Dog Grooming 101

Behind the scenes at Jess Rona Grooming

You know how when you go to the dentist to get a filling and you’re a little nervous and don’t really want to go?

Imagine if your dentist wasn’t confident with their abilities, didn’t communicate with you, didn’t speak your language, was distracted and wasn’t handling you gently.

Now picture a dentist who is reassuring, calm, confident, knows 100% what they’re doing, and exactly what to say to you.

Two totally different scenarios with two totally different experiences.

Now relate it to dog grooming. I am a dentist…. well… not really… but you know what I mean.

Dogs are energy readers.

Once I had been grooming for a while, I started to understand dog behavior and I became more confident. I try to connect with the dog as much as I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always my goal.

Imagine you’re in an argument and the person you’re arguing with doesn’t see your point, doesn’t think you should care, and denies any reason they should be making you mad (we’ve all been there). You yell more and nothing gets solved.

Now Imagine that person totally understands where you’re coming from, sees your side of things clearly, explains to you exactly how you are feeling and validates it. You calm down.

When I feel seen, heard, and understood, I calm down. Same with dogs.

This leads to the number one question I get:

How do you get the dogs so calm?

There are many factors to calming a dog. Most of my clients are regulars, but for those who aren’t, here are some techniques I use. It starts when they arrive:

1. Act like it’s no big deal.

I encourage my clients to act like it’s no big deal when they drop their pups off. I will also act like the bath and grooming is no big deal. Most pups are nervous when they come in, so I encourage the owner not to pet and cuddle when the dogs are in that state (which will reinforce it.) I try to be calm/confident with the pups all day (unless they’re done and then I can play with them and go nuts).

2. Avoid Baby Talk

I rarely “baby talk” which gets a dog excited before grooming. As a dog owner in general, if you want a calm dog, try to avoid a high pitched excited way of talking, unless you have a shmoopy older dog who isn’t phased by your shenanigans. If you have a crazy goofball, try to ignore the pup until they are calm, then reward the calm with (calm) affection. It’s so hard, but if you can do it 80% of the time, you’re golden.

3. Don’t Rush

I don’t do many dogs in a day, so I am not rushing.

This is huge. I used to work for someone else, and I was often rushed and overwhelmed which made me stress. Now, I take my sweet time. (I realize this isn’t realistic for everyone)

After the dog is bathed and prepped by my assistant, I average about an hour to and hour and fifteen minutes for a basic pet trim. My grooming studio is quiet, it’s just Jay and me, and we don’t talk a lot during the day. It also helps to have sleepy dogs chillin while they wait for their owners. It calms down all the dogs. I’ve worked at shops where there’s lots of talking all day and I find it to be distracting and stressful for the pups. Since I text with clients, there are no ringing phones.

I usually pop in my headphones and listen to music, which keeps me and the dogs calm. Don’t get me wrong, I still get stressed with dogs (it’s usually related to other stressors in my life).

If I’m having a particularly hard day, I’ll take four deep long inhale/exhales. This is proven to reset your nervous system. Try it! Or don’t! I don’t want to tell you how to live you life (but do it).

4. Understand the dog

I get it; you don’t want to be here.

When a dog feels understood, they calm down. Same with people. I do everything I can to make a dog comfortable because I know they don’t want to be there.

If a dog isn’t trying to leap off my table or do everything in their power to avoid me, I will take the noose off and trust them to chill. This will make them trust me too. I find that if they don’t have a noose on, they are calmer.

This is only for grooming, I never take the noose off for drying, cause I’ve never seen a dog happy about their face being dried. (At home with owners is a whole other thing than with a groomer).

5. Gratitude

I keep a general state of gratitude when handling a dog. It’s less of a “I’m doing this to you and you need to just deal with it” mentality, and more of a “I know you hate this, I understand you, I’m grateful you’re letting me, and I’ll try to make it suck as little as possible”

6. Little things make a difference

When I pick up a paw to clip a nail, I touch the shoulder first and slide my hand down their arm to warn them that I’m going to pick up their paw. It’s a little thing I do to show them respect. I handle the dog gently.

I have little techniques for each grooming task. I don’t lift legs higher than they need to go for trimming nails or pads…etc. Little gentle things throughout the grooming help me communicate to the dogs that I want them to be comfortable.

If you’re a groomer, here are some little things I do:

I never use a comb on a mat. I work the mat out with a de-matter or brush or clip it out

I lift the dog from the rear instead of the stomach to move the dog

I move around them so they don’t have to move too much.

Instead of using a stand dryer, I tuck my dryer hose under my arm and fluff dry moving around the dog so I don’t need to move the dog a lot

I don’t pull the paw far away from the body or too high up when clipping pads

If they want to lay down, I’ll work on their face and give them a break from standing. Most behavior on my table is avoidance.

They fight because they don’t like it. I understand that and don’t judge it. I get it and accept it.

If a dog seems calm and content, I will give them a little random affection here and there during the grooming to: a) reward their state of mind, and b) show them I see them and I care.