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  • Frustrated

    So I will start by saying I am very new to grooming... I had a dog today who I have groomed once before. She came to me because their groomer retired. The last time I groomed her was a bit of a nightmare because she would not sit still or settle. At the very end of the groom while I was tidying up her face with my thinning shears so jerked and I nicked her with them. She didn't notice and I didn't either until I saw the blood. It was my first time cutting a dog and I of course bawled and it was awful. The dog was absolutely fine and so were the owners so that was that. So I have been dreading grooming her again and it had been about 10 weeks since I had seen her so she comes in today an absolute mess. Her owners say they brush her and her back is ok but everywhere else is matted. Now because I am new and I have lots of time on my hands I usually do try to de matt a bit as long as the dog is comfortable. But between the squirming dog and the pelted legs I called them to say I had to shave down the legs and then suggested I shorten the back coat to make it blend better into the short legs and they reluctantly say ok. So my first problem is I can't get a good job done on the legs at all. I mean the dog is being a jerk and I am trying to do a nice job on these matted legs with a 10 blade. (First question, is it easy or possible to get a nice finish on legs like this?) So I am unhappy with the legs and the chest is badly matted so I am trying to get the dogs chest brushed out so I don't have to bald it and all the while the dog, while on the groomer's helper, is having a fit. I just felt like giving up. I called the owners and they said they would come over to help....bad idea. She acted even worse. So I get the dog 'finished' and then the owner says to me 'I don't want to be rude but her old groomer said she was one of her best dogs to groom'. Slap in the face there. They said the dog will put it on to get her own way and I needed to be more stern but when a dog is shaking and looking that stressed I can't help but worry. I mean I can't ignore signs of distress to just assume a dog is 'putting it on'. I just felt so unprofessional and inexperienced. Mind you this other groomer had about 20 years on me so in that sense yes I am inexperienced. (Second question, how long before you felt comfortable and confident? Keep in mind I work alone and did a home study course). I really love grooming and I think I have a talent for it but I am in definite need of more practice I know. Ok so I am rambling now but I was sort of hoping after her comment that I could suggest they try someone else because I really do not enjoy grooming this dog and then she turns around and says well we really need to brush her more and get her on a better schedule...she used to go every 6 weeks. So maybe this was part of the reason the other groomer had an easier time. So she says to me book her in for 6 weeks time.....so my hope is that if she is in better condition the groom will go easier and she will get used to me. I have yet to learn to be 'stern'. I don't yell or raise my voice and I am not rough at all but I understand that I need to have a certain handle over the situation and I think that maybe the dogs are sensing this and taking advantage of me.I watch my Jodi Murphy videos and I figure she must have sedated the dogs before hand because I get dogs like that few and far between lol. Sorry this is so long I guess I just needed to vent and to get some words of wisdom. I have no mentor and the one shop owner in this town who was willing to accept my help 'let me go' because I was too easy on the dogs ie I wouldn't flip them on their back on the table and stare them down so this groomer and I were not compatible. I know this is not the way to deal with dogs and I have had lots of success with patience and positive reinforcement but what about the firecrackers like I had today......And any advice on finding my inner dog grooming master of the situation lol.

    PS-the closest thing I have to a mentor is you guys and this message board and I very much appreciate it.

  • #2
    I find that I need to have a decent balance between sweet and cooing at the dogs and being firm and in charge. When you are first starting the dogs can sense your lack of confidence - so do seem to act up more. If they were good at another groomer it may be that they learned that struggling didn't work and just got into the routine of being groomed. You don't need to be "mean", just don't be a wimp and let the dog tell you what to do. If the dog is pulling back on its foot for nails or pads, just hold the foot without doing anything. Once the dog relaxes, say good dog and put the foot down. You may have to hold on for awhile. It seems they have to go through a super tantrum before they believe you mean it. You can get your work done effectively without having to hit the dog or roll them, but a bit of firmness helps a lot. Think about the kid in the grocery store throwing a fit because he wants a candy bar - mom gives in - next time he tries again, mom says no - kid yells louder - if mom gives in she is just reinforcing the bad behavior, if she sticks it out maybe next time he won't try as hard, and eventually he understands that the tantrums don't work with mom. Now if he goes to the store with dad, he may try the tantrum routine again just to see if it works with him.... Dogs are similar in that way - so they just need to figure out that you mean business as well. Praise and affection are great when the dog is behaving as it should. And either a mild correction word, or ignoring bad behavior will help stop the unwanted behavior as well.

