If Not us, Then Who?


 

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

I keep writing about the pet industry being in a sorry state: so lacking in integrity, defending  inhumane  breeders (breeding pets as livestock), selling  useless or  dangerous products.  I know that there are people who agree with me.  How many who agree with me are willing to  do something about it?  How many actually spend time talking with pet owners?

I subscribe to all the free pet industry magazines:  Pet Business, PetAge, and Pet Industry News.  For years I subscribed to  The Gazette (Purebred dogs, the AKC magazine) which I learned so much from, from so many different  fanciers who wrote about  what they were learning about dogs.  Now that it is no longer in print, it is much more difficult to get information about specific breeds of dogs  if you don’t subscribe to all the Facebook feeds.

Keep in mind, that were it not for hobbyists and fanciers, there would be no  grain free dog food industry.  It wasn’t  veterinarians who  promoted  grain free foods, and  most pet store retailers were  bemused by the requests.  It was  hobby breeders suggesting to their puppy buyers, and to people they were meeting at dog training classes  and performance events  talking about  the ear infections and foot licking might be related to corn or wheat sensitivities.

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for  Afghan Hound breeder Fredric Mark Alderman. He had quick, phenomenal success with the Akaba dogs he got from Lois Boardman. His kennel name was Dynasty. He had a waiting list of people wanting  his dogs, and he had a policy: you want a Dynasty Afghan Hound, but have no experience with the breed, you spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you didn’t enjoy brushing or bathing a dog, that you didn’t know the equipment you’d need or how much time it would take up.  If that’s how you felt at the end of an afternoon with him, no harm, no foul…you didn’t get an Afghan.    Not  one other breeder in the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago did what he did.  So many of theirs ended up neglected or abused.  Not the dogs Fred bred.  I knew breeders in other breeds who had similar policies. Arlene Fenney, who bred Bearded Collies in the Chicago area, insisted that all her pet buyers buy a portable grooming table.

A blog I posted a couple of years ago “The Irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,”  got an enormous amount of attention recently, going  from  possibly 1 viewing a week to well over 200.  I suspect a  fancier  found it, and  then sent the link to other fanciers—but I didn’t get  one comment:  I suspect they all understand why the breed got popular, and then declined in popularity.    I will address more of that in the future.

I am addressing this  topic of information in the pet industry  because of what I am dealing with  now.

I recently worked for a dog business, as many people know, owned by a business woman who thinks she is a dog lover, but who has never trained a dog, nor actually worked cleaning or  observing a playgroup in her own kennel.  She had a vision of how large she wanted her facility to appear, and how much she wanted to make, and, once again, trusted  people who  were taking her money, instead of people who knew dogs. She has asked me to never mention the name of the business in my blog because she claims I say too much negative.  If it weren’t the truth, I wouldn’t spend the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

We have had, in the 3 years since I worked for her, a 98% change in staff.   When we parted,  I had been with her longer than any other employee.  2 others who worked in the kennel had been there almost two years.  They quit within a couple of weeks after I left. With such a high turnover, organizational memory is lost.  So, new staff are constantly  doing new procedures,. reinventing the wheel,  or screwing up and having to address screw ups. The owner moved into what looks like a beautiful building  where the floors are shiny and dangerous to both humans and dogs, many dogs are afraid to walk on it. Temple Grandin addressed this in Animals in Translation, but of course, neither the owner or manager have read anything she’s written. They are business people.  The electricity is  set up in such a way that there is not enough where it is needed, and too much available where it is not.

In any case, as a groomer, who loves dogs, and loves being with the dogs, I  want my clients to be happy with their dogs. Unfortunately, for about a decade, the  pet industry—meaning retail sellers—have been bamboozling people into buying  harnesses for their dogs..and Flexi leashes.  Everyone  pays for a Flexi.  It’s hard enough to control your dogs with a harness and  six foot leash.  Harnesses are designed so the dog will not be restrained when pulling you.  I’ve addressed this before.  In any case, I am trying to get my clients to switch to Martingale collars.  This is what sighthound people  use, and more  and more hobbyists are switching from buckle collars to  Martingales because you really DO get more control—without hurting the dog!

So, I spend a lot of time talking to  my clients about their relationship with their dogs.  And I’ve gotten several good clients to switch to  Martingales over the last several months.  I’ve mentioned this to the owner and the manager.  Blah blah Blah.  Now, there is a nice looking retail space.  What do they sell?   Fancy Dog cookies.  Dog beds (at least 4 dozen in inventory).  Dog coats and toys.  NO  collars. None.  My clients—OUR CLIENTS are going elsewhere for collars.

I showed a client who owns a pet consulting business my MillerForge Curved Slicker brush,  She thought it was  amazing, it is.  I get them from  PetEdge.com.   The business owner  could sell those, too…but she selling dog cookies….or rather, there is a nice display, they are not selling (nor are the dog beds).

I show my clients how to brush their dogs. This is something the breeder (yes, that includes the idiot backyard breeders who constantly post on Craigslist in every city—people who claim they are NOT breeders!) should show them how to do.  If not the breeder—all these shelters and rescues that also want good homes for  the dogs they adopt out, should   address brushing, feeding, a care schedule, what shots will cost in the future—but not a one does.  You bond with your dog  by grooming it.  These people disrespect  hobby breeders—or they throw them in with the lot of puppy mills.  You could not call Fred Alderman irresponsible.  He  was and is not breeding the dogs that wind up in shelters.

Whatever. It is up to groomers to address all these things.  Grooming, nutrition, finding a good veterinarian,  good websites and YouTube videos on dog care—particularly training.  It is up to us to  sell THE FEATURES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE.  The sales  clerks and managers at all these pet stores are not going to sell the dog owning public what they need.

The hobby breeders are telling the puppy buyers to return to them for grooming as so few  pet groomers have the experience or talent to groom their breeds.  I can’t blame them.  However, it is those hobby breeders who actually got our pet grooming industry started.  All those designer dogs that the puppy mills and backyard breeders are putting out  won’t keep us afloat for so many reasons, including  being poorly bred and having genetic issues, and the owners  coming to the understanding that  that fluffy fantasy puppy wasn’t as much fun to take care of as they hoped, or was way more expensive than they dreamed (I  went from having Afghan Hounds to Whippets partly because of time commitment,and partly expense).  What am I saying?  We have to  be in touch with and more friendly with hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds.  We have to join more kennel clubs.  We have to work with the  organizations that say they want permanent homes for all pets.If the business owners really cared, they  would  be more holistic about addressing  dog car to every  dog owner who walked through the dog.  They are not, and it is up to us.

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