By Michelle Robinson
Classy’s father fell ill, and her grooming routine was put on hold for several months. I received a call from her mom, wanting to get her back on track. As I backed Proud Mary into the driveway. I could hear her barking excitedly, but she wasn’t in the window bouncing off the couch as usual. I thought maybe she was in another room or she was waiting at the garage door. As I entered the house, I could hear her barking happily at the top of the stairs, with her tail moving at propeller speed. I greeted her with my normal squishy kissy face and raspberry smiles that sends her into excited twirls!
I noticed that she would not move past the top step. I just figured that she was nervous on the slippery floor as her nails were well over grown. I scooped her up and carried her out to the truck, enjoying my make-up removing kisses the entire way. I placed her on the table and gently slipped the grooming loop over her head. Then it happened. Classy, who was normally relaxed and laid back, went ballistic! I mean, full out tantrum! Snapping, thrashing, and alligator rolls. I quickly lowered the grooming arm. Thinking that I had it too high for her small frame. Nope! Still the same reaction. I removed the loop from her neck and she quietly collapsed on the table with a heavy sign.
Now I understood the crux of the problem. She was having some type of structural issues. I gently glided my hand down her back to see if she had an adverse reaction to my touch. To my relief, there was none. I scratched her head and behind her ear carefully as I dialed her mom’s work number. I had a grocery list of questions. I told her about the incident and asked the following questions:
Has something happened recently? Has she been limping lately, fallen off the bed, or down the stairs? Has she been whining or hiding a lot? Have you noticed that she can’t stand or pull herself up from a laying posting? The answer to most of my questions, was no. She did say that she noticed that she stopped going down the stairs a couple of months ago. Also, that she started using the pee pad in the house, and was not interested in going outside.
She reminded me that Classy had been hit by a child on a bicycle when she was younger, and the doctor had warned her that it may be an issue for her as she aged. She is now 10. I advised mom that I would cut her nails and do her paw pads first. If she seemed comfortable with that, I would proceed. At any point where she seemed to be in pain, I would stop. I still advised her to take her to the vet to make sure everything was alright.
We got through the groom with no other incidents. She enjoyed the warm water on her legs and stood up for a few minutes to let me rinse her thoroughly. As she stood I paid close attention to how she moved. I noticed that it was the previously injured leg that was giving her trouble. She could stand, and walk around the tub for a few minutes before the leg would begin to shake. Then she would sit down again. I have found more often that there are a lot of dogs with structural problems. Not all of them are seniors.
More and more dogs are being cranked out of puppy mills that are overbred and most often not in good health. Then they are being subjected to over zealous backyard breeders looking to cash in on a “pure-breed.” You can understand why the integrity of many dog breeds have been compromised. It doesn’t matter if you have been grooming 10 days or 100 years. We have all seen the little pork sausage with baby carrots legs and the big U in his back, who is the pure-bred _______________.
When we have 10-15 dogs to crank out, the phone is ringing off the hook, and people are walking in at 10 minutes to 4 asking if they can get their dog groomed today, we have a tendency not to listen to our client. The one that is on the table, we want them to stand like a flexible statue, and let us clip, strip, and scissor them to perfection so that we can get to the next one. For the ones that won’t, we muzzle or use no sit contraptions so that we can get the mission done. Time is of the essence. But are you listening to your dog?
Some dogs misbehave because they are in pain, or are anxious and afraid. As was the case with Classy. If I had not had a history with her I could have easily dismissed her behavior as being another “bad dog”. Had I not been listening to what she was telling me: “I am uncomfortable, can you let me rest for a moment?” it could have been an unpleasant experience for both of us.
I have another dog, Simon, a 3 pound Chihuahua, affectionately dubbed as furry nitro-glycerin. He has been kicked out of every groom shop in the area. I figured out that Simon didn’t like the sound of his nails being trimmed. So, I sing to him! He is still a hot mess for his nails, but now he just hands me the paw so we can get it over with. He protests the whole time, but he knows his reward is a half of a cheese curl, which he keeps his eye on throughout the process.
Your clients will tell you everything you need to know about what they are going through physically, if you listen. Most often, you have to slow down to hear them; watch them as they walk around; pay attention to the wear and tear of the nails. Are the nails worn down evenly? That will tell you where the dog is putting pressure on that foot. When you rub his rump, check to see if the muscles are firm on both sides, as it may be an indication of a knee or hip problem. Make notes of it, and let the owner know what you have observed. Recommend that they have the vet check it.
What about the dog that doesn’t like you to handle his mouth or that is drooling? The owner may have noticed it before you, but thought nothing of it. I once found a nice cluster of burrs under a Shih Tzu puppy’s lip. When I questioned the owner, they stated that he hadn’t been eating all of his food, but he was drinking water. When I told them about the burrs, they were shocked! Your clients can’t speak words, but they can tell you a volume of things through their actions. ✂