April 21, 2008 Groomer Has It!

April 21, 2008

Groomer Has It!

Just when you thought there could not be any other reality type show made, Animal Planet has come up with a new one about dog groomers, “Groomer Has It!” The first thought when I heard about this is, “Great! Now people will finally know what it’s like to be a groomer and will appreciate us more.” Then, after chatting online with other groomers and seeing the previews of the show, we started to get a little worried. Umm, this isn’t what it’s really like, at least not from what we’ve seen so far. Now in grooming competitions, I’ve seen the model dog competitions where groomers use yarn dogs (stuffed animals) and I know that it takes 2 to 3 hours just to brush out the yarn to get it ready to cut! On the show, they gave them 3 hours total to brush, cut and dye it, which was tough. Not to mention using your good shears on the yarn dogs will ruin them. (I have talked to groomers who have competed in this competition.) The next preview on TV was showing them shearing sheep. Now, I will say I have done that….once. Not EVEN close to grooming dogs! Therefore, I am still waiting for the “reality” of this program to show the world what groomers do.
I have also seen a little preview of the groomers working on some snapping, biting dogs…that’s a little closer to reality! I hope they show some real life grooming of what most groomers get each day, but then again that would change the world of entertainment and then it would turn into an “Animal Cops” episode instead, of neglected, matted dogs.
The cool thing about this show is I remember the casting company emailing grooming groups and offering auditions. I can’t say I personally know any of the groomers on this show, but I do know of an alternate that did not make it on this time, but hopefully next time, his grooming will blow them all away!
I was particularly impressed with the groomer who works for the rich and famous of New York and charges $100 to groom a yorkie. Why can’t I get that much? Too bad celebrities don’t live around here. I know Oprah’s groomer, and I know what he gets to groom her cockers (now only one) weekly. Let’s just say I could live on doing one of her dogs a day. I wonder what she gives him for Christmas?
The grand prize of this grooming competition is a mobile grooming van with all the extras, which on top of everything else would be a sweet deal. Although with the gas prices now, I’m not so sure the groomer would come out ahead. This brings me to my next point, the cost of doing business.
On the bottom of an invoice from a repairman was this paragraph that read:
“When that professional service technician knocks on your door, many costs have been incurred just to get him there, ready to do the job.Then it lists: insurance, specialized training, periodic courses and training, truck maintenance, test equipment, taxes- Soc. Sec.- Emp. Comp., advertising, trucks, tools, warehouse shop and office rent quality control, stock of replacement parts, utilities, service management administration,office equipment, computerization, business expense - lawyers etc., employee benefits, office help, and finally stationary, office supply and postage.” It finishes with, “Don't judge service charges solely by the time the technician spends in your home or business”.

Of course, I had to relate this to pet grooming so I came up with my own thoughts:

“When you take your pet to a pet groomer, and are shocked by the price of just washing a dog, think of this...
Many costs have been incurred to open up shop and help your groomer be the caliber groomer she is.
Liability insurance, specialized training, ongoing education and training, travel to get to the ongoing education, equipment costs, maintenance costs, tools, shampoos, conditioners, hair care products, ear cleaning products, bows, bandannas, assortment of brushes, combs, shedding equipment, stripping knives, ergonomic equipment to help preserve the back of your groomer so they can have a long career, taxes, advertising, space rental or home mortgage if your groomer works out of their home, office supplies and computers and equipment to keep your groomer informed and on top of her game, internet fees, telephone expenses, utilities, postage, uniforms, cages and kenneling costs, cleaning supplies, disinfecting supplies, numerous blades for each clipper, expensive scissors, books, videos, and vitamins for the stamina it takes to get through each day grooming several dogs. Groomers have the knowledge of dog body language to work with difficult animals, and the “know how” do the job right and safely, and a willingness to handle the person on the end of each leash with a smile daily.
Don't judge charges solely by the time the groomer spends on your dog. “

Now THAT’S reality!

April 7, 2008 Saving Moses

April 7, 2008

Saving Moses

Over the years of my life, and especially after I began my career working with dogs I learned how to read them and work with them. I offer in home training to people who are having difficulties with their dog’s behavior. Rescues often give people my phone number so they have someone to call and help them before they give up on their dog. If you look at any shelter in the world, most of the dogs are between 8 and 18 months old, and are relinquished due to behavioral issues. The dogs weren’t bad dogs, but their owners didn’t understand how to train them and deal with issues correctly. Many dogs are put to sleep daily over behavior issues that they deem unacceptable. Many well meaning pet professionals such at veterinarians that don’t see the whole picture, just what little they see in their office will recommend having the dog put to sleep for aggressive behavior. This is the story of Moses, a 170 lb. St. Bernard that isn’t yet 2 years old but had developed some seriously aggressive behavior.

