I was recently contacted by a very nice person who asked if I knew of any articles that contained ideas on how to prevent grooming accidents, especially for newer groomers who could, perhaps, learn by reading and not by dreaded trial and error. I thought it was a great idea, and have been mulling it about ever since. I also asked a few experienced groomers if they would suggest ideas, as well. So here goes, a handful of suggestions on ways to prevent injuring the pets in your care.
- I learned this tip many years ago while watching a video for advanced grooming techniques about hand stripping terriers. The woman narrating the video had a marvelous British accent and I was enjoying watching and listening. I laughed out loud, however, when she was demonstrating trimming around the edge of the dogs ear with scissors. "If you should feel resistance, stop," she said. I thought that was a pretty obvious tip. About a week later I was trimming a pet dog and I felt resistance. I felt confident that I was just cutting through some thicker, un-brushed hair, and continued. When I saw blood I flashed back to the words I had scoffed at in the video. "If you should feel resistance, stop." It may seem obvious, but it's a great tip. Sometimes resistance just means you are going through thicker coat, or a little burr, or even a tick, (yuck!) but seriously, if you are working and feel resistance between your blades, just stop. Grab a brush or comb, go through the coat, and examine the skin around the area you were working before proceeding. You may well save yourself from cutting the dog.
- The woman who suggested the article gave a safety example of "not using a 7 blade on ears." She is right! A 7 blade can be your best friend when you are trying to peel a matted coat off a pet, but it can also cause some wicked nicks. The reason is because of the way the teeth on the blades are shaped. They are long, with sharper tips than some blades, and just enough space between the teeth that they can catch the edge of an ear, or the fold of skin under the foreleg in the "armpit" area, a nipple, or that flap of skin at the tuck up. Or, really, any little loose bit of skin. They are tools to be handled with care, best for using when doing "flat work," clipping the smooth, flat areas of a dogs body. Switch to a different blade (a 10, for instance) when you are working anywhere there are folds, flaps, tricky to reach areas or even loose skin.
- Debi Hilley suggests that many groomers do not use grooming loops safely or properly. She has made an informative video blog on the topic, which you can see here: Grooming Loop Safety. The video is very informative but a few of the basic points are these; some loops are safer to use than others, some are downright dangerous, panic release snaps are a must, and a great explanation about how a dog struggling against a loop can damage their trachea, eyes, cause brain damage or even death. Please watch the video.
- Speaking of loop safety, if you are grooming a dog that has trachea problems, be sure to place the loop so that it is behind one front leg. This will remove any pressure from the throat, and direct it over the muscle of the chest instead.
- Never step away from a dog in your bathtub or on your table. This is not new news, I know, but it's worth repeating. It can be so tempting to leave a well trained, predictable dog sitting calmly for just a second. But here is the thing... no dog is totally predictable.
- Scissors- Carol Visser reminded me of these important ideas: believe it or not, you are more apt to cause a bad cut on an animal if your shears are dull than if they are sharp. This may seem counter intuitive, but when shears are dull you will use a stronger grip and more forceful hand motion to cut. If you grab skin when using this firm cutting motion, you will cause a more serious injury. When shears are properly maintained and sharp, you will use a lighter hand when working (easier on your joints and muscles, bonus!) and if you "feel resistance" and keep cutting, the chances are that any ensuing cut will be less serious. Another scissor tip, be aware of where the tips of your scissors are at all times. New groomers often concentrate more on the area they are cutting, (often towards the lower end of the blade) and don't pay attention to where those sharp tips are.
- Barbara Bird says, "When clipping the flank area, place the fingers of your other hand behind the skin to flatten it." This also works when you are clipping ears. By holding the skin flat and using blades with tightly spaced teeth, you will be lest apt to cause any nicks.
- Dryer safety. Every year we read of dogs that die at a grooming facility because they were overheated during cage drying. Some dryers heat the air to 130 degrees or more. Most of these are stand dryers, designed to be used when the pet is on the table, yet many groomers aim these stand dryers into a cage and let 'em rip. Find out what temperature the dryer you use is capable of producing. Only use heated dryers designed for cage drying in open cages with plenty of ventilation. Only use a cage dryer when you are there to observe the pet. Place thermometers in drying cages so you can carefully monitor air temperature. Cage drying can be risky, and should be used with extreme care. There are plenty of articles about this topic on the web if you'd like to learn more.
Do you have a safety tip you'd like to share? This could be a multi part blog if people want to send me some feed back and tips. I am always grateful for blog ideas like this one. Please feel free to contact me if you have an idea on how to groom more safely or any topic you'd like to see written about. Wishing you happy and safe grooming! (To contact me directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org)