Archive for the ‘pet shops’ Category

Does a Dog Really Need Coat Conditioner?

April 14, 2017

Jennie, a Soft-coatd Wheaten Terrier, needed more than a bath.

I was  going to address this topic from a different perspective, but I’ve had this debate with a couple of dog groomers whom I respect. They insist on using coat conditioner/creme rinse on all dogs.  I do not…and here’s why:

  1.  Coat ‘conditioner’—what is it?  it is  a product to seal moisture into the coat.  While it’s true some dogs desperately need this…it just makes the dog harder to dry;
  2. Why would a  smooth coated dog  like a Lab or Pit Bull need conditioner?   By the time the cuticle  separates due to being too dry, the hair has shed out.   If your shampoo is mild enough—and these days  all shampoos have ‘conditioners’ or ‘softeners’ in their formulas,  you are just going to  rinse it all off. What most of these dogs actually need is a skin conditioner—which can be applied and left on after the bath;
  3.   If you are going to say that it’s to seal the cuticle of the coat—& that is what I want a conditioner to do—–I  usually put on a leave-in conditioner—or a coat polish…during my drying process. Saves time, saves the product.

Too many of us fall for the marketing.   Advertisers are still promoting copious  shampoo lather. Lather is SALT—sodium:  it dries your skin and hair, and can make you itchy. Same for the dog.  Lather is not good. I want my shampoo to lather up just enough so I know I have it on the dog, and I can see the dog needs rinsing…and that’s the problem with conditioner:  it’s difficult to rinse out.  You leave  it on a dark dog—and you see film.  The dog is not only not clean, it will attract more dirt. That makes no sense.

If you doubt your shampoo has conditioner, do this:  get either Murphy Oil   soap or Dr. Bronner’s. Both are Castile soaps. They are soaps—no conditioner.  You will feel the difference not just on your hands, but on the dog, Using these product  once in a while will not hurt the dog.  Dr. Barbara Royal, the holistic veterinarian, sometimes suggests these soaps for dogs that have an extreme reaction to sodium. These are great for  after the beach, or a field trial quick bath—but so is Listerine!

All that said, conditioner is necessary to seal the cuticle of the hair and  calm the skin.  I work  in a kennel where some dog owners are  eccentric. Whenever their dog comes in for daycare,  at the end of the day, they want the dog bathed.  I use an extremely mild shampoo.  It is not a great ‘cleaner’—but it will get the stink off and not irritate the dog’s skin if used every day.  What is the ‘conditioner’ in the shampoo?  I have no idea—some sort of fatty acids, or cetyl alcohol. Just enough to not irritate the dog’s skin, but leave the hair soft.

What dogs do need conditioners? dogs with very dry coats.  However,  even if the coat is dry, and you want to seal the coat cuticle, you don’t want to SOFTEN the coat, or that will actually make it worse. That’s why you want to know that the product you are using will do what you want it to do. That involves experimentation.  I know this, because I groom Coton de Tulear… all in specials coat.

You can not imagine a coat more dry than that of a Coton (except, of course, the  designer Shih Tzu mixes bred for the  consumer market).  They are very  affected by static. The cuticle opens up if the dog runs on carpet…or merely turns around. This is especially true when the dogs are puppies going through a coat change.  the breeder and I,  with the expert advice of her (AKC professional) handler, have  used several different products.  sometimes, the dogs are  bathed more often than once a week.  The owners have taken up the carpets  and put in wood floors, and their furniture is leather.  Nothing helps…and these dogs have the ideal coat texture for  Cotons.  What  chance does a pet owner have to keep a Coton in coat? Virtually none. the breeders suggest  having the dogs trimmed down like Bichons.

Also, a  few words about deshedding treatments….  I am bringing this up because  they way they are formulated if used according to manufacturers ‘ instructions—-can be great deep conditioning treatments.  The reason for this is that they are formulated with  Vitamin E, and meant to be left on the dog’s skin for  five to 10 minutes, and make the skin more supple.  Then, you leave the conditioner on for  a few minutes as well.  By making the skin more supple,  it causes the hair about to shed out, to loosen.  It will not make a dog loose coat if the dog is not losing coat, but it will coat  every hair and  you can see the results.

I got a Long haired dog…now what?

July 22, 2016

I am very  concerned about the number of people who  impulsively get a non-shed dog with no clue  as to how they  are going to take care of it, or even if they can afford  to own it!

I see people post on Craigslist that they are looking for a Shih Tzu (or another small long haired dog…or even a Bulldog), but they don’t have a fortune to spend.

I want to own a Scottish Deerhound, but you could not buy a pup for under $5000, and adults never go into rescue.  There’s a lot of stuff I want but can’t afford.   I guess Americans  feel that because they want something, they should have it, and others should accommodate their wants.

Thus, I spend a lot of time  showing people how to brush their  dogs. I show them the proper  brushing technique. I explain why dogs get matted. I show them my tools (various brushes & combs).  I explain on how to to make the task easier, and explain that, at least for small dogs, it should not take more than  5 minutes a week.  Even if they  grow the coat as  long as it will get naturally, it should not take 10 minutes.  The Afghans  take me about 1/2 hour.  However….now that I know what I am doing, I have them  come in every  two to three weeks, and it usually takes me  90 minutes to bathe & brush out the dog.

I looked up videos on YouTube.

What I don’t like about this  1 is that he starts at the top.  This is fine if you are brushing a dog wet, but I think it could be a bit confusing.

What I don’t like about this 1 is that she uses a pin brush.  Good luck. it will just bounce over the matts, and  the pin matts will not be touched. Also, it’s really hard to see the line brushing part.

I currently work for a hobby breeder who raises Cotons. This video would not be bad, but again, it’s difficult to see what she is actually doing.

Neat,huh?  I have no idea what this contraption is. I have never seen  it.  This won’t help at all!

God bless this groomer—but there is no reason  to do this.  Your dog comes in matted every week? I am shaving your dog. There is no humane way to  ‘dematt’ this dog without pulling the hair and hurting it.

The groomer is using an Oster Rake.  I use 1. It’s very good.  In fact, the Top Performance  rakes that PetEdge sells are cheaper & just as good.  But Jun, the groomer, is not showing  us how to line brush the dog & prevent it from becoming a holy mess in the first place!~

So, I am trying to find a videographer to help me make a video of  how you actually line brush a dog, what tools you use, and why you do it the way I am showing you.

 

Why Pet Industry ‘Professionals’ Can’t Find Groomers

July 8, 2016
You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I had another demoralizing experience a few weeks ago.  I guess what made it worse was that I was hoping  for  a better experience.

I’ve been looking for  part-time work because, where I work now, they can’t get me enough work.  We are working out  the ‘bugs in the system’, because  originally, they didn’t want to pay me to  groom dogs that were getting ‘just baths’.  To most groomers, it is never ‘just a bath’,  and we make money on the dogs we don’t clip, but that is not what this is about.

The kennel owner has been training dogs for over  decade, and  although she provides  dog daycare,  she is one of the few that does not run huge packs of dogs, and knows that most  dogs coming  into her business really need more training.

