Here are a few “odds and ends” of training advice that can be shared with your clients or used in your everyday life:
Of all the people in a dog’s life, a groomer sees them more than anyone outside of family. Additionally, groomers have dog-savvy that many vets, vet techs, trainers, and rescue people don’t. That means, with your knowledge, you are the perfect person to make sure a dog lives a long, healthy, happy life.
Training for veterinary care, grooming, and handling procedures can greatly reduce stress, and make the job easier for all involved. Target training is widely used in zoos, aquariums, and with domesticated animals of all species. Animals can learn to hold their nose to a target while having blood drawn, and during other veterinary procedures.
As all experienced dog trainers and behavioral specialists will tell you, when dealing with behavioral challenges, you must address their root causes if you realistically expect to eliminate or reduce the actual behavior. This is relevant for groomers.
Dogs who try to bite you are typically doing so for two—possibly three —reasons:
About ten years ago I worked on an artificial intelligence project at MIT. One of my first experiences there was to stand in a small room full of all kinds of devices. The professor that invited me to participate handed me a music conductor’s baton and asked me to move it in any repetitive way – side to side, up and down or circles.
In the world of training there are many claims of mastery and efficacy. Few are ever proven. Real masters let their work speak for itself. Self-promoting “masters” rarely show anything outside of video tape and photos—and boy, do they look good in photos.
One of the blessings of dog behavior is that you can change it. One of the curses of dog behavior is that it can change.
For instance, I was working with a dog yesterday who gets violent if you try to groom his rear end. He is remarkably like Bear, the Mini Schnauzer I recalled in a previous column. If you try to touch this dog’s rear end, he’ll bite you. We have made great progress with this little guy and decided it was time to go to the groomer to test our progress.
Many years ago I lived with an adorable Mini-Dachshund named Rosey. Every time I attempted to greet her, she urinated. I ignored her, she urinated. I tossed treats on the ground to distract her. She urinated. I had my roommate put Rosey in a crate for about 10 minutes so she couldn’t greet me as I entered the house. She urinated.
Most people think that Darwin created the phrase “Survival of the Fittest.” He didn’t. Darwin himself attributed the phrase to Herbert Spencer. Darwin’s encapsulation of evolution is slightly different:
“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”
It might be an unrealistic expectation, but what do you do when your clients expect your work to be fast, cheap, and good?
My brother has a sign in his office. It reads: “You can have it fast, cheap or good—select any two.” Despite the obvious wisdom of this cliché, some pet owners demand all three:
If you look in veterinary literature, you will find reports of Bull Terriers who destructively bite their own tails. These dogs are so persistent that they often do enough damage to require removal of the tail. The odd thing about this disorder is that removing the tail may not stop the behavior. Some dogs continue to bite at the place where a tail should be.