Moses’ owner called me one day to ask me for help with him. She was referred to me by a rescue. She told me that he barked and lunged at people and scared them to death. He had chased even members of her family inside her house and scared them. He hadn’t made any bites yet, but her granddaughter had a scratch that could’ve been from a tooth or maybe a nail. Her vet had advised her to have him put down after he handed her a muzzle to put on him, and it took 5 people to hold him to give him vaccinations and they had to knock him out for grooming. When anyone came near the house he went berserk jumping and barking at them. Even though he was tied up, nobody got out of their cars for fear the cable would break. I can’t say I blame them.

It seems his aggressive behavior happened suddenly. He was fine and friendly up until they went on vacation and left him at home in the kennel. They had family coming over to feed and water him. When they returned from vacation, he was a different dog. Strangers were a serious threat to him and with his huge size, his owner who is 4’11” tall was not able to control him. She loved him tremendously and even sent him to Kentucky to live with her daughter who worked with a trainer there to get him under control. However, Moses’ mom wasn’t there. She went down for a day to work with the trainer but the trainer was sick. They only training Moses’ mom got was what her daughter told her. When Moses was back at home, the same aggressive behavior began again.

I have to tell you, I work very well with dominant dogs, with pushy dogs, with mildly aggressive dogs, but with 170 lb. aggressive dogs when I’m about the same size as his owner, that had me seriously worried. I’ve been attending clicker training classes with Amanda at Country Critter Care that she recently started for my own dog out of curiosity on how to clicker train. I didn’t understand clicker training and I wanted to learn it in person, and not from a book. It always helps me to have someone show me how instead of tell me how to do things, which is how I train dogs and owners. I don’t tell them how to do it, I do it with them, I show them what to do, give them confidence and watch them as they do it and point out what they are unconsciously doing wrong so they can learn. Well, I was telling Amanda about Moses to get her thoughts on it. She advised me not to go alone and to take someone experienced with me. “That would be who?” I asked. I work alone mostly. So I sweet talked Amanda into coming with me to Moses’ house to evaluate him.

We arrived at his house and he was in his kennel. I told his owner to stay in the house until I came for her. I didn’t want him to pick up on her nervousness about his behavior. Dogs don’t understand why you are nervous but they feel your anxiety and they see a stranger so therefore the stranger must be why mommy is nervous. Eat the stranger. Amanda and I approached Moses at his kennel and immediately noticed that the barking, snarling behavior was done with a low tail and he was backing up towards the wall. He wasn’t mean, he was scared to death. In animals, it’s fight or flight. In my last column, Ebony the standard poodle puppy went into flight mode when confronted with a human. Moses couldn’t run away. So he tried to scare us off by lunging, barking, snarling, and looking vicious. Hey, it worked with everyone else! But we just stayed there. We praised him for the nano-second he was quiet between barks. We started tossing treats to him, that helped out some but he wasn’t interested in our treats. That’s when I brought out the big guns, hotdog therapy!

We tossed little bits of hotdog through his kennel fence and that immediately got his attention! He was soon taking hot dog morsels out of my hand and in just a few minutes he figured out that Amanda and I weren’t scary strangers, we were “the hotdog ladies”.
Amanda and Moses and his owner went into their garage and began some clicker training for good behavior while I left the driveway and came back to create a sense of “stranger approaching” to test him out. When I pulled up, he jumped up on the garage door barking ferociously and looked out of the windows and saw me. Hey it’s the hotdog lady! Hi! His barking stopped and he listened to his owner and went to his blanket to sit and get treats. I tested him over and over by knocking on doors, hearing him bark, then the owner made him go to his blanket, she opened the door and instead of worrying about him killing the visitor, she now gained confidence knowing that he could indeed be controlled and he was totally redeemable! I looked at Moses and told him “Moses, my friend, we just saved your life.” To which Moses responded with a nuzzle to “the hotdog lady”.

Moses is a big, happy, slobbering lug of a dog that wasn’t “vicious”, he was misunderstood. He has lots of work ahead of him, and luckily for him he has an owner that is willing to do the homework she needs to do to learn how to handle him correctly. Amanda and I decided we make a great team and she is willing to do more rehabilitation work with me in the future with dogs that need our help. This was a win/win situation for us all, especially for Moses.