Archive for February, 2015

The Future of the Pet Grooming Industry

February 27, 2015
This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not  grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

I applied for a recently week at a kennel. The kennel owner was a dog trainer.  He had been trained by the police to train police dogs,and  developed his skills to train  bomb and drug sniffing dogs. That’s where he ‘came from.’  His kennel was phenomenal, and I would have loved to work for him, but he hired someone else.  I have a pretty good idea why he went with someone else and not with me.

I believe he could get the person he hired  more cheaply—at an hourly rate of pay, rather than  me, who expects commission.  He hired a guy, who can lift all the 8o pound dogs.  The biggest reason is that he doesn’t get clients who are really particular about the styling of their dogs, they just want the dogs clean and neat. They are pets.   Why hire me when you believe you can get  the same basic skills more cheaply?  If you  think you need me just in case someone with a Berger Picard or Welsh Terrier comes in, you see the value.  If you  believe the odds are that  it is not likely to happen, you go with cheaper.  I understand.

This kennel owner asked me  what I saw the future of pet grooming to be.  All I got out was, “Well, I think the designer dog craze will be over in about 10 years when people finally realize they are not getting genetically sound dogs. That  being of different breeds does NOT add hybrid vigor…” but he got busy.  Probably for the best.

The industry players are in huge denial.  It is more profitable to open a grooming school than it is to groom dogs.  When I learned to groom, 99% of the dogs we  groomed were poodles, with poodle feet and patterns. This is not longer the case. They are all getting shaved now.  If you can  shave a dog without injuring it, that is considered grooming.

We’ve come full circle.  When I started, over 40 years ago,  we’d sometimes  get a Schnauzer or  cocker spaniel to groom, but most of the owners of just about any o breed other than Poodles returned to the breeder to have the dog groomed.   They didn’t trust pet groomers.  Now, with  so many  retail chains and dog daycare businesses offering grooming, it is happening again.
A  friend took a Samoyed  she was showing to a pet groomer, and ask the groomer is she knew how to do a show grooming on a Sam.  The groomer assured my friend she knew. Maybe the dog needed some trimming around the feet and butt cheeks, but my friend got back a shaved dog—and she will never—ever trust a groomer who does not show dogs.  On Facebook feed, a groomer posted a photo of a Bedlington Terrier groomed like a Miniature Schnauzer at one of the pet shop chains.  Interesting, but I know that Bedlington’s owner will not  trust another pet groomer.

This is a mix of a Pit bull and a Shih Tzu--- can you guess what they call it?

This is a mix of a Pit bull and a Shih Tzu— can you guess what they call it?

So, we have that issue, and the issue of the designer dogs having to mostly be  shaved, and  the most popular breeds being dogs that do not need grooming (Bostons, Frenchies, Labrador Retrievers, Bulldogs, Boxers, and of course, Pit Bulls), and what does that leave us.

While we have some of the shelters and rescues adopting out shaggier dogs,Ii know they aren’t asking the adoptors if they understand what grooming is likely to cost & how often it needs to be done.  How ethical is that?

Then we have the basic fact that most of us—and our clients—are the 99%.  I was working in an area where I knew some of my clients were the 1% and cost was no issue, but  for most of us, our clients spend more on the dog than they  do on retirement savings (and then those very same clients  whine about being on a fixed income and not being able to afford grooming).

My personal plan  has always been to cater to that 1%.  Why  pander to those that can’t afford to pay you? How much sense does that make?A lot of them  have sense now, and either don’t own a dog, or  are going for Pit rescues.  I do not blame them.  But there are not enough groomable dogs for all the  people who want to do this for a living.  For the novice groomers who want to believe that there are jobs against all the evidence that there are not,  ask your employer  what he pays himself.


Enough Blame to go Around

February 20, 2015

When I was a little kid , I was heavily influenced by  TV.  Especially  Donna Reed, Father Knows Best,  and Leave it to Beaver.  I knew moms stayed home and dads went to work—like my folks did, but I thought the parents on TV were nicer than my parents.   They seemed much less….frazzled.

The fact is, my mother really had too much time on her hands. She went shopping, to the beauty salon, and played mah jongg.  She only spent time with her kids when there was no other alternative.  I didn’t realize this at the time,but I do now.  My father was not engaged at all. He left for work at 4 a.m. to open up the  plant for trucks. He claimed he could not trust anyone else to do it.  I actually think he set a good example for his employees, but we  rarely saw my father when he was awake.

As my mother said, Jewish men don’t fool around, and before I was 12, I  only knew 1 kid with divorced parents. The rest were in traditional  2 parent households.

