Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Groomer Answers! Part 1

I got a pretty nice response - both in comments here and in the Etsy forums. Lets see what I can come up with!

taleri wanted to know - How do they get all that extra fur out of my dogs double coat?

Groomers have a couple of methods! Primary is a number of different brushes - rakes, slickers, combs, shedding blades - whatever is right for the coat. A recent development is the Furminator - what groomers refer to as the "#40 blade with a handle". Its a super-fine tooth comb that grabs undercoat - and can pull out tons and tons. They are available for purchase for dog owners, they're not cheap but they are worth it. There are also "furminator" treatments that some grooming shops offer, including a furminator brushout with furminator brand shampoo and conditioner. Another trick we have - velocity dryers. Power dryers have so much force to them that they blow water right off the coat, and they will blow clouds of dead coat out. The bathing area in a shop can be downright scary if a golden retriever has just come through ;)

taleri also asked - Also, why dont all groomers wash the dogs belly? I've had her come back greasy and dirty before on her tummy when her top half was shiny clean.

There can be several reasons! First of all, your Etsy avatar is a Corgi (I assume that's the dog in question) - they have really short legs and it is physically hard for the bather to clean the belly area. The bather has to bend down really low to get to it (it gets really painful after a few minutes, major back pain). I'm sure they do their best. My suggestion is to mention it next time you bring your pup in and hopefully they'll pay extra attention.

There can be other reasons though. Elderly dogs often have trouble standing up in the tub, which makes it difficult to clean and dry the stomach and rear thoroughly. We try to keep the dog as comfortable and pain-free as possible and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Its MUCH more difficult for the dog and the groomer if the pet is older and overweight (holding up an older/injured/fat dog in a tub gets difficult quickly). Also - some dogs realy flip out when some body parts are touched. Some dogs flip out for their face touched (a lot!). Some flip out for belly and "sanitary" areas. If a dog is not regularly brushed at home, chances are they will really stress out when it is done at the grooming shop. You can think of it like dealing with someone else's child who is totally unreasonable about something - in that case you do your best and get it over with.

Don't get me wrong, most grooming shops strive for perfection. But since you can't reason with a dog, sometimes you have to live with the best that you can do without doing harm.

babylyons wanted to know - How often do you get bit? what do you do if you get bit?

Honestly, not very often! In my three years grooming, a couple of dogs have bitten me and drew blood but usually it was a result of their teeth scraping me. I have been lucky never to have been severely bitten. Its really a horror when a groomer gets bit "seriously" because due to murphy's law they usually get bit on the hand that they use to work. And then they're out of work for days, weeks, or months, depending on how severe it is. Most groomers don't get benefits and only work on commission, so no work = no money. Getting a bad dog bite is really a horror.

But what I do when i get minor bites is clench my teeth, curse, and keep working. The anger wears off and so does the swelling. Sometimes its my own fault for trusting a questionable dog a little too much. Sometimes i wasn't doing anything wrong and the dog decided to be an asshat and bites when I'm not expecting it. Also i can often go for months without being bitten, and then i'll get three bites in one day to mar that good record.

Diana wanted to know - How do you handle it if a male dog gets all hump crazy?

Standing up. Usually the only way to avoid getting humped is to stand up while grooming a crazy male. That way your free arm is harder for them to reach and latch on to. Also standing over them gives some illusion of your dominance. These are dogs i usually want to groom as quickly as possible because they just get worse as more humpy as the groom goes on. Buggers don't get tired. And to answer your next question - yes, I've had some dogs get so turned on that they hump the air and "finish".

(btw that's Marco bugging my boss's dog when he was an 8 week old puppy)

Diana also asked - Are there any dogs that you just can't make smell good?

Absolutely! Some dogs have skin issues that reguar shampoo just doesn't take care of. Some dogs have impacted anal glands and their butt smells horrible, no shampoo or perfume will cover the smell. We don't take care of (ie. empty) anal glands at our shop, because it is only legal for it to be performed at the vet's office, as far as I know. Another thing, dogs with infected gums and teeth often have "corpse breath" whenever they breathe through their mouth. Perfume and shampoo doesn't help that either, only a dental cleaning and extractions and antibiotics can. Finally, some older dogs tend to have a very strong odor that just won't wash out.

Diana - Aren't Bostons just the best dogs in the world? :) :) :)

They're definitely up there :)

missfire wants to know - Do you do cats? How on earth do you hold them still? Do groomers actually bathe cats? Like, with water?

