Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Do I Choose A Groomer?

Today's question is a little different.  No one asked me about it on Facebook.  Rather, it's one that I recently had to ask myself.  Today's question is:

How do I choose a groomer??

When I first got Cody, a Labradoodle, I didn't quite realize how extensive his grooming needs would be.  As he grew older, his hair grew longer, and his curls became much more pronounced.  It didn't take long for his coat to matt, and he was so very uncomfortable.  I realized fairly quickly that I needed a groomer.

Now then, way back when, before I worked with dogs professionally, I didn't understand how much of a difference there could be among groomers.  I went to the first place I knew that offered grooming at a fairly decent rate.  This ended up being one of the big box stores that everyone knows about.  I didn't realize that their groomers only had 2 weeks of formal training, or that they saw at least 15 dogs a day (that's per groomer and that's a lot).  I didn't understand that their prices really weren't that great considering the small amount of time they'd spend with my dog, and I definitely didn't understand how much their lack of skills would show.  When I picked up Cody, however, I knew there was something wrong.  Besides the fact that my motley, crazy dog now looked like a giant, over-fluffed marshmallow, he also seemed very agitated and overwhelmed.  He came careening around the corner and practically climbed up me trying to get away.  I hated the way he looked, and he seemed to hate being there.  So, we began the search for the perfect groomer.

Over the years I tried fancy places, small places with lots of clients, small places with only a few clients.  I tried a lot of places.  In that time, I learned a lot.  Cody really started to HATE grooming.  At one salon that I really liked (they made him look nice), Cody refused to get out of the car.  Considering the fact that Cody is often excited just to enter the vet's office (he doesn't love the vet, but he likes the building), I knew something was wrong.  At another salon, Cody was happy until we entered the building.  Then he proceeded to urinate all over the floor.  At one salon Cody was fine, but he ended up catching an infection because they didn't clean their tools properly.  Yeah, we weren't happy.  Finally, I opened the daycare.  I needed a groomer, and I wanted a good one.  One that dogs would be happy to see.  So, I learned to ask the right questions.  When looking for a groomer, make note of the following:

1) Look at the surroundings.  Are they fairly clean?  Sure, there may be hair, but it should be fairly clean of dust and dirt, and the place should be fairly tidy.

2) How much experience do they have?  Most groomers are not trained at a school, so ask about what education they do have (apprenticeship, self-taught, etc).  On top of that, how long have they been grooming?  Have they won any awards?

3) Do they know obscure grooming things?  When I first started training, I had no idea what hand stripping was (learn more about it here), but when I opened the kennel I actually had quite a few people ask me about it.  What I learned is that there are some groomers who have no idea what I'm talking about, some who have heard of it but never done it, some who have done it but prefer not to do it because it takes so much time, and then there are some who have done it, know what they're doing, and are more than willing to do it again to further the breed's look.  In my experience, this last type is worth their weight in gold.

4) Do you like them?  Chances are, if you don't like your groomer's personality, your dog won't either.  Don't stick around with someone whom you think is rude or mean or rushed.  It won't turn out well.

5) To that note, meet the groomer!  This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of places don't have you interact with the groomer.  They simply have the front desk staff help you at all times, and getting in touch with the groomer is a pain in the posterior.  So, at least once, meet the groomer.  Talk about your desires and your dog's needs.  If you decide to try the groomer, see if she/he followed your instructions.  If he/she did not, see if they're willing to try to correct the issue.  You can't regrow hair that's been cut too short, but a groomer can offer a discount on the next grooming to help make up for the error.

6) Find out where the dogs go when they're not being groomed.  A full grooming generally includes: waiting for the groomer to finish other appointments, bath, blow out, trim, waiting to be picked up.  This can last for 2 hours or even up to a full day, depending on how the appointments are scheduled.  Do dogs get a potty break?  Do they get more than one?  Some groomers work with day cares, so your dog can play in the morning and be groomed in the afternoon.  Either way, you want your dog to have ample time to stretch his legs and get a potty break.

Lastly, as with most things, ask around.  If you see a dog on the street who just looks gorgeous, don't be afraid to ask where they groom their dog.  If you have friends with dogs, ask them where they go. 

