Grooming puppies and kittens can be a challenge, but through setting them up for success at a young age, a groomer can create a lasting positive experience for the pet as well as the owner.
Ideally, the pet’s breeder has worked on training the animal from a very young age to get accustomed to the tools a groomer will use on their breed. For instance, the breeder of my miniature poodles starts clipping the face and feet at about four weeks old. She will introduce the comb, brush and nail clippers at this time as well. Baths can be started at about three weeks by some breeders.
When the puppy or kitten get to their new home, I encourage the owners to start their at-home maintenance right away. Keeping the momentum going, and further assuring the pet that these tools are not going to harm them will make life much easier for the owner, groomer and pet that needs grooming throughout its life. Dogs and cats learn from consistent routines, and grooming routine can be the best thing a pet parent does for their animal. It is important to make sure the pet parent asks their veterinarian when the pet is safe to go to a groomer; always ask when working with a new pet parent. Most likely, you will start seeing the animal once they have received all of their shots.
We are not always that lucky to have a puppy or kitten come in that already has some grooming training underway. Even pets that have been worked on in those early weeks are not always cooperative or accepting of the total grooming experience. A grooming shop’s sights, sounds and excitement can be quite overwhelming, as this is a new experience, not like being brushed at home by the pet parent.
When a groomer gets a new puppy or kitten client on the books, it is up to the groomer to continue the grooming training in a steady manner. As a groomer, it is important to build a relationship with the pet and pet parent and set up future appointments on regular intervals. Start off slow with short visits and build up from there. It can be beneficial to have them come in weekly for a brush-out session or to clip nails and clean ears, for example. After a few visits, start them off with a bath and blow-dry, followed by the next visit doing a minigroom.
Our grooming tools can make or break a positive grooming experience. To make young pets as comfortable as possible, I always use my quietest clippers, smallest nail trimmers, small slicker brush and flexible rake comb, with my blow dryer on the lowest setting. As the puppy or kitten get used to the grooming experience, I may move on to other tools. Some animals will show fear with a large running clipper coming at them, so I often start the trimming process with a 5:1 clipper, as it is smaller and quieter than my large heavy-duty clippers that I will be using on them when they grow up. Make sure your tools are properly maintained and in good working order. Squeaky scissors and blades that need cleaning and oiling will be louder than if they have been regularly cared for.
If you sell grooming products in your shop, be sure to stock some of the smaller at-home grooming maintenance tools, such as a slicker brush and flexible rake comb, both of which are manufactured by Andis. You can make easy sales of items you use on the clients’ pets already. I would suggest keeping these products near the checkout so the client can make a quick add-on purchase to their grooming service.
Finally, always remember the goal: setting the pet up for success and gaining a lifelong client. The way you handle your relationship with puppies and kittens in the grooming environment will show your care and passion as a pet professional and will help you build the trust needed from the pet and the pet parent alike. Happy clipping!