Archive for the ‘Shedding dogs’ 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.

Afghan Hounds…. and managing keeping your home clean

January 6, 2017
Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle.  What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

I haven’t been blogging  the past several months because I’ve been busy doing other things, but  I thought this information might be helpful to anyone who owns or is considering owning an Afghan Hound or any drape coated or double coated dog.

I am not a neat freak by any means…but I am not a total slob, either.  I don’t like sticky surfaces, and I don’t like dust.  I had Afghans for over 30 years, and although I love the breed, I know my limitations,and now own Whippets.  You know the types of questions people  usually ask:  Are they easy to train  ?  Do they shed much?  Afghans and Whippets are at different ends of the spectrum.

I’ll get the Whippets out of the way, first.  Whippets tend to be cuddly, very  oriented to their humans, very eager to please, and hardly shed at all.  Many are bald underneath (so are Greyhounds),  often due to a vitamin deficiency.  They are great dogs & I love living with them.

Afghan Hounds tend to be aloof…much like most cats.  A veterinarian likened  having one like living with a roommate who never cleans up after himself.  They will steal your food.  They usually don’t care  if you come or go.  If you keep them brushed, they hardly shed at all….but what does happen is that their hair will break off….especially if you have carpets.  If they lay on carpets,  the carpet will act sort of as a brush.  Due to static, the carpet will pull out loose hairs and break off old hairs.

When I lived with Afghans, and  lived in homes with carpeting, I used to take a slicker brush and brush the carpets before vacuuming, or the  vacuum cleaner bags would be filled with dog hair—as would the beater bars on the vacuum cleaner.  I relived this just  this week—as I took care of an Afghan last week.  I vacuumed…. and the beater bars were filled with her hair.  She has only been in the house 4 days!

I had clients  who desperately wanted to grow coat on their dogs, so I told them to take up their rugs.  They did it, and refinished their oak floors, which looked incredible, and their dogs  stopped losing coat.  I currently work for a Coton de Tulear breeder who did the same thing.  I also admit to doing this:  taking up wall-to-wall carpeting, sanding, staining, and refinishing floors…so my dogs’ coats would not break off.

The biggest problem with long haired dogs is  carpets, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have hair collecting along the floorboards. while a Swiffer will  work….you will be changing that pad several times if you don’t do your floors at least  once a day.

So, what  can you do?  #1:  keep the dog clean.  if the dog is clean and brushed out, there will be less hair breaking off & less hair getting stuck to surfaces.;  #2—take up your rugs.  Unless you’re the type who can stick your rungs in a washing machine once a week, you will never keep the rugs clean…or  the dog clean;  #3:  cut the hair off the dog’s feet.  This can  be done so it looks natural, but still….less hair equals more clean; #4  Get a rug brush:  a fine gauge slicker, like a Vista slicker, to  top the rungs before you vacuum.

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.

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.

 

It Really is Because We’re ….Girls….

September 18, 2015

Junior high school is a  really awkward time for  kids…but particularly girls.  Your hormones are  making your body change radically.  You get your period (how dramatic is that), and your intellect is maturing.  I went through a really ugly ducking stage, and kids were really mean.  Where I went to school, there was a  cool clique, and they were the worst, but I sucked it up and made it through (I also had a lot of counseling, as  I had a lot of stress and depression I could not define (hormones?), although it was mostly at home with parents and sibs).  That was over 40 years ago, and now those mean people are my ‘friends’ on Facebook.  Whatever. We’ve all matured.

I lived and lived, and although, in the dog grooming industry there is a lot of  pettiness and drama  (due mostly to immature personalities and introverts),  I never felt it was an issue until about 10 years ago.  I had closed a my business, which wasn’t losing money, but wasn’t making money, either, and I thought I could  do better. Of course, I have mixed feelings about not sticking it out another year, but the last year was flat  due a combination of  die-off of older, very steady dogs, and the impacts of 9/11 and Enron, as well as very high energy costs, rumors of the economic bubble  which came to fruition a year after I closed the business (for those who don’t quite remember, Lehman Brothers collapsed  due to them  having too much unsecured debt, which included those bundles of chopped up mortgages, and the resulting credit freeze, and the end of the Bush, jr tenure…)

In any case, by that time my  industry had started to change. As  video tapes  were replaced by CDs (and now, downloads!!!), purebred dogs were replaced by designer dogs, and retailers  saw that  big bucks could be made from  people seeking pet products…and suddenly, the businesses I  could possibly work for were not managed by dog groomers or trainers, but by  retail managers who really didn’t know that much about dogs.  Worse,  although it was not my work or skills that bothered them,  it appears it was my confidence.

