I wanted to let you know my opinion on restraints.  Its something that I get asked a lot about …

When I done my training, we were very much told to use both a noose and a belly strap.  It was for “safety” reasons.  So when I started grooming, I very much followed this and continued to use a noose and a belly strap.  I often found that dogs would thrash about when they were restrained – it was almost like they didn’t like it (I say that tongue in cheek by the way!).  So what followed was them thrashing about, me thrashing about with them to “control” them and then it all turned a bit ugly.  Just so that I could get that hair on their face cut or the hair out their toes which they didn’t like and wouldn’t tolerate but had no escape from cause I had them “safe” on the table.  I then had that a-ha moment – what if they weren’t restrained?

As part of my learning and experience with fear free grooming, I quickly learnt that restraining a dog (or any animal) will only lead to more fear and a feeling of no escape – pretty much how I would feel if I was restrained. There is a better and easier way all round to keep an animal safe when being groomed.

From my experience and what I see on Facebook pages, the noose is often far too tight on the dog and it is lying round its throat and not under its jaw.  Try it – put your hands around your throat right now – its not nice is it!  Now put your hands right under your jaw bone – better eh, being able to breath!  The belly strap is there as a guide for the dog and should be padded.  I have seen some belly straps that tight that they the dog is standing on its tip toes!  It should be loose hanging so that the dog will feel it around its side if they go too far to one side of the table and it will prompt them to not go any further.

I tend to use one or the other of these restraints.  My focus is to get the dog to a point of calm that I do not need restraints.  I also put my table low at times so the dog has the freedom to jump off at anytime they have had enough for a short break. I am truly amazed at how a dog will jump off, take 30 seconds and then hop right back on.  Its then their choice and they always sit or stand at peace to allow me to do what I need to do.

This results in a much calmer groom, no thrashing about or fighting.  The dog has a choice to take a break or let me know if its something they don’t like.  And if they do react, I can work with them on desensitising them to gain their trust and change their thought process.

I am also trained in Low Stress Handling Techniques which are invaluable.  It brings calm to the dog whilst keeping them safe.

My style of grooming is very much about giving your dog a choice and having to do what is necessary in terms of grooming, to keep them comfortable and healthy.

At grooming school, you do not get taught any handling skills except the nooses, muzzles and elizabethan collars.  We do not get taught any basic dog behaviours.  It is just about grooming.  I hate the idea of a dog being groomed against its will – if we are all animal lovers, why would we want this?  I hear of dogs that go kicking and screaming into the groomers.  Don’t get me wrong, I too have dogs that hate coming here but the the treats, ice cream, play area, Belle and Tara and cuddles help!  And of course, if a dog just cannot tolerate some aspect of grooming – dryer, nail cutting, clippers etc – I will work with them to get over this and not force them to tolerate it.

Grooming time can be significantly longer to start with but I have seen it reduce significantly too.  I believe we all love our dogs dearly and only want the best for them.  I always ensure your dog is safe above everything. You will often find me on my knees on the floor grooming.  I remember at grooming school being told this was not “acceptable” – “imagine a customer came in and saw you on your knees!” horrified by this very thought.  To this day, I still don’t get it – if I was on my knees and your dog was quite happily standing being groomed, they are safe and I am safe, what is the issue?  Its safer for them to be lower, me to be lower and no thrashing about?

Any questions, as always, please ask.

Susan x