By Kama Brown CPDT-KA
Dog trainers are always on the look–out for dog groomers they can recommend to clients. Groomers are part of a necessary professional care team for many dog owners and fill a need that a dog trainer cannot.
Working with a dog trainer is usually a temporary part of an owner’s life, while working with a groomer is a relationship that can extend life–long. This life–long relationship makes finding a good groomer a vital part of a dog’s wellbeing and an important topic to dog trainers. Dog trainers are now working with dog owners on a variety of behavioral and training needs and are often asked to train dogs to accept nail trimming, bathing, brushing, dental care and ear cleaning. When dog trainers and groomers work together, dog owners can be confident their dogs are being cared for by a knowledgeable and dedicated team of professionals.
Offer a Puppy Program with Training as the Goal
Dog trainers are always stressing the importance of early positive socialization experiences to puppy owners. A puppy who is properly conditioned to tolerate grooming procedures will be easier in many ways for the rest of its life. At–home grooming, such as nail trimming or brushing, is often the first unpleasant experience a puppy will have with its owner. Dog trainers always encourage owners to find a groomer they trust to introduce new grooming procedures slowly and gently to young puppies.
It’s normal for a puppy class to address ways to make nail trimming and brushing a positive experience by encouraging the use of treats and making visits to a grooming salon before dropping their puppy off for the day. While a few minutes may be spent on these skills during training classes, the puppy or dog is often asked to tolerate the entire procedure before the preliminary training steps have been completed. If the dog or puppy is uncomfortable and the owner is the one doing the restraining or the nail–clipping, the dog may infer that the owner is not always safe. Instead of risking this, while training is still going on, trainers recommend that owners should invest the time needed to find the right team of people to whom to outsource this aspect of dog care.
Groomers who offer puppy programs to introduce puppies to grooming slowly over a few initial visits are someone dog trainers are always looking to refer clients to. Trainers will prepare the owners to expect the additional costs associated with the extra time a groomer will be spending with their puppy. Even on occasions when a full grooming isn’t possible, trainers can inform clients of the long–term benefits and encourage them to follow the groomer’s lead.
Certify in Low-Stress
Low–stress handling is a philosophy of helping dogs through unpleasant or scary encounters by using positive reinforcement and creating comfortable environments. The late Dr. Sophia Yin coined the phrase and spent her entire life dedicated to helping dog professionals implement certain methods that are proven to reduce fear and stress.
Groomers certified in low–stress handling are an excellent resource for dog trainers and their clients. These methods reduce fear, anxiety and can reduce the need for sedation and other health costs. When a dog is dealing with other issues, having confidence that a grooming session will be a positive experience is one less thing for a dog owner and dog trainer to worry about.
Workshops are available around the world and online, offering groomers access to a comprehensive education in these techniques. Certification also includes the use of a well–known logo and literature, making it easy to tout the benefits to clients.
Sometimes certification isn’t possible but a salon has taken other actions to lower stress during visits. Dog trainers are more likely to recommend groomers who offer shorter turnaround times and groom fewer dogs each day. Salons that are able to offer outside potty breaks, food or toys for distractions, and breaks for sensitive dogs are something dog trainers teach clients to look for when choosing a groomer.
Avoid Offering Behavior and Training Advice
Too often, dog trainers hear back from clients with new advice from the groomer about behavior issues. It’s easy to offer quick advice about training issues, such as barking or jumping, since so many groomers have dog training experience. Groomers are usually excellent at managing dog behavior, have worked with dozens of breeds, and see a client more regularly than a dog trainer would. Sometimes though, when owners are working with a trainer, it can mean they have a bigger behavioral need than just basic obedience.
While advice such as squirting water at a dog or throwing a can of pennies may sound harmless, it can exasperate anxiety issues, which can be difficult to work through. “One trial learning” is a form of learning that creates a life–long association (positive or negative) with a new person, animal or situation. A dog that barks because they are already nervous of a visiting family member could make a permanent negative association with that person if something bad happens to them for barking when that person comes over.
If a client is insisting on answers for training questions, ask the referring dog trainer to drop off printed sheets for the most common training issues. Aside from asking a trainer, groomers can access resources online. Doggie Drawings by Lili Chin, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and Karen Pryor Clicker Training all offer free printable pages that are safe and reliable handout options.
Share Services Personally
Often the best way to get to know a dog trainer is by taking a class with them. An excellent and beneficial working relationship can form quickly during a one hour training session, just a few weeks in a row. Being able to hear a dog trainer share their philosophy and training advice first–hand is valuable in making a decision on whether to team up with them. If it seems like a good fit, scheduling to groom their personal dogs before sharing clients is another great option. This will give each party a chance to work together and make future recommendations based on first–hand experience. If neither of those opportunities are possible, just meeting at some point, in order to put a face with a name is important, as many dog trainers prefer to recommend their clients go to a groomer they have met first hand. When dog trainers and dog groomers work together, everyone benefits, especially the clients. ✂