By Ellen Ehrlich
Mary Oquendo coined this phrase back in the early days of petgroomer.com. It stuck in my mind, because in the grooming profession, you can’t always promise pretty.
In a perfect world, puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats, would stand on our grooming tables like statues. They would offer their nails for a pedicure, their ears for cleaning, and their faces to wash. They would jump in the tub, turn when asked, and roll over for tummy trims. No one would ever have a tangle or “smile” at the groomer. Every pet would have an impeccable coat. Wouldn’t you love to live in this world?
Let’s face it. Although we have furry clients that are terrific for grooming, there are obstacles every pet stylist has to overcome to obtain the perfect compromise between comfort and style. Since we’re working with living creatures, the groomer has to consider age, coat condition/matting, health issues, once or twice a year pets, behavior, and temperament.
We can’t take it personally. Not all pets love grooming. Even my poodle Jesse, who is an angel for grooming, looks glum when I ask him to get in the van and jump on my grooming table. What’s important to know is when we groom pets, there are certain limitations on what we can and can’t do.
Jesse is an older gentleman, going on fourteen. Standing on the grooming table for a couple of hours was not an issue when he was a younger dude. Now that he’s a senior with a touch of arthritis, he gets tired and has a hard time standing. It’s difficult to lift his leg, even for a nail trim. This is something to take into consideration. It’s easy to read Jesse’s signals, so I’ve made adjustments in his style to keep him comfortable during the grooming process.
We are all familiar with the client who brings in a photo of a pet from a calendar or greeting card and asks you for the same trim on Fluffy. The problem is their dog hasn’t visited the groomer in six months. The owner means well by bathing the dog. They try to brush the hair but are unsuccessful. Underneath the fluffy topcoat is matted hair. The best the groomer can do is clip the dog short to start over and explain how important it is to bring the dog in for regular grooming appointments. Offer the pet owner tips on self-care so the trim he/she desires is obtainable.
I’ve been grooming Roxy, the Maltese, for seven years. Due to a back injury that continues to worsen, she is now bathed, dried, and groomed lying down. Groomers need to do what is in the pet’s best interest, whatever the situation might be. Sometimes the simplest trim is the best solution.
What about puppies? They can be a challenge. Sometimes good as gold, other times a whirling dervish. You never know what you are going to get when you see a puppy appointment in your schedule. When you are grooming puppies it is be best to be flexible in your expectations. Explain this to the pet owner. It’s all about the puppy having a good time for his/her grooming experience even if you just accomplish feet, face, and fanny.
Many groomers, including myself, have been in the situation where grooming the dog from the neck down is a cinch. The problem lies in trimming the face. Grooming is a dangerous profession. Our shears are razor sharp; our clippers are powerful. You take your life in your hands when you place your scissors or trimmers next to the corner of the dog’s eye. We work on moving targets and no one wants to have an accident. If grooming tasks cannot be accomplished safely, put the scissors and clippers down and just say, “No.”
I have learned in the last ten years of my mobile business that I cannot groom every dog or cat that stands on my table. Some pets are a better fit for another groomer. Some need to be seen by a mobile, house call, or vet groomer. Some dogs and cats need to be sedated for grooming. There are many variables to take into consideration when grooming pets. The safest effort is always the best outcome.
Communication is key. This is the best time to develop a teamwork grooming approach with Mom and Dad. Discuss the options, and explain what tasks you can and can’t do. Focus on what you can promise: a clean, cute, and happy pet.
Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, Ellen loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be the best they can be. She is the author of The Successful Pet Groomer, Go Mobile And Succeed, and 49 Essays On Pet Grooming.
For more information go to: www.gomobileandsucceed.com