Category Archives: Grooming

Miniature Poodle puppies 6-8 weeks

These weeks build on the solid foundation of the previous 6 weeks. If all has been done well then by now puppies are confident, eating well, sleeping through the night, not barking, not whining and interested in exploring new environments, people and animals that come their way. They are not showing signs of being unwilling to go somewhere new and are happy. healthy bouncy puppies.

The highlights of this phrase include:

  • Now actually interacting with adult dogs and learning how to use cut off signals to indicate they are no threat and learning that they can not rush headlong into the face of an adult dog.
  • Learning from their litter mates how to use their teeth in play.
  • Increasing variety of food being introduced
  • More and more outings to puppy safe venues
  • Increased independence from mum and the other puppies
  • Grooming training  starts (this is very important for poodle puppies)
  • Reinforcement of a good day/night routine
  • Being separated from humans and other dogs for part of the time so that separation anxiety is not going to become an issue.
  • Recall training, start of lead training, start of loose lead walking training (being asked to follow a human around without a lead)
  • Introduction of enrichment toys such as food dispensing toys.
  • Spending time as single pups away from other dogs so they can handle being an only dog.
  • Exploring the outside world and finding out about wind, rain, horses, cattle, leaves, trees and that fences mean containment.
  • Learning how not to be afraid during a thunderstorm
  • Learning how not to be afraid when they hear loud sounds like radios, gun shots, trains, cars, trucks, babies crying etc.

Just a quick comment on vaccination. I follow the most up to date schedule for vaccination from Dr Jean Dodds, a world expert on vaccination, and do not give the first vaccination (C3) until puppies are 8 weeks of age. I then only give one more after 16 weeks of life and then no further vaccination for the rest of the life of the dog. I also do not microchip until as close to over 8 weeks as possible as I feel it is fairly traumatic for baby puppies. It is required as a condition of sale in my state. The puppies are wormed at 3 and 6 weeks and then again as they are about to go to their new homes.

Regards
Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training  | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

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Training puppies for grooming

Establishing a good relationship with a puppy or dog is not just about teaching them to sit, stay or come when called. Grooming is a vital part of their basic training and in my opinion training adult and puppy dogs to accept the grooming process is very much over looked by groomers, trainers and pet parents. The grooming process is not natural for dogs, especially when very aversive equipment like clippers and high velocity dryers are used in the process. Dogs need to be taught to accept the equipment and the handling that inherent in the grooming process.

Puppies such as poodles, have a coat that requires high maintenance and it is important that a relationship with their owners and/or professionals is established based around grooming  as early as possible. This relationship must be one based on trust that they will not be frightened by the equipment required and that the person undertaking the grooming has an ability to observe and interpret canine body language.  If you are not proficient in understanding what a dog looks like when it is scared and how to stop that from happening then you should not be grooming any dog, let alone a vulnerable baby puppy.

Video One shows how to develop a caring and as stress free grooming relationship as possible for a puppy. This miniature poodle puppy is 7 weeks old and step one is to get it used to being up on  a high table and to accept the attention from brushes, combs and being touched in an way that is not natural for a dog. An important point is this is not done after washing a dog. It is undertaken at a totally different time when the pup is totally relaxed. Stacking the activities of a scary wash and then up on  a high table will increase the stress for the pup and set him or her up for failure before you even start.


(the noise in the background of this video is rain on the tin roof)

The second very important point is that restraint SHOULD NOT BE USED during these initial grooming training sessions. My reasoning is that dogs that get frightened of something need to be able to move away from it. Adding any sort to restraint in grooming training will automatically make it an aversive process  so that the pup is unable to learn as it is stuck in fear mode. Learning to handle restraint should be done separately once the puppy is comfortable on the table. The puppy should never be left on the table and all equipment should be placed in advance so that the handler can keep one hand on the pup at all times. This can be done at home by owners using a table with a non slip bath mat. Not only does it train for grooming but it also gives valuable one on one time that enables relationship building. 