    Good Luck - it is hard building up confidence in the world of grooming, but one day you will make grooming look easy too.

    Tammie

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    • #3
      I had the same experience the other day. And didn't finish the groom.

      But I do have one tip:

      When a dog that is in a groomer's helper and can't get to you to actually bite you, you still jerk away because of the shriek, shrill, bark, whatever.. that startles you when they do that. They seem to know that this works and will gain confidence because you pulled away. They still get what they want. So I put on a pair of ear protectors that I use at the gun range (I'm sure I looked like the nerdiest groomer in town at that point lol). But this worked great because I wasn't startled and therefore I didn't jerk away and it allowed me to give less reaction to his threats and remain a lot calmer.

      Unfortunately, on this dog, there were other problems as well so I couldn't finish the groom but I definitely saw his demeanor change a bit when I didn't react to his snapping.

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      • #4
        I know you mean well, however (there's always a however after a "I know you mean well", isn't there? ) Sometimes...when you take the "patient, slooowww, let the dog dictate the groom approach"...until you become unglued, you are not doing anyone, especially the dog, any favors. In fact, based on what I just read...I would have to say the dog prolly thought you were a bit of a nagger.
        You've got to make up your mind to be a little sterner. Pretend that if you don't get a leg shaved in 10 minutes....the whole world is going to blow up. Put some time limits on yourself. All of this, is of course where having a mentor or doing an apprenticeship would have helped, but I understand that didn't work out.
        There is a happy medium between how you are currently handling the dogs and the person who's methods you found objectionable. (That's ok....I have never done that stuff either to gain a handle on a dog...that's outdated in most instances IMO)

        It's important to realize that you can not make every dog love grooming...or even behave like an angel for it, so you are going to have to explore different angles to get the job done in a timely and non-nagging way for the benefit of the dog and the sanity of yourself.

        Keep trying to find someone to mentor you. See if there are any show dog people in your area that perhaps could use your help one or two days a month in exchange for some handling skills and tips. Good luck!
        Often it's not what you say, but how you say it.

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        • #5
          Thanks for the replies, 4sibes can you explain to me what you mean by nagger? I am not sure I get what you mean. I have found that a stern sounding 'stop' works well for me alot of the time and I think you guys are right when you say the dogs can sense the inexperience and lack of confidence. I mean I am doing some things on clients' dogs for the first time I have ever done them....and I own my own shop. My situation is not ideal by any means but I took an opportunity that was presented to me and I am smart with not working beyond my skill. I tell clients that I am new to grooming and I usually charge less for the first groom to let them decide if they are happy with my work. I also do add on services for free for the first time such as de-shedding treatments so that I can gain experience with different things. I also read and read some more so that I am knowledgeable on everything but none of that replaces hands on experience. I know in time that I will become more confident and I can't expect to be perfect at this immediately but days like today can be very trying. Did most of you feel this way when you started? Do you have any advice for handling unruly dogs? Do you think giving them a break is a good thing or is it sometimes better to just get it done?

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          • #6
            I have been grooming 17yrs, I sent a dog home today without her face finished. I last saw her in august she is a Lhasa mix. So of course she was a matted mess. I don't offer these 'CLIENTS" The option f dematting ANYTHING. She was worse for her head than she was last time. I had the owner come and see how bad she was.
            We ended up settling for an unfinished head, (I knew going into it sh wasn't going to be better with mom there). I tried patience, and being her friend, I also tried a few stern "NO's"
            Relax, and don't take **** from the owners or the dogs. Do what you can without making it traumatic, or stressfull. Beyond that let them go it is not your fault they waited too long, my other suggestion is don't offer or try to dematt legs or anything I cut short if anything is too matted. If they don't like it too bad come in sooner. The next or other groomer might do it once thinking they are getting a client, but they wont put up withit long either.
            If you sweat the small stuff, all you have is small soggy stuff.....

