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March 2018

Degree of Difficulty...


I'd like to introduce you to a dog I groom that is very difficult.  Her name is Jenny and she is 10 years old. I've been grooming her since she was a wee little puppy.  You will laugh when you see her.  Ready? 



She weighs all of 7 pounds. And she's CUTE.  But she is a  handful. And therein lies the rub, people don't understand that a tiny, fluffy, sweet little pet can be a problem to groom. Many groomers have heard customers say, "He/she is so small, and will be fast/easy to groom." Well, that is not always true. 

 Here are some ways a tiny difficult dog can be a problem: 

  • Small dogs are delicate. If they struggle, fight and flay about during the grooming process, they can cause themselves injury. 
  • Small dogs have tiny body parts. Clipping those wee parts on a dog that does not want to be worked on is an invitation to nicks, cuts or abrasions. 
  • Due to their size, small dogs can be difficult to muzzle and/or restrain.  They can also move very erratically, throwing their bodies around. Refer back to the first point, these animals are delicate and can easily be injured. 

What Jenny lacks in size she makes up for in attitude. She bites. She flails, flips and flops, and has perfected the crocodile roll. She tries to leap to her death off of the table any chance she gets. She leans so hard against the grooming loop she causes herself to cough and choke.  And then she bites some more.  Years ago I worked in a multi groomer shop and met Jenny. I groomed her for about a year, and figured out some tricks to manage her bad behavior.  Then I went on vacation and another groomer there had Jenny on her schedule.  She had trouble with her and had to have another groomer stop what they were doing to help. They charged the owner extra because it took two people to groom her.  The owner is fiscally conservative, (isn't that a nice, polite, phrase?) and was outraged that he had been asked to pay more than the normal rate.  He got right on the phone and called a few other groomers and asked, "Would it take two people to groom a toy poodle?"  The other groomers all said no. Those other groomers never met Jenny. 


Here is how I groom this dog. First off, right into the tub.  Two shampoos, a finish rinse, ears cleaned. Then she is towel dried and we head to the table. I hook a loop to the grooming arm, and also fasten her to my beloved Groomers Helper.  I absorb as much water as I can with a towel. Then I spray her with Quick Dry and brush it through her coat. I trim her nails.She hates it.  I turn on the dryer,  low. She hates it.  I work from her rump to her head, and when I get to about mid body she tries hard to bite the dryer and/or air flow.  This can be dangerous, so I have to keep the air flow away from her nose/mouth so she does not injure herself.  I get her mostly dry, then stop, and brush her all over. Return to drying.  A Happy Hoodie helps to cut down on the sound that agitates her, but it does not slow down her struggling for every, single, bit of the process. 

Once she is dry I use a slicker brush and go over her entire body. Then I repeat with a comb. Once she is tangle free I use my trimmer and trim: tail band, potty patch, muzzle, and then the oh-so-difficult paws.  In order to give this dog traditional shaved "poodle feet," I have to lay her gently on her side, and hold her down with my forearm. She tries to bite, with all her might. I  shave the underside of each paw, then carefully remove the hair from the top of each toe. All this while she is on her side, making gargoyle sounds and being most unhappy with me. It's a neat trick.

I let her up, re-fluff and then clip her body. Her owner likes her to be fairly short. They cannot manage to brush her. She bites them. No surprise there.

For Jenny, the worst is over now. I have done the things she hates the most, and neither of us are bleeding.  This is a huge win. 

She is fairly tolerant of me scissoring her top knot. Her people like her ears to be very short.  That helps.  They also like a bow.  This is problematic, but do-able.  The whole groom takes me one hour. One hour of fierce concentration. I am able to groom the diminutive Jenny because I am old, and have 34  years of experience. Not everyone could groom this tiny terror.  And some might feel badly that they could not. Because, after all, she is wee and CUTE. But size and degree of difficulty to not go  hand in hand.  My end results are not fabulous. But considering her behavior, I am pleased. Her owner is, too. He has come to  understand that she is a project. 

Not every hard-to-groom dog is a muscle bound, double coated, wonder. Sometimes "trouble" comes in small, adorable, packages.  As degrees of difficulty go, size does not always matter. 

As groomers, we need to  understand that a tiny dog can be just as or even  more challenging to groom than a large one. And we need to charge accordingly. If a dog causes you to trot out every good handling trick you have learned, you need to be compensated for  your knowledge. Even if the dog is no bigger than a loaf of bread.