She told me that she knew nothing about grooming,  and didn’t even know how to bathe a dog, but that her groomer was overwhelmed—-booked at least  two weeks out (doing about 8 dogs a day), and she needed more help.   She was even thinking of quitting. The kennel owner was having a terrible time finding a groomer.  She called all the grooming schools, and people weren’t showing up for interviews, or would groom for a day and not show up again.

Her  set up was ok.  She had adequate dryers and tables, and a good tub.  She showed me her appointments,  and was, indeed, booked two weeks out.   I asked what she was charging for a small dog. She told m $45.  I said, “That is  pretty low, and you really can’t raise your prices over 10%.”  She was not averse to raising prices—or so she told me.  In fact, she wanted  to  open a school for  dog daycare providers, and asked me  if I had eve trained anyone to groom.  I told her I had, but you can’t train a person to have an aesthetic eye, and that’s the problem with  for profit  vocational schools. She, again,  told me she knew nothing about grooming, but felt she had to start looking for  people to train.   I told her I could come in on Wednesday, and to start me with  six dogs and we’d see how it goes.  The kennel was  a bit less than 30 miles from where I live, so it was nice that I could bring my dogs.

A dog i groomed when I worked (frifly) for Pet Supplies Plus, The dog's owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

A dog I groomed when I worked (briefly) for Pet Supplies Plus. The dog’s owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

In any case, I showed up  at 8:00a.m., and the other groomer was already there and grooming.  She had the computer print -out of our appointments, and I saw I had  eight (not six)  dogs.  I thought that was a bit much, and the other groomer thought so, too, but, as she pointed out to me, the owner and kennel manager decided this. The other groomer always told them no more than  six and they always overbooked her.  I  asked about  the shampoo, as the owner told the groomer always  diluted shampoo first thing. Well, not exactly.  Making it up as I went wasn’t he most irritating thing.  Not being able to regulate the water tempeture was  the most irritating.  I do like to  have everything ready at the start of the day,but there were other irritations.

The other groomer had been at this job for 10 years.  I asked her why she hadn’t suggested raising prices, and she said she had, but some people refused  an increase, so the owner let them get away with the old  price—a price that hadn’t gone up in at least five years, and was low even then.  In fact, their whole fee schedule made no sense. A small dog,  full grooming, was $45, but a ‘bath & touch up was …$40?  a Siberian Husky was $45—and that is really just a bath and blow-out, but a Golden Retrieve was $35 +  $15 for the nail trim. A nail trim takes  less than  five minutes, but a Golden Retrieve bath, blow out, and  neatening will take at least as long as any small dog that needs scissoring, so….?  Yes, the groomer said, but  the kennel manager & owner—who do not do her job, told her  she wanted too much.  I knew I would have to ask for 60% to take this job.

Now, I am getting the lay of the land, and I am called down stairs to talk to a client.  The new client were referred by a relative who has their Golden Retrieve shaved, and they want their Golden Retrieve shaved like that. The  ‘new’dog is 11-years-old, and never has had a professional bath, let alone  had a clipper taken to it.  Not good.  I said to these people, “I have to be honest with you.  I am not sure I can do this, and were he my dog, I would not. It is a matter of integrity for me to tell you he will not be cooler, he will not shed less, and it will not look good.  If he’s not used to the vibration of the clipper, he might not let  me do this.”  They looked at each other and then to me, and, yes, they wanted this  11-year-old dog shaved because they liked the way the other dog looked.

So much stress.  The reception area was crowded with other  clients, so there was no sense addressing  clipper alopecia, and the  business owner’s  husband, who was at the reception desk,  did not say anything.  One of the kennel staff had to carry the dog upstairs to the grooming area (later, I heard the owner say the dog  does stairs at home, so they didn”t understand what the problem was.  What the problem was…was a scared dog).  I had to get more cooperative dogs started, so it was about noon before I could start this old dog.   He was actually in good shape, but he had no idea what was happening.  I  needed someone to hold the dog on the table, as he would not stand.  The other groomer had to text  kennel staff (there is no intercom), and a guy comes up and tells us he’s on lunch break.  Huh? So why  not send someone NOT on break?  About 20 minutes later a girl  comes up,  and I get the dog out of a kennel and have to ask her to lift the dog and hold the dog up while I do nails, sanitary, and get some hair off.  Then she  held the dog up in the tub for me (where, by the way, we never got hot water as we could not regulate the temperature), then helped me get the dog into a crate to dry.  So this dog (mind you, at the most, a $60 fee in most places, and the  business owner is charging  $50) is a two person job. The kennel is losing money on this dog.  I asked the girl to return in about 20 minutes so we can finish the dog.  Meanwhile, the kennel manager came up to ask how I am doing and if anyone is ready to go home.  I ask her to send someone up to help with this old dog, who will not stand for grooming.  After  10 minutes, the other groomer texts downstairs—again, and  about 20 minutes after that, a young man comes up.  I ask him to get the dog, and he starts futzing around with a kennel leash, so I get the dog, ask him to  put the dog on the table and hold the dog up while I shave the dog. While he’s holding the dog for me, he actually texts someone.

The other groomer  uses a very long blade on the other Golden, because the dog has clipper alopecia, and now has a very soft, sparse, fuzzy coat.  The long blade is not doing it for this dog, so I use a shorter blade. It looks decent, but not good.  Choppy.   Meanwhile, the other groomer tells me she actually likes grooming, she is just sick of these people. She is very disrespected.  They have not raised prices, they’ve  taken her dustpan and they don’t have a shop-vac.  Our garbage cans are way too small, and she feels she has  options to  get a job with less stress.  I tell her I can’t return unless they pay a higher  per centage, but I also asked her how often she sees the kennel owner, as the kennel owner has not come up to talk to  me or given me any paperwork.

I am finished with my  eight dogs about 2:30.  I went to reception to  tell them I am finished. The owner is in the training hall with the kennel manager and her husband.  She smiles at me but doesn’t say anything, and leaves out another door with a dog.  The husband sits down at the front desk and starts  rifling through  a drawer.  I say, “You know, Katy didn’t give me any paperwork.”

He hesitates, and finally  says, “Yes, well, we are  parting company. We didn’t like some of the things that went on here today.”  Interesting. Nobody came upstairs to say anything to me.  Except the kennel manager to ask how I was doing, and I said, “I am a bit overwhelmed.”  Several years back, I  took a job where I was told I would get seven dogs a day, but the bather would bathe my dogs.  That never happened due to  the dynamics of the shop.  Within  two weeks of my starting, a groomer who had been at the shop over  22 years came in one day and took all her stuff—-quitting, but never said anything to management…and suddenly I had nine dogs to groom a day.  I told the practice manager it was too much, and she told me to do my best. Then, I was getting  ten and 11 dogs a day, and I continued to tell her I could not do a good job on that many dogs.  I worked for about eight weeks, from 8:00 until  often after  4:30 p.m.  One day, she calls me over to tell me she has to let me go—she is getting too many complaints!  But  give me just seven dogs, and have the bather bathe my dogs?  Not happening.

