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Words from a Professional Groomer

Words from a Professional Groomer

by Beth Ostrowski-Parks, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

This newsletter is another interview with a dog professional to share with my clients.

This series it's with a Professional Dog Groomer

At It’s PAWSible!, I performed quite a bit of grooming for about 2 years here along with a Professional Groomer at my side to learn from.  I loved it.  We had our own Grooming Van for a while.  But I quickly realized that groomers are way under paid for the job they perform.  The profession, in my opinion, is way under valued and under respected.  You may have even heard that joke:  “ I pay more for my dog’s grooming then I do to get my own hair cut!”

I’m sure you do, but do you just get your hair cut or do you get your whole body cut?   While you are getting your hair cut, are you moving your head around while your   hairdresser has a sharp pair of shears in her hand?  Are you trying to bite your hairdresser if you don’t like what she is doing?  

It sounds outrageous but much of the time, dogs (and cats) that are uncomfortable with being groomed will do one or all of the above.  So the hardest part of dog grooming is managing a dog that’s not happy with what’s being done to him.

Other then my own dogs, I stopped grooming after a couple of years.  I already had so much going on in my business.    So for this article, I wanted to ask a “real” Professional Groomer some questions to help you understand this line of work that is really more of an art then people realize!

Hello Cathy, thank you so much for sharing about your experience and expertise.

Beth:  How many dogs do you have?  

Cathy:  Currently, I have 3 Portuguese Water Dogs.

Beth:  Do they require regular professional grooming?

Cathy:  “Porties”, have hair, not fur, so they do not shed.  What my dogs require is regular grooming to keep from matting up as the hair grows long.  And I also give them regular haircuts.  My favorite cut on a Portuguese Water Dog is the Lion Cut.  So I do that cut regularly on them.  

Beth:  Have you had other breeds of dogs before?

Cathy:  As a child our family had a mixed breed dog but my oldest son had really bad asthma so in searching for a dog that he could live with I discovered the Portuguese Water Dogs.

Beth:  I know that you have done lots of water work with your Porties, but your dogs also come to It’s PAWSible! for agility training.  How long have you been coming here?

Cathy:   I started agility classes last January at It’s PAWSible! with Tango my female and then very quickly I started training with my male Portie, Nellie.  We all love our training experience and have learned a lot  I would love to compete some day although I had no idea when I started how important the handler role was in agility. Since I’m 68 years old and subject to the aging annoyances like arthritis flares and memory lapses where I can forget in the middle of a course where to go next, I realize I am the weak link in the dog/handler team. My dogs and I love it though and Beth is a wonderful teacher who is great at seeing where each student has a problem and then showing us a way to correct it. I have friends who went to different agility classes and gave up when they felt frustrated and stressed. I never feel that way in Beth’s classes. It is always fun so for now I’m fine just continuing to try and improve in classes and hold hope for at least trying for a novice title some day.

Beth: Thank you so much for those compliments!  Do you live close by It’s PAWSible!?

Cathy:   Not really.  I live in Orange, Massachusetts which is 42 miles from Westhampton!  So it’s a drive and a commitment.  I usually take 2 classes in a row since I come so far.

Beth:  How long have you been a Professional Groomer?

Cathy:  I started grooming around the year 2000 although I’ve never done it full time. As you mentioned it is not a high paying job when you figure the time and work it takes.  I had a full time job as a computer programmer since I was a single mother with three kids.  I lost my husband at the age of 35 to cancer.  As horrible as that was, I was also left with some serious financial responsibilities.

Since I, like you Beth, also love grooming, I always found time to do it part time and still do now that I am retired from programming.  I will continue grooming professionally until I can’t physically handle it anymore, and make as you stated earlier it is a physically demanding job!

Beth:  What made you decide on Grooming as your profession?

Cathy:  When I got my first Portuguese Water Dog I was forced to pay for grooming.  I was never too happy with the results.   I felt I could do a better job so I looked into how I could do it myself.  And then that became more of a profession then just a need for my own dogs.

Beth:  Did you go to school to become a groomer? 

Cathy:  I did go to grooming school in Boston and later I even owned my own grooming school.

Beth:   That is so great!  Have you always worked in Western Massachusetts as a Groomer?  

Cathy:  No, I lived on the Cape in Falmouth when I first became a groomer and worked part time out of my renovated garage.  When I moved to Orange I first worked at Petco then opened my own shop!

Beth:  I never took on the work of grooming felines. Do you groom cats?

Cathy:   I do not groom cats as I am allergic to them.

Beth:  As a groomer, what is your favorite type of service?  

Cathy:  I enjoy working with people who want an actual breed cut rather then just shaving a dog short.  I do understand why some people want that service but, like you said earlier, grooming is like an art so it’s fun to create that “perfect” haircut.   I also enjoy taking a dirty, matted dog and making him feel clean and comfortable again.  It’s like a transformation.  I enjoy that.

Beth:  What part of your service do you find the most challenging?

Cathy:  Like you said earlier, what can sometimes make grooming a dog really  challenging is when he or she is constantly trying to bite you (because he is scared) and constantly pulling and straining to get off the table. It’s hard to work with a moving target.  But unfortunately, that behavior does come with the territory sometimes.

Beth:  What, if any, have been your challenges in the face of COVID?

Cathy:  It has been difficult because so many dogs were not going to the groomer for months.  When I finally was able to re-start my work, every dog owner was trying to book.  It was pretty hectic for a while.   

Beth:  As far as giving my clients training and socializing information, please share what you wish every owner with a new puppy or rescue dog could do to help their dog become more comfortable with grooming.

Cathy:  I would tell them to play with their feet. Most dogs hate nail trimming the most so even if they are afraid to cut nails themselves if they pretend to do it, it gets the dog used to having its feet held and manipulated.

The second thing I would suggest is for people who own dogs that will need to be groomed with haircuts, that they take an electric toothbrush and just rub the buzzing part (not the brush) on or close to their face and body and give lots of treats for cooperation. This helps a dog not panic when the sound of a clipper is near his face. 

Some groomers use dremels on dog’s nails so this would be a great idea for that too.   If a dog owner performed regular combing or brushing (weekly or even daily) that would help dogs become happier about being groomed.

Beth:  Thank you so much Cathy for your insight and history of your profession.  We really appreciate it!  See you agility class!

And just a reminder to my dog owners:  ALL dogs are going to need some grooming.  Use your food!  Use sticks of cheese and feed, feed, feed, while doing anything to your dog.  Plan for the future, Your dog will need to be handled by someone and anything you do now will just help your dog deal with that.