By Kathy Hosler
We don’t look forward to it, but it’s something that almost every groomer experiences. It begins with the phone calls and texts we get from owners who have not had their pet groomed since last year.
Their usual excuse is that they wanted their pet’s hair to grow to keep it warm during the winter. Well, winter is over, and now the pet is a huge mess.
We also get calls from first–time owners who got a puppy for Christmas. They tell you that they love how fluffy the puppy is but they can’t see its eyes, and feces is sticking to the hair under its tail—could you just give him a little trim? So, the puppy is now six or seven months old, and has never been groomed—and maybe never even brushed. Great.
We’ve even had them tell us that, when they purchased their puppy, they were told that it wouldn’t need to be groomed until it was a year old. That is so unfair to the pet and to the groomer!
Some owners may be happy to just get rid of all the hair and don’t care how short their pet is clipped, but they are in the minority. Most of them expect you to be able to make their pet look like it just stepped out of a show ring, no matter how bad it looks when it comes in.
Unfortunately, a lot of owners do not have a clue that they need to brush and care for their pet at home. This is when you become a teacher as well as a groomer.
When the pet arrives for its appointment, check it over thoroughly. Always have a comb with you at check–in. Use it to show the owner where there is matting in the coat. Explain some of the ways that mats form: pets rolling on the carpet and rubbing on furniture, bathing the pet without brushing it, wearing sweaters on them for an extended period of time, and just not brushing and combing the pet correctly.
Tell the owner how uncomfortable the matting is for the pet and how it can impact their health and well–being. If the pet cannot be safely de–matted, discuss the grooming options with the owner.
If you know the pet will have to be completely clipped down, be direct and tell the owner that it will not be possible to brush out the mats. Even though there are many de–matting tools and products at our disposal, there are times when it is not humane or possible to de–mat a pet.
Tell the owner that their pet will have to be clipped short. Use words like ‘smoothie’ or ‘summer trim’, instead of ‘shaved’ when you describe what their pet needs. Don’t let an owner bully you into trying to de–mat their pet. They might say something like, “I don’t want him short. It’s your job to groom my dog the way I want it.”
That’s when you calmly and professionally reply, “My main concern is your pet and its wellbeing. He should have been groomed months ago. His hair has now reached the point where it is too matted to do anything except remove it. The only thing I can offer you is to clip him short all over and start fresh. To attempt anything else would be abusing your pet.”
Anytime you groom a matted cat or dog, have the owner sign a release. If you have an information sheet or a brochure about ‘smoothies’, give it to the owner. Also, show them before and after pictures of other pets who have gotten ‘fresh start’ haircuts to give the owners an idea of what their pet will look like after the hair is removed.
In today’s world, you have to protect yourself and your business. Unhappy clients may sue you, or badmouth you and your business on social media. If you don’t want to end up in Judge Judy’s courtroom, you must document everything.
During the groom of the dog or cat, take before and after photos, or video the entire groom. Make sure to record and take pictures of anything out of the ordinary; infected ears, toenails that have grown back into the foot, or lumps or sores anywhere on the body. You can send the evidence to the owner immediately or show it to them at pickup.
When the owner comes for their pet, go over after–groom care with them. Let them know that some pets can do a lot of damage to themselves after they have been released from a ‘body cast’ of matted hair. Their skin may feel itchy or irritated. And, if their pet chews, licks, scratches or rubs itself, it can damage the skin and cause problems such as hot spots and skin infections. If they shake their heads vigorously enough, they can cause hematomas and bleeding of their ear flaps.
Caution them to limit their pet’s exposure to the sun immediately after its haircut to lessen the possibility of sunburn. This is a perfect time to sell them the grooming tools and products (including pet–formulated sunscreen) that they should use on their pet. Take time to show the owners how to care for their pet’s grooming needs at home. Give them a quick demonstration of the correct brushing and combing techniques that they should follow. And before they leave, set up their next appointment. Explain the importance of professional grooming, how it benefits their pet and why they should get it on a recurring schedule.
No matter what we do, groomers will probably always have those clients who get their pet groomed ‘once a year —whether they need it or not’. But, the ones you are able to educate can become wonderful, loyal clients with happy, well–groomed pets. And, that makes for a happy groomer, too!