So what didn’t the  owner’s husband not like? That I tried to dissuade the people with the Golden from getting the dog’s hair cut!  “Now, I know that Goldens are not supposed to be shaved, but…”   he says. It’s a money thing.  I was—again—in a no-win situation.”That dog was 11 years old!  it was a matter of integrity to  suggest they not do  this.  Did they like the way the dog looked?”  “I don’t know,” he replied.

What pisses me off was that  his wife—the kennel owner—didn’t have the integrity to tell the owners of the dog this was not ethical, and she didn’t have the integrity to talk to me about it, although she had all day. She had her husband—a person I had never met…do it.  Yet, she is going to bring integrity and professionalism  to pet services.  And she wonders why she can’t find a groomer.

We had an unpleasant email exchange, where she accused me of doing a bad job on purpose, and also claimed I cut the dog & she had to pay the veterinary bill & refund the grooming fee.  She actually never saw the dog.  she also told me  the other groomer was quitting because of an injury.  clearly, the other groomer needs a reference, and  won’t tell the owner the truth.

Here’s what another groomer blogged about, recently: https://poodlequeen.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/where-have-all-the-groomers-gone/

I can’t imagine how  someone who has never  even groomed their own dog  thinks  they will  just be able to hire a groomer, with no thought about  equipment,  how long a grooming takes, or what  a fair fee for a job is…but this is the direction  my industry is heading.

“Keeping Our Boat Afloat”—or the end of the Purebred Dog Fancy

June 24, 2016
My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

Two Northern Illinois Kennel Clubs are  sponsoring a  round table discussion about how to keep the sport of  showing dogs (I believe this would include performance) active and viable.  The session will be held Saturday, July16, after Best in Show  at Blackhawk KC.

I will not attend, because I don’t have  a dog to show. Actually, I have  one dog in Rally (and one of the clubs has no performance events), but I am glad others are as concerned as I am.

Purebred dogs are in trouble. Even discounting the physiological problems of the  brachycephalic dogs,  many breeds do not have viable gene pools.

I was going to start this rant another way, but two occurences shocked me into having to address perceptions.

I compete in Rally, with  a purebred dog.  I noticed that mixed breed dogs are listed in the catalogs as “ALL AMERICAN DOG”.  Does that mean that the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Coonhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are NOT “ALL AMERICAN DOGS”?  Why aren’t mixed breed dog listed as either ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’? What genius thought up this slap in the face to the fancy?

I often respond to posts  on Craigslist from people looking for specific breeds (I also flag sellers…no animal sales or breeding are allowed on Craigslist—it is to rehome older pets, but this is a great example of ‘the law of the commons’ and people having no integrity).  A girl was looking for an Australian Shepherd.  I responded that, since no animal sales or breeding are allowed on CL, that she should contact  the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and be put in touch with hobby breeders.  I also told her that, since ethical hobby breeders take their dogs back (and no puppy sales are allowed on CL), that the only responses she’d get would be from commercial breeders or scammers. She responded to ME that U didn’t know what I was talking about, that she had done plenty of research, and would not buy from a breeder because they only breed for money.  I  responded that she was mistaken, that hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed and  do genetic testing, and where did she think purebred dogs come from, if not breeders?  She told me she knew what she was doing & to mind my own business.

So…my fellow dog purebred dog fanciers….so much for the AKC marketing, “Buy from a breeder,” as this has clearly backfired.  The  conventional wisdom is that we inbreed dogs for looks, and don’t care about soundness (yet, the designer dog breeders and their “F1 crosses” seems to make a lot of sense to those buyers who believe that crossing  two breeds eliminates genetic defects).

I have been ‘active’ in the fancy, on and off, since the late 1960s.  My  first  ‘show dog’ was an Afghan, or, rather, I should say he had a great pedigree, but  he wasn’t really show quality, and, as my parents weren’t really interested, nobody mentored me.  I went to the New York School of Dog Grooming, rather than college, because I knew I wanted to work with dogs.  I was taught by Don Doessel, who actually got Louis  and Seme Auslander started in Miniature Schnauzer.  I was later mentored by a dog groomer who learned to groom Bedlingtons from  Charlie Praeger, and Airedales from Mareth Kipp.  I have worked on and off for Dale Miller (Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers), and  for Jocelyn Slatin (Jamboree Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers).  I was a member of the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago in the 1970s, and really promoted the idea of rescue and breeders taking responsibility for all the dogs they breed, but I was ridiculed, so I dropped my membership.  It was all for the best.  Having Afghan Hounds, I realized there were very few good pet homes for long haired dogs, and I wasn’t going to be wealthy enough to have enough property or time to support a breeding habit.  & who wanted to associate with people who felt that once they sold a dog, their responsibility ended?  I know that  the ‘culture’ varies from breed to breed….but this is how puppy mills get dogs of your breeding:  buyer can’t  keep dog, you don’t take dog back, commercial breeder (Hunte Corp?) gets dog, & the rest is history….

It  just got to the point that I knew, if I wanted to retire with any level or  economic security, I could not afford to campaign a dog.  Where did I get my wacky ideas? From the breeders I worked for. In fact, Fred Alderman, of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: If  you had never owned an Afghan  and wanted one of his dog, you had to spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to sell you a dog & later hear you didn’t know how much time it would take, or the equipment you would need, or how often it needed to be done.  If—after a day of grooming, you didn’t want an Afghan…no harm, no foul.  Yet, how many   ‘ethical hobby breeders’ even  tell a pet buyer what kind of brush to buy?  Or say anything about obedience training being a must?

I’ve helped a few breeders grade puppies, and judged a couple of matches, but the AKC  has no use for me. They’d  rather support a puppy mill breeder as a judge than a non-breeder who knows the standards and can interpret them.  Why?  You know why:  the  whole thing is about registering puppies.

&–what is a puppy mill?  There is a lot of disagreement on this, but—-to me—it is the breeder  breeding dogs without a thought to bettering the breed.  It doesn’t matter if they have one bitch or  1,000.  If you are not breeding for the betterment of the breed, you are part of the pet surplus problem.

I ultimately did  go to college, and I ended up with a master’s in public policy.  BFD.  I’ve also titled dogs in conformation (a Saluki whom the breeder didn’t think was show quality finished in  fewer than 10 shows), obedience (an Afghan  and a Whippet both nationally ranked), rally, and  lure coursing.  I, too, am THE FANCY.

Why is the fancy in trouble?

