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Know When To Say No

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There are times in every groomers career where we should NOT finish the pet we are working on. Sometimes because it’s become dangerous for the pet, other times it’s dangerous for us. Either way, you need to know when to say no. All the pets below were very happy clients of mine. This is mostly from the perspective of a mobile groomer. If I was a shop, other options such as breaking up the groom throughout the day might be a consideration. All of these scenarios required  clear client communication on what could and could not be done.


TOBY was a golden retriever who was adopted by his family at the age of 12. He never cared for the dryer, but initially tolerated it. As he aged, he began to have problems whenever I turned the High Velocity dryer on. He would bark nonstop, became very agitated and peed or pooped on the table. He was having a dryer induced seizure. While this is more common in the elderly, this can occur in pets of all ages. To continue grooming him would result in a heart attack. The solution was simple. Don’t HV dry him. As I am a mobile groomer, cage drying was not an option. All brushing, scissoring and clipping was done before the bath. Afterwards, Dad carried Toby back into the house, laid him in front of a roaring fire and covered him with a light blanket. All that was missing was the cup of hot chocolate for Toby. 


KC was a very large, thick, long coated golden retriever. He is a very time consuming dog to groom, but looks magnificent when finished. When KC turned 13, he began to rely on the hip supports. To continue grooming KC in full coat would cause him pain. We kept him in a puppy trim which cut grooming time in half.


PHOENIX was a 13 year old Akita. She could not stand for the full hour it takes to blow out the coat, brush and then comb her. She, however, can tolerate 45 minutes. While Phoenix has her coat blown out and brushed, I  stopped combing her out.


JP at 16 missed his last groom. I arrived at his home and made a determination that JP was not up for it. Now, why can I see he was not well, but the owner didn’t. I think it’s because of that pair of rose colored glasses she was wearing and couldn’t see the inevitable. She was in denial. At least I got to say my good-byes as he was put down the following week. 


CLEO aka Sybil was muzzled from BEFORE she enters my van until she leaves. She does not like grooming and she means business, Once Cleo begins thrashing, groom is over. To continue grooming her would cause physical injury to either myself or Cleo. Once we are finished, she’s my best friend. Hence Sybil. Cleo does not leave my side and gives me big rottie kisses until I go.


LAMBIE was a male Lhasa. Need I say more. No, but I will. He was found wondering the streets of Norwalk, CT, obviously for some time. He was adopted by a client after her NICE toy poodle passed away. He is muzzled, groomer helpered, and harnessed. I never use scissors around him as that will only lead to bloodshed. I can’t clip under the muzzle. When Lambie was done, he had this lopsided Fu Manchu look going on and sloppy feet. I am very proud of this groom because the alternative was sedation at the vet. 


WILLY and I had an arrangement. He will let me brush and trim his ears, cut his hails and brush him out IF I don’t dry him. Willy became aggressive when I turn the dryer on.  He ferociously attacked the HV nozzle and worked himself up into a state. I needed to exercise caution as the high velocity of this dryer can blow out a lung. He’s been known to take a chunk out of the vacuum cleaner at home if Mom leaves it in the hallway. Willy was tolerant of the grooming process if I don’t dry him. I knew his limits. To continue would result in injury to me or Willy. 


COOPER was a young, sweet, anxious and scared German Shephard. Everyone repeat after me: Fear Biter with large teeth.Cooper is muzzled start to finish because I don’t know what will frighten him this time. I can’t trust him. His very large teeth can do serious damage to me.


MILLY the cat came to me because her sister died of a heart attack at a grooming shop. The shop did not know when to stop the groom.


Last, but not least.

BINNGO passed away at the age of 9. He had a heart condition that I was aware of. His veterinarian gave him clearance for grooming. Binngo was always a good boy in my van. I had him on the table and turned on the HV dryer. He squealed, peed and then pooped on himself. I rinsed him off and noticed the glazed look in the eyes. I put Mom and Binngo in the van and drove to the vet’s office. They later put him down as there was no improvement. There was no indication of a problem before he had a heart attack. Binngo was fine was minute and not the next. It was that quick.


Binngo is the reason I became a pet first aid instructor. Even though CPR was not needed, I wouldn’t have remembered how to do it. It was six years since I last took a class. It’s all I thought about. What if? I never wanted to feel that unprepared again. I don’t want anyone else to feel that unprepared. 


My client’s owners trust me to know when to quit. The well being of their beloved pet is my primary concern. Prettiness is secondary. I tell all the owners the same thing. “ You may be paying for this, but my client is your pet, not you. I do what is best for my client.”



Mary facilitates education and dreams  in the professional pet industry. Talk to her at [email protected] or visit her website at www.PawsitiveEd.com.




Thank you Mary; very good article and a good reminder that we need to listen to our furry clients when something isn't feeling right with them.
It's also a good reminder for us NOT to be supergroomers and to outdo another groomer just because we can.


Thanks Mary! This reminds us how precious all of our clients are and sometimes perfection is not a perfect completed groom.
I am also new to grooming and I am now going to look into pet CPR I feel that I want to offer the best for all of my clients, and CPR will help achieve that.

Victoria Blair

Very good article Mary! This lets me know I'm on the right track with some of the dogs I groom. I've had to refuse several.


thanks for this wonderfull post :) it surely help me taking care of my dogs.

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