When I worked for Best Friends Pet Care,  initially, thought is was me….but other female employees told me it was not me…it was the manager, Bruce Blaine.   In fact, a contract trainer, upon hearing I took the job, told my friend, “I would not want to be caught alone in the building with him.”  I should have taken that to heart.   I complained to the regional manager, and she came out to observer him, and talk to him several times…and every time he retaliated by bullying us girls. Some just quit, but I was making a lot of money, and I felt if I could avoid him, I’d be ok. The thing is…he went out of his way to bully me.  Finally, I was offered a ‘job’ elsewhere (it turned out to be  lie—but those people are out of business now, so no matter…), and I quit.  Several years later, I learned Best Friends was sold, he was demoted to kennel staff, and moved to another location—but he was not fired.  I don’t know why he was not fired.

A contract worker  who confirmed this with me told me that in HER contract, she  specifically had it stated that Bruce was not allowed to talk to her.  So… why would so many credible people not be taken seriously?  Is it really because we don’t have penises?

I also learned that Bruce  said he fired me.  That’s what the new managers told me.  I corrected them, and told them why I quit, but the damage was done.  The guy with the dick has much more credibility than a girl.

There are several major employers in our area begging for groomers.  They post on Craigslist every day, and on many of the  pages groomers check for work.  A human resources consultant  had me for a meeting and asked me why they have so much trouble finding groomers.  I told her that  at least three-quarters of those jobs don’t really exist.  They just want applicants waiting in case  some girl makes an excuse about her kid and  doesn’t show up, or she dares to tell a client her dog has a painful ear infection, so they fire her, or…my very favorite:  having you sign a bunch of papers about the rules, then having a manager tell you to break a rule (like, say, a dog coming in for grooming that doesn’t have proof of  inoculations), and  firing you for breaking the rule—even though they told you to break it.  That’s legal. It’s legal to lie to you about how much you will be paid, too.  They probably do it to guys, but since over  70% of groomers are  GIRLS , it happens to girls more often.

It’s true, and that’s why we are being told to lean in.  Men  speak with authority, and  it’s easy for them to become managers because men (and even women) like  take charge kind of people. They don’t want a woman to be bossy, but it’s ok for  man to be an asshole.  Last year  I worked for a woman who appointed weak women to manage, so she could manipulate them, and she  hired a male architect because he talked a good game, and he ripped her off royally.  Several people told her that (including men), but she  didn’t want to believe a guy she had paid and trusted had taken advantage of her.

Several women told me to just swallow this.  It happens, this is how it is in the industry, get used to it.  We women make it worse for ourselves because we are dog trainers and used to being in charge.  Men are threatened by us.  Right—and so they  have made it impossible for me to even be interviewed, yet they are still begging for women to make money for them.

That’s what it comes down to, in my industry. They don’t have the skills themselves. They don’t want to do physical labor, and  now, the industry has changed enough, that there are more mixed breed (excuse me–designer dogs like Doodles and Teddy Bears) coming in for grooming—or should we say SHAVING— than purebreds…so your TALENT isn’t really needed any more.   They can get a grooming school graduate who never even groomed or trained her own dog to work for a lower  per centage or hourly wage…and if she dare balks….there’s another one waiting.   I am sure this is true in many industries.  The  girls don’t remember feminism, or the push for  women’s rights….that was  40 years ago!    They will always think the problem is themselves.  This is true in so many industries, and so many workplaces.

 

 

Why ‘They’ Can’t Find Dog Groomers

August 14, 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!

I have  several friends who work as consultants in the pet industry.  They network, they market.  One has extensive experience training dogs. Another has worked in dog businesses, but she has never trained a dog,

They both see the posts on Craigslist another sites where business owners post for dogs groomers.  They are wondering why these businesses can’t find  groomers.  Here are the reasons:

1.  The most competent dog groomers may or may not have learned at dog grooming schools, but  they keep up their skills or learn new skills by  networking with other fanciers and going to dog shows.  YOU want them to work weekends, when most dog shows take place.  They can make just as much money working out of their homes;

2.  You don’t offer a living wage. The average dog groomer makes about $30,000 a year: .http://www1.salary.com/Animal-Groomer-and-Bather-Salary.html   This all depends on demographics, the macro economy, weather, location relative to competition, etc.  You can see from the chart that some groomers do better, but many don’t.  You can go to a community college and become a pharmacy technician and make much more with a lot less stress. So, knowing this (most people who decide to become dog groomers do NOT know this, nor do they do any research…), why are people becoming dog groomers?  They think of them selves as  unique, artistic, independent, and want to work with dogs.  The schools will ‘teach’ you,  whether you have any common sense or talent.  These are private, for profit schools.  Nobody will know until you do a ‘test’ dog for them.  The big box stores will teach you themselves.  Do you  know what a living wage is in your area, or are you living with a parent or partner who pays all your bills?

3.  The employers, especially the ‘big box’ chains, think 1 groomer is just like the next. They  know a certain  number of employees won’t show up on time,  will not follow their rules,  may not thoroughly rinse a dog , clean the dog, or dematt the dog. Some will accidentally injure a dog.  All these employers care about  are profits per square foot or per hour.  Their business model is to  be cheaper and more available than a skilled artisan, and they are banking on the average pet owner not really caring about anything else.  If you dare question a fellow worker  or their store polices  regarding being safe or inhumane, you are out.

4.  These non-grooming employers have a ‘vision’ of how they want their businesses to  appear: business like. This has nothing to do with being safe or humane,because they  know most pet owners aren’t looking that closely.https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/i-got-fired-for-wearing-a-scarf-why-the-corporate-pet-stores-are-always-looking-for-groomers/

5.  Working conditions are poor.  often there is no place to park. Lighting might be bad. There is no dehumidifier, and often not enough dog dryers.  Some shops  allow dogs to run around, so the dogs are underfoot, pooping, and that is stressful.  People run in and out of your space and distract dogs.

6..  The experienced groomers know this and won’t be fooled again. they either leave the industry or groom our of their homes, getting clients by word-of-mouth.  Until the  managers and decision makers learn to respect groomers and treat groomers as skilled workers—or people stop spending money on getting dogs haircuts, there will be a mismatch.

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:http://bestfriends.org/News-And-Features/News/Puppy-Mills-and-the-AKC/

Stuff I Tell my Pet Owning Clients

January 23, 2015

 

An eexample fo a curved slicker brush---generally, the right brush!

An eexample fo a curved slicker brush—generally, the right brush!

The wrong brush for most dogs is the top selling  brush style in America---thanks to the idiots who  manage pet shops!

The wrong brush for most dogs is the top selling brush style in America—thanks to the idiots who manage pet shops!

How do you  get new grooming clients?  Most of mine have  either come from seeing a dog I groomed, and talking with the owner, or often something I’ve said to a dog owner who repeated it to another dog owner.  For example,  as I get to know my clients, I always ask how the dog is at home, and, in so many words, if the owner is happy with the dog’s behavior.  The short conversation—about if the dog has a cat friend, or us a devil or angel,  gives me an idea of  whether the owner will keep the dog. It also  gives me a chance to address  other issues.  One big issue is the dog pulling on the leash.  Unfortunately, most of my clients have  frequented pet stores  staffed by retailers who know NOTHING about the products they sell, and whether the products are dangerous or appropriate. As a result,  almost all the small dogs I’ve been grooming went from wearing collars to harnesses in a matter of several years.  Trending…please….

Anybody who knows me, knows I hate them. Only Guide Dogs and sled dogs  should be wearing harnesses.  You can’t control a dog that wears a harness. Yes, I understand that many people don’t want to control their dog, an I understand the VETERINARIAN  told them  to get a harness (collapsed tracheas—of course) rather than reshape the dog’s behavior.  Paired with a Flexi, you’ve lost  all control. Dangerous not just on icy walks, but if you encounter  someone who  has their pooch similarly decked out—and they (the  walker) are on a cell phone or otherwise not paying attention to the end of the leash—dangerous.

As I don’t sell any products. I remind  my clients I  don’t benefit economically, I am telling them what is real. Well,  sort of a miracle has occured.  Am I really that persuasive?  Just about every dog owner I’ve talked to went out and bought  a martingale for their dog—and a  six foot leash!  & they tell me their dogs have stopped pulling! Can you imagine?

Why would I care?  I care because I love dogs. When pet owners are not happy with their dogs, they don’t bond with their dogs. They might find homes for their dogs, and I’ve lost a client.  This is why YOU should also care. Nobody leaves a dog groomer just because she charges too much:  they leave because they  don’t feel they are getting service. The big box stores will be able to under cut you on everything.  You have to keep seeking knowledge about dogs and expressing an interest in your clients’ dogs.

What else do I tell my clients?

1.  Let me show you  how to brush this dog with a slicker brush…and you are going to need a comb.  I  often get clients because the last groomer  shaved the dog.  Sometimes,you have to shave the dog.  I ask if the client bathed this dog without brushing it, and I ask them to show me their brush.  90% of the time it is one of those horrible  pins on 1 side, bristles on the other—-worthless.  Lots of people don’t know  that matting is caused by static electricity.  I use The Stuff or Ice on Ice in the shop, but  you can now get smoothing products at a lot of drugstores—and it doesn’t take much Dimethicone  to  get the tangles out.  I explain why having the dog up off the floor is important, and why  it might be a 2 person job—but once a week, 5 minutes is all it usually will take…and I remind them if they have to wash their hands after brushing the dog, the dog needs a bath….and I brush they shampoo through the coat.  Who is going to do  this?  The pet owner who doesn’t want his dog shaved.  More important, the pet owner knows I showed him what to do, and he didn’t do it, and I am trying my best.

2.  Get a doubled edged thinning shears! How often do I get a dog in who needed a haircut  3 weeks ago? So the owner cut the hair around the eyes.  Sometimes I can fix this…but not always. Since they are  going to cut anyways, I advise them to get a double edge thinning shears. They are less likely top make a big booboo.  They always laugh.  I like the Oster & Master Equipment  (PetEdge) curved grooming rakes, too, especially for  Goldens & collie types.

3.  Get the dog used to being handled. So many of my clients are mature adults with no kids. The dog is just there, or  sitting on Mom’s lap.  When I get them on the table, they become passive resisters.  You know the type—they won’t stand up, and they pull back.  It used to be  that obedience classes taught the basic ‘stand for examination’, but those kinds of classes are harder to find.  If you can find conformation classes, they are much more informal,but the dog will get used to walking on a leash and being handled. This really helps with shy dogs.

4.  Please don’t put  a sweater on the dog—get a decent dog coat . Sweaters are a joke.   If it is really that cold, the dog needs a coat.   And  why  shave a dog to put a coat on it?  Another question…is the dog cold?  I have 2 Whippets: 1 dog who shivers looking out the window.  The other goes out in all sorts of weather & never seems to get cold.  A swearer is a fashion statement—and when you pull it off a non-shed dog, hello static—and matting.  What’s the point?

5.  Enroll your oldest kid  (& the dog) in an obedience class…and get one of the great books on dog training.  I have seen kids as young as 4 do amazing things with dogs. How can that be?  They don’t carry a lot of baggage about how to communicate with the dog.  They speak directly to the dog, and they expect results. They just need mentoring.  Dog training classes are an excellent family experience.  Plus, there are so many really good books out there.  I always recommend “How to be Yor dog’s Best Friend,” by the Monks of New Skete;  Good Owners, Great Dogs, by Kilcommons and Wilson; Dog Training for Dummies…and there are now many good YouTube Videos.  Training a dog gives a child experience in exercising patience and leadership.

6. You don’t want that smell from the shampoo to last more than a day.  I love the scent of the Pina Colada.  I Love the Nature’s Specialties LavaDerm,  and I really loved the Bark 2 Basics Almond.   Unfortunately,  1 of the dogs I used the Almond on…her owner was allergic to almonds and she almost went into allergic shock.  I am not making this up. Phthalates….have been linked to carcinogens.  If it last more than a day, it might have bonded to your dog’s coat and skin.  Better to use   a spray cologne which is much lighter and will evaporate.

7.  Let me know if you need training or grooming help…& if you know of people who can’t have pets but want to help them.  I am involved in  many animal welfare  groups, which always need volunteers. Safe Humane Chicago always needs  people who can go to court as advocates for animals in the court system.  In less than 10 years, they’ve made a huge difference in how animal crimes are prosecuted, and the judges welcome us.  Many groups need help with marketing or fund raising. some of the shelters need dog walkers and socializers.  If we can’t spread this information around, who can?

8. Put some emergency  plan for your pet somewhere most people can find it (the refrigerator door?).  I have a client who is an old lady with no living relatives.  And it happened.  One day, another neighbor  knocked on my door and asked me if I could take Punkin.  If I hadn’t, Chicago Animal Care & Control would have gotten her. Certainly, a ‘no-kill’ group would have snatched her up immediately…but this would not be so true for most dogs owned by older folks.  They would  be euthanized within days.  I  am working on getting an ordinance passed in my state to  direct landlords who rent to people with no ‘next-of-kin’ or emergency contacts to ask how they want their  pets dealt with.  If you want to be that person,  go for it.

9.  You vote with your pocketbook. Please don’t  financially support  businesses or nonprofits that work against your best interests.  When you  buy anything at a pet shop that sells animals, you support  breeding and selling pets as livestock.  Is that what you really want to do?  Do you want  to  trust a veterinarian  who doesn’t respect your pet?  Are you aware that the Humane Society of the United States is an advocacy group, and  doesn’t run any animal shelters?  Do you know that  few ‘No-Kill’ shelters  take owner surrendered pets, and often go out of your area to ‘rescue’ dogs bred by puppy mills because they are more easily placed?  Lots of dog lovers don’t know this.

As a person who loves animals, you have an opportunity to offer more service than any retail pet or chain store.  Sometimes, it’s a bow or a scarf.  More often, it’s that you had a conversation with the pet owner, and they know you care.

If Not us, Then Who?

December 12, 2014

 

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.