In my 27 years of grooming experience, I have had very few dogs and cats that I have had to send home due to the inability to get them groomed. So, imagine how I felt the day that I was going to have to call a long-term client and tell them that I was not going to be able to handstrip their Irish Terrier anymore…
After a lengthy process, I felt that continuing her groom was going to be not only an unpleasant experience, but an unsafe one as well. In a last-ditch effort, I grabbed one of our enrichment mats, smeared a tasty treat on it and placed it on top of a box high enough for her to reach. Not only did it become another grooming aid for me, it also provided a positive connection to grooming for Ginger.
So, throughout the next few weeks, we tested this method with other pets, using positive interactions and enrichment activities during the grooming process. And after seeing positive results, enrichment-based grooming has been integrated into our daily grooms ever since.
What Is Enrichment Grooming?
Enrichment is defined as “the action improving or enhancing the quality or value of something” (Oxford Languages). And, adding enrichment to your daily grooming can do exactly that for the pets in your care!
Over the course of time, the grooming industry has seen different styles, techniques, and tools in which the industry has adopted and improved upon throughout the years. Even though
enrichment is no stranger to the pet care industry as far as boarding, daycare and training, it is a fresh approach to grooming that can enhance the experience for the staff, the clients and, most importantly, the pets in our care.
Grooming can be stressful or frightening for pets for a multitude of reasons. They may have had a difficult experience elsewhere before coming to our salon, or they may just be naturally anxious, aggressive or fearful. Enrichment grooming creates a positive connection for the pets by concentrating on the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the pet.
Building relationships with these pets is not only important to our four-legged clients, but it’s a great way to build trust with their owners as well. And it adds to the culture of the business by providing fun and uplifting activities that engage every staff member, leading to a more positive environment.
How Does it Benefit the Pets?
Enrichment grooming has many positive effects on the dogs and cats we provide services for. Mentally, it provides good stimulation and brain balance. By using their natural behaviors and instincts, it helps keep them calm, reduces stress and injuries, and helps prevent boredom and anxiety in between or during their services. Emotionally, it builds a positive relationship with their pet care professional, leaving them to feel safe, secure and connected.
Enrichment grooming can calm a senior pet by adding a nose work activity while in the salon. Or, it can help a groomer gain trust from a guarded dog or cat that may otherwise become aggressive in a salon and cause injury to a stylist or staff member. In addition, enrichment grooming can get a puppy started off in the right direction by teaching the fundamentals of grooming with fun and positive reinforcement.
How Is It Executed?
There are many different enrichment activities that can be incorporated such as Tellington touch (T-touch), licki and snuffle mats, loose-leash walking, story time with a stylist, nose work and puzzle toys. But the goal is to connect grooming to a positive activity, feeling and experience. This will help with the overall mental health of the pet during the grooming process. One of the most important things to remember is that it’s more than just filling up a toy or putting a tasty treat on a licki or snuffle mat. The mindset, body language and overall environment is key to providing enrichment-based grooming.
How Does it Benefit the Groomer?
There are benefits for the pet care professional as well, with many of them being similar to those of the pets we provide services for. Mentally and physically working in an enrichment-based grooming center or salon can help prevent burnout and redundancy. Grooming can be physically demanding, but can also be mentally and emotionally tasking as well. Burnout is a common concern in the pet care industry, and enrichment-based grooming can help combat it by creating a more positive work flow, environment and overall outlook.
Enrichment grooming can also help prevent bites, injuries and re-aggravation of old injuries, and reduce stress that can lead to exhaustion, physical pain and negative feelings about one’s career. Using these types of techniques can help provide higher job satisfaction, boost confidence in handling, improve styling and achieve better work-life balance.
Another benefit to the pet professional is the financial aspect. This is a great way to add to your bottom line as a business or as an employee through your paycheck or benefits.
The best news is you do not need to be a certified trainer or spend a substantial amount of money to introduce enrichment grooming into your facility or practice. By implementing methods that promote care of the pet physically, mentally and emotionally, you can begin your journey to becoming an enrichment stylist.
How Does It Benefit a Business?
Enrichment grooming can benefit a business in many ways as well. Financially, it can generate revenue by adding another service or revenue stream, client retention and increased production. It can also add to the overall culture of the business, reduce injuries for pets and staff, improve customer satisfaction, promote a positive environment, create separation from the competition and help recruit better candidates for employment.
With the current shortage of not only groomers, but staff in general, this is a great way to attract possible employees that are looking for more than a 9-5 job with low satisfaction. This can help rejuvenate excitement and satisfaction in the pet grooming industry.
In an era where we are looking at the science of the skin, paying more attention to the nutrition we are providing and focusing on offering safer environments, adding enrichment to our pet grooming is just another way we can go beyond the haircut. ✂️