By Melissa Viera
The longer you work as a groomer, the more interesting the requests seem to get. Groomers who have been at it for years have the best stories about odd and unique requests, involving everything from bizarre grooming styles to unexpected species.
When prospective customers come along looking for something that you don’t typically do, it is up to you to decide if you should turn them away, refer them to another professional, or take on the challenge. Your job and services should be clearly defined right from the beginning. As a professional, it is important to know who your ideal customers are before they walk through your door. It is not your job to please everyone, and trying to do so will almost always result in disappointment. Know your customers, and be honest about your capabilities and specialties before deciding to take on the unusual and rare requests.
If you are strictly a dog groomer, when someone calls hoping to make an appointment for their cat or another type of pet, you already know what to do. You ideally will have a list of other groomers that would appreciate the referral to give to the caller. If, on the other hand, you are a pet groomer that does not just groom dogs, then you should be prepared for the possibility of getting requests for other types of pets as well. If you decide to take on cats, it is because you are trained in handling and grooming them safely, but what about other pets such as rabbits? Should you turn them away or take them on, too?
There are different types of coats that rabbits can have. For example, there are normal coat types, and there are wool, rex, and satin coats. While it is especially important that longer coated breeds are brushed daily to prevent matting and to keep their coat clean, all rabbits should be brushed and groomed regularly.
Regular grooming removes loose coat which can contribute to hairballs and blockages if the rabbit ingests too much while self-grooming. Basic grooming for rabbits also involves trimming of the nails, ear cleaning as needed, checking the teeth, and making the coat look shiny and clean.
Rabbits should not be washed the way dogs are as this can cause unnecessary stress, and is not needed for keeping their coats in condition. In some cases, a rabbit may need to be spot cleaned or table bathed with a damp towel. Dry baths are another option, but typically they only need the basics.
Rabbits that are groomed regularly can learn to be very relaxed for grooming and even enjoy it. If a customer approaches you about grooming their rabbit, chances are the main thing you will be doing is trimming the rabbit’s nails and doing some gentle brushing and combing of the coat. Before agreeing to take on rabbit clients, there are a few things you should consider:
• Are you comfortable with and experienced in handling rabbits? With such strong back legs, a kicking rabbit can easily injure itself or get free. They should not be tied up in any way during grooming. Instead, you will have to know how to hold them and pose them, and help them be in the most relaxed positions.
• If you are comfortable with all of this, the next thing to consider is how well you know rabbit body language, behavior, and general traits. Will you know if the animal is too stressed to continue grooming?
• Keeping rabbits far away from other animals in the salon is very important. If you have a quiet area for private grooming, or you groom by individual appointment or are mobile, this won’t be an issue.
Should you decide to groom rabbits, you will need to know what to ask the potential customer before they come in. Is the rabbit used to traveling, being held, and being handled? A show rabbit or a house rabbit that lives as part of the family is going to be very different than a rabbit that is not used to as much handling and human interaction.
With all of the restrictions, you might wonder if grooming rabbits is worth your time. Just like any other animal, if you have customers that come regularly and you charge accordingly for your time then rabbits could make great customers that don’t take a whole lot of time, especially since they do not require a bath.
Depending on the individual animal, you may decide to do the grooming with the rabbit in your lap or on a table, or by using a combination of both techniques. Ask the pet owner to bring hay and some healthy treats for their rabbit to chew on while you are grooming. With the rabbit in a comfortable position (it’s easier with two, but can certainly be done solo), start by trimming the nails without going too short. Next, check the rabbit over to make sure there are no obvious issues that you should point out to the owner like lumps, fleas, sore hocks, etc. Check the rabbit’s teeth to make sure they are not overgrown as rabbit’s teeth grow throughout their lives. If they are, you should advise the owner to bring their pet to their vet.
Use a fine tooth comb, a small and very soft slicker brush, or a rubber grooming glove to work through the coat removing any debris and allowing the loose coat to come out. Look in the ears to make sure they are clean and if you must clean them, know which solutions are safe.
The only coat product you should need is water. As a finishing touch, wet your hands and work them through the coat, finishing by running your damp hands over the coat until it is dry and any dust or hair has been wiped away. This works wonders for rabbits and you should notice that the coat looks bright and clean when you are done.
An Angora rabbit will need more thorough grooming using some different techniques due to their longer coats. Knowing the breeds and coat types is important so you know which techniques are used to get the coat looking its best. You should also be prepared to give the clients homework. If there is matting, show them how to brush their rabbit at home. If the rabbit is nervous or difficult to groom, give them simple exercises they can do at home to help their rabbit be more comfortable with grooming.
Whether you decide to say yes or no to grooming rabbits or any animal, the most important thing is to be honest in your decision knowing if it is right for you or not. It is easy to say yes without thinking things through, especially when you are first starting out, but being prepared and knowing what you are comfortable with is a much better option than taking on a client that is not a good fit. Whenever you decide not to take on clients for any reason, it will not only be helpful for them, but will help you maintain a professional reputation if you are prepared with some recommendations for them like a vet who specializes in exotics, a local rabbit breeder, or another professional who will appreciate you sending clients their way.
Rabbits are unique animals with grooming needs to help them maintain good health and clean coats. Helping rabbit owners take care of their rabbits can be very rewarding if it is something that you enjoy, and feel confident doing. ✂