• Hackles

Grooming is a risky business!

After the recent Pets at Home scandal involving scissors and a Cockapoo's tongue .... https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-46578056 ... I felt compelled to write this as a timely reminder to dog owners who may be under the false impression that grooming is just a nice pampering experience involving a warm soapy bath and hair style for their dog … grooming is a risky business involving extremely sharp 7 inch scissors, clipper blades that can cut to surgical lengths but most importantly, it involves dogs who are not robots or statues and cannot have the risks of moving or licking their lips while having their beard trimmed explained to them!

Now before you get all outraged about the appalling lack of professionalism and possible lack of care and attention to this much loved pet with the chunk cut out of his tongue, I must explain that of all the blade related accidents that can happen whilst grooming a dog, this is one of the most likely to happen. I have been grooming for 7 years and have had many near misses with dog's tongues that have a habit of nervously popping out whilst scissoring round their mouths. Trust me when I say it takes skill and experience to hold a wriggling dogs muzzle closed and scissor with the other hand completely safely. Some dogs will stand quietly but even the easiest of dogs are never very keen having their faces trimmed, they try to avoid being held, anticipate the scissors closing, move at the last moment and very often lick their lips just as your trying to snip off a wet, grimey bit of beard. For those of you with Shih Tzus, let me say they are the hardest as they are small with difficult to hold muzzles, have squashy faces with skin where it shouldn’t be and it is nigh on impossible to stop their little tongues nervously darting in and out!

Other likely injuries include:

· Nicking the tops of ears where spare flaps of skin lurk

· Nicking under eyes where the skin is very delicate

· Nicking armpits

· Clipper rash – usually from close shaving off matts

· Snipping a nipple

· Nicking various parts of the foot

Basically anywhere that is awkward to get to. In the 7 years I have been grooming, I have nicked an armpit, nicked the top of the ear flap with clippers, nicked a Shih Tzu under the eye and with some regularity cut the quick whilst trimming nails – even vets do this, it is usually not serious despite the apparent blood bath! Given the 100’s of dogs I groom a year, injuries are very low compared with the potential for risk and I've not yet had a serious incident. Don’t get defensive, but the biggest risk to dogs is from coats in bad condition that are knotted and matted – groomers have to spend time with sharp blades removing these which is very often awkward, uncomfortable and stressful for the dog and is when the majority of accidents are likely to happen. Groomers don’t nag you about brushing your dog regularly to make their lives easier, it’s to make your dog’s life easier!

Now, I don't know the specifics of the incident with this dog, but I do know from the various groomers forums I am part of that that it has caused unbelievable vitriolic outrage amongst dog owners and much sympathy and support for the groomer involved from fellow groomers who know only too well how easily this can happen. What I will say is that groomers are most definitely dog lover’s and it is very unlikely it was carelessness on the part of the groomer, who I have no doubt is devastated to have caused this injury. The owner himself has admitted his 20 month Cockapoo is ‘bouncy’ which in groomering language means ‘all over the place' - yes, it's a puppy and a Cockapoo puppy at that. From what I have read, it seems that perhaps Pets at Home didn't explain fully what the vet had done (tidied up the flap by taking the chunk out – the groomer herself didn't actually cut off this piece of tongue!) and left it to the owner to discover this at home. But, keeping some perspective here, to say his dog was "badly injured" is gross exaggeration. By his own admission, the dog “doesn’t appear too bothered” – whilst not ideal, this is not a serious injury. And to simply assume the groomer was wilfully careless or negligent is absurd and ignorant of the potential risks involved in grooming.

I can't speak for all groomers, but I am in no doubt that the vast majority take great care when grooming dogs but that doesn't mean accidents can't happen. I say again, dog’s are not statues and very often are far more difficult to handle than most owners realise. As my clients can testify, I have a lengthy consent form which they must read and sign - it’s not intended to absolve me of any wrong doing, it is to make owners aware of the risks involved, and then it is up to them to decide whether they continue with the groom and accept the potential risks.

Groomers love to use the word ‘pamper’ and owner’s love the idea of ‘pampering’ their fur baby and of them having a relaxing 'spa experience' … seriously, it’s not. Some dogs genuinely enjoy a bath, a blow dry or a good brush out and obviously feel better afterwards, but most don’t 'enjoy' the process, at best they tolerate the experience. Whilst I love making a dog look fabulous and feel great when a haircut goes to plan and looks show worthy (admittedly not often!) basically speaking, much of the grooming I do is functional - bathing honky mutts who have rolled in something breathtakingly disgusting or clipping off urine soaked matts of the aged and slightly incontinent. It’s hard, smelly work. And yes, we use very sharp scissors.

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