Someone recently asked me a question I have never been asked, and it made me think. The question was "Do you think being a breeder makes you a better dog groomer?" The fact that I have been breeding dogs since I was a kid, makes me more aware of dog behavior. It has taught me to read their body language, and understand that our energy affects the way dogs respond. These skills coupled with having a variety of breeds and ages of dogs available to observe, allow me to answer 'yes.'
Obviously we fine tune these abilities with age and experience. The fact that I have been grooming dogs for forty years and have only been bitten 8 or 9 times is a testament to that.
When I grooom, I will sit on the floor with a shy dog until they feel comfortable enough to crawl in my lap. It is only then that I pick them up and put them on the table. I also never pet a puppy or a timid dog on top of the head, only under the chin so they tilt their head up, which gives them confidence. Think about it, when you pet a dog on the top of their head they instinctively drop their head. (Okay, how many of you have just petted your dogs on the top of their heads?)
My friends and clients tell me" I speak dog", actually I think it is my body language and energy that affects how dogs behave with me. Don't get me wrong I do have clients dogs that are tough to groom, but my goal is to help them improve, feel more comfortable with me and actually learn to enjoy it. Every time I groom one of these dogs, I have a grading scale in my head; was the dog better to do his face, his feet, his nails, his butt etc.? They don't have to be great for the whole experience but if they are better in at least one area each time, I consider it a win for us both. Happy dog= happy owner!
Another aspect of how being a breeder improves my ability to be your groomer is that I am very health savvy. I have to be. On a daily basis I not only care for my clients dogs, but also care for my six personal dogs and often puppies (in addition to two horses, a goat, and chickens.) When I look at a clients dog for the first time, I first look at the breed, the structure, then as I get my hands on the dog, I feel for lumps and bumps. If I am able, I look in its mouth, for lumps, tartar, and for loose teeth that can affect the way the dog acts with the clippers on its muzzle. I look at how the dog acts in general and how they respond to touch, etc. I have found mouth tumors, eye tumors, testicular issues that needed medical attention ASAP, bone masses and fatty tumors and broken teeth. I go over a clients dog like it were my own. I make the owner aware of my findings.
A groomer should be the stepping stone between the owner and the vet. After all we put our hands where most owners do not. I have many clients that call me for medical advice before they call the vet. I even have had calls from the emergency clinic waiting rooms. I answer the questions to the best of my ability, but I always tell them to call or see their vet.
Being a breeder and exhibitor of dogs allows me to see a lot of unusual breeds at the shows; in most cases as many as 130 different breeds at an all-breed dog show in one day. So as a breeder/exhibitor, I see breeds that most groomers will not see in their entire grooming career. This gives me an up close and personal, first hand view of how particular breeds should look. I have a lot of breeder friends that also having grooming shops, I hope their clientele realize how lucky they are to have their dogs groomed by a person with such a wealth of knowledge as a breeder/exhibitor.
One word of advice that I can give to anyone who has a dog with a ongoing medical issue is "KEEP A COPY OF YOUR VET RECORDS WITH YOU"; it can save you a lot of money if you have to make a visit to an emergency clinic. Your say so of a diagnosis, or recent blood work does not cut it, and most of us are at the emergency clinics after hours, when there is no way to get in touch with our regular vet.