Friday, April 22, 2011

The most popular question.

When people find out I groom dogs, there is one question that nearly all people ask.  "Have you ever been bitten?" 

My answer (thankfully) is no.  Not really.  Sure, I've had the odd puppy puncture wound, those sharp little teeth manage to get me sometimes.   Once, I was bitten by an Old English Sheepdog, but I wasn't actually the groomer on that one.  I was helping her lift the dog, and he wasn't impressed.  It was just one puncture wound.  That was probably 17 years ago. I carry a very faint scar from that one, but I didn't even go to the Dr. so I really don't count it. 

I normally can tell which dogs mean business and will actually bite, and which dogs are just bluffing.  I guess I just have a sort of "sixth sense" about dogs.  I'm so glad I don't see dead people instead.  This sense of mine really comes in handy..that sense is just creepy.  I also have a wicked fast reaction time. :)  I can get my hand out of the way of teeth amazingly well.

I still remember having a friend visit with me while I was grooming.  I was chatting away, and she said "that dog is going to bite you!!"  I just said, "no, he won't" and kept on with my job.  Yes, he was lunging at me, but I knew just how far he would go.  I know..crazy, right? (well, my friend  thought I was)   I start "reading" a dog the minute I meet it the 1st time.  The ones that give me problems, usually are already showing signs at that time.  Some, thankfully, lose the bravado the minute their owners leave. It's a protection thing.  I have quite a few dogs I can absolutely not touch if the owner is nearby.  I hand them a leash to put on their dog, and carefully take it from them.  As soon as they are on the table, they are my best friend.

Of course I have plenty of dogs that would actually bite me.  Most of them are bad for certain parts of the groom.  90% can't handle having their nails trimmed or their feet clipped.  Here is my plea:  Train your puppies to let you touch their feet!!!!!!!!!!!  The last 10% are bad for many different parts of the groom and some are bad for the whole thing. 

One of the reasons I don't get bit, is that I have multiple sizes and shapes of muzzles, and I'm not afraid to use them.  I work with the dogs to try and train them to be better about grooming, and many times  I succeed.  However, the bottom line is that I will not allow a dog to bite me.  I need my hands.  The muzzle stays in place, only as long as it needs to, as soon as we are through the part they disapprove of, it's off.

My co-worker J, once got very badly injured by a dog.  It was a new client (actually my client that day).  The owners were also new to the dog, they had just inherited it.  Immediately the Lhasa made it clear he wasn't too fond of me, and I couldn't even get near enough to pick him up.  I enlisted J's help in muzzling the dog so I could get it on the table.  As she was sliding the muzzle over his nose he turned and bit her.  She headed to the emergency room, where she ended up having surgery to remove a bone fragment in her hand.  She still has numbness in one of her fingers from nerve damage.  I felt horrible, it wasn't even her grooming dog.   The dog was sent home, and I did eventually groom it, but only under sedation for the rest of his life.  This was in the summer...peak season for us.  She was out for 6 weeks.  It was awful.  That day, we decided that we would never risk injury to groom a dog again.  It just wasn't worth it.

Dogs are aggressive for different reasons.  Some are cage shy, meaning they are fine everywhere else, but they feel trapped in an enclosed area and won't allow someone to reach in to get them out.  Some can't handle eye contact..of any kind. One Cocker in particular, I would put my hand over his eyes when I was clipping around  his head.  He was OK, if I did that.   I oblige these dogs. You can't bully some aggressive dogs, they will only get worse.  With some dogs, less is more, some just can't handle restraint.I do what I have to do to get along with them.     I can't change them all, when I'm only seeing them 4 hours at a time.  Most dogs warn with body language when they are at their limit.  Some growl, of course, or show their teeth.   The scariest ones of all give you no warning.  One very large dog suddenly decided he had had enough, lunged at me (his teeth were level with my head), and I had to walk sideways with my back against the wall to get away from him.  Thinking about it still makes me sweat.  Luckily that kind of thing doesn't happen very often.

I do my best to train difficult dogs.  It's a great feeling when a dog that had a past history of biting, is now perfect for his haircut.  I can't say enough how important it is to get puppies in early to see a groomer.  It make a huge difference.  When people ask me when should their puppy get it's first haircut, my answer is usually "yesterday".  Most of the difficult dogs I groom missed out on the early training that is so important.  And....if you have a pup that will eventually need a haircut, and you would like to trim it yourself.  PLEASE consider allowing a groomer to do the 1st few haircuts.  We know how to train these dogs for grooming. When they are trained, you can try your hand at it. (I'm really OK with that)


  1. It's interesting what breeds you've had issues with! My groomers had a news crew in to interview them about dangerous dogs the last time my boys were there - apparently the crew was amazed at the pit bull and rottweiler happily walking around greeting everyone LOL

  2. The dog that sent my friend to the hospital was a Lhasa. Can't say that we have much problem at all with Pit Bulls and we only have one really aggressive Rottweiler, the rest are all sweethearts. :)

  3. Super interesting! I'd watch it if it was a reality show. Sounds like you and your senses are in the right career though. I bet you could even handle my evil pooping dog and chompy puppy! ;)