I have 3 siblings, and we  were never close (even though we are  all only 2 years apart in age—I am just  seven years older than my youngest sister).  My parents were baffled by this, but my mother was actually psychologically abusive. She either didn’t engage with  us,  or was  just  helping us with school work, or  criticizing. That’s what I remember. Rarely did she compliment or encourage.

They were horrified when I decided  not to go to college,  and horrified that I wanted to groom dogs.  I think they were relieved that my  ex-husband took an interest in me, but dismayed he wasn’t Jewish.  I think my mother is rolling in her grave now that our middle sister, Sharyn, has been married  three times (never to a Jew—& in fact, now, to a pseudo Christian with  conspiracy theories about Zionism), and we other  three never had kids—as well as  one cousin marrying Hispanic, & the other, married for over 20 years now, to a Black American.  Plus, another plus a grand cousin married to a Black guy, the irony is…they all raised their kids Jewish. So much for theories.

I wonder how she feels about her son, the excon drug addict with  a terminal degree. As my uncles  joked, my father believed in higher education.  If we all could have only acknowledge mental illness is not a moral failing, but a mystery that is difficult to deal with.

Hey, I admit it. When I was very young— just after I learned to read, I realized I suffered from depression. It was probably stress, but it was only about 10 years ago that I realized (from reading Temple Grandin) and going to Wrong Planet that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.   Yes, friends. That is why I am so wierd.  But I’ve managed to stay off the dole and make a living—not be a burden to society.

I am writing about this now because my niece has announced the date of my grand niece’s Quinceanera.  No ‘Sweet Sixteen’ for  us (we sisters never had this—to my mother’s real disappointment…nor were there Bat or Bar Mitzvahs).  My guy reaction was of bemused irony.  We’re Jewish….but ah, no, Sharyn did not raise Lauren as a Jew.  I think she married Lutheran, and her husband is part Hispanic, and they live in a very mixed Hispanic community.  &  no matter what you say, Lauren, my niece, has learned from all her  mother’s and aunts and uncles bad examples and done ok for herself, more than OK.

So….all us siblings are invited, and Scott & I are not speaking, and Randi and Sharyn are not speaking ans Sharyn and her daughter, Laruen, the  Quinceanera’s mother,are not speaking..  I just assume we can all get along and not make a scene for a party.   This should be interesting…..


So here’s how this all  went down:

The Quinciniera was held at a banquet hall, and my niece arranged a lovely affair.  As i explained to my Japanese roommate, ,a coming-of-age ceremony is a big deal in  lots of cultures.  This is  supposed to be a statement that the honoree is now an adult (though of course, she is not. When you start paying your own living expenses, you are an adult), but it is also an opportunity to throw a big party for your friends and family.  This was an ostentatious display of wealth:  the room, the meal, the open bar, the M & M’s custom designed (and cookies as well),  a slide show of <aya’s life to that poijnt tt went on  a bit too long…. photographer, MC… everything.

Lauren had  requested  we dress in black & white, and  although I had gotten a lovely outfit (because I had misinterpreted the  instructions as  black tie formal),  I found a black skirt and a white shirt, and everyone complied. Only Maya, the Quinceanera, was dressed in a lovely turquoise ball style gown.  Her court  was  four boys in  sharp suits, and the girls were in white satin dresses.

I was told my brother never  RSVP’d, but he showed up there anyways.    He didn’t talk to me.  My sisters were cordial to each other and were able to maintain small talk. My father and step mother  flew in from Florida, and  that night a storm started and they could not get back to Florida for  3 days.  We were at a table with my nephew and his girlfriend, who left  even before dinner, ans  Lauren’s cousins on her father'[s side of the family.  This  was why the event was  so large:  Lauren’s father, Bill was 1 of  five brothers, and they all had kids.   Her husband also has quite a few cousins.

The notable absense, I think, was the  stepsister her fathe had ‘sired’ befor he and Lauren got married.  Sh had become part of the family and was suddenly gone.  Whatever.


The Petition to Cancel Dogs sold at Auctions

February 13, 2015
Bred by backyard breeder. This is a  Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?  This is vitally important to the future of purebred  dogs.

I was going to  post on some  inane family mishegas, but that can wait. This can not.  The age  of the average exhibitor is now over 50—well over.  Clubs can’t afford to hold dog shows any more because entries are  done. I believe  some of the  more rare breeds with no gene pool will disappear within a decade.

Due to the problem with deafness in Dalmations (hell—they are all merles!), the AKC has  allowed test breedings with pointers.

