Choosing to take on the big dogs is not a decision for the faint of heart. But the reward you get from grooming the big dogs is bigger than the dog itself.
Too often I hear groomers say, “I do not groom big dogs,” “Big dogs take too much time,” or “I can earn more money grooming small dogs.” I am shocked when I hear these statements because big dogs have made up the majority of my business since I opened my salon doors. I groom every breed and every temperament; from killer Kujo the Chihuahua to the gentle Great Pyrenees, I take them all. I have found taking the bigger dogs to be mentally and emotionally stimulating and fulfilling. There is also a great need for grooming these big dogs.
There are valid reasons for turning away a dog, but I do not consider size to be one of them. With the right tools, equipment and setup, any size dog can become a regular, gratifying customer. But how can we achieve a successful environment for the big ones?
When I initially set up my grooming salon, I built it around the largest dog that I groomed at the time—a massive Mastiff that weighed over 200 pounds. I specifically bought equipment sized for large dogs. My tub can hold the weight of a miniature horse and is large enough for a fully-grown Mastiff to turn around completely. The table I bought is called “Big Dog” and it has held over 400 pounds.
Preventing back, neck and leg problems for yourself is one key to grooming big dogs. Always have a ramp or stairs for dogs to enter the tub. Take the time to train each dog to use those devices to keep both you and the dogs safe. This will prevent back problems from having to lift dogs and will ensure both of your safety.
Having a hydraulic or electric table is a must. Making sure that the table goes as low as possible will help your big dogs get on the table easily, and will save you the hassle of hoisting those large dogs onto the table. As dogs age, be prepared to help your large dogs get onto the table by lifting their hind end after their front paws are on the table. You can also use the same ramp or stair system you use for the tub to get your dogs onto the table.
Making sure you have a powerful dryer or three is an excellent addition to your big dog plans. When you are working on large hairy dogs, your dryer can easily become overheated. Having a second dryer available is an easy way to continue drying without having to wait for your dryer to cool.
Speaking of cooling down, allow your big dogs to take a needed break. Imagine being required to stand for several hours without resting. You would be tired too! I always give my big dogs at least one break during grooming. Allow them to lounge on a nice clean towel or bed for fifteen minutes to get their strength back. This also allows me to stretch and prepare myself for the next stage of grooming.
Using the proper tools to groom big dogs also helps you to succeed. Make sure your nail clippers can clip the largest of dogs’ nails. I find the extra-large nail clippers too bulky and can usually get by with medium-sized nail clippers. Having a large pin brush is vital when working with long-haired, large dogs such as Newfoundlands. While drying your big dogs, use the pin brush in the direction you want the hair to fall. This decreases drying time and allows the hair to lay flat without completely flattening the coat like a slicker brush would. A long-toothed rake is also an essential grooming tool. Using a rake with a handle instead of a comb can reduce the stress that brushing puts on your wrists and hands.
Grooming big dogs is much different than their smaller counterparts, but this shouldn’t frighten us. Bigger dogs tend to be more mellow and laid back. They are generally better behaved because their owners know that when their pups grow up, they cannot simply pick them up to stop that bad behavior. Many owners put additional time and money into training their big dogs, making our grooming work easier. Having confidence and showing no fear to any pet is vital, especially with big dogs. By establishing that you do not fear them and you are simply there to help them, you assert yourself as someone who needs to be respected and trusted.
Choosing to take on the big dogs is not a decision for the faint of heart. They require more work, more time and sometimes less money than grooming several little dogs. But the reward you get from grooming the big dogs is bigger than the dog itself. Being a salon that takes on the big dogs allows you to broaden your skills, specialties and clients.
Take a chance on the next client that has a big dog. Find the satisfaction of seeing a big dog completely transform into a clean, happy pet in a matter of hours. You can do it! ✂️