaning mucky ears

Everyone has their “thing” that most others would find pretty horrible…and apparently mine is cleaning ears. In an ideal world dogs wouldn’t have mucky ears but its so satisfying to give them a good clean to leave them looking and feeling much better. (Obviously, dogs with acute or chronic ear conditions should be under veterinary treatment and I wouldn’t do anything to compromise that).

  • When you expect a coat to be matted and its not!

Ah, this is great when this happens. It makes the whole process so much easier and straightforward – particularly for the dog! Even better is when its a dog with a long silky coat and its just beautiful to brush!

  • When the dogs just want to cuddle

I have a lovely doodle girl who comes in and just rests her wee chin on my shoulder when she is getting dried! Or, when you are waiting for an owner to come and collect their dog but all the dog wants is to sit on your lap and snuggle!

  • That feeling when you get an angle or a shape just right!

As groomers we see so much on social media and You Tube of perfect grooms by world class groomers. Beautifully prepped dogs, standing proud as punch, showing off a perfect style. As a pet groomer, I look at these and think “Wow! – I only wish I was that good”. So when I get the chance to practice making these kinds of shapes – and it can be as simple as a perfectly straight leg, a round paw, a doughnut muzzle or a symmetrical topknot – it’s like a tiny victory.

  • A really satisfying de-shed/blow-out

Oh yes. Transforming a dull, overgrown or blown double coat into a sleek, shiny, plushy coat is such a good feeling. Dont get me wrong, its a lot of work and takes time but it is so worth it and I can only imagine how much better the dog feels afterwards. Keeping double coats free from mats and dead coat helps the dog regulate their own body temperature, whether that be for warmth or to stay cool.

  • Head tilts

Does this even need an explanation? The cuteness is everything.

  • Owners reactions when they are really pleased with how their dog looks after their groom

This is gold. If an owner is happy, I am happy. However, fully communicating with owners about what to expect when they come to collect their dog is also really important. Its vital to have a proper conversation with owners about how they are looking to have their dog styled. It can be a very personal thing – ears, tails, heads especially – so although most groomers get into the profession to work with dogs, a significant part of it is working with the owners.

  • Being able to bring my own dogs to work

Prior to becoming a groomer I spent years working in offices and leaving my dogs at home every day. While this was ok for a time, when it became difficult to leave my elderly westie, Hamish, for longer periods of time due to his health, the fact that I could bring both him and my other westie, Islay, with me during the day gave me complete peace of mind. I started learning to groom with my own dogs so I feel like they are an integral part of the business too.

Part 2 will be posted soon. Remember you can sign up for email alerts to keep up to date with my ramblings!

“Clipper Happy”

This is a phrase that is thrown around about dog groomers sometimes. It is quite mis-leading and can really undermine our profession. As pet professionals we are often in the position of having to act in the best welfare interests of a dog, despite what an owner may ask for.

There are two reasons why I would clip a dog really short…actually 3 reasons;

  1. The owner has specifically requested it (and the coat is suitable)
  2. A vet has requested it on welfare or medical grounds
  3. A dog is significantly matted beyond what is realistic and humane to brush out

That third reason can be a tricky one. What is classed as “significant”? For me, if it takes me longer than 15 mins of brushing to get knots and mats out of a dogs coat…that is significant. Imagine having your hair brushed, or brushing your childrens hair, for 15 mins when its full of tugs, not washed, has bits of vegetation in it, possibly even food or feaces in it (yes, poo). No-one would enjoy that!

So, why should a dog go through it? The humane option is to clip the coat off under the mats and let the coat re-grow. If areas like the face, ears and tail can be saved then the dog can retain some aesthetic looks and its less of a shock for the owner. However, this isnt always possible. The face, ears and tail are often the most likely to become matted and are also the areas that most dogs will object to having brushed, especially if knots have already started forming.

So you can start to see where the problems begin.