People  really believe, however, that AKC means quality. It does not. Worse, while it is supposed to mean that  the breed you are breeding is purebred (and breeds true!), the fact of the matter is that  by allowing the commercial and ‘backyard’ breeders to register  their puppies, some breeds are actually now  2 breeds: the show quality and the ‘pet’ quality.  All in the same studbook!  But you look on Craigslist—and people  proudly state that the puppies they are breeding are AKC.

While cancelling the registration of dogs sold at auctions would not immediately  end  the  puppy mill industry, people would soon understand the difference if fewer AKC dogs  were available.

Yes, this would cut into AKC revenue, but for me, the fancier, I feel  my fees are so high so the organization can provide an AKC rep free to the auctions to  facilitate the  ‘smooth transfer’ OF PETS SOLD AS LIVESTOCK.  So much for being the dogs’ champion.  How the AKC officials can  walk around in public and not resign over this…real chutzpah.

Even if you are not a purebred dog fancier, this affects you, because mixed breed dogs are not pariah dogs, they are mixes of purebred dogs.  & the fact is,  over  90% of dogs in shelters are  from not necessarily puppy mills directly, but from breeding dogs bought from puppy mills, and the backyard breeders who continue to breed these dogs.

If you love dogs, and  understand the problem of their not being enough good homes for all the dogs  produced…you will sign this and ask others to.

Andrew Hunte & Pet Business Magazine Have Some Nerve!

February 6, 2015
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!

This is the response I sent to Pet  Business magazine in response to Andrew Hunte’s op/ed, “A Dangeous Mantra”. He was responding to the trend to promote ‘Adopt, don’t shop’ regarding  the  ‘adoption’ of puppies and kittens, rather than selling them.


How irritating! Hunte’s take on what is happening in the pet industry—to retail pet stores—would be laughable had he not so much influence.

I hardly think of Hunte as an ethical dog breeder when he breeds dogs for commercial resale, and doesn’t think it is important to screen every pet buyer. Also, citing Patti Strand’s book, Hijacking the Humane Movement, doesn’t make the arguments any more credible.

When I started out working in the pet industry as a teenager, I worked for several hobby breeders. One, Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: if you had never demonstrated that you could take care of an Afghan Hound, you had to spend the day grooming with him. He kept about seven adult dogs, and he loved his dogs. He felt that good homes were important. He didn’t want you saying that you didn’t know how much equipment you would need, what it would cost, how long it would take or how often it needed to be done. If, after a day of grooming Afghan Hounds, you didn’t think the breed was for you, no harm, no foul. It was not dogs of Fred’s breeding that would up in puppy mills or abandoned in shelters..

Our issues as dog fanciers remain NOT only that commercially bred dogs are more unsound (because the breeders do not do the genetic testing), but that commercial breeders don’t care who buys their puppies. Neither the breeders nor the sellers care if buyers understand the grooming, temperament, and training needs of the dog they are purchasing. No pet shop ever turns down sales…and often they sell the wrong equipment with the dog: harnesses rather than martingale collars, and those horrible brushes that are pins on 1 side, bristles on the other. Ask any groomer: they are good for NO BREED OR COAT TYPE. Why do so many pet industry managers have so little integrity?

We are selling love and smirking at how easily pet buyers are bamboozled!

Hunte (and Strand, apparently) believes that HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA have much more influence than they do. Granted, the national nonprofits do a remarkable job of marketing themselves and fundraising, but not that many people are fooled. More people support local animal shelters, and might support these mentioned organizations for other activities and issues they promote (vivisection, factory farming, the fur industry, how zoo and circus animals are husbanded).

What NOBODY is addressing is that most of the dogs in shelters are bred by what we commonly call BACKYARD BREEDERS. We know they are not coming directly from puppy mills, nor are they coming from hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of the breed. Where do these backyard breeders get their breedable dogs? Either from retail sellers—THE PET SHOPS—-or other backyard breeders. Yet—and this is fundamentally important—-these backyard breeders are allowed to think that they are NOT breeders! Nobody addresses them about the issue of where the pets in shelters are coming from. For Hunte to state categorically that these shelter dogs are temperamentally or behaviorally damaged is specious. In fact, we have been finding that even most dogs confiscated from dog fighters are generally unwilling to fight in a pack situation in a shelter!