The next step in the grooming process is teaching a dog or puppy not to be frightened of a dryer. The high velocity dryer is THE most abusive item of grooming equipment in a dog grooming salon. Most dogs are terrified of it and have every right to be so. It is a piece of equipment designed for groomers who want to do the maximum number of dogs in the shortest period of time. It is one of the big reasons I can no longer subject dogs to the practice of professional grooming. It is vital that any dog that will be attending a professional groomer is trained to accept this practice.  How long it takes for a dog to become ok with this process depends on the skill of the groomer in reading canine body language and the overall socialization and fearfulness of the dog or puppy. This training should NEVER be done when the dog is being presented for its first groom.

The important points to note are:

  • No restraint
  • Diffuser off the dryer
  • Dryer on lowest possible setting
  • Start with counter conditioning to just the noise (i.e. dyer on ground and not pointed at the dog)
  • Dryer aimed at the dog for very short bursts of seconds only and never at the head
  • Watch the dog and stop immediately you see escalation of minor stress signs such as lip licking, freezing,  ears back and yawning.
  • The whole process is performed often for very short periods not rarely for long periods. (This is why is cannot be started in the context of a grooming session)

The next video is with a different puppy and shows some of the signs to look for in a pup that is not ok with the process.

  • Pup stopped eating so counter-conditioning was not being effective as pup was too scared by the process. Dryer needed to be further away.
  • Body Language becomes stiffer, more lip licking, not able to head turn and became stuck in one place on the table.
  • Reward used was not high enough and scary object was too close.
  • Pup startles at 1.30 minutes indicating it went into fear mode.

This is just a quick overview of training puppies for grooming using positive force free methods. It is part of a larger body of work I am putting together. If you need assistance on an particular grooming issues please contact us via the comments section or email.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training  | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

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Summer is here- Quick shave off the dogs!

Dogs come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colours; they also have different grooming needs. Read more here. What they don’t vary in is that they are susceptible to heat stroke and get matted if not brushed effectively. So it follows that you shave off all dogs in summer to keep them cool don’t you? Is that idea based in science or is it based on humans who think that dogs cool the same way we do?

Do we shave Poodles, Shih Tzu’s and Maltese to make them cooler or just to make them easier to maintain?

Should we shave Border Collies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Siberian Huskies?

Humans cool by producing sweat from our biggest organ, the skin, and cool by the effect of evaporation of this perspiration as air moves across our skin. This system is controlled by a sweating centre in the brain.  Dogs however have a panting centre which stimulates panting which is rapid shallow breathing that causes air to be passed through the nose and over the tongue allowing efficient evaporation to occur. The tongue has a rich blood supply and heat produced in the muscles and tissues enters the blood and is transported to the tongue. A dog’s nose maximizes this process due to its many tissue folds that increase the surface area the air can come in contact with and body heat is reduced.

Dogs also have sweat glands in their feet and ears; however they are inefficient and play a very small role in thermoregulation. A dog’s fur acts as insulation both against heat and cold, functioning much like the insulation in the roof or walls of your house. It keeps in warm air and cool air as required. Their skin has a number of hairs growing through each follicle with a guard hair that is normally longer than the others. Dog’s piloerect (raise these guard hairs) by contracting or lengthening muscle fibres therefore insulating against cold and heat with degree of insulation increasing with fur thickness. The natural seasonal shedding in summer and winter is the dog’s way of dealing with the amount of hair required to cope with varying temperature demands but only if the dog is kept well groomed.   Dog’s also utilise behavioural adaptations to handle heat, resting in the heat of the day and being more active at dusk and dawn.

So let’s say we decide to clip off a Border collie or Golden Retriever, what happens to its ability to deal with heat?   Biophysics, in the form of Newton’s law of cooling, provides a formula for measuring temperature at the tip of a hair and temperature at the surface of the skin and this estimates the ability of hair to conduct heat. Studies show that dogs with longer hair have less heat at the skin than those with shorter hair.  If you surgically clip with a very short blade such as a 10 or 30 the number becomes dangerously high. Hence educated groomers will attempt to find a happy medium between clipping short and clipping off half the length of the coat using snap on combs. If the dog’s coat is heavily matted and removed and the night time temperature decreases then the dog will be losing skin heat i.e. becoming hypothermic. A matted coat impedes the dog’s ability to vary the length of the hair (piloerection) and the mats also alter the dog’s ability to dump heat from their skin surface to the outside air, thereby causing heat stress. Therefore dogs that heat stress do so not because of the length of the coat but due to the coat holding unwanted loose hair. 

