“I’ve been disappointed by every groomer I’ve taken my dogs to,” the owner of two large doodles recently said when she called a groomer friend of mine. Then she continued with the following demand, “I want you to guarantee that you will not shave my dogs.”
Asking some questions, the groomer ascertained that the dogs had not been professionally groomed in over three months. She offered the following solution: “If you would like to bring your dogs here I’ll be happy to check the condition of their coats and we can discuss what will be possible for grooming them. There will be no charge for this.”
The customer declined and moved on.
We are faced with grooming requests every day. Many are reasonable: “Please cut her tail hair much shorter. I know it’s not breed standard, but then she doesn’t bring as many pine needles in the house.” Or, “Don’t do a sanitary trim. I don’t like to see his boy parts.”
I may not agree with what a customer wants, but it’s their pet so I happily comply. But what do we do when a request is unreasonable?
Here is an example: Last summer a gentleman contacted me about grooming his young Portuguese Water Dog. The dog had been turned away from several groomers. She is large, muscular and has strong opinions about having strangers touch her. She throws her weight around, tries to fling her body off the table, dances when she should stand still, does not like to be brushed, and fights against the clipper and the dryer. She is just plain difficult. The owner was in distress, the dog was matted and he did not know what to do. I agreed to give her a try, and he drove a long distance to bring her to us.
The first groom was extremely challenging. We had to clip her coat quite close due to the matting, and she fought hard every step of the way. We were able to send her home with a cute face and some fluff on her tail. We had a long discussion about bringing her every six weeks to get her used to the grooming process and maintain her coat in good condition. We instructed him on how to brush her and what tools to use at home. For a year she came every six weeks, and though she is still not an easy dog to groom, she has become far more manageable.
Recently her owner said to me, “As you know, I drive a long way to get here. We are going to start bringing her every 12 weeks instead.”
I am not always quick with an appropriate response, but I did myself proud this time and instantly replied, “I would not be interested in continuing unless she comes every six weeks.”
I did not want to run the risk of the training we’d done in the past year being lost or having the dog get matted between grooms. I said it firmly, but pleasantly. He blinked hard and made an appointment on the recommended schedule.
Sometimes refusing a client’s request means we lose the customer, and that is okay. Perhaps another groomer would be a better fit for that person and pet. Other times it turns an unreasonable customer into a good one.
When a friend of mine got a doodle puppy, she made it clear she wanted the dog’s coat kept long. I had an honest discussion with her about the importance of home maintenance. At first, all was well, then the inevitable coat change happened. The owner was not brushing and combing at home, and I had to shave her puppy. The woman was bereft. I reminded her that the dog’s coat length was entirely up to her; she could learn to brush, or I was going to clip the dog short. A miracle happened. She learned to brush her puppy, and now I am happy to groom the dog every six weeks—and the owner is proud of her dog’s long, pretty coat.
If you are asked to do something that you think is unreasonable, impossible or even dangerous, you must learn to say “no.” Here are some ideas to try the next time you are faced with a situation like this:
Be firm, but polite. Refuse the service they requested and briefly explain why. Don’t over–explain; this leaves room for them to argue. Quickly offer an alternative solution.
Let’s try this with a real–life scenario. A potential customer calls and wants to have their fluffy mixed–breed groomed but does not want it bathed because she’s afraid it will be cold. Following the above suggestions, you:
1: Reply with: “No, I am sorry I cannot do that. We work on freshly–washed and dried coats to prevent wear and tear on our expensive tools, and to ensure the most attractive groom possible.”
2: Offer an alternative: “I can, however, make sure that your dog is fully dried immediately after the bath so it will never have an opportunity to become chilled.”
Your reply leaves no room for argument, is professional and explains your reasoning. The alternative you offer lets the customer know that you understood her concern and will take care of her pet in a way that keeps it comfortable. Now the customer can decide if they want to work by your guidelines or seek another groomer.
Here is another scenario: A customer wants you to groom the dog but leave the mats in the coat because they don’t want it clipped short. You:
1: Reply with: “No, I am sorry, I cannot do that. Leaving mats in the coat is uncomfortable for your dog and can lead to serious skin problems.”
2: Offer an alternative: “I can clip your dog close this time and show you what tools you need and how to maintain a longer coat at home. Then we can get you on a regular schedule so we can keep your dog’s fur longer, the way you prefer.”
It can feel awkward to refuse a customer request, but we must keep in mind that we are professionals. Learning to say “no” firmly and offering a reasonable alternative is a must–have life skill that will serve you well. ✂️