Mats and tugs can form anywhere in the coat but are most common;

  • Behind the ears
  • On the ear leathers
  • On and around the tail/bum
  • On the legs/paws
  • The face and beard
  • Where a collar or harness sits
  • Around joints or anywhere there is movement on the body

In other words…all the tricky bits to brush. Brushing at home between professional grooms is how a coat stays mat-free (I will do another post about effective brushing and so wont go into details here). We do understand though that life gets in the way and not everyone has the time or capability to spend time thoroughly brushing and combing out their dogs coat every day. But if you do want a dog with a long fluffy coat then that is what needs to happen.

“But my dog hates being brushed”

Yes, if a dog is being brushed after the mats have started to form, it will tug and they will indeed hate being brushed. Starting to get a dog used to brushing and combing as early as possible or as gradually as possible in some cases is the ideal way to get going. In the case of a dog who is already matted, getting a short haircut and starting again to grow the coat in is, more often than not, the best option for them.

There is a lot of thought, skill and technique that goes into shaving a dog short. Its not easy, takes time, can be stressful for an already uncomfortable dog and can be damaging to our blades and equipment. It risks catching the dogs skin; it risks irritating the dogs skin; we risk a social media backlash and being called “clipper happy” when all we have done is act in the best welfare interests of a particular dog.

Dogs do not feel embarrasment or shame. If they act differently after a shave-down it is likely because they feel totally different in their skin after having a heavy coat removed (think what its like after taking your hair down from wearing a tight ponytail for a long time) or they are picking up on the owners emotions on seeing them look different from what they did before.

From an owners point of view, learning what your dogs coat will need in terms of maintenance and doing thorough research before taking on a dog with a high maintenance coat is vital. Some breeders will say things like “dont get them groomed until they are 9 months old” but this is the worst possible advice. Instead, find a groomer who will introduce them gradually to the grooming process so that they dont end up matted and need to go through a short shave on their first ever visit to a salon. It is this kind of thing that fuels the stereotype of all groomers being “clipper happy”.

In the grand scheme of things though, given the choice between being labelled as “clipper happy” or putting a dog through an un-neccessary and potentially painful brush-out, I will choose clippers every time. Humanity before vanity!

Behind Closed Doors…

One of the things I want to achieve by doing this blog is to shed some light on what life is really like in a grooming salon. Quite often, grooming areas are not visible to clients from the reception area and this can lead to some people thinking that groomers dont want people seeing what they are doing.

This is not the case at all.

More often than not, the less visual distractions a dog has while being groomed means they will be calmer and therefore safer. Trying to safely use clippers and (very sharp) scissors on a dog who is trying to jump around and speak to every person or dog they see is quite frankly, terrifying!

So, a calm, quiet environment where the groomer can concentrate and the dog can be kept safe is ideal.

Another question we often get asked as groomers is if an owner can stay in the salon while their dog is being groomed.  We completely understand that it is never easy to hand your doggo over to someone else and them disappear behind a door. This can be especially difficult if the dog is crying and upset at being separated from their owner.

Groomers see this every day and will spend time allowing the dog to settle with treats, cuddles, a ball – whatever it is that redirects the dogs energy in a positive way. A calm and focused groomer makes for a calm and settled dog. An owner who is anxious on behalf of their dog, whether it be because the dog is young, elderly, reactive or because they have a mis-trust of groomers, will often transmit that nervous energy onto the dog making the whole process more stressful for everyone involved.

That being said, there are of course times when an owners presence is good and actually necessary! For example, dogs who have certain medical conditions or mobility issues can really benefit from having their person with them.

Pre-Covid it was usual for owners to ask to come in and see round the salon to get an idea of where their dog was going but thats not really an option at the moment. So, with all this in mind I wanted to give you a wee tour of our grooming salon.

Taking time off

It’s not always easy to take time off when you are self employed. But it is important because if you don’t, you risk burn out, which doesn’t work for you or your business.

Senior Manager Islay and I will be away next week visiting family for a few days. We don’t get to see them that often so we make the most of it when we do. Islay has already been working on her holiday wardrobe!!

Hello!

Hello and welcome to my little blog. I am a dog groomer and I love it. But I feel like sometimes we are miss-represented, especially in social media. So I want to use this blog as a bit of an insight into the day to day life of a dog groomer.

That includes the good, the bad, the slobber, the cuddles, the poop, the laughs, the tears, the ups and the downs.

So, here we go. Welcome to my world!! 😊