I have never groomed a cat and I don't intend to. I'm scared, I admit it. I don't trust cats other than my own. But many brave groomers do do it! Most cats, especially when they're pissed off because they're been taken out of the house and have to be 'humiliated' with a shavedown, sit still and don't move through the whole groom. Some cats require backup because they're crazy timebombs. Mostly the females are crazy, I noticed. Some cats need tranquilizers to be groomed normally. Usually the groomer will let you know which of these categories your cat fits into. Very few cats are okay with the grooming process. Either they tolerate it with an angry face or they make it worth their while and practice their biting aim ;)

On bathing and water - depends. We do both, some cats are washed. Some are shaved quickly and sent off some (usually the aggressive ones). Some get a dry bath with a waterless shampoo like Stazko. The shampoo will lather, then you wipe if up with a towel and the cat is only a little damp and the rest dries quickly. What the groomer does depends on what the owner wants, and the cat's behavior.

dragoninknots asks - Do you have any grooming disaster stories to share?

lol I'm pretty good actually. Usually minor mistakes are made and can be covered up. I can dig up some pretty fun stories though... Although the biggest disaster that I've had was probably the first time I cut a dog. I was a brand new groomer, maybe two months grooming. Maybe three. And I got this matted wreck yorkie - he was matted from head to toe. The dog was tiny and a nonstop mover that fought everything I tried to do. He had paper-thin skin and it got caught in the clipper as I was taking off a mat on his chest - gave him a cut that was half an inch long. The thing about dog skin - skin is very tight on the dog and when there's a cut it gets wider and wider every time the dog moves. Awww man I was panicked - the dog needed stitches. Luckily we were working downstairs to a vet's office and the guy was in so he stitched the dog up in two seconds and didn't charge me for it. Then came the really scary part - calling the owner. Haha I couldn't do it! Another groomer offered to do it for me, and explained that the dog was severely matted and got nicked, the vet saw him and felt it would be best to give him two sutures, and he's doing just fine. Man, not only that but I was scared for my job too, afterall i had just started grooming so I was paranoid, what if the boss thinks its horrible and fires me or something. Well my boss was a vet tech for 30 years and had seen it all so she took it like it was nothing out of the ordinary. Happens. Happy ending, the dog survived his two little sutures.

To answer follow-ups, yes I've cut plenty of dogs since (two have had 2-3 sutures). Sometimes it just happens, skin gets caught. Especially when the dog is super matted and unsocialized and fighting you. And we work with very sharp objects. Unfortunately I work in a lower class neighborhood where it is common for dogs to be groomed once or twice a year, so by the time they see us they're in horrible condition and they arent used to being touched by groomers and don't cooperate. Two of my dogs had sutures including that yorkie. It happens to all of us. Some joke that you're not a real groomer until you've cut a dog. Usually the groomer freaks out a lot more than the dog! I always make sure to tell the owner if i nick the skin, and make sure that they know that the dog will be just fine!

meluna asks - Why is it that sometimes my dog's tail is clipped back and sometimes it's left long?? Is it laziness on the groomers part? Or some artist reason? Maybe some days they think my dog looks dashing with a long haired tail and short haired body??

Chances are you've had the dog groomed by different people (maybe different groomers at the same shop). Did you mention how you wanted the tail groomed? If not they probably used their judgment. And different people have different judgment! Most groomers will leave the tail long because most owners are very attached to the plumes on the dog's tail, so they assume that the owner likes it long. So more often its trimmed but not cut short. However, when a longhaired dog is shaved down sometimes a long tail looks funny and out of place, so the groomer will shave it down to match the body. Next time, just tell your groomer how you like the tail done so that there are no surprises in the end :)

oh man, this got long! I think I'm gonna call this "part 1" and finish the other questions in a second helping. If you've got more questions, ask away, I promise I'll get to them all eventually.


ElegantSnobbery said...

Wow, that was really interesting. I have a dog who is too much of a running-through-rivers and walking-through-the-woods kind of dog who never needs to be groomed professionally, but it is interesting to see the behind the scenes!

That makes me sad that people would groom cats, though. Cats have independent spirits and shouldn't have to sit through a shaving!! Poor things!

Gracie Bird said...

Very interesting! Love all the fur-baby pix.

rachel said...

thanks for the comment on my blog.. that was actually very informative! hehe. you definitely know your stuff... I don't have a dog yet but I reallllly want one and I'll let you know if I have any canine questions in the future :)

Tatyana said...

Glad you guys like it! :)

elegantsnobbery - I don't believe in shaving down cats either, personally. Unfortunately some cats get severely matted and NEED it or else their skin gets really messed up and can eventually tear. It would be solved if people just brushed their longhaired cats... but we can only educate them so much.

rachel - if you ever have any questions, I'm here. I love talking dogs :) Hell, i can even give you advice as to where to look for a dog, when you're ready for one. Namely steer clear of the pet store and "backyard breeder".

fluffnflowers said...

I cut my brother's powderpuff Chinese Crested once when she was super matted and ended up just stripping her down with a surgical blade so she looked like a hairless. I opted for superglue rather than sutures, though! ;)

Diana said...

What a great read!!! And illustrated, too! I love this article. Very informative and uncensored! You should promote the heck outta this post; it's worth it! Looking forward to part 2!!!

tattytiara said...

That shedding rake looks divine! My big baby's a 100lb Husky.

Anonymous said...

Great item to write about! Comical AND informative. Looking forward to part 2

Anonymous said...

My Siberian Husky is very much greatful for the velocity dryers!! Very well written and informative post!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting posts for us dog lovers. Thanks for sharing.