If you’ve ever had an inner ear problem, vertigo, or even a bad case of roller coaster brain, you know how disorienting it can be to have your equilibrium off.
In old dogs, idiopathic vestibular disease, otitis media/interna, ischemic stroke, and neoplasia as well as hypothyroidism can all cause balance and coordination issues.
Second to this is the age related process of the breakdown in cognitive function as it plays a definite role in how pets process their world and move through the daily tasks of such things like a visit to the groomer.
Sometimes it is easily recognized and other times outward symptoms can be quite subtle even though the dog is still suffering. As groomers, we may or may not recognize these symptoms- but we can always handle older dogs with a bit of mindful attention to their comfort and sense of security while on the table.
I personally have found that not holding the chin hair on pretty much every dog lessens the amount of tugging that they do in return, but especially with all dogs avoiding holding the chin hair helps a lot. Aside from the possibility of dental issues or jaw pain, opting to not hold chin hair and to instead cradle the lower jaw of the dog while trimming the head and face can help to give the dog a much greater sense of security and balance as they work alongside you.
Cradling and supporting the head and neck in a comfortable position gives them a sense of being able to lean on you for both balance and reassurance. This can further deepen your bond with them and help lessen their anxiety and increase their comfort.
Simple small points like this of us thinking outside the box and making subtle changes are part of what makes our profession so rewarding and give us a chance to be empathetic to the clients in our care.