Several years ago I received a call from a pet owner wondering if I groom “evil Chihuahuas.” Her longhaired dog, Pepe, was banned from yet another grooming shop. It was suggested to her that Pepe would need sedation at a veterinarian’s office in order to be groomed.

As a Chihuahua mom, I know firsthand they can react to stressful situations with aggression. We referred to my Chihuahua, Baby, as Grumpy Boy on many an occasion. It was possible that Pepe was overwhelmed in a grooming shop and in a less stimulating atmosphere, such as my mobile grooming van, he might behave. It was with that thought I agreed to groom him. I have been grooming him ever since.

Why did Pepe go from evil to pleasant in short order? The truth is, it is not what I have, it is what I lack.

I do not have:

  • A stream of people coming in and out throughout the day.
  • Ringing phones.
  • Other dogs and/or cats.
  • Several dryers on at the same time.
  • Pets on grooming tables across from each other.
  • Groomers walking past each other with pets.
  • Vacuum cleaners running with pets present.
  • Many different scents from shampoos to fragrances to cleaning supplies filling the air.

All of these distractions have the potential to over-stimulate even the calmest of pets. As shop owners, what changes can be made to minimize the effects of normal day-to-day operations?

De-cluttering

Did you know that when you are surrounded by disorganization, your body secretes Cortisol? Cortisol is a stress hormone. Animals can smell those hormones and may react to them as well. In addition, according to Feng Shui, clutter blocks energy from free flow and results in tired energy. Cleaning and reorganizing your shop can result in calmer, more serene and efficient groomers.

Color

There are many studies done by universities regarding the effect color has on our productivity and emotions. Advertisers have fully embraced this concept since color print ads became available. It is not a coincidence that the major fast food chains use red, yellow, and orange in their packaging and logos. In fact, you are more likely to consume three times the calories there than in a restaurant using blue. Next time you are shopping, look at the packaging you are first attracted to. Woman are more likely to buy pastel or muted color packaging while men like dark and bold colors.

The colors best suited for a grooming shop are both light blues and greens. Blues are calming and relaxing. Green is soothing on the eyes and may reduce stress. In fact, studies show that people who work in green offices are happier and more productive. If it is not feasible to repaint, then add in blues and greens. Suggestions include new grooming smocks, curtains, policy signs, or paint the workstations.

Sound

Dr. Deborah Wells, a psychologist and animal behaviorist, completed a research project to determine the effects of classical, heavy metal, pop, talk, and no sound had on animals. The study concluded that pop, talk, and no sound had no effect one way or the other. However, heavy metal caused increase in agitation and barking amongst the dogs in the study. Classical music resulted in calmer dogs that spent more time resting rather than standing and barking. The other benefit of classical music is that it also improved the mood and reduced stress in people. Good musical choices include classical and pop. My personal choice is a CD titled Chakra Suite by Steven Halpern.

Lighting

There are three choices in lighting. The first is natural or full spectrum. This light spans the full visual spectrum, similar to that of the sun. The second is incandescent lights. It is close to full spectrum, but not quite. The third is fluorescent lighting, which has a very limited visual spectrum.

Our body chemistry and that of the pet is based on a day/night cycle. If not enough time is spent in full sunlight, it impacts the circadian rhythm, which in turn affects the hormones. The circadian rhythm is a biological process that sets the body’s internal clock to 24 hours.

The effects of this disruption may include migraines, eyestrain, problems sleeping, depression, unhealthy immune and endocrine systems, stress, anxiety, and obesity. By replacing the fluorescent bulbs with either incandescent or full spectrum may help mitigate these problems.

Scent

The sense of smell is linked to the limbic system. The limbic system is the oldest part of our development. It is connected to the parts of the brain that control blood pressure and stress levels. In addition, the olfactory center (the nose) interacts with the hippocampus (seat of the memory) in the brain. The first sniff of something will trigger a nerve response. Different fragrances will illicit different responses.

Calming scents include: rose, jasmine, neroli, geranium, lavender, chamomile, coconut, and sandalwood.

Uplifting scents include: basil, citrus, catnip, cedar wood, cinnamon, eucalyptus, grapefruit, and lemon.

A Note for Cats

Cats cannot metabolize many essential oils because they lack the necessary enzymes. Instead of releasing the oils through the kidneys and livers, they are stored there instead. Over time, it can cause physical harm to the cat. As a general rule, I do not use essential oils around cats. I will, however, diffuse oils into the air around healthy cats or use hydrosols. Hydrosols are the steam distillates of essential oils and are a safer alternative.

Positive Energy

Did you know that happiness is contagious? That’s because our body secretes endorphins when we are happy. On the flip side, anger is a heavy energy that does not seem to dissipate. Both moods can infect those around you. Keeping the work area positive may mean you need to release the negative.  As both a Reiki and Crystal Therapy practitioner, I use both to keep the energy light, positive, and free flowing in my mobile grooming van. I have rose quartz tucked away in many corners of van including the tub.

Turns out that Pepe was never an evil Chihuahua. Maybe a little misunderstood and definitely overwhelmed. He is an easy groom and his mom is very appreciative that her little baby is well taken care of. And is that not what we strive for? Happy client, happy pets.