Barbara Bird, Certified Master Groomer, recognised worldwide as a leading groomer educator, has this to say about clipping dog breeds.

“In the US, a growing number of groomers are declining to do shave downs on double coated breeds, or will do them only when the owner signs a release form that states that they are aware of the possible outcomes and agree to hold the groomer harmless in the event of poor regrowth, sun damage, or heat related episodes”

Continuing to clip off dogs whose coats are not meant to be clipped can lead rise to clipping alopecia and also often produces a coat that is short but is in fact more prone to harbouring fleas and ticks as the coat is shorter but more dense.

(insert picture of clipper alopecia)

Do I clip off my black Belgian Shepherds when we get consistent temperature over 30oC in summer?

No I don’t but I do try to ensure they have well groomed, dematted coats, plenty of drinking water and a cool place to lie. I do some clipping for my very old dogs to remove some coat around the britches and groin area. Your groomer can advise on humane methods of dematting that maintain the guard hairs but remove the shedding undercoat and this should be undertaken 3 or 4 times per year as the natural coat growth/shedding cycle occurs.

For the full scientific principle and references used to produce this article – click here.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training  | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

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About Me 

Winter comes again!

It feels like is was only yesterday and we were in the middle of winter 2012, yet here we are back again facing winter 2013.

Not much has changed except that we are all one year older and one year more creaky and less able to cope with the cold. Our dogs and cats that is of course !

What are the major issues that older animals have to cope with:

1) Arthritis

As nutrition and veterinary care becomes better our animals are living longer and longer. It is not uncommon to hear of dogs living until nearly 20 and cats for even longer. However their bodies were not designed to live that long. Their major joints such as back, hips and knees are prone to arthritis which is very susceptible to cold weather.  As your dog or cat ages they will not handle winter nearly as well. The first line of defence is to provide better bedding to take away the cold hard feeling of the floor and to elevate them off the floor. Then comes the addition of food additives such as Joint Guard and Sasha’s blend. As they age and these measures no longer give relief then it is time to progress to anti-inflammatory tablets and then finally to injections. Older animals need to go to the vets each winter for a checkup and discussion about their needs.

 

2) Grooming

Dogs that are clipped off during summer (to cope with the heat supposedly  still need regular grooming over winter. In fact they  need more grooming as longer coat means more matting. Please do not leave long coated dogs to become horrible matted messes that you think can only be removed when the weather gets warmer. Well trained and knowledgeable groomers can take of as much or as little coat as you like as they work with blades of varying lengths. The most common request over winter is FFB (meaning face, feet and bottom). I have a number of customers who I see all year around and in winter the coat is left much longer than in summer but still fully groomed out. Matted coat is not healthy and leads to skin issues and pain for the dog or cat.

 

3) Feeding quantities may vary over winter with some dogs being more sedentary and needing less calories to meet nutritional needs. Dogs or cats who are in pain and stressed as a result may however need more. If they are on anti-inflammatory medication make sure that they are taking this with food so as to avoid gastrointestinal side effects. You may have to consider smaller meals more often to compensate.

Here are the links to a few articles I have written in previous winters:

A solution to the smelly damp winter dog : click here 

I only want a bit off this time- a groomer’s winter lament: click here

And for all those groomers who find it hard to get up and think about dealing with water all day and are suffering aching backs, knees and shoulders from a lifetime of grooming!

It’s winter and I really have a problem getting out of bed: Click here

There is one good thought to hold onto and that is Winter will be shortly over and we will be back to the craziness of summer and all the winter clip offs of horribly matted dogs who went through winter.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Puppy Grooming tips guest article on about.com

I have had the pleasure of being invited to write and article for About.com Puppies site this week. The article is titled Puppy Grooming Tips -How to Prepare Puppies for Grooming and can be viewed here. It out lines a protocol that teaches pet owners the steps they can take to ensure they will have a puppy that will accept grooming techniques or handling at vet visits. This protocol is however also useful for all puppies, especially those living with children. Puppies and dogs do not always accept hugs from humans and this can be the reason why children and adults get bitten. If a puppy is trained using this protocol they can become accepting of the way humans approach them and need to hug and hold them.

