Mr. and Mrs. Nobrush drop their dog, Snippy, off for his first grooming session with you. You greet everyone, gather the leash and take him back for his spa session. A little while later, you take him from his crate to put him in the tub. You notice a few things once you secure him and begin to work. His belly is terribly tangled, the skin pink and moist where he’s been chewing. As you look closer, a flea scoots past. And one eye looks awfully red and irritated up close. None of these issues are life-threatening, but they certainly can be problematic. If the owners were unaware of the fleas, sore skin, and red eye, they might blame you when they come to pick up their pet. The potential for misunderstanding could have been avoided if you had done a simple check-in procedure before taking the dog from its owner.
To avoid situations like this, many groomers have instituted a check-in process for pets. Although it adds a few minutes to each groom, it can be highly worthwhile and educational for everyone involved. When pets arrive for their appointment, the groomer does a quick nose to toes exam while the owners are still present. Here is an example of the procedure.
- As you are greeting the owners and pet, do a visual examination of the overall appearance. Does the pet appear healthy? Is it moving normally with no trace of a limp? Do you note anything unusual?
- After your visual exam, pet the dog’s head, peering into its ears to check for any obvious signs of irritation, redness, or odor. Peek at the eyes and notice if there is redness or discharge. Stroke the back, chest, and legs, feeling for mats and tangles. Lift the tail gently to see if matted feces are caught in the fur. Take a hard look at the area over the hips to see if any flea dirt is evident, and if there is, examine further to see if there are live fleas that need to be treated.
- Lift the feet and quickly examine the claws to ensure none are broken or growing into the skin (I’m looking at you, dew claws!)
The entire process can be completed in just one or two minutes, and if done correctly, the dog will think you are just giving him a little love. During this time, you can point out anything concerning to the owners so that all of you are aware of any potential problems before the grooming process begins.
In the case of Snippy, you could have alerted the owners to the red eye so they knew it was pre-existing and not blame you. You could have discussed the flea situation, educated them on parasite prevention, informed them of any additional charges for flea treatment, and pointed out the irritated skin caused by the fleas. This way, when you proceed with your work, the owner is aware of any abnormalities their pet already had before the grooming process.
Instituting a brief and straightforward check-in exam on pets is a professional way to include pet owners in the grooming process and eliminate misunderstandings.
By Daryl Conner, MPS, MCG
Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years. You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism. She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.