If you look at dogs coming into shelters since the 1980s, not only are most of them Pit Bulls (or Pit mixes), the next often most represented breed types are Chihuahuas, Beagles, and ‘designer’ dogs. You never see Briards, Gordon Setters, Salukis, or Portuguese Water Dogs. Could it be that the hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of their breeds, closely monitor (‘husband’) breedable dogs, and do a better job of screening out unsuitable potential buyers, as well as making it clear them want the dogs they’ve bred back? Could this be why, that we are now seeing more Cane Corso, Shiba Inu, and even French Bulldogs being dumped because the breeders of those breeds didn’t do as good a job husbanding?

Mr. Hunte, I also have horse in this race. I AM A PROFESSIONAL DOG GROOMER. When I learned to groom dog s over 40 years ago, everyone involved in grooming was a hobby breeder and an exhibitor/fancier. Every dog was a Poodle. There were no Bichons, Shih Tzu, or designer dogs. Americans spent a week’s pay for housing and expenses, so they could afford the luxury of a nonshed dog needing regular grooming.

Times have changed. Not only has the middle class shrunk, they now spend 3 weeks pay on living expenses, and carry an average of $5000 credit card debt as well (or more in college loans!). The most popular breeds are now smooth coated. Between the big box pet industry chains training ‘groomers’ and the fancy shrinking (because those people who were fanciers and exhibitors are no longer middle class, the average age of current exhibitors being well over 50), there are a lot more ‘groomers’ and fewer dogs to groom. I used to earn an average of $30 an hour on commission, but have recently been offered jobs by business owners who could give a rat’s ass about integrity or talent offering me $9 an hour. It doesn’t really matter. Go to a dog daycare, and you will see Labrador Retrieves ( and mixes), Boxers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Bostons, Frenchies, and some Doodles and designer dogs. Not much work for me, but a goldmine for the veterinarians.

And Mr. Hunte, not all dogs will be spayed and neutered. You know that. Due to economic conditions, however, we will see a loss of breeds. I remember in the 1970s how many people were exhibiting Afghan Hounds. The loss of the breed’s popularity was an example of capitalism at its finest. However, will we miss the Bedlington Terriers, the Sussex Spaniels, and the Scottish Deerhounds? You aren’t selling them—there is no market.

The other problem is, however, that your resellers have never developed actual fanciers among the buyers.

There is enough blame to go around. It’s ironic that the American Kennel Club has spent so much time and money pandering to your fellow commercial breeders , and that they have expected the hobbyists/fanciers to pay for this in raised entry fees for performance events. I am shocked that the regional and specialty clubs have allowed the AKC to get away with this. Like it or not, we DO have to work together to change the dynamic, and blaming the humane societies for getting their message across while denying the reason this has been so easy to do won’t solve the problem.

Where do shelter dogs come from? If every puppy offered for sale in every location had to be microchipped by law (and that would include the backyard breeders posting puppies on Craigslist), we’d know where all the shelter dogs were coming from. Impossible? Not if we help the local animal shelters train humane inspectors to respond to those Craigslist posts, and demand that the state Departments of Agriculture start leveling fines against those breeders not in compliance, and whose dogs end up in shelters. Who should be responsible for dumped dogs if not the breeders? This is why Portuguese Water Dogs NEVER end up in shelters. Check out the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America code of ethics.

Want to be more credible? Train your resellers on how to screen buyers. Many animal shelters will not adopt out a dog unless they meet everyone in the household. Pets make terrible surprise gifts. Most won’t adopt to renters and neither will ethical hobby breeders—as that is the most frequent excuse people use for dumping a pet: moving to where it is not allowed. The breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds ask people who will be home to housebreak a puppy, and state, if the owners are gone for eight hours, how do they expect the puppy to get trained? Is that fair to a puppy?

How do you choose a pet food for the puppy? It wasn’t veterinarians who developed the grain free segment of the industry, but hobbyists and fanciers who were dismissed as eccentric by their veterinarians. I have seen far fewer ear and skin issues since more people are feeding the premium foods.

What about the most effective tools for grooming, and keeping shedding down and the dog matt free? Why are sellers promoting harnesses and Flexis, when you can’t control a dog with these items. Why aren’t they promoting martingale collars and six foot leashes ( or head harnesses)? Why aren’t they sending home basic housebreaking and positive training instructions with each puppy? Who should be responsible for this information if not the sellers?

You are right about one thing: people want to know what they are getting. This is why people choose specific breeds: a somewhat predictable temperament as well as the physical traits. I don’t want idiots and thugs choosing what kind of dog I should own, which is why I choose purebreds for myself. That said, we all bear more responsibility in lessening the number of dogs that wind up in shelters. The altruistic should not be made to feel guilty, but the greedy and dishonest should be held accountable.

This link to what Best Friends says about what’s going on is right to the point: