By Ellen Ehrlich
I love grooming puppies, but they can present a real challenge for a pet stylist. Since grooming is a new experience for a puppy, it can be hair-raising. Puppies want to play and investigate. Everything is fun and games. They would like to jitterbug on your table and nip at your sharp shears or nuzzle your clippers while you’re working.
It’s up to the pet stylist to get that bundle of energy to cooperate for combing, brushing, nail clipping, ear cleaning, bathing, drying, and trimming. I often wish I had a magic wand to wave over the fuzzy friend on my table.
“If you, my precious puppy, would sit like a statue you could make this groomer very, very happy. We could get the job done lickety-split and you would be back in your Mommy’s arms before you know it; safe, sound, happy, smelling like roses, and looking like an angel!”
Pet groomers dig deep into their bag of tricks when they see a puppy in their appointment books.
Starting out on the right paw is key for a puppy. It’s always a good idea to factor in additional time for the first grooming appointment as plenty of cuddles, kisses, and breaks are in order. Consider booking the puppy for the last appointment of the day. Carol Backa states, “When I am not feeling rushed I enjoy grooming puppies. This gives me the opportunity to gain their trust while introducing new things.”
Felicia Moran says, “Puppies and kittens take their cues from us. It is important to stay calm, use a calming voice, and praise to shape the behavior that you want. Stick with a routine so the pet learns quickly what to expect. Rewarding with favorite treats in tiny amounts can help associate the process with a positive experience.”
Every groomer has his or her own strategies when grooming a puppy.
Andrea Marie Piquet always bathes puppies by placing the water nozzle directly on the skin, thus reducing the sound of running water. If the puppy still objects, keep a pitcher of warm water within reach for wetting and rinsing the pet.
“It’s a good idea to give the puppy an opportunity to become accustomed to grooming tools,” shares Elizabeth Oram.
Let the puppy sniff the trimmer or clipper while they’re on. Run them over the pads and around the body so the puppy gets used to the vibration. Put the dryer on low and let it in run in the background so the puppy gets used to noises and sounds during grooming.
Trimming around the eyes can be a challenge. Dana Lamonica gently taps or rubs the nose. Groomers have been known to blow air, whistle, sing, and even dance as they groom a puppy. Every situation calls for creative measures. Make it fun! If the pup is excited or nervous, it might be best to wait until the end of the grooming session for certain tasks when the puppy is tired. A sleepy puppy may be more cooperative. Always take your cues from the pet on your table.
Is the puppy a fan of nail trims? If not, try it when Miss Fuzzy Face is in the tub. Puppies can be dried in your lap, wrapped in a towel, and cuddled in your arms. Dry the head without a nozzle, placing the hose under your arm gently massaging the face. These techniques can create enough distraction to complete the task.
Many pet stylists divide puppy’s first groom into two appointments to help them acclimate to the grooming process.
Sandy Hanrahan has had 25 years of pet grooming experience under her belt and has groomed many puppies. She explains to the owner the first groom has to be a positive experience and may not result in the best haircut/groom. The focus is on a great bath and a happy puppy.
It’s a love fest for Michelle Robinson. She plays with her puppies and blows kisses. Michelle shares, “The last thing they remember is the treat I gave them as we step out of the van. They next time I visit they will know who I am. They know we are going to have fun.”
Bring Mom and Dad on board to help foster positive grooming. This is the time to create a teamwork customer, especially if this is their first pet that needs professional grooming. Make sure they have a grooming routine, the proper tools, and understand how to use them. Encourage handling from nose to tail, as this can translate into a pet that is more cooperative when they visit the grooming salon or the mobile stylist comes calling.
Let the pet parents know grooming is not just about looking good. It is about keeping their furry friend healthy. It can even help save on veterinary bills for Mom and Dad. Grooming gives them the opportunity to check their pet for abnormalities so they can be treated right away before they become more serious.
Looking good and feeling good inspires happiness for both owner and pet. Nothing is more satisfying for a pet stylist or pet parent than to see their baby prancing around, feeling like a king/queen, tail wagging, glad to visit their pet stylist. My goal is a happy furry four-legged camper on my table. May it be the beginning of a grooming relationship that lasts a lifetime! ✂