My thanks to Amy Shojai who hosts the site for the opportunity and to Karen Deeds from Canine Direction for the inspiration for the article.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Is force free grooming a reality?

I spend many hours on Facebook talking to force free (or positive reward) trainers from all over the world and there is an opinion that professional grooming is a very negative thing for dogs to experience. and that groomers cannot work force free.

I can understand this to a certain extent due to the fact that canine and feline behavior is fairly rare to see offered in grooming courses.  There is plenty about equipment, how to shampoo a dog, the correct way to scissor but not much, if any, about how to read the stress signals in a dog or cat. When I certified as a groomer many years ago I was taught nothing about canine behavior. Talking to groomers and we agree that is is very difficult to groom in a totally force free way. We don’t like using force but often we are faced with severely matted, aggressive and untrained dogs that we have to remove severely matted coat from.  When it comes to those groomers who do cats the situation is even worse, as there is not many courses on feline behavior out there in the world, let alone Australia and who trains a cat for handling let alone grooming.

Where does that leave groomers?

I am very pleased to tell you that in the world there are enlightened groomers who seek out this information on their own. They are committed to doing their job in as force free a manner as possible and are actively seeking out ways to improve their processes. Sadly there are many who are not willing to work in a force free manner and adopt the attitude that says
“I do what it takes to groom the animal” They are backed up by owners who often say exactly the same thing and what it takes may mean the groomer ends up being badly bitten and the dog traumatised.

I recently started a facebook group for groomers who want to expand out their knowledge and look at better ways to do what they are doing. It is a dynamic and exciting group containing many individuals from all over the world who are interested in examining their techniques and trying new things and already we have made some interesting changes to our way of working.

Is it possible to work force free as a groomer?

Yes and no is my answer to that. Yes if the client has presented with a dog that has been well handled and trained as a puppy to grooming techniques or is willing to put in the time and effort to do the training required in an older dog. No if it is the client who leaves their dog to get into a matted mess and then tells us to do “whatever it takes” and doesn’t care about how aggressive their dog becomes in the process.  Clearly I and most groomers who love to see more of the first and so much less of the latter. There are ways a groom can be conducted in a less forceful way but it takes willingness on the part of groomers and our clients to do that.

One can only wish and in the meantime keep educating  pet owners and groomers.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Are all abused pets in puppy mills?

I have just been looking at many posts on Facebook and Yahoo grooming groups from groomers Australia wide and I am very angry.

There is photo after photo of horrendously matted dogs and cats that groomers have had to do “whatever it takes” to get the matted coats of these animals removed. I can hear you all saying “oh those poor dogs they must have come from puppy mills”

BUT

These dogs have not come from puppy mills they are owned by people who let them get into horrendous messes and then front up to a groomer hand over the dogs and say “please fix this” and sadly groomers can fix it and do but at what cost to the animal. Please don’t get me wrong I am not having a go at groomers, this is a very clear swipe at pet owners who think it is OK to buy an animal that needs far more day to day maintenance than they are prepared to give.  To make matters worse every groomer can tell you stories of owners who present time and time again with the animals in EXACTLY this same condition six or twelve months later. I am one of those groomers. After thirteen years professionally grooming I now have zero tolerance for owners who give me all the excuses under the sun as to why their dog is a matted, sometimes poo infested mess. They know I can and do make their dogs better and that if they present the dog back to me in the same state up to a year later I will still be able be able to fix their problem.

THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN THIS MODERN SOCIETY

It is time for pet owners to take responsibility for the care of the animals they own and to be prepared for the amount of grooming that many breeds require.  It is not OK for dogs to be kept in puppy mills and not be given adequate grooming and it is equally not OK for dogs to be owned by people and also to be allowed to get into horribly matted messes that take hours and considerable “manhandling” by groomers to fix. Yes we can fix it and yes we normally do so at far less charge than we should be charging but that doesn’t make it OK.

