“How could this happen to me?” sobs mobile groomer Shawna. “What am I going to do?”
Two days ago Shawna groomed Brady. When she got to his house, she could see that his hair was really matted. Shawna showed the matting to his owner and told her that Brady would have to have a short haircut.
His owner said, “Well, leave it as long as you can. Brady is an F-1 Mini Aussie Golden Doodle and he is supposed to have lots of hair. Oh, and the breeder said to tell you to pluck his ears. And, make sure you clip his toenails”
Shawna told the owner she would do her best, and took Brady out to her van and got to work. She managed to leave a little hair on his head and face, but everything else was so matted she had to clip him with a #10.
She finished and took him back to the house, and the daughter came to the door. When she saw Brady, she began to laugh hysterically. “He looks like a freak,” she said. “What happened to all his hair?”
“I told your Mom he would have to be clipped short because his hair was badly matted,” Shawna explained.
Still laughing and making fun of the dog, the daughter handed Shawna a check and she went out to her van and left. About twenty minutes later, the Mother called her. Shawna answered her phone and she started screaming, “You ruined my dog. You ruined my beautiful dog.”
Shawna replied with, “I told you that Brady would have to be clipped short because his hair was so matted, and you agreed to it.”
“Short?” she shrieked, “You shaved him bald! My beautiful Brady. Now he is so embarrassed he doesn’t even want to go outside. I stopped payment on my check. There is no way I am paying you to butcher my dog!”
Shawna was floored. She showed Brady’s owner that he was very matted and told her he would have to have a short haircut. Why was she so mad?
The next morning, the woman’s husband called Shawna. He said, “Look lady, I don’t know what you did to my dog, but Brady has been scratching and shaking his head ever since you groomed him—and his ears are bleeding. I am taking him to the vet and you are going to get the bill. When I get back, I’m going to spread all over Facebook what a terrible groomer you are. Lady, you are going to be out of business!”
What was Shawna supposed to do? She worked so hard on Brady. She did her best, but it was impossible to leave more hair on him. She knew she didn’t injure Brady; he was fine when she took him back to the house after the groom. And now they have stopped payment on the check, they want Shawna to pay a vet bill and they are going to blast her on Facebook. Is this one groom going to end her career?
Shawna made some big mistakes which left her wide open to the wrath of the owners. She wanted to do what was best for the dog, but she failed to protect herself while doing it. Because she did not take photos of Brady, Shawna had no proof of his condition before, or after, the groom. And, she did not have the owner sign a matted pet consent form, which was a big mistake.
Here are some steps you can take with new pets as well as returning clients that can help prevent you from having an experience like Shawna did:
- At the appointment intake, do an assessment of the pet with the owner present. Take a few minutes to explain the grooming process and what it entails. That goes a long way toward establishing good communication with clients.
- If there is matting, show it to the owner and document it on the pet’s record. Don’t just show them the matting, also explain how painful it is for a pet when mats develop—and how it can be even more painful when someone tries to de-mat it. Your first priority should always be the safety and the wellbeing of the pet. But, even if it is horribly matted, you don’t have the right to clip it down without owner consent. Only the owner has the right to determine what is done to their pet.
Most groomers give owners of matted pets three options: 1) to have the pet clipped down and start over, 2) to take the pet to another groomer for a second opinion, or 3) for the owner to try to brush out the mats at home.
- You must protect yourself. Have every client sign a release, whether it is a general grooming release, matted pet release, senior pet release, etc. If they don’t want to sign, that’s a big red flag. If you see red flags or have an uneasy feelings about the pet or the owner, you can decline the groom.
- When an owner consents to have their pet clipped down, make sure they understand what the finished pet will look like. Show owners before and after pictures of other matted pets that you have done so they know what to expect. Many groomers keep a sample “pelt” to show owners how it can look fine on the outside, but be like a Brillo pad next to the skin.
- Take before and after photos of every pet you groom. It only takes seconds to do, yet it gives you proof of the pet’s condition when it came in and what it looked like when finished.
- During the groom, take photos and document everything! You never know what you may find under matted hair; hot spots, parasites, skin issues, etc. Ideally, you should video the entire groom.
Some problems don’t appear until after the groom. If you have to clip all the hair off the ears, a dog may shake its head repeatedly which could cause bloody hematomas to form on their ends. After you remove mats that have been on them for months, a pet is likely to scratch, chew or rub itself. It only takes a matter of minutes for a dog to cause a skin injury to itself. That’s where photos of the finished pet can prevent you from being accused of injuring it.
- Anytime you clip a pet down, explain after-groom care to the owner. Additionally, print the information as a handout and give it to them.
If Shawna had followed these suggestions, Brady’s owners would have known what to expect. And with a signed release and photos of Brady’s groom, Shawna would have protected herself.
Are you protected? ✂️