ESSENTIAL FOR EVERY DOG GROOMER: Notes From The Grooming Table by Melissa Verplank

Rule Number Two

If you’ve seen my Rule Number One for every dog grooming salon, then surely there must be a Rule Number Two.

And, like Rule Number One, if you fail to follow Rule Number Two, your dog grooming business could suffer. All that hard work and effort, those years of training and experience, the sacrifices, the drama and the heartache and the stress and the tears. All of this could become meaningless with the simplest of mistakes.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve all done it. I’ve done it.

I’ll think I know a dog so well I become complacent with him. And then suddenly, the unexpected happens. And I’m on the phone with the customer. Having to explain what happened. Why they need to collect their dog from the vet instead of the dog grooming salon. Or why they’ll be taking their dog home in a box instead of meeting their happy companion at the salon in an hour’s time.

Sorry to be so down about the possible consequences. But I can’t sugarcoat this one. There is no easy out for any of us who work with dogs in a grooming salon.

Rule Number Two for Every Dog Grooming Salon: Never, Ever, Leave a Dog Unattended on the Table or in the Bath.

I don’t want to come across as the baddie of the dog grooming world, waving my stick of do’s and don’ts everywhere. But I need to get some points across and these can make for painful reading. I have heard too often of this happening, when it could so easily have been avoided.

In fact, I now have the students on my dog grooming courses in London run through a short exercise that helps to make sure they get and understand Rule Number Two utterly and completely. I’ll share that with you in a second.

But first, what do I mean by ‘unattended’? This could be as simple as turning our back on the dog. Just for a minute or a few seconds. Just let me take this phone call, make this booking or sign for this postal delivery. I’ll be back in a second. It’ll be fine.

Generally, you’re right. It probably will be fine. Chances are, nothing will happen.

Then again, chances are, something ‘might’ happen.

This is not a lottery you want to play. In the few seconds or the minute-or-two that your back is turned, your dog on the table might do the unpredictable. He might suddenly decide there is something else that’s got his attention in the salon. Another dog. Maybe a fly buzzing around. Perhaps a bag of treats in easy striking distance.

And if you’ve left him tied to the table restraint, and he jumps, then you’ve just become a hangman. The force of a dog’s weight jumping down from the table, attached to a noose, is enough to snap his neck. Or at least cause some serious damage.

The force of a dog jumping from a table can also cause the table to topple over. And where that table lands? I don’t even want to think about it. Perhaps on the dog that jumped. Maybe on another dog hanging out in your salon.

How about leaving a dog unattended in the bath? Your bathtub is a smooth surface. It has water in it. Shampoo everywhere. It’s damned slippery. It just takes one attempt of the dog trying to climb out to lose his footing and potentially smack his head on the hard surface. Maybe it’s not as bad as that – maybe while he’s scrambling to pull himself out of the tub, his legs slide away in opposite directions from each other and he ends up with a torn muscle or dislocated joint.

So, what’s this exercise I carry out with the students on my dog grooming courses here in London? Think of it as an army drill. I have my student stand at the table with a dog. I ring a bell. The student then needs carefully to take the dog off the table, put him on the floor, and secure him. Yep, that means fastened securely – perhaps with a collar and lead attached to a metal D-ring on the wall. Then step away from the table.

We repeat the exercise half a dozen times. And the student gets it. The action of taking the dog off the table, placing him on the floor and securing him should become an automatic response – a muscle memory – anytime you need to do something ‘for a minute’ – like taking that booking, or signing for that package, or turning up the volume on the radio because Madonna is playing.

xx Colin