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Extremely difficult time working on the face: Help needed (long)

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  • Extremely difficult time working on the face: Help needed (long)

    Ok, once again I need some advice or a link to a video or something. I just did a small Shihtzu and she is timid. Everything was going great until the scissors or clippers got near her face/head.

    I have this issue with one of my own dogs as well, and it is driving me nuts. How do you hold a dog and get these parts done when they are so afraid? I used my Groomer's helper and it did no good, I could not cut the stop area or the sides of her nose/under her eys. I am at a loss for what to do when I have these difficulties. All the videos in my course show nice docile dogs standing there getting groomed, and the one that was listed as a difficult dog made me laugh my **s off because in my world that is a well behaved dog! It wiggled but nothing biting, crying shaking head uncontrollably! It just wanted to turn it's head the other way.

    I need to find a way to get this figured out by Sunday, as I asked the owner ( she lives just around the block) if I could have her return on Sunday so I can try again starting fresh, with no stress on the dog as I felt she was way to stressed to continue tonight.

    Is there a certain hold I can try? is there anything I can do that will help her learn that this is an experience that isn't going to hurt her? I don't want to force the issue with a dog already so scared, as it will make future grooming even harder. I would really like to help her get past this, and not to mention ease my stress at sending home a dog not finished.
    I am really at a loss to explain it, but I am very frustrated at my lack of knowledge in dealing with this.

    My own dog gizmo is a puppy mill dog, and he has always had issues with being groomed, his poor face looks awful and it is the same problem, fear of anything near his face. He also has issues with his nails, and they have never been cut to the quick since I have had him, so I am not sure why he has this fear.

    Please advise me on how to handle this or give me some ideas, I feel so awful and incompetent right if anyone has any suggestions please let me know, I'll try just about anything right now that will not hurt the dog, or make it even more terrified the next time it comes for a groom.

    Thanks in advance,
    AKA Gluergirl / Little_Critters on e-groomer

  • #2
    Lisa this is 100% not your fault. This has nothing to do with your grooming abilities. Some dogs just haven't gotten used to having their faces done.. some need a stern voice, some need no words, and some need a soft voice. And some are just impossible, no matter how many different ways you try. You made a great decision sending that dog home unfinished, better to start another day when you only have to do the face, much less stressful for both of you. Next time you do her try doing her face when she first comes in, if that doesn't help try again once she's washed and dried. You may have to do it bits at a time. Get her mom to use something blunt other than fingers around her face a couple times a day, praising when she doesnt struggle and saying nothing when she does. Most importantly when your doing her face stay as calm as possible, as hard as that may be. We can try some different things when I come to visit. I can't stress enough that this is not something for you to blame yourself for!


    • #3
      Man!! I hate when they have this issue!! I'm assuming you're doing the under the chin hold and they are throwing their heads around. When I get dogs with this problem I first try to groom them in an area that's quiet and free from as much distraction as possible. For that stop/eye area I get a pair of thinner and at first just attempt to set them on the bridge (closed not in a cutting motion). Then I just hold on under the chin, remain calm and when they finally stop thrashing loosen the grip a little and praise. I don't let go of the chin when they are throwing a fit. I find if I do that it reinforces the fighting. Then once they get comfortable with the thinners just sitting on the bridge I attempt the actual cutting. The dogs I have with the head issue get a little more of the head done at each visit. I don't expect to get a perfect head off the bat but I have a few now that over time they will now let me as long as its quiet and I remain very calm (I have to curb my frustration...which isn't always the easiest)

      Good luck!


      • #4
        Don't let it get ya down! Here are some of the things that have worked for me.

        Always leave yourself a "handle" on the bottom of the chin...clip this hair last!

        What I usually do with these dogs is ask their owner to massage the tops of their noses. Get them to learn to relax when someone is stroking their nose. Then I rub their nose with my finger, then rub their nose with my tiny rounded scissors and do a little snip snip in between rubs.

        You could also try coming from behind on the side with your scissors. Some dogs are better for clippers than scissors. I use a 30 blade for shihtzu noses. There are also some super quiet clipper made especially for faces.


        • #5
          One of the best tips I ever read on here was one involving electric toothbrushes.

          I ask all my new puppy clients to start this at home, before I see the puppy, and for the ones that really seems to have made a difference.