Pet owners of Australia you need to be responsible for the day to day care of your animals and to think long and hard before you get your next pet.

To those wonderful owners who present dogs to us that are beautifully groomed and cared for thank you so much you have no idea how grateful your groomer and your pet are. We wish every owner was like you.

To the groomers out there who day to day fix this problem at far less payment than they should charge – The pets thank you. If you would like to send me pictures of some of your worst cases of dogs that have been owned by people and been neglected please email them to me.  Address   Feel free to post a comment below of some of the excuses you get given. It is time to life the lid on what we see behind closed doors.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

Are dogs being groomed aggressive or just scared out of their wits?

Grooming dogs as a professional is not an easy task. It is a physically demanding job that frequently involves working with dogs considered aggressive. Society labels any dog that is performing actions, that we believe, are designed to hurt us as aggressive. The owners of these dogs are often at a loss when the groomer tells them their dog is aggressive. The general comment is “But fluffy is never like that at home”

Are these dogs aggressive or are they just scared and exhibiting aggressive behavior?

More often than not these dogs are just plain frightened and the only way they can show this is by using aggressive behavior  in an attempt to get what is scaring them to stop. They are scared because they are anticipating danger, pain and/or they are in a totally unfamiliar environment. They are also scared because their normal pattern of dealing with what they see as an aggressive act towards them is not working and they are unable to flee from the aggressor. They do not understand that what is being done is for their own good.

 “Fear elicits a series of physiological and anatomical processes aimed at the best possible solution for survival. Fear usually leads to flight or immobility and sometimes to displacement behavior.” 1 p.18

Dogs are hardwired with an aggression inhibition system which means that when faced with aggressive acts they undertake behaviors that are designed to stop that aggression by the opposing dog.

Roger Abrantes in Dog Language – An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior provides an excellent description;

“Puppies play by tumbling around and biting one another. Suddenly one of them gets a grip on the other’s ear. It bites hard and the poor brother or sister howls in pain. The other puppy succeeds in getting its teeth in the tender skin of its sibling’s belly. Much whining and yelling follow. They stand still for a short while, then let go.

Next time they act slightly differently. One will gasp the other’s ear only until the puppy begins making noise. It will react to the sibling’s vocal distress, which works as a mechanism to inhibit or control aggressive behavior  Previous experience showed the puppy it is better to let go at the first signs of vocal behavior, or its belly will hurt“1 P.23

Evolution has designed dogs to avoid threatening situations they believe will lead to injury by setting them up with strong behaviors that act to moderate any aggression from others in their social group, including humans. Sadly evolution forgot to teach those communication skills to humans.

Consider then a dog or puppy that has learnt this behavior but is now in a grooming salon. It is frightened by the strange person, the weird noises and the process that is occurring. It considers the loud clippers or dryer hose to be identical to the threat posed to it by an aggressive sibling. It wants to flee but is prevented by the grooming noose or the big scary monster holding the dog in place. It initially displays calming behaviors,2 such as lip licking, looking away and yawing, all of which normally work to defuse a potential situation. Confused by the humans inability to understand its communication signals it is then forced to move to the next level by growling and then possibly nipping. This dog is doing what it is hardwired to do, enacting the aggression inhibition system, but it is totally confused as to why it isn’t working. In a best case scenario, for the groomer, they shut down. Shut down is however not a best case scenario for the dog as the stress hormones signalling the need to fight or flight are still circulating. In a worst case scenario you have a groomer, unskilled in canine body language and failing to understand these calming signals who exacerbates the problem by failing to understand how a dog’s aggression inhibition system works. They push the dog harder and harder to submit to the process and in so doing undermine the learning system of this dog. They teach a dog that calming signals, whining and growling don’t work and force it into more aggressive behavior such as biting.

Dogs do what works and repeat behaviors that gain them the outcome they prefer. A dog that is finally forced into a bite wins as biting is a sure fire method to stop the unwanted interaction. In an older dog this is less concerning however if this is a puppy, especially if it is in a fear period, can be disastrous. Over time this dog learns to forgo all the initial methods of communication and go straight to the bite. In a vicious circle the groomer then mark this dog as aggression, or worse all dogs as aggressive, and develops harsher grooming methods.

