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Handling Dogs

Handling Dogs
Cat Grooming
The Ear
Skin & Hair
Health & Safety
Just for Fun

By Fiona Keith, Dunragit Grooming School, Stranraer

Certain breeds have their own peculiar traits. Lhasa Apsos sing in the bath, Springers tuck in and sit on their rumps. Beardies wobble in the bath, Shih Tzus crumple into rag dolls on the table. Cockers hate their feet trimmed, Collies hate their rear ends being de-matted. Westies are never keen to have their claws cut. Airedales won’t do anything but then all of a sudden do and even the nice Scotties are just plain awkward! And that isn’t counting the biters, squigglers and squeakers. The list goes on, but somehow at the end of a hard days work, you send them all home in one piece and looking like new.

A good Groomer needs to be a dog (and people) psychologist as well as a beautician. Psychology starts the minute they come in the door – or try to come in the door. Some "fearties" struggle to come over the threshold and need a lot of coochie-cooing before they manage to make it. For others, it is best to carry them in and for a very few cases (the if-you-take-me-from-my-mummy-I’ll-bite-you dogs) the owner should place the restraining noose on the dog and place him securely on the table, before quietly disappearing. This dog’s courage usually evaporates with the owner leaving.

And so to the bath – and the panickers! You know, the ones who would climb the walls to escape. Good restraint fixings on the bath are a must, but a quick release clip is essential should the dog lose the place. A calm helping hand is required to control the dog while the shower heats up. Gently start the spray at the back of the dog, holding the nozzle close to the coat and the dog will normally calm down. Some take great exception to having their head washed. Hold the dog’s muzzle gently but firmly while spraying very close to the face. Use a tearless shampoo and avoid getting water up the dog’s nose by holding the head up. Put yourself in the dog’s place and imagine what he feels like. Those dogs that will not stand to be bathed will gradually come to their feet when confidence returns. Don’t yell at the dog to stand up, you will only intimidate him further. Be patient and keep yourself calm as well as the dog.

These "fearties" do not like being dried either. They are probably the ones who disappear under the bed when Mummy starts up the vacuum cleaner! There’s no way you can put a blaster on them! But surprisingly, if the operation is started carefully most dogs will tolerate a bit of a blast. Start with the quietest speed, at the back of the dog, giving him praise all the while. But what of the "Hamishes" that will not be rubbed down with a towel, and the "Jocks" that snap at the drier and are certainly not going to have their heads dried? Blot the horror that won’t be rubbed and blast him instead, he likes that better. Turn the biters away from the forced air and dry them from behind. Work close to the skin with the drier nozzle and don’t point it at him like a gun! Ruffle the head hair with your hand while drying, they like that better than a brush. If all else fails and you have a cabin drier (and you know you can get the dog out of it without being bitten) place him in there, putting him in backside first. Most dogs settle in the cabin drier.

Many new puppies are afraid of clippers buzzing around their ears or head and the clicking of scissors are a menace. Take a little time to help them over this fear by acclimatising them gently. If these dogs have tolerated the noise of a drier, try keeping the drier running while touching the dog with the base of a switched on, but unloaded clipper. Run the clipper round the back of his ears and over the brow and cheeks if the face is to be clipped. Work from behind. Then add the blade and repeat. Try to do your best, but it may be possible to scissor or handstrip parts that are impossible to do without risk of injury to the dog. Most dogs will be better on the second or third visit if you are gentle. The noise of the drier camouflages the clipper or scissors. Dogs do not like confrontation; they don’t like things pointing at them or you staring at them or blowing to clear away hair. Don’t do it. What do you do at the Dentists when he prods at your mouth? I bet you don’t look him in the eye!

Many dogs do not like their muzzle being held. Westies have developed the claw-your-arm-off technique to stop you trimming their faces. Ask the owner to handle them more around the face, even without a brush in their hand. Just for them to fondle and give praise can make a dog easier to handle on its next visit. Working from behind the dog can also help.

The collapsers, sitters and dancers can be groomed by using a body strap to hold up the rear end, but if you can, get them to stand unaided at least some of the time as it is much nicer for the dog. Usually this behaviour is caused by fearfulness or discomfort. Scolding is not the answer. It compounds the dog’s fear. Try tickling that Shih Tzu under the brisket and see if it stands up better. Give praise if he does. Teach the owner how to train the dog to stand on command so he understands what you mean when you say "stand". Do not press on a dog’s rump when you clip over it, support the dog underneath by using your free hand. The dog will be less likely to sit.

Discomfort may be caused by arthritis or by luxating patella. Often these dogs look too straight in the back leg or sometimes the knee seems to bend forward. Use the body strap as a sling to turn a dog with luxating patella, or you go round to the other side of the table. Often these dogs are restless, going from foot to foot and can be fretful to nasty of anything happening at the hind quarters. Keep the feet on the table to groom them and scissor the groin as best you can.

Many dogs hate their feet being trimmed. Try getting the dog to lie down and trim the feet in that position, lying down is more restful. If all else fails, use a body harness, as in the LIPS system. A brilliant system that beats all those chancers.

Having trouble with Jock’s claws? Then tuck him under your arm like the bagpipes, with the head facing behind you. Take up each foot and cut the claws from behind. That way you can see how much to cut and he cannot get at you. Ha Ha!

Next the squeakers. Those who squeal before you have even done anything and make you jump clean out of your skin. Do not be fooled by this type of propaganda. Work on steadily and kindly taking the knots out of that Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles. You know it is not sore because you have used all the dematting tools, conditioners and silicone sprays in you arsenal.

Lastly, the constant barkers that stir up the atmosphere and wind up Groomers and dogs. If a towel over the cage or the water pistol treatment does not work, relegate them to the back shop or caged well out of the way. If you are pre-warned of this behaviour, get the owner to collect the dog right away after grooming to preserve the peace.

There will inevitably be the very, very small percentage of ungroomable dogs and no Groomer should feel too bad about admitting defeat. After all, you are trying to make a living as well as giving a service and you need your hands and body to be injury free.


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Opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of Northern Groomers.

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Copyright 2000 Northern Groomers
Last modified: February 20, 2002