          Have the owner gently place/hold/run over the cheeks/bridge of nose/top of head w/ an electric toothbrush...turned on of course. Don't use the brush part! It really seems to help get the dog get used to harmless noise and vibration around it's face. I tell the owners to only do this for no more than 3 minutes, once or twice a day...followed by lots of praise.

          May not help you for this Sunday...but in the future for this little dog?
          Often it's not what you say, but how you say it.


          • #6
            i had this problem today with a brussels.
            1. do not lose patience! (i started to lose it today and reminded myself not to).
            2. walk away and you and the dog take a break if you can.


            • #7
              What would I do without you guys and gals?

              After posting here and having a conversation with Carla via facebook, then coming back and reading the responses here, I don't feel like hiding anymore. Thank you so much for that, because I was feeling like a total failure and just wanted to cry which I don't do often, but the stress of the business plan date approaching and this dog just made me break down for a bit!
              I didn't lose my patience with the dog as it's not the dogs fault, I stayed calm and took her off the table for a bit so she could have a drink and relax, I then went out in the porch and had a smoke so I could mellow out then I went back in, put her up again and I did the best I could. I just explained to the owner that I was sorry for not getting the dog finished, but that I didn't want to make the problem worse by causing more stress for her. By starting fresh on Sunday, it should make it a bit easier on the dog, and not make her more fearful of the grooming process. Also I thought Sophie did well until the face area was approached, and I would try doing this area first at her next full groom and hopefully that would help. She seemed to be thankful that I didn't manhandle her dog but rather asked her if I could have the dog back on Sunday for a while, to try and finish her off. I stressed the importance of working towards making the dog feel comfortable with the grooming experience, and I thought if I had of forced the issue any more, it would only have made things worse for her next visit. They seemed to understand, and gave me a $5.00 tip even though she was not completed.

              I will try everything that you have all suggested, but I honestly can't see these people ( I hope I am proven wrong on this) or some of my other clients running a toothbrush over their dogs nose for 3 minutes a day when they can't be bothered to run a brush or a comb through the fur once a week or get them groomed more than once every 6 months! I will however try that with my own dog and maybe that will work for Gizmo, as he has always had issues with grooming, even when other groomers have done him.
              I try to suggest to clients that these breeds need frequent grooming, at the very least every 12 weeks minimum ( every 8 weeks would be better), and they look at me like I'm a nut job trying to get more money out of them! Then they complain when I have to shave them down. I have even printed out some educational papers to help people understand that these breeds require brushing ( I suggest combing after brushing so they can see that brushes can miss matts) that way they can get a dog used to the process of being brushed and combed, then they can let the hair grow and not require a shave down.
              Do they listen? NO! They expect to have beautiful fur on their babies that requires nothing more than a grooming once every 4-6 months and no upkeep between appointments. So, I resign myself to doing what I can, and when they really do want the hair to grow out, maybe they will listen to me and give our ideas a try!

              So, I am going to try all of your suggestions, and suggest these ways to help owners get their dogs used to being handled by a groomer and the tools. I am always asking them to make a lot of contact with the dogs feet, separate the pads a bit, check the toe nails, just rub them and get the dog used to that, so the head really should be no different, I just never thought of it! I also think the toothbrush idea may be good for the dogs with the feet handling issues, so I am going to try that on my Gizmo too!

              I want you to know how much I appreciate all the help, the ideas, and the understanding that you all have shown me. I really don't know if I would be grooming if it wasn't for you and all the help you are so willing to give me and the other new groomers on here. You should all pat yourselves on the back for offering your advice and your support to us newbies!
              If you weren't such great people, I think I would have packed it in after the 3XL Golden that almost made me faint at the sight of him! LOL! He won't be back. I have decided today that I have enough small to medium dogs to work on and learn from for now, at least until I get a hydraulic table and won't have to break my back while working on them!

              One step at a time for me, and I hope you will all be there when I encounter my next problem, and you don't get tired of my questions.
              Once again, you are the best!
              and I truly thank you all,


              • #8
                Well you have lots of good advice already. The only thing I could add is that I have found Shih's and shih types to respond well to gentle patient encouragement,a very quiet small clipper run over the head like Sibes suggested, non-business end first, if you can get a friend to help steady,a pup helps too. I just keep trying,and lavish queit loving praise for the first glimmer of co-operation,once you get that first little trust,and some work done on their touchy face areas,and praise them in a soothing way it usuually improves FAST. It can take patience getting them to go along with your program though. I havge found they detest ,and fear having their heads over restrained,and will just keep fighting and struggling,if I hang on to their little beards. I always try to put myself in their shoes (or paws) and think how frightening it is to see anything coming at your face when your eyes are so protruding,and vulnerable. and your nose so short that breathing could be easily impeded.I keep my body snugged up to them too. And if I am sure they won't bite I keep my face close to theirs(but with caution)
                "Everyone needs something to beleive in..I beleive I need another Poodle"


                • #9
                  I find that is common behavior among Shihtzu's. I use a pair of short blunt nosed scissors and scissor the face on them if they can't tolerate the clippers. Of course, I try to get them used to the clippers too, by running the sound. But Shih's do have a tendency toward head throwing. I think Jodi Murphy suggested holding the muzzle with and forefingers if the "chin handle" doesn't work.
                  A Light exists in Spring, Not present on the Year, At any other period -- When March is scarcely here...~~ Emily Dickensen~~


                  • #10
                    One more thought (when the moola starts rolling in...) I have the Speed Feed trimmers for faces and puppy pads. Very quiet, alot less vibration, and it's like having only one little bee coming at the dog's face instead of the whole swarm.
                    Often it's not what you say, but how you say it.


                    • #11
                      my two cents

                      Knowing these dogs have face problems, you need to elicit a new response. I do this by:

                      1. Petting the dog and bonding with it for a moment, then touching the face without equipment in my hands. What you want is them to be still. If they cannot be still for this, you need to back up a step (I'll explain in a minute). If they ARE still, praise and let go and do something else, then come back and reinforce the being still a couple more times before trying to touch inner eye corners, etc. Keep doing "steps" until you can control the dog while using scissors. If you have to, PRETEND to snip, then praise and let go and do something else.

                      2. If the dog won't let you hold the head, you need to teach it. If you are holding beard, use your other hand behind the head, wait until dog relaxes for even one second, then praise and let go and do something else, even for 20 seconds before coming back for a repetition. The "praise-and-let-go" occurs all at once, by the way.

                      3. Working on these small steps, all you want to see is IMPROVEMENT. A jumpy dog may start to let you do something for one snip at a time, or a bit more. Don't make a very jumpy dog "fail" by trying to do the whole face at once. If you have to, just get a bit of improvement and then bath the dog and dry it; by the time you are ready to come back to the face, it will feel like working on the face is a more usual thing and it will respond better and allow you to do a bit more.

                      I use this method for puppies, and usually see very quick improvement. It's important not to just hold the beard; put down your tools and hold the back of the head forward so that the beard is not being pulled. Then praise and let go. This quickly teaches most dogs that the correct response when you hold the beard is to simply drop their face onto your hand.

                      Good luck.


                      • #12
                        I am a very gentle groomer, sometimes I wonder if that is not part of my problem, maybe too gentle at times!
                        I always allow the dog a few minutes to smell the room, sniff me, and my hand while holding different tools. I show them the clipper while it is off and let them see it is just a thing. I then remove it away from them and turn it on and run it on my hands, then move slowly to just hold it in my hand while my hand touches them, not the clipper. I usually have good results with these methods and going slow, and I always allow extra time for the first time a dog comes to me to be groomed or with dogs who I have been told are difficult.
                        I am going to try a compilation of the suggestions here as well, as I know not all dogs respond the same way to each technique.
                        I must say in both instances it has been Shihtzu's involved, my own who I have been working with for years, but still hasn't come around to my way of thinking, and I can't really blame him as I know the first 4 years of his life was torturous for him. However if I can help to change this behavior in the younger dogs I know it will make both my life and their experience while they are with me less frightening for them.
                        I also have tiny treats that almost all dogs love, and I also use these as treats when they behave well for things that have been a problem, like after they relax in the bath tub rather than trying to claw their way out, or when I use my Groomer's helper on a dog that is not used to having one attached to them. Praise and a small treat ( always with the owners consent with the treats) but this little girl last night wouldn't even take the treat, I held her and talked to her, stroked her and thought it would go ok, and that eventually she would allow me to get closer to her head with the scissors, but no such luck!
                        Anyways you all have excellent suggestions and I will do my best to get her turned around with this behavior, and be grateful that they are all not so challenging!
                        Many thanks again,
                        AKA Gluergirl / Little_Critters on e-groomer