By Melissa Viera
A new puppy owner will experience many exciting firsts with their pup, whether they have owned many dogs before or they are first–time puppy owners. The first vet visit, first outing, first adventure and first puppy class can all be important parts of bonding with the new pup and watching him grow and mature with each new experience.
Grooming is an important step for puppies, and the first grooming should happen sooner than later. Making that first trip to the groomer’s is something that pet owners should be proud of. They are taking the right steps to help their young one get accustomed to the grooming salon—which can be quite overwhelming.
While some puppy owners will have hopes for fancy styles and full grooms, many will understand that grooming their happy pup will be a challenge. Puppies are full of wiggles. Starting with a puppy clean–up instead of a full groom can help with introducing puppies to grooming in a positive way because they will not have to sit through full trimming and clipping.
When the owners return to pick up their freshly cleaned pup, they will be eagerly waiting for a report. Puppy owners will be curious and nervous about how their young pup did.
They will likely ask, “Was she good?”
When they ask, there are no easy answers because, often times, the first clean–up groom on a young pup is not as difficult as one might imagine. A sound puppy, especially one with a breeder that had worked with him or her, will probably sit through most of the grooming. The puppy will likely be nervous, but that does not mean it will try to bite the groomer’s fingers or cry the entire time. The puppy might not be difficult but they might not be ‘good’ on purpose either. A nervous puppy will be still and quiet and they should still go home with homework to prepare for their next groom.
Do you find yourself surprised when a new puppy is perfectly well behaved? Even after seeing this many times, we, as groomers, tend to expect a wiggly disaster groom for a pup’s first time. Groomers are pleasantly surprised when the quiet pup lets us do our job and goes back into their owner’s arms with a happy tail. We are excited to share the news with the pet owner.
“She was so good,” an excited groomer tells a puppy owner.
The experience leaves everyone happy and, in a few weeks, the young pup returns—except she is not so young anymore.
The second groom can be more challenging than the first. The second trip to the groomer’s is less talked about than the first groom, but sometimes even more important. The tiny puppy has grown and has become much more confident. Now the quiet pup is turning into a teenager and she is not as likely to be so still.
During the first visit, the pup was slightly nervous and unsure so she behaved, which was mistaken as an easy pup to groom. Now, during the second groom, the puppy is going to test the groomer more. Expect more of a protest, more moving and certainly more of a challenge when the puppy comes in for the second groom.
A more challenging puppy is not the only difficult part of grooming a puppy for the second time. The owner’s relationship with the puppy and their expectations have changed as well. The puppy owner doesn’t see their pet as being so fragile anymore. They expect the animal to be able to handle more and they are more willing to part with their puppy for a few hours so the puppy can be groomed. The puppy owner agreed to a clean–up the first time around, so they fully expect you to be able to groom the puppy this time.
The second groom comes with challenges and will leave clients disappointed if they don’t know what to expect. Clients will be unhappy if the haircut is not what they expected or if you tell them that their puppy was a challenge after having such a pleasant report during the first groom.
To prevent these problems, give your clients an honest review of their pup’s behavior the first time around and explain what is to be expected the next time. If the puppy was nervous, go ahead and explain this to them. You could also offer a few free “cookie visits” before the second groom.
Grooming is a process that dogs have to practice to perfect. Starting young gives us a great advantage when it comes to training dogs for grooming but we can’t expect perfection by the second groom. Every puppy can go home with some homework to prepare for their second groom and a lifetime of positive grooming experiences.