  1.  There is no longer a middle class.    When I started  showing dogs, as a teenager, ‘land rents ‘ were much lower.  Housing, for middle class people, was 20—25% of their take home pay.  Now, 35% is considered average.  Don’t get me started on  health care or energy costs.  You need an expendable income to be ‘in dogs’, so  how many people can afford to keep even  four breedable bitches?  & you notice, their children are not  becoming breeders;
  2. There is a huge disconnect between  fanciers and veterinarians.  Yes, some fanciers are veterinarians, but, as a dog groomer, I have worked for several animal hospitals where not  one veterinarian was a fancier. They  disrespected the fact that  many  dogs had grain sensitivities—and it is now a major segment of the pet industry.   that was us!  Us dog lovers, talking to each other at  conformation classes and shows!  We developed grain-free & specialty  dog foods—not veterinarians! They  don’t  suggest pet owners  check for  discoverable  genetic problems  before breeding their dogs, and they are the reason  people switched from dog collars to harnesses and flexis (god forbid they’d suggest—-training).  One practice I worked for  actively partnered with puppy mill outlets.  So—-why  do fanciers continue to  support veterinarians who don’t understand or respect them?
  3.   Our marketing is for shit.  Due to our integrity, we’ve supported research into genetic defects.  This is not purebred dogs—this is DOMESTIC dogs.  Yet, veterinarians will not disabuse  pet owners of the idea that  designer dogs are not HYBRIDS.  Now, for every purebred Poodle I groom, I groom over 100 designer dogs:  Doodles, Shipoos, Maltapoos, Cavashons, Bernadoodles…and Pomskys.  Pomskys!  Why not a Keeshond or Norwegian Elkhound?  & people are paying more for the mixed breeds than they would a purebred.  I  was attending   a specialty show of a breed, and at the same location. I walked into another  specialty  of another breed, just  to watch…and several people asked me what I was doing there or if I was lost!  This  was a breed I had considered owning, no more!  Also, th public doesn’t understand that most of our dogs are house pets!
  4.  We have allowed naive  ‘humane activists’ to  own and define the rhetoric. Open admissions shelters would not have to be high-kill if the ‘No-kill’ were honest.  & when you buy dogs from commercial breeders, it is not rescue.  I consider myself a humane activist, but I do not support rescues that disrespect hobby breeders.  Our dogs are not the ones that end up in animal shelters….but the only way to  prove this is to push for—on a state level–mandatory chipping of dogs & cats with the breeder’s contact info.    This could easily be done by contacting anyone who posts puppies or kittens for sale on Craigslist, EBay, or any media.  & it can be done by encouraging people to become volunteer humane inspectors.  When  the do-gooders who support  shelter pets  shout, “Adopt, don’t shop!”  they are letting all the backyard breeders off the hook—and they are the ones causing the pet surplus.  You can find them on Craigslist any day.
  5.   We do a poor job of policing ourselves.  We  all know of hobby breeders whose yards are a mess, who  don’t sell pups with contracts or  explain what grooming tools or methods are needed for the puppies they sell…and who won’t take a dog they bred back.  Remember, the Obamas got  their  two Porties who had been returned to their breeders.  When they got Porties, for once, we didn’t see a flood of Porties hitting the market. Why?  the PWD  breeders saw what happened to  other breeds, and closely hold them….and  follow through. They also explain this to pet buyers.  The culture varies from breed to breed.  I am a Saluki and Whippet fancier, and  all  our breeders (who are not mentally deranged) take their dogs back—no matter how old.  Yet, I’ve been told, that for every Shiba Inu or  Basenji that is AKC registered, statistically, one goes into rescue.

So, what can we do to save the fancy?

  1.  Everyone has to be on the same page.  You have to have all your puppies on contract to be   co-owned until neutered or titled, and you  better be sure you have  the funds to  enforce a legal contract.  & if you can’t  find good homes, and know you can be selling to renters, or  people who really don’t have the time or funds to take care of a dog (or who you know plan to give your puppies as gifts), YOU are the problem.
  2.   Dog show entry fees are outrageously expensive. There was a time that I’d enter  both conformation and obedience.  Not any more.  &—the biggest insult—that Rally is considered an ‘overlay’ event with a totally different entry fee—is offensive.  Because other clubs do  it is  a terrible reason—and this is what is preventing people from  showing their dogs (even if they did have some extra cash).
  3.   Your club must sponsor events to get the public involved.  Ask a local pet shop manager if you can set up a table on weekends and do  information on various breeds and activities.  This is  how you can inform regular folks  about  what  ethical breeders do.  See the following suggestion—-pet  fanciers of your breeds  are the best marketing.
  4.   Show some respect for people like me—who are not breeders—but fanciers and pet buyers!  The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is now made up almost entirely of pet owners not showing dogs!  That’s right!  Sure, some people still race, and lure course, but of our paid up members,  I’ve been told only  one is a breeder.  Yet, we know  we have to support  hobby breeders.  In fact, the American Whippet Club events  always  attract a lot of pet owners.  We have  agility, obedience, rally, classes for spayed/neutered dogs, a parade of rescues as well as champions, and  do major  fund raising for our national networked rescue efforts.
  5. Your matches should be sweepstakes.  In fact, what’s up with an entry fee being $27, but someone offering $10 for Winner’s dog or bitch? What kind of sense does that make?   Here’s an idea:  encourage  exhibitors to bring items for a bazaar.  For every class win, give a  ticket, for Winners  and Best of Breed, etc, give more tickets, and allow people to choose their own prizes to commemorate the win!
  6. It’s time to demand that  dogs be genetically tested before they are bred. To not test, and then state you have never had a problem, is disingenuous.
  7.  The AKC needs to be confronted on how they spend out money. Who cares if those puppy mill dogs go to another registry? So what? They are not a part of our gene pools!  To stop printing the Gazette, and go in favor of licensing products (harnesses—really?  Only sled dogs and guide dogs should wear harnesses!)  Yet,  not  branding of martingales—the best collar for most pet dogs…what’s up with that? Do they even know anything about safe dog handling? It’s really a slap in the face to us all.  The AKC would not even need to change anything. All they would have to do  is do what it says on their  registration papers:  no 3rd party selling.  I can’t think of any greater disrespect to the fancy than this.  I saw in a dog magazine that someone thought the AKC should get all  money collected for entrance fees & dole it out to us. Really? The foxes guarding the henhouse haven’t done enough damage?  I have to wonder if these old white men are all just field trial people who don’t have a personal relationship with any dog!  But what are our delegates doing in New York?
  8. . I suggest every fancier get a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” which is a great treatment of how ideas become conventional wisdom.

A Very Sad State of Affairs in the Pet Industry

May 27, 2016

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?

I’ve been told I should not ‘name names’ as it is preventing me from getting jobs….but since I am near  retirement…well…if you are in the metro Chicago area and are looking to board your  dog, contact me, first. There are some good kennels, run by dog lovers who’ve bothered to learn about animal behavior (dog behavior, specifically), and train dogs.  Unfortunately, many   dog kennels are  owned or managed by people  who have had management experienced, have owned a pet dog, and know NOTHING about dog behavior or what causes stress or injury. They don’t care to learn, either.

I have a friend, a past co-worker, who  took a job at a facility  on the north side  of Chicago. in fact, the owners, two men who  own a pet dog, and got tired of what they were doing (and had the capital), offered me a grooming job right before I went on vacation…to start upon my return.  While I was gone, they fired a groomer who was about to leave on her own, and immediately hired another ‘groomer’…because they couldn’t wait for me.  Why not? Well, obviously, neither guy  knew how to brush or bathe a dog, so they needed someone’s labor to make money.