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            • #7
              Yes, I all think we felt lke this to some degree when we were new to grooming. Difficult, unruly dogs are trying but you do learn to ignore the behaviours and still work on shaving the leg even with the dog fliping and flopping, snipping and snapping. The key is to stay calm and relaxed, they will feed off of your nervousness otherwise. Just make sure you allow plenty of time to do each dog so you dont feel rushed and always work in a set routine, the same for each dog, so that you always have an end in sight rather than zig zagging around the dog and feeling like you arent getting anywhere.

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              • #8
                We all have trying days regardless of our experience level!

                I agree with what 4 Sibes told you about finding a middle ground. You not being mean to the dogs, but you have to get the job done. Dogs that can be a bit of a pain, are probably the same way at home because they've not been shown any boundaries and unfortunately, that makes our job a little tougher. Dogs like this are NOT candidates for dematting, IMO, and will always get a smoothy if they come in bad shape. It's not fair to the dog or the groomer to have to endure hours of grooming and can really make the dog's behavior worse, as well as, our own.

                There are always going to be dogs that are a bit of a challenge and with time you will find your "method" of dealing with them. If you find yourself become a bit stressed, put the dog up and take a "breather" and find your center, then return to the job.

                I believe (someone correct me if I'm wrong), but Jody Murphy's DVD's cover some of these problems (matted dogs, etc). I only have the two free ones, but would love to have her collection.

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                • #9
                  perhaps the dog did not like the GH. if she was not a biter don't out her in it, just use a noose. #10 on the legs....wow....next time bathe her first and try a 7f on the legs, what breed was she?

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                  • #10
                    I feel for you! I'm new also and have a natural lack of confidence in general. I have gotten some of these types of dogs and sent them home. I tell the owner that I am not experienced enough. Here's an analogy - putting someone who wants to learn how to ride on a horse that has never been ridden. The rider needs to learn from an experienced horse and the horse needs to learn from an experienced rider.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PamperedPup View Post
                      Now because I am new and I have lots of time on my hands I usually do try to de matt a bit as long as the dog is comfortable.
                      Ok, this is where my "read" on your approach sounds as if it could border on "nagging".
                      Don't panic! It's very common for anyone just starting out. You want to do your best, and I understand that completely.
                      I think what you will come to see after grooming alot (like maybe 100?) more dogs, is that grooming is not really a "negotiation" with the dog over getting every single body part done.
                      Sure...you can negotiate a few things, but the minute the whole process turns into negotiation after negotiation....that's nagging. Squirrely dogs get squirrelier, nasty dogs get nastier, freaky dogs get freakier.
                      This will resolve itself with time and experience, but the awareness of it now can be helpful.

                      If I had done this dog, just as you, and this was the second time it came to see me, and it presented in that condition, with a personality I already have established...I would have told the owners right up front..."All I can humanely accomplish today...is to take her short and perhaps get her on a better schedule in the future". No negotiating with anyone.
                      I'm not saying every dog that comes in with tangled legs gets this response...but this one would. And that's all a result of experience....something that will come with time for you.
                      Often it's not what you say, but how you say it.

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                      • #12
                        Keep in mind also that although it's bizarre IMO, the other groomer may have been lying to the owner. WHY groomers do that I'll never know, but some do. Or maybe she just simply never told the owner how difficult her dog was so the owner assumed the dog was fine for her.

                        Also - the condition of the coat can change the dogs attitude like a clock. I have a Schnauzer that is an absolute angel on my table if the owner stays on a 6-8 week schedule. But sometimes she slacks and lets him go longer and by the time he comes to me I have minimal dematting to do on his legs. TOTALLY different dog.... snapping and growling and acting like a dingleberry even though I know I'm not hurting him because his matts have never been very bad.

                        Try not to stress over it to much. (I know... easier said then done) I think it goes back to that "You're the professional, you should be able to handle it" attitude that some owners have. In the end, it makes US feel defeated when we simply cannot finish a job on an unruly dog. After 11 years of grooming I still get that feeling once in awhile, but I'm getting better

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                        • #13
                          I have only been grooming about 1 & 1/2 years and I rememeber those days when a dog would have me almost in tears because of bad behavior and struggling to finish a groom. If a dog showed me his teeth, it would send me into a panic. I learned from watching a zillion Dog Whisperer shows how not to react to bad behavior. Cesar never gets upset, angry or panics when a dog is behave badly. He is calm, assertive. I also learned from him, some dogs are biters, and some are just talking with their teeth. (Being the mom of a terrier has also helped alot,,lol). Lots of times, a firm NO will end the "I have teeth and am trying to scare you". They can't talk, so they either use ther teeth or body to let you know they aren't happy. Some dogs, the more you try to restrain them, the more they fight. You need to find a way to convey to the dogs that you mean them no harm, and you are the pack leader. If you are getting too upset, put the dog up, give yourself and the dog a min to calm down. I did a dog a few weeks ago, the owner was hispanic and he kept asking me if it was ok if I groomed his dog, over and over again,, I thought it was a language barrier thing. When he came to pick up his dog, he stuck a good tip in my hand, even before he saw the dog. The dog was a terrier mix and did show her teeth once, but I just told her no, and groomed her with no problems. Found out later that day from the front desk that the dog was difficult to groom and tried to bite the other groomers. Who knew,,,lol. Guess she realized I wasn't gonna fall for her scarey act. I have NEVER flipped a dog on its back, stared it down or been mean to a dog. They are just little creatures with and IQ of 3 and mines a bit higher that theirs, not much, but a bit,,,Lmao> Remembering that helps me be calm and willing to help them work thru their issues.
                          Secondly, learn about wet shaving matted dogs, what used to take me several hours now takes about 30 mins and is not painfull for the dog. Stop trying to dematt a dog just because the owner dosen't want it clipped short. They want their dog to have long hair, they have to do their part. Groomers don't have a magic wand that you can wave and make all that mess go away. Inspect every dog at check in, YOU tell them what you can do with the condition of the coat, don't let them tell you what they want. I hear that a 100 times a day, don't cut it too short, it's not that matted. Had one guy, said that to me, was a little poodle, matted to the skin, I did a wet shave, saved the pelt to show him. Once he saw what I shaved off, he apologiesed.
                          Sorry, I have gone on and on,, but I know how you feel and it took me a while to grow a backbone myself,, Good luck, tomorrow is another day and another chance to improve yorself.
                          Last edited by RudyRoo; 01-06-10, 11:16 AM.

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                          • #14
                            That dog is playing you

                            BUT - even though the dog is simply playing you, I feel that you should send that dog elsewhere, maybe a vet groomer. This dog is too much for you.

                            You say "I just felt so unprofessional and inexperienced. Mind you this other groomer had about 20 years on me so in that sense yes I am inexperienced."

                            You ARE inexperienced, not just LESS experienced! You are a total beginner. There is NO SHAME in that, so when you get a dog that is too much for you, just pass on it. You will be happier and the dog will be safer. It will likely take you a year or more to touch a dog in a manner where it can FEEL that you know what you are doing instead of being uncertain and tentative.

                            It was not a slap in the face to have the owner say that the other groomer said the dog was well-behaved. She was not trying to insult you. While you may have felt embarrassed or not as competent as you wish you were, it is merely a reflection of the stage you are at. Such a thing can even happen 10 years or more down the road when a dog likes ONE groomer and no one else!! I'm not sure if you expected that you could start off by doing every dog that came, but grooming is just not like that, especially when you are new, on your own, and with little hands-on experience (yet).

                            Don't feel bad. It happens. Send the dog elsewhere and do easier dogs. (By the way, when a dog comes in with brushed body and matted legs, it usually means that the dog does not let the owner brush its legs!)

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                            • #15
                              I feel there's a big difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Being assertive isn't mean or cruel, and more often than not it's safer for the dog. A simple NO in a firm voice and a steady hand isn't mean at all. This dog didn't come across as wanting to bite you, so what exactly was there to worry about?

                              Second if you know this dog was a fuss to groom, why did you put yourself in the position to try and brush out the mats? You have to be assertive with the owners, too, and say upfront "I have to shave all this out. There's no way I can brush this without hurting the dog." It's probably best to treat each dog, no matter how slow the day is, like you're in a productive shop. What will happen when you do start to pick up more business and you no longer have time to spend extra hours on this dog?

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