I hope this answers all your grooming questions.  If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ask A Dog Trainer: Sleeping Like A Baby

We have an interesting question from Facebook today:

Ok, I have been noticing some odd behavior from my dog and thought you might have some advice. I have a 3 year old black lab. My wife and I also have a 10 month old son. Toby* (our dog) has not been a very big fan of our son. He seems somewhat nervous around him and we have been working on that but never leave them alone. The odd behavior is recently Toby has been going into our baby's room whenever I leave for work. It seems he goes there when he is nervous or anxious or when we leave. We are pretty sure he sleeps there till we get back. He never acted this way in the past. It is winter so he does get less exercise than in the summer but its not a large change from the norm. Could this have something to do with the baby or has he just decided this is his safe zone? Thanks for any advice.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent 

Alright, so my first question here is, does having your dog sleep in your baby's room hurt anything?  If not, then I wouldn't worry so much about it.  That said, you may just be wondering why he's doing it and want to make sure he's OK.  Well, there are a variety of reasons he may be sleeping in the baby's room.

My first thought on this is smell.  Chances are you're spending a lot of time with your baby.  You're probably even spending a lot of time in the baby's room.  This means the room smells strongly of you and this probably comforts Toby.  If anything, the room definitely smells a lot like the little creature you're spending a lot of time with.  This could be Toby's way of connecting more with you and the baby.

After that, he could just be comfortable in the room.  Maybe he just realized how soft the carpet is, or how warm the floor is.  Maybe he likes the way the sunlight comes in through the window.  It could just be that he's comfortable.

Lastly, it could have a little bit to do with the anxiety.  Can I tell you a secret?  Babies make me extremely anxious too.  Sure, they're cute and sometimes fun to be around, but they have so many needs, and they break so easily.  What if I hurt the baby?  What if something else hurts the baby?  What if the baby needs something?  They require constant supervision and care.  That may be what's making Toby anxious (well, that and the weird noises).  He may be going to the baby's room as an instinct to protect something so fragile.  Of course, that's giving him a lot of credit, but I've seen weirder things.

In the mean time, as long as Toby isn't hurting anything in the baby's room, I would let him continue to sleep there.  I would also encourage y'all to include Toby in more family activities as well as spend some time doing some Toby-based activities.  Go for walks as a family and bring Toby, but also spend some time playing fetch or walking / jogging just with Toby.  Spend time on the floor with the baby and allow Toby to sniff and interact (if he can be calm enough).  If he's OK with it, use Toby to teach your 10 month old the proper way to pet and greet a dog.  Teach your 10 month old how to give Toby treats.  Let Toby know that the family has grown, but he's still and important part of it.  This may help his anxiety issues a bit.

I hope this helps.  If you have any other questions regarding your pet, feel free to ask away on our Facebook page.  Thanks!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Questions: Puppy Teeth

Today we have a question I here often.  I get it from people who have owned dogs before and from first time dog owners.

I have a young puppy, and she's really sweet, but she bites a lot.  She's not trying to be mean, but it really hurts and I can't get her to stop.  What should I do?

When puppies play, they're actually learning valuable life skills.  They're learning how to fight and hunt.  They're learning how much force to use when they bite.  They're learning how to interact with others.  Since dogs do not have hands with opposable thumbs, they have to use their mouths instead.  So, when puppies play, biting and growling and jumping, think of it as being similar to two young boys wrestling.  They don't mean any harm, but occasionally someone could get hurt.  This is why yelping helps.

When a puppy or other dog yelps, he's signifying pain.  He's telling the other puppy, "Hey!!!  You hurt me!!"  Over time, the biting puppy will learn how hard is too hard.  He'll learn bite inhibition.  Most trainers say to yelp as soon as your dog lays his teeth on you, but personally I like rough play, so my rule is a little different.  I yelp as soon as it hurts...just like a normal puppy would.  I also end the play at this point by standing up, crossing my arms, and turning my attention away.  This teaches my dogs that they can play with me as they naturally would, but if they get too rough I'll quit.  It keeps things fun for both of us.

 I also teach my dogs basic obedience, so if they want to play when I don't want to I can simply give a command, like sit or down, to keep them a little calmer.  By the same token, though, I make sure they get enough exercise throughout the day, so the chances of them wanting to play when I don't are slim.

The other thing you can do to help with biting is redirecting.  When Cody was a pup, I almost always had a rope tug toy handy (it was my favorite toy for him at the time, but choose what works for you).  If Cody started playing rough, and I didn't want to play just like that at that moment, I would pull out the tug toy.  I would encourage Cody to tug on, chew on, and play with the tug toy, thus keeping my hands safe. 

Notice, though, that I did not say I gave him the tug and hoped he'd leave me alone.  It is still important that you interact with your puppy.  Play a game of fetch.  Make that tug game really fun.  Stay connected with your pup, but let him know that the toy is way more fun than your hand.

By using a combination of yelping, obedience, and redirecting, you are certain to have a well-behaved, playful puppy.  Have fun!!

If you have a question for the dog trainer, feel free to contact us on our Facebook page.  Here you'll also find fun pictures and interesting articles about our favorite furry creatures.