Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stress-less grooming

There really is no such thing as stress-free grooming, but with some understanding, practice, patience, and cooperation, it is certainly possible to minimize your pet's stress level throughout the grooming process. Some animals naturally resonate at a more anxious frequency, but the goal should always be not perfection, but continuous improvement. So here are some tips to help your pet find his zen grooming place.

1. Communication
While there are no magic formulas, most groomers are happy to recommend some techniques for making grooming easier for your particular pet. Ask and then try them out and ask if they helped.

2. Scheduling
Different shops have different drop off and pick up policies, so ask what those are. Whenever possible, schedule your pet for grooming during a "non-activity" time when your pet would normally be home, relaxing. Pets have excellent internal clocks and they can get pretty antsy around their dinner time, or when they usually take their walk, or when they're expecting the school bus.

3. Tuckering
Tired pets are calm pets! If your pet is anxious or overly exuberant at the grooming shop, tucker him out with a good work-out before dropping him off. An hour-long walk or game of fetch goes a long way toward promoting a peaceful grooming experience.

4. Project Peace
There cannot be enough said about the power of a pet owner's energy. Your state of mind strongly influences your pet, especially when they are a little stressed out, so make sure you are projecting calm and confidence rather than letting your emotions get out of control, too! Be the leader; set the example.

5. Practice!
If your pet knows what to expect, he's going to be a lot calmer about the whole grooming thing. Practice riding in the car -- short jaunts that are fun. Practice visiting the grooming shop, just for a social call. Practice grooming stuff at home -- get Fluffy used to brushes and combs and noisy things. If your pet is not kennel trained, consider practicing that, too. Introducing grooming-related elements to your pet's life slowly and in a non-threatening way can change your pet's attitude from "Whoah! What is that scary thing?!" to "Hey! I know how to do this!"

6. Reinforce the Right, Only!
That means if your pet is shaking, cowering, slinking into the grooming shop (it's not uncommon), resist the urge to cuddle and soothe. If you say, "Good girl," to a dog who's shaking like a leaf, you're actually encouraging that fear to continue. Instead try to distract, bribe, or trick your pet into getting happy (squeaky voice, squeaky toy, treats, jumping up and down, whatever gets her excited). Then make a fuss over your brave good girl and encourage that attitude to come forward more often.

7. Peace and Patience
All pets, all pet owners, and all grooming shops are different. Stay observant, curious, and upbeat in your journey toward stress-less grooming. Working with animals is an open-ended process. Looking for and finding ways to alter patterns of behavior is a great way to bond with your pet and further develop your insight into what really makes him tick. Enjoy the journey, recognize even the smallest bit of progress, and remember that there's always room for improvement!

8. Condition Matters
Keeping your pet on a regular, appropriate maintenance grooming schedule is key to minimizing stress. A well-kept, tangle-free pet will always have a more positive grooming experience than an overgrown, overdue pet. When your pet is on a recommended schedule, everything about grooming is faster, easier, and more comfortable -- the bath, the comb-out, the haircut, ear plucking, nail trimming, etc.

9. Wait for It
A lot of pet owners try to minimize their pet's anxiety by rushing the groomer. While very young, very old, or medically compromised pets usually benefit from a shorter grooming shop stay, most animals do better in the long run when they spend a long time at the shop. When they are allowed to settle in for a while, absorb the atmosphere, relax, and figure out that this might take a while, it really changes their perspective. They are physically unable to stay in high alert forever, so by waiting them out, they get the opportunity to practice being calm at the grooming shop. Because it's more energy efficient to relax, all they need to realize is that they're not going anywhere for a while and they will calm down, re-engage their brains, and start to enjoy (instead of fear) the experience. After they've been at the shop a few times, they get in the habit of relaxing more and more quickly. Most of my "long day" grooming clients are fast asleep 5 minutes after check-in and will nap in between grooming stations. Sleeping at the grooming shop? Now that is zen.

10. No Stress Zone!
This goes without saying, but always be kind to your groomer. It can be very challenging to stay centered when the shop is hoppin'. Remember that what you say and do impacts your groomer's stress level. And a groomer's stress level can impact a whole roomful of animals. If you're not in the mood to share joy and peace and love, try to keep your cranky to yourself. Limit unreasonable or impossible demands to a bare minimum. Appreciate our expertise and respect our professional judgement. Maintain a sense of humor but don't laugh at other client's pet's haircuts. Be honest, be fair, be on time. Groomers are pretty forgiving as a rule -- we have a lot of practice keeping our cool even as we get peed on -- but we sort of expect human beings to know better. So leave your stress at the door and share your zen.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips. I know Lily is getting better about going to see you. She walked in all happy last time, which was new.