Since summer’s here and we’re all about to start drowning in the soggy wool that is Tennessee warm-weather air, many pet owners’ thoughts are turning to our heavily befurred friends and their need for a summer makeover. I.e. grooming.
If you have a stocked schedule or a nervous or grooming-averse dog or cat, getting that grooming done can be a little more of a complicated process. Which is why we reached out to our friends at Cloud 9 Mobile Grooming
, who have two convenient attributes: They come to you, and have cultivated a particular knack for tough-to-groom pets — though that happened somewhat unexpectedly.
“When I first started, it was the beginning of the Great Recession, although I didn’t know that at the time,” says Cloud 9 leader Susan Gates. “It was really rough getting started. I had to take every job that came my way. Usually these first jobs were dogs that had been rejected by another groomer, either because of some behavior issue, or their pet parent wasn’t really good at keeping them in good shape, or whatever. … I found I have the patience necessary to handle these dogs, their behaviors, their conditions, and word got around that I could handle them so that type of clientele grew fast.
“I also find it very rewarding to work with these dogs and see them become trusting over time. These ‘difficult’ dogs are now a very small part of my book of business, but I so enjoy handling them that I reserve them for the few days a week that I am still grooming. (I have two full-time groomers to handle most of the work now.) I donate time to organizations that help homeless and low-income people take care of their pets for the same reason.”
Over six years of serving many an East Nashville dog, Gates has worked with many a pooch and feline personality in many a circumstance, so we asked her to share some advice on helping our pets have the best possible grooming experience — and to share a heartwarming nervous-pup success story, too.
How to help your dogs have a better, less-stressful grooming experience, from Cloud 9 Mobile Grooming’s Susan Gates:
1. At a very young age, get your dog used to being handled. Touch their feet especially, as nails need to be done on every dog even if they don’t need a groomer for other tasks. The sooner this is done the better, but even older rescue dogs can be acclimated to grooming.
2. Socialize your dog. They need to know how to handle meeting new people, being in strange surroundings, experiencing new things. Don’t force it but bringing a new puppy along while an older sibling gets groomed will go a long way towards making them comfortable when it is their turn.
3. Learn what triggers anxiety in your dog. And try to ease those anxieties over time by exposing them for short periods of time.
4. Tell your groomer if there are things to watch out for! The one time I have needed medical attention for a bite, the client told me “he’s a sweet boy.” NEVER minimize a dog’s fears or anxieties. That is when bites happen and nobody wants to see a dog quarantined or put down simply because they reacted to a situation that scared them.
The East Nashvillian: Can you tell us about any particularly memorable experiences you've had with breaking through to dogs who were nervous/stressed about grooming?
Susan Gates: “I’ll tattle on one of my clients. I know she won’t mind.
“J Gracie (the dog) had been taken to a very high-end groomer in town who shall remain nameless, and that groomer decided to ‘handle’ her (completely justified in my opinion) biting habit by putting a rubber band around her muzzle while trimming her face. The reason she was biting? She had been in the vicinity when a plate glass patio door had been broken and glass got into her eyes, making them uncomfortable even after the cuts healed. I think I might react in the same manner if someone wanted to mess around my eyes with sharp, buzzing clipper blades!
“I was told of this history and also told if I needed to muzzle Miss Grace, I was free to do so. Long story short, I have never muzzled Gracie and while it took three years before Grace would allow clippers near her face, she does finally trust me enough to do so. Some days she’s in a mood and we can’t get everything done. I never force a procedure — nails, face, drying, whatever — if it means the dog will hurt themselves by panicking. This pays off down the road as eventually almost all of these dogs come to trust me. In six years I have had a total of three dogs that I finally had to tell the client I could not handle.”