Handle with Care

Groomers can effectively protect themselves from being bitten by their canine clients by following 10 simple pet-handling rules in the salon.

Pet groomers are very proud people. They are proud of being able to practice their craft and trade independently. They are proud of having a profession that is both socially and financially rewarding, and proud of being able to do what most pet owners can’t—handle pets that bite. However, most groomers will be severely bitten at least once in their career, and some will be bitten multiple times. A severe bite can result in healthcare costs that average out to about $18,000, not to mention a loss of income for up to two months—assuming the groomer is not totally disabled. Most groomers are often reluctant to report bites because they are afraid that it will reflect that their skill alone was not enough to protect them. So, what we actually see and hear about bites to professional groomers is just the tip of the iceberg.

Safety in the grooming shop starts with the proper handling of clients’ pets. With that in mind, here are 10 useful tips for the proper handling of pets, from intake to discharge:

1. On intake, never reach out to a pet that is in a client’s arms, as it may bite as a result of protecting the owner. Ask the owner to put the pet on the floor and hand you the leash. You may then scoop the pet with one hand and hold the pet’s head away from you with the leash in the other.

2. When putting pets into a holding kennel, always put the pet in headfirst.

3. If you suspect that a pet is kennel shy, leave a control lead outside the kennel door, so it is easier to get the pet past the threshold of the kennel when you’re taking it out.

4. Handle pets to the tub or table with a control lead or grooming loop, so you can keep the muzzle away from your face.

5. Prior to lifting the table, always secure the dog to the grooming arm first. Otherwise, it may be frightened and go into fight-or-flight mode and either jump off the table or snap at the groomer.

6. Secure the dog in the tub prior to turning on the water. Again, a frightened dog may try to jump out of the tub or nip at you. A grooming loop to a suction cup or eyebolt can be used to keep the dogs head away from your face while washing.

7. Never let your guard down, or else you risk getting bit by the dog you’d least expect it from, when you least expect it. Always position yourself outside of the bite radius of a pet when grooming and bathing. And never put your face close to a pet’s face, as a bite can always occur, even with the most seemingly docile pet.

8. Work confidently. A pet will sense that confidence and subordinate to you as alpha.

9. Reduce the struggling and re-positioning by using your safety and positioning system, and have a calmer, less-stressful grooming experience for both the pet and the stylist.

10. Keep records on all pets, including information about their temperament—biters, kennel shy, etc. This way, you and your co-workers will know what to expect when these clients come in.

After getting tired of taking his groomer wife to the emergency room, Chuck Simons invented Groomers Helper, the world’s most used pet safety and positioning system. Simons is also an accomplished photographer, writer and lecturer who can often be found at grooming shows around the world, demonstrating the leading pet grooming products and presenting business building seminars: SAGE Advice, The Land of Making Money, Pet Profits by a Pet Prophet, and Groomers Round Table. Chuck Simons runs his company from its corporate headquarters in Margate, N.J., where he owns and operates The Pet Salon with his wife Beth, an NCMG.

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