It's a groomer's dream come true: pooches standing statue-still on the grooming table, calm and happy to have their coats brushed and bathed. Reality is usually a tad bit different. Many dogs become fearful, fidgety and fractious at the salon. Luckily, your groomers have several tricks up their sleeves.
Dealing with a fidgety dog on a slippery surface is like trying to handle a wobbly blob of gelatin. To help Rover stand still and steady, savvy groomers invest in special nonslip padding for strategically appropriate surfaces such as on top of grooming tables and around bathing areas. Another advantage of nonslip surfaces is that they help prevent fatigue which makes for a much more collaborative pooch.
In most grooming salons, the "Stay" command won't cut it; more effective strategies are needed. The grooming noose is extra-handy if not mandatory. Attached to a tall metal bar shaped as an upside down L, the noose is a leash loop that restrains the dog around his neck, keeping him still and well-centered on the table, while preventing him from jumping off. It tightens only when the dog pulls. For particularly wiggly dogs, some groomers have restraints that hold the dog both around the neck and the hindquarters.
Choose a groomer with discretion. Avoid a groomer who speaks of showing the dog who's boss or who has a reputation of using force to keep a dog still. Gentleness, patience and rewards are key to grooming a dog who is nervous, hyper or overwhelmed. Good groomers will talk calmly to nervous dogs and will give them a well-deserved break now and then. With the owner's permission, a groomer may use treats for the purpose of distracting the dog and rewarding good behaviors.
Some grooming salons employ a variety of tricks of the trade to make fidgety and hyper dogs calmer so they're less likely to bounce around. Infusing the work space with calming pheromones and using soothing lavender-based shampoos can be helpful. Some groomers employ calming aids such as essential oils strategically placed on a piece of paper towel clamped near the dog's face.
For severe cases, the use of sedatives may be appropriate. In this case, it's important to note that it's unethical, illegal and dangerous for a groomer to supply medications to a dog. The only exception would be if the sedatives were prescribed by a vet for the grooming session. Don't walk away, but run, if you hear about a groomer giving sedatives without a vet's consent.
At times, groomers encounter dogs who are overly fractious or aggressive, and dogs who otherwise won't stand still despite all efforts. In these cases, it's a good practice for the groomer to stop rather than force the service on the pet. This is for the groomer's protection and to prevent the dog from having a negative experience that may leave an everlasting impression on future grooming appointments. Comfort and safety should always be a groomer's top priorities.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.