I was  a bit disappointed, but not too disappointed.  They really needed more equipment, and I knew they knew nothing about dogs. This always frightens me because they also hire people to work for them who know nothing about dogs.  Yes, that’s right.  These guys, the owners, don’t want to actually  be in the room with the dogs themselves, all day. No, they want to own a ‘dog business’.

So it happened they hired my friend, who does act with integrity, and  she  found that they allowed another employee to put an electronic shock collar  on a dog (maybe more than 1).  Now, if  a person has a pack of dogs, and introduces a new dog to the pack, and  there is a fight, the new dog is not allowed to enter the pack.    That is, people with integrity know this. The people who want to make money  who won’t refuse a dog, apparently shock it.

Not all day care facilities do this.  Many use a water spray bottle (or pistol) to spray a dog  looking funny at another dog.  But face it:  the odds of a fight breaking out when you have more than 3 ‘unrelated’ (meaning living in the same household) dogs together is high.  Of course,an intact dog increases the odds, but  neutering is not a panacea.

So, my friend quit, and it looks like I dodged a bullet.  However, since, again, the  people I work for   just  three days a week don’t have enough work  for me to make a living, I have to keep looking for more work.  What I am finding is a lot of businesses  owned by people who want to own a pet business….and don’t want direct contact with dogs. they don’t want

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.

to be in a room all day with dogs.
They have never trained a dog and proudly let everyone know how spoiled their own dogs are.  They do not invest in  equipment, and want you to overcome the laws of physics, and they also  don’t want you to form a relationship with THEIR clients.

You shouldn’t choose a pet car business just because the location is convenient, but I guess anyone who thinks their dog gets exercise  just because they pay for ‘dog daycare’ is kidding themselves.  Most dogs go home tired from stress, not from  actual exercise.

I have an acquaintance who is trying to change this:  she offers  training of kennel personnel, and seminars, but this will not solve the problem of people in the pet industry  making money  off pets, but  not caring enough to work directly with them.

Careful! He Bites!

April 29, 2016

If you are a dog groomer, you’ve heard these words.  Thankfully, most dog owners are honest.  Some, however,  try to sugar coat  the message:  “He can be nippy…”

We’re talking pet dogs here.  Most dogs don’t just bite: they bite for a reason. Usually, it’s because the dog is in pain or is afraid of something.  If I can figure out why the dog bites, I can avoid irritating the dog, and we are all safer.  Who are the BITERS?   Generally, they are not Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, or Germans Shepherds…. mostly, they are small dogs.  Oh, sure, after over 40 years of putting  myself in harms way, I’ve been confronted by some  really untrustworthy Rottweilers, even  scared Germans Shepherd Dogs.  Mostly, though, the biters are small.  Usually they are terriers, but not always.    Most have come from backyard or commercial breeders, not hobby breeders.  Some have been hurt, but most are spoiled:  they have been rewarded for bad behavior.  For some reason, many pet owner are in denial about how dangerous a biting dog can be.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Most  domestic dogs have a bite inhibition.  Most dogs. Some have  neurological aberrations, but this is rare.  I had a very smart client who had large dogs, and she got a Yorkie. She said, “Never allow a small dog to do something you wouldn’t allow a large dog to do.”  She was right. It is not cute that the little darling pipsqueak acts ferocious. It’s dangerous.  Worse, because they do LOOK CUTE, some innocent idiot who really thinks that all dogs who look cute,are cute…is going to get bitten.

There are many things I know about dog body language and  display behavior.  Dogs do not like to be patted on the head (they’d mostly prefer to be patted on the side).  How many people  think their dog was abused because he cringes when you reach over his head?  That’s instinct…and some of these people refuse to believe a dog does not like to be patted on the head.  Dogs don’t like to be hugged, for the most part.

Most dogs don’t like to be carried. When their feet are not on a solid surface, they feel very insecure. And…they certainly don’t want to be on their backs—exposed and vulnerable—yet how many of our clients carry their dogs that way—and then attempt to hand them to you?  That’s another thing.  Dogs don’t like to be handed off—-especially not by their owner  to someone who might have made them do something they did not want to do (like behave themselves!).

I try to get all my clients to bring their dogs  to me on collars and leashes (& please–no Flexis).  I can  generally tell when a dog is fearful, and unsure.  I have to gain his confidence by showing him that I respect him, his space, and  what bothers him.  Many  hate being picked up.  In this case, I either lower the table so the dog can jump on, or I  make the leash taut to be able to pick the dog up without him being able to turn and bite me.  Many feels secure in a crate and don’t  want to come out. Yes, we know—it can be dangerous to leave  a leash on in a crate. The dog can become tangled. Sometimes, however, you have to  do this (leave it  dandling over the top of the door), so you don’t have to reach in, but can gently pull the dog out.  &, it is safer for all to  have control over the dog this way, rather than chasing the dog around.   THAT is never good.

Many HATE having their  feet messed with.  Where I work (at an animal hospital), unfortunately, for some reason, all the vet techs have been taught to lay the dog on the floor, strong arm the dog, and scare the dog when they cut the nails. Then I get the poor dog.  I would NEVER make a dog feel vulnerable on purpose.  I guess the vet techs feel that because they’ve gone to college (or have a certificate), that their way is the right way.  I know there are more humane ways of doing this.

basket muzzles come in sizes 1---10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

basket muzzles come in sizes 1—10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

Some dogs don’t like being brushed and will throw a hissy fit.  This can be overcome, but not if the owner isn’t committed.  We can’t do magic.  I have gotten severely matted dogs which I’ve had to shave, and started from ‘scratch’, and got those dogs to lay down while I  brushed their hair.  It can be done.

It is in my best interest to  reassure a dog and convince the dog that I am not going to hurt him.  However, if the dog’s owners are going to make excuses for bad behavior, I have no  problem charging extra for ‘special needs’.  I use  plastic ‘wire’ (we use them for dog racing) basket muzzles on the dogs I can’t convince to keep their teeth in their mouths. They can still open their mouths to pant (so they won’t panic and overheat), and they can still drink water through a basket muzzle.

If we say we love dogs, we have to learn to understand them.  Not only are there  some very good books with illustrations of dog behavior, you  learn this when you work with dogs and are mentored by more experienced dog professionals.  This is what separates us from the  business owner whose only experience with dogs is having owned or walked pet dogs.  It’s a little more complicated, but not so much if you really want  to understand dogs.

What is a Puppy Mill? Is That the Question?

April 21, 2016

In Chicago, and many cities around the country,  pet loving activists are  enacting laws to prevent or stop the pet shop sales of commercially bred—a/k/a puppy mill—bred dogs.

