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March 14, 2017

Aside from being a successful standalone business, grooming can be an outstanding service for retail stores to offer customers. In addition to being another revenue source, grooming can boost product sales, inspire greater customer loyalty and drive repeat business. However, grooming could also be problematic, particularly if difficult dogs are not handled properly, which could result in a loss of clientele or even injured staff.

Consider this scenario: a salon customer brings in a dog that doesn’t like the experience. The dog growls and snaps when being clipped. The dog detests being in a kennel and snaps when brought back out.

The grooming session takes longer than normal, and the groomer is almost bitten. Exasperated, the salon owner informs the customer when she picks up her dog that it has been aggressive and needs some training.

The customer is defensive, claiming her dog never growls or snaps at anyone at home. She wonders aloud if you or your staff somehow caused this behavior. Politely informed that her dog was treated humanely and with great patience, the customer barely listens. She stops coming to the salon.

Several weeks later, a negative Yelp review appears, telling people to avoid the salon because the groomers are inexperienced and their treatment of the dogs might cause the animals to become aggressive.

It’s imperative that staff be knowledgeable about the causes of problem behavior that could occur during grooming, as well as how to effectively communicate with customers about it.

While dog trainers and behavioral specialists don’t always see eye to eye on a variety of issues, nearly all agree that when dealing with behavioral challenges, you must address root causes if you expect to eliminate or reduce them. Dogs who try to bite or snap at people or that are uncooperative are typically engaging in these behaviors for several reasons.

Stress is the greatest cause of bad behavior in a grooming salon, and it’s understandable. Think about this from a dog’s perspective. It is taken to a strange place where it has no positive associations. Once there, it is approached by someone who doesn’t respond to its signals that indicate distress, alarm, fear, etc. Instead, it is taken to a room with dogs that are clearly stressed or excited and put in a cage. After being taken out of the cage by someone who again ignores its attempts to communicate its discomfort, it is put in a cold tub and scrubbed with shampoo. Next, it is dried and placed back in a cage or onto a table where, from its point-of-view, it is brusquely brushed and clipped.

If this was done to you, would you like it, or would you be stressed? If the latter, your behavior would most likely change and manifest in different ways, such as acting aggressively. The same dynamics apply to dogs, who typically become aggressive when stressed.

Some dogs discover that being aggressive prevents unpleasant experiences from happening. From a behavioral standpoint, when a dog snaps at you and you subsequently modify your behavior, it is administering positive punishment. And since this type of punishment will generally decrease a behavior, the dog will learn that being aggressive works. Dogs and people basically learn in the same ways.

When experiencing pain, dogs will either snap, growl, bite, freeze or attempt to escape. No matter which action a dog chooses, the root cause isn’t the aggression, it is the pain stimulating it.

Understanding the causes of behavior and knowing how to effectively explain the issues to grooming clients not only improves communication between you and your customers, but it also decreases any risks to your staff. In addition, you could also learn how to modify challenging dogs’ behavior and even get their owners to assist you with it.

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