No matter who is doing the critiquing, it is always a good idea to mix in some praise with constructive criticism. This is especially true when a groomer discusses the behavior of a client’s dog. Owners can become incredibly defensive when someone tells them their “dog behaved badly.”
Businesses run the risk of losing a client if an owner thinks a groomer is denigrating his or her dog’s breed or comes across as hypercritical. Many owners will often interpret this as a groomer “not liking” their dog or the dog breed.
Animal Behavior & Training Associates (ABTA) taught obedience classes to more than 250 million students over an 18-year period. Of that group, approximately 5 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the training. That equates to 12,500 students.
ABTA found that 12 percent of the complaints involved dog trainers who were negative when presenting feedback about a dog’s behavior. ABTA found that adding compliments about acceptable behaviors prior to mentioning those they wanted to modify dramatically changed client perception.
Although the survey was done by a dog training company, the solutions are applicable for groomers and veterinary hospitals.
There are several ways to put criticism with compliments into practice, such as giving a client a grooming report card. Categories should include things most dogs would be praised for as good behavior.
Here’s an example of a grooming report card.
Dog’s Name: Truffles
Bathing: Outstanding, a natural!
Drying: Not one of her favorite activities so we are air-drying.
Brushing: Doesn’t love it. We suggest brushing/combing at home to teach Truffles to like it, making her experience at the salon a better one.
Ear cleaning: Not all that crazy about this, but there are things we can suggest to make Truffles like it more.
Paws, tail and other sensitive areas: Tolerates it like a champ!
Bravery: Kudos for patience.
The next step is presenting the report card. Simply handing it to a client while his or her dog is jumping all over pretty much guarantees it won’t be read. Grooming staff should always take a minute or two to go over each grooming report card with every client before their dogs are returned to them.
To help clients get their dogs more accustomed to grooming procedures, a salon could offer printed and/or online instructions for a variety of training exercises. Here is a common technique used to acclimate dogs to grooming that salons can share with their clients.
Touchy Paws: Pick a time when you know the dog is awake and comfortable.
1. Pet your dog in whatever fashion he likes. Do this for about 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Move the petting toward the paws—i.e., the front and back of the legs near the paws. Praise your dog and keep the petting movement gentle. Do this for about a minute.
3. Touch the dog’s paw. No massage, just touch. Then give the dog a small treat. Something it can eat in about five seconds.
4. Massage the second leg for about 30 seconds and touch the paw. Give a small treat.
5. Massage the third leg for about 30 seconds and touch the third paw. Give a small treat.
6. Massage the final leg for about 30 seconds and touch the final paw. Give a small treat.
7. Finish this by petting the dog for about 20 more seconds.
Do this three times per week for about two weeks. By the end of this period, the dog should not show any discomfort when you touch its paws. If it still objects, continue this exercise for another week or two. Most dogs will respond positively to their paws being touched by this point.