The common thinking, and it is pretty accurate, is that dogs sold in pet shops come from commercial breeders. They are only bred , as livestock, to sell. There is no regard for the health or temperament—or genetic soundness—of the parent dogs.  What happens to dogs not sold? They are  either  returned to use for breeding, euthanized, or dumped in  animal shelters—usually in rural locations.

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?

I get  all the pet industry publications:  Pet Business, Pet Age, Pet Manufacturing News, and they all are reporting that commercial breeders are on the decline. Some of the reasons are that  that fewer pet shops are  buying their dogs to resell.  Sure, there’s still Petland, Furry Babbies, Happiness is Pets, and others, but, for the most part,  more pet shop owners are seeing the writing on the wall. They  know that  people who come into their pet shops to impulsively buy a dog, haven’t put much thought into it, and the pup will be abused or neglected.  Better to send people looking for puppies and kittens to animal shelters or  hobby breeders…or just allow the shelters to bring in animals and do the screening of adopters themselves (and just make money off the supplies these pet owners will buy).

I support rescue.  I have owned puppies, and have worked for kennels taking care of puppies, and for me, an older dog is best.  My last 5 dogs were  older dogs that the breeders had either  just kept…or taken back when the people they sold the dog to could not keep them.  This is what ethical hobby breeders—who love their dogs, do. They are responsible for their dogs from ‘cradle to grave’.  In fact, some  parent clubs, notably the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, mandate their club members  do this. This is why you don’t see a lot of ‘rare’ breeds in  shelters—or on Craigslist.  These breeders are not desperate to dump dogs.   They wouldn’t be breeding dogs if they had to offload dogs to iffy homes. &—this is why  hobby breeders are on the decline.  It is  too expensive, and aggravating, to breed good dogs.

This is Venus. Her original owner suffered a medical problem, and she was returned to her breeder...& I got her.

This is Venus. Her original owner suffered a medical problem, and she was returned to her breeder…& I got her.

Oh sure,  what’s considered ethical varies from breed to breed.  Who knew what a Shiba Inu, a Havanese, or a Cane Corso were 20 year ago?  The breeders of those breeds just assumed that the people they sold to were buying pets…or, nobody ever addressed to the hobby breeders what could happen if they sold dog without neutering  or co-ownership contracts.  Now, we see those breeds more often on Craigslist, and don’t get me started about designer mixes.

I am opposed to puppy mills, but it seems that the AKC is working against us.  Why is that? Well, of course, they make money off of registrations, no matter who breeds the dogs….but what is a puppy mill?  There are people with 2 or 3 bitches who breed them to death, and post on Craigslist constantly…but they don’t have kennel buildings, so nobody considers them puppy mills. Yet—-it is exactly those breeders whose dogs end up in shelters and rescues. Why? They don’t ask who  lives in the household and to meet them all, if the buyer owns or rents, if he works all day, what will be his arrangements to housebreak and train a puppy,  if he knows how much annual shots  or frequent grooming costs.  In fact,ironically, it is the African scammers posting Bulldogs, Siberian Huskies, and Yorkies who ask those questions!

Now, on the surface, this breeder looks like a puppy mill : http://www.blythewoodschnauzers.com/  Go to the website. Joan Huber has  at least 14 stud dogs. So, at a minimum, you know she has to have at least 14  breeding bitches , and I am sure she has more.  Joan Huber is a well known  professional handler. She has been in dogs over 60 years!  There is no indication she is selling  litters for resale, but she would not have to.  She has enough of a market, due to her reputation, to sell all the dogs she breeds.  She  is a member of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club, and I am sure she  adhere to their code of ethics, as I know people who know her.  The problem would be if she sells an unspayed bitch to someone less ethical than she is…& then Blythewood will be behind the names of many puppy mill  dogs.  At one time, seeing this happen, many Min. Schnauzer breeders started doing early (before age of 6 months) spay/neuter.  This can lead to  urinary incontinence.  But what can you do when buyers lie?  I doubt Ms. Huber has a personal relationship with all her dogs, but I also doubt they are living in squalor, as she does receive puppy buyers to her kennel. This is how kennels used to be—as few  people were showing their pet dogs prior to the 1960s.  BLYTHEWOOD IS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROBLEM!

My point is, the wording has to be  addressed in these laws,and  those promoting  humane care really have to understand if what they are  fighting for will make a difference in how many  pets are raised, and then are abused and/or abandoned.  When the ‘no-kill’ shelters in Illinois  ignore the dogs bred by the many backyard breeders which end up at Chicago Animal Care & Control—because they are mostly pit bulls or pit mixes (and they don’t want only these types of dogs on their websites), and go out of state to get the  dogs the puppies  mills and backyard breeders dump in Kentucky, Iowa, or  wherever….they are not solving the problem, and, in fact, keeping  bad breeders in business.  Yet these  do-gooders have the nerve to tell me that all breeders are bad breeders. The do-gooders are not rescuing pariah dogs—-they are actually solving the bad breeders’ problem of surplus dogs, and  making it difficult for ethical breeders.  I don’t want the hillbillies, meth addicts, and  low life scum deciding what kind of dog I should own—and I feel bad for the dogs thy breed, but this is not solving the problem.

The wording should be that if a pet shop sells any mammal (why would a dog’s life be worth more than a bunny or a guinea pig…or hamster or mouse…) they must either breed them themselves or they must  come from a bona fide shelter or rescue.   The owners and managers will say they did not come from mills or commercial breeders…but families breeding their pets. Uh-huh.    If that were so, they would not sell  them all to resell. Pets are not a 4-H project. & then, if these  do-gooders want to start making a dent….start calling and arranging visits to everyone posting a baby animal on Craigslist.  Make an appointment, and flag the post, and ask these people directly—why  did they breed the litter,  what does the fee include, will they take it back if you can’t keep it? who should be responsible for it if they won’t be….and why are they ignoring Craigslist rules in regard to animal sales?

 

You Can Affect Public Policy

April 7, 2016

In my city (Chicago), an activist ( Cari Meyers/The Puppy Mill Project) managed to get support of some politicians (Susana Mendoza, City Clerk, and John Fritchy, Cook County Board Member)  and they managed,  a  little over a year ago, to  have a law passed banning the sales  of commercially bred puppies in city pet shops.  That is the gist of the law.  I am not sure if it is worded that…if a pet shop sells puppies and kittens, they must be sourced from bona fide shelters and rescues, or  if it just says….they can’t be bought from puppy mills.

I didn’t think I would see this come to pass in my lifetime, and many  humane activists were thrilled.  However, the law has been challenged in court and is not being enforced.  Is it the wording?  Because….there is no  definition of what a puppy mill is.  Most of us feel  a puppy mill  is anyone breeding pets just for resale, and not for the betterment of a breed or to improve a bloodline.  Some feel it is over  a certain # of breeding animals on site.

The reality is that the pet shops claim they are buying  animals from families, not commercial breeders (you’d really have to go into their records to check….and really, what kind of family is always having baby animals for sale if it is not a BUSINESS?).   1 huge lying scofflaw, Lane Boron,  has the audacity to be posting he has for sale a French Bulldog puppy from a rescue, neutering included.  Couldn’t possibly be true.

Obviously, we need a better law.  But before I get into what a better law might be, let me tell you how I found all this out.  I kept contacting Susana Mendoza, as it is her office which is supposed to send out inspectors to  shut these businesses down.  However, she would not take the report directly at her office. She insisted I call 311, the city  information/non-emergency line.  So…that’s what I did. the operators had no idea what I was talking about, and they  asked for all sorts of information (name of business, address,and phone number) and… a couple of weeks later I got a call from Chicago Animal Care  and Control.  Seems the city sent the complaint to them.  This was NOT a cruelty complaint, as I explained to the  CACC inspector who called. This was a BUSINESS VIOLATION complaint.    He told me, however, he was  going to inspect, but he didn’t know what the law was. So, I again, called   Susana Mendoza’s office, and  one of her staff people  filled me in on status.  Well, that’s fine, but we have another problem—being the city workers don’t know their jobs. The staff person told me to call my alderman. Really?  Like he gives a rat’s ass?  He doesn’t even own a pet.

Dash was returned to his breeder, Linda Larsen, because he chased the cat. I was lucky to get him. This is us at an obedience trial.

Dash was returned to his breeder, Linda Larsen, because he chased the cat. I was lucky to get him. This is us at an obedience trial.

So, we are in limbo on this….but this  is how the whole issue of puppy mills stands right now:  more and more pet shops around the country are seeing  that the activists are right.   I know this because I  susbscribe to several pet industry publications.  Pet stores might be able to source  healthy,well bred puppies from Hunte Corp, but bottom line is, no matter how physiologically healthy these pups are, they  are stressed out, not socialized, and they are still being sold as livestock to anyone with a credit card.  Ethical hobby breeders who love their dogs  do not sell for resale. It doesn’t happen.  In fact, there are many breeders who are  thisclose to being puppy mills, as they are commercial breeders….but they  would never think of selling for resale: they still want to meet the buyers—even if it is just over the internet—and they still want the dog back no matter how old it is if the buyer no longer wants it.  AND—-many of the  puppy mills are closing.  The breeders are retiring, they are being raided (even though we have yet to have a president appoint a USDA director who will enforce the laws we have), and, thanks to  social media, we can  probably get them closed down in the next several years.

What we are not addressing are the  breeders taking their place:  the backyard breeders which are  smaller puppy mills. They are all over  Craigslist, E-Bay, Amazon, and a few other selling sites.  Sometimes they post in  newspapers, but the internet is the new way to sell.  We have to get  them. Their dogs may or may not be  better cared for, but, because of their selling practices, these are the dogs that end up in animal shelters.  If we want this to be a NO-KILL NATION, we have to make sure there are fewer dogs.  To do that, we have to let these breeders know that we are on to them, and we intend to make them responsible.

So, I am drafting a law.  However, I have to get  politicians to  promote this law, and I have to get  activists—or at least people concerned about  humane treatment of animals and pet surplus—to  advocate for this law.

I am not a political science major, but I have seen what social media has  done in the past several years.  Sea World  is  going to stop breeding whales (and may shut down altogether) due to negative publicity.  Ringling Brothers circus is retiring its elephants,  people know it is gauche to wear fur, to buy products tested on animals, and  to give a live animal as a gift.  More people understand that people who   are habitually violent most likely started by being cruel to animals and they see the link.  Because so many of us have posted about these issues on Facebook, we are getting across.

A Corporation Comes Calling

March 25, 2016
You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I wanted  to blog about something else this week, but I got contacted by  a recruiter who had seen my resume on an internet site.  Now, he thinks he needs another dog groomer at the business he manages (for the corporation), but when I asked him how far ahead his groomers were  booked….he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

I told him—straight out—that his corporation had fired me for doing what his manager told me to do, and I doubted his corporation would allow him to hire me even part-time.  It was though he was not listening to what I was saying.  I also told him that if I worked part-time, I knew I would not make commission, and he ignored that, too.  He out and out told me I had to work weekends to make commission, and I told him I  was showing my dogs in  performance. Then, the conversation switched to  the fact that he also needed to hire a dog trainer, and blah blah blah…long story short, once I built up my classes, i would make $20 an hour.

I told him  that I wanted to go to classes myself, so that would not work. Then he told me about another location, close to where I live, that needed a grooming manager, as they had no groomer at all.

I know these guys answer to corporate. Corporate sets the prices you can charge.  That’s only  part of it.  There  is nothing to prevent them from hiring more people than needed so nobody makes commission, and their base pay is $12 an hour. Even some Walmarts are now paying that for non-skilled workers, so how can anyone think that’s fair?  Because you don’t need a college degree?  What is it that causes so many of them to re-arrange their policies and still disrespect the people making them money?

But I’ve also gotten religion in these past several years,  having worked at pet shops selling animals.  I  want to ask, between the time you order  guinea pigs, gerbils, mice and bunnies (never mind the herps and birds) and the time they get to the  shop floor, how many die of stress  or injuries, and what happens to the unsold animals?  Are they children of a lesser God?  Deserving less concern?  Do I want to  work for a corporation that exists on the premise that they are selling  love, but don’t really care if pet animals are mistreated?

I was in Viet Nam a few years ago. Communist country, right?  We’ve told ourselves so many lies about Viet Nam, but what I witnesses was that so many people were entrepreneurs.  So many. I am sure there are factories in Viet Nam, but in so many cities, what I saw were  so many vendors.  They sold cloth, and notions, and clothing,  dishes, cookware, electronics, had little tearooms,  restaurants, herbal stores,beauty salons…. whatever.  I’m sure  very few of them were making any real money, but they had cell phones, and TVs…and their time was their own.  That’s so important.  They didn’t have bosses telling them to do crazy stuff, belittling them, and lying about it.  This is why groomers have said, “Take this job and shove it.”  They make less on their own, but their time is their own.

Until the corporations start treating their groomers and dog trainers at least as good as they treat all the people making rules for them…and paying them justly, they are going to continue to beg for groomers, and keep training people who don’t have a clue, don’t have an aesthetic eye,  or don’t have any interest in animal behavior.  What a business model!

It’s Only Dog Hair

January 1, 2016
The trim is a 'Town and Country'. I wanted to do a classic 'Dutch', but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not 'falling off'.

The trim is a ‘Town and Country’. I wanted to do a classic ‘Dutch’, but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not ‘falling off’.

Saul Bellow wrote a book that  became a best seller, called “The Adventures of Augie March.” It’s about a working class Jewish kid trying to make his way in the world.  He has no education, gets involved with seedy individuals, and tries a lot of jobs. One of the jobs is as a dog bather for dog groomers.  I believe the book takes place in the early part of the last century.  All the dogs were poodles.  He  is ambivalent about the job.

Being a dog groomer, I never forget that part of the book, because I work for a lot of businesses owned by non-dog groomers…or  people who have had any experience in  the pet industry, like ever working in a kennel or assisting a groomer or veterinarian, and they think they are doing me a favor by hiring dog bathers.

Unless I train the bather, what I get is some kid with no  aspirations  to make an actual living, who thinks he loves dogs, but clearly doesn’t like the job task, who slows me down and usually does a half-assed job,  At my most recent job,  due partly to lack of proper equipment, they even  re-matted the dogs while drying them. Why?  Because my managers really didn’t care  whether these guys acted with integrity or not….and they were not brushing out most of the dogs.

I’ve written before about how non-dog groomers, or people whose only experience with dogs was actually in dog grooming school (“because they loved dogs”) are running businesses offering dog grooming, This was the case of one of my most recent jobs.  One of the guys who is a manager actually told me his parents ran a commercial breeding kennel (what we know as a puppy mill).  Yes, he has his own personal dogs whom he adores….but you  have a desensitization when you think it is ok to breed pets as livestock.  The other manager was trained by a very well known groomer, and is a very good scissor artist.    However, neither guy has worked in as many places, for as many mentors as I have.  Nor will they get their hands wet.  They are excellent groomers and horrible managers.

So, you couple these excellent groomers/horrible managers, with an investor/owner who really doesn’t have a clue about who has integrity, or that it matters, and you get….a real communication disconnect about what is needed to  make the business run efficiently, and why integrity matters.

I came on because the managers  got married and went on a vacation, leaving no experienced groomer, but a lot of work.  Had they really cared, they would have done this in January or February, when business  is slow (lots of people don’t get their dogs groomed in the winter—cold is the excuse…), not September, but no matter.  The investor owner pleaded with me, I came on part-time, saw they had full time, told the owner that there would be a lot of complaints as the managers LEFT NO GROOMING INSTRUCTIONS ON ANY CLIENTS, and his  other groomer was too inexperienced.

We muddled through. The guys returned, and suddenly, the efficiencies I had instituted so we could get through the day were  ignored.  Matted dogs were, again, being sent for bathing, and, and WE were expected to demat these dogs (even though, when the owner hired me, he told me the dogs would be brushed out for me).  Dogs were not towel dried properly, and so they stayed wet forever.  But more, I was being treated like…a necessary evil.  The guys  didn’t work with us.  One ‘managed’ the front, the other would come in late &  be constantly taking breaks to talk on his cell phone, or go out for a smoke or whatever.

I come in at  8:00 a.m., ready to start work immediately, and I  generally work until we are finished.  One is constantly warning  me to NOT cut any hair on the face before the dog is bathed, and not cut off any hair on the legs.  They do not clean ears. They forget to clip toenails, they  decided that because too many dogs are   frantic and  scraping their nails on the tub grates of the drying table (frantic—yes…now why would that be?), we are to cut nails after the bath.  If we get blood on the dog, we will rewash it.

I was being paid a decent hourly wage, but not great. No tips, I was not allowed to  interact with clients.  We were demating too many long-haired dogs.  I told both the owner and the manager that we should be telling people, the interval between groomings is too long and we are stressing out your dog.  That’s tactful, isn’t it?  Nobody is blamed for not brushing their dog. We know it is not a matter of money…it is they just don’t know and nobody has told them.

But they—owner and manager— refuse. THEY are not doing the  work, we are.  Yes, one of the managers will help if  a dog is very  horribly matted, but for the most part, another groomer and I do the work.   It is tedious, and in the end, doesn’t solve the problem. It is not fair to the dog, but nobody but me cares.

The icing on the cake was Christmas week. We had been slow the two weeks before, and I had been taking days off because there wasn’t really enough work, and I knew my co-workers needed the pay.  But X-mas week, we were grooming 30+ dogs a day.

What the manager would do would put the name of the dog on the board, the time in and out, and the ‘instructions’, which, for the most part, was one word:  “Cut”.  Sometimes it would say “long trim”.  On one dog, ‘Joey’, it said ‘E’. E is a long, attachment blade.  It leaves the hair about 2 inches long.  So, I did our regular pattern, and suddenly, Carlos/manager walks into the room (his partner is talking on his cell phone), lots of yelling in Spanish:  “What did YOU do?  You cut off the topknot!  Didn’t you see it was long?” and  what ensued was Carlos telling me the owner wanted a big head, she complained that while he was gone, we made the dog look like a monkey, why didn’t I ask…and all I could think was, You mean, when you left on vacation  and there were no grooming instructions on any dog…? 

You really can’t guilt me when you  make a mistake.  I  am amused, but I don’t feel bad.  And you know what?  The owner  came, picked up the dog, said it looked great, and left. No complaints.

As an aside, this happened to me about  25 years ago. I was working in a shop, and I had instructions to scissor a Cocker Spaniel.  Ugh!  but I got the dog fluff dried and  did it, and my co-workers were telling me how great  the dog looked, and my boss came into the room and yelled, “You made  him a half an inch too short!”  At first, I thought he was joking, but he was  distressed because  he  KNEW the owner would complain.  Now really, do you think any of these owners know how long their dog’s hair is?  But sure enough, she  called (maid picked the dog up, of course…) and  complained.  I told him I thought   it was a good time for me to tell him I was joining Peace Corps and would be leaving in  a month.

What did me in  on my  current job was that, as busy as we were, trying to  be efficient, the manager, not caring,  sent a matted Doodle to be bathed.  The bather knew the dog was felted and should be shaved, but he does what he is told.  It took him over 1/2 hour to dry the dog, and I was wondering what was going on, as I had not  touched the dog before the bath.  He finally finished drying the dog, and I told him to put the dog on my table. The dog was a solid mat.  I looked at  the bather, and he rolled his eyes and said, “I know…”  So, I went to Carlos and said, “I’ll have to take a thinning shears, and I don’t think there will be that much left.  He’s really badly matted.” So, Carlos now  has heard the dog is badly matted from 2 people.  He said, “Just give the dog a sanitary trim, and we’ll brush over the top and send him home.”  I know why he said this.  It’s Christmas, they probably want to take pictures, and don’t want the dog shaved.  So, I do the sanitary and nails, and Carlos comes in  and starts brushing over the top  of this dog.  I  was not going to  do that.  It wouldn’t have done anything.   The dog was matted at the skin.  Brushing was not making the dog look better as it was already fluffed out.  I was thinking  of who all would be ready for me to  finish grooming, as there were  at least five wet dogs  back there, and suddenly Carlos barks, “You are one of the  most annoying people.  I am not paying you to stand around, just leave!”

I almost laughed, but I did smile, I said Ok, and left.  I had been working since  8:00 a.m. and it  was now 2:30.  He knows i don’t waste time, don’t go out for a smoke, don’t stand around.  If there is no dog to work on, I clean the place, as there is always dog hair all over.   Why would I waste time brushing a matted dog over  the top of its mats when it wasn’t going to look any different?  He  knows I don’t stand around or waste time.  But if that’s how it is, that’s how it is.  I  had gotten another  part-time job two weeks before.  I can start later in the morning, I do my own bathing, it’s not a frenzy, I can have a relationship with clients…and I get tips.  This is why  shops have trouble getting talented groomers.