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It's a Dirty Job, But Somebody Has to do it. Is it You?

From time to time I believe that all groomers have come to dread grooming that one certain dog.

You know... the one that shows up once a year and is a solid pelt, or the one that is always matted and hates to be brushed, and then there is always the one that has to be muzzled through the entire grooming process, including the bath. We all have had that special client. What I have learned over the years is that it is okay to say “no”.


Early in my career I had a client with an older Maltese who had Addison’s disease. Due to the illness he had a very fine thin coat. The owner loved him in full coat with a banded top knot. I groomed this dog every 5 weeks until he passed away. He was a sweet boy and was very easy to groom. He was never matted and very easy to maintain. After he passed away the client decided to get another Maltese. They brought home this adorable puppy.

The first thing she said to me was that she wanted him to grow in full coat just like her older dog, who was very thinly coated mind you. We all know what Maltese puppies look like and I’m sure you can imagine how soft and cottony the coat was. I put the puppy on a 5 week schedule to start. After a couple visits the puppy was starting to growl and bite at the brush. My question to the owner was “Are you brushing him in between appointments?” Her reply was “Yes and he absolutely hates it! My husband and I just laugh at him because he is so darn cute!” Well there you go, now we have a little puppy that the owner created a behavior that will be difficult to break. I tried to educate her regarding the brushing. Every time I went to their home to groom the dog he was very matted. The behavior was getting worse which made the task that much harder. I tried various products and techniques to help reduce the matting but to no prevail. Keep in mind that this was several years ago when dematting solutions like my “Matts Happen!” was not available.

I suddenly started to suffer from tennis elbow. I assumed it was just par for the course of grooming dogs. It became so bad that I had to get a cortisone shot to relieve the pain.Over the course of several months I realized that every time my tennis elbow flared up it was right after I dematted this Maltese puppy. Once I came to this conclusion, I spoke with the client and asked her if we could cut him down until he goes through a coat change, from puppy to adult coat. She flat out refused to cut him down. I changed his grooming schedule to every 3 weeks to help eliminate the matting. Three weeks still was not doing the trick so I changed his schedule to every 2 weeks. The client was not happy about the schedule but at that point that was the only way I could continue to groom her dog. This continued for several months. Now I have an angry puppy that hates to be groomed and the constant pain of tennis elbow in my right arm.

I suddenly started to suffer from tennis elbow. I assumed it was just par for the course of grooming dogs. It became so bad that I had to get a cortisone shot to relieve the pain.
I remember every time I saw this dog in my appointment book I would just cringe. One day I had enough and told her that I could no longer groom him if she didn’t cut him down. Even every two weeks was not helping the matting situation. It wasn’t fair to the puppy or to myself. She was very angry and decided to go elsewhere. I remember letting out a huge sigh of relief. Once I stopped grooming this puppy I never had one more flare up of tennis elbow again.

The moral of the story is, if you do not enjoy grooming a certain dog, let it go. This client taught me many lessons early in my career. The most important one was to always do what is best for the dog. I would never dematt to that extent again. Dematting a coat on a regular basis damages and stresses the coat which creates more matting. I wish I realized that at the time.

Groom the dogs that you enjoy grooming. Just because a dog is a problem for you doesn’t mean that it will be a problem for someone else. Dogs react differently with different people. Enjoy your job, take care of your body and always do what is best for the pet.


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