So what is a better way to manage this interaction?

  • Learning about calming signals and low levels of aggressive behavior and understanding that when given they mean the stress level is rising and the dog needs some time to become more comfortable and that alternative handling procedures need to be employed.
  • Not pushing a dog until it is past the point of no return and the encounter ends up with either a shut down dog or a bitten groomer
  • Learning how to apply counter-conditioning and massage methods in a grooming situation.
  • Running a salon or mobile van that has a calming environment with staff that have calming energy.
  • Encouraging owners to bring their dogs in before they are horribly matted and before they are older and having them on an appropriate schedule so they are less stressed during grooming
  • Teaching owners the importance of socialization so that their dogs are exposed to unusually situations from an early age and develop the ability to deal with them.

 Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

Further Reading:

1Roger Abrantes Dog Language – An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior. Wakan Tanka 1997

2 Turid Rugaas – Calming Signals official site

Lifting the lid on traumatic dog grooming methods.

NOTE: This is not aimed at any groomer in particular and is written as a general article from years of research and work as a groomer. Once I become a positive trainer and learnt how to read Canine Body Language I was horrified at how I had forcefully handled dogs for years as a dog owner and as a certified groomer.

Dogs live in our world and are expected to conform to how we want them to behave. For dogs this puts them into a totally alien environment where they are must be prepared to submit to such procedures as brushing, washing, not chewing, digging or barking. How do we make dogs do this?

In an ideal world they slowly and systematically become trained to our way of thinking. Brushing, washing and clipping are pleasurable activities they often experience that make them feel good. They understand that barking at 3 am in the morning is not acceptable and that the $200 pair of new shoes is not the same as the well chewed old pair of shoes they found in the laundry. They grow up in environments where they have not learnt to be frightened of novel events. Their fears are taken into consideration by trained professionals when being handled.

Sadly however this is not the case for some dogs. For a number of reasons they are scared of noises, scared of strangers and scared of procedures that are required to keep them happy and healthy in our human world. These scared dogs are presented regularly at grooming salons and veterinary clinics where it is expected they will submit to the procedures required or else. Dogs need to be clipped, washed, have nails trimmed and brushed. Vets, veterinary technicians and groomers are not always trained in the best methods to use to get a scared dog to submit to these procedures. Often they fail to realize just how terrified the dog is.

All of these places are busy and commonly the procedure must be done in the fastest possible time and dogs are expected to “deal with it”. A technique known as flooding is employed.

The concept behind flooding is simple – force the dog to encounter a stimulus that would generally elicit a flight or fight response, but prevent the dog from using those two coping mechanisms to deal with the stress.  The hope is that when the dog experiences that nothing scary happens from the encounter – they will learn that the flight or fight response isn’t necessary and will therefore put them on the path of a more normal behavior for that situation.1

 

Flooding works on the theory that the body cannot keep up a stressed out state of alarm forever and that they will eventually replace the fear they feel with a feeling of relaxation. It is an old fashioned psycho-therapeutic method used on humans to overcome phobias. Imagine that you are scared of spiders and in order to prove that spiders won’t hurt you are LOCKED into a very small room and thousands of spiders are released. Sooner or later the theory is that you will come to love spiders. If it works it works very fast but only when applied on the right phobia by trained personnel under controlled conditions using psychologically proven relaxation techniques  and only when the phobia is causing significant life disturbances and as a last resort.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIR2-oPbxjk  – Flooding a dangerous dog used as a training method by professionals experienced in the technique. Flooding was used appropriately when there was no other option as dog was facing euthanasia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfZMVzckClE  This is flooding used in a grooming situation. Read the comments for more information on why this is not an appropriate technique.

This technique is seen regularly on television as a cure all for all manner of behavioral problems and every day thousands of vets, vet technicians and groomers are doing it all over the world. So why should this technique not be used?

  • The experience is traumatic and the fear is often not cured just suppressed with the dog learning to exhibit learned helplessness while the stress hormones evoked still circulate at very high levels in the dog.
  • The most common side effect is enhanced fear.
  • Other techniques such as systematic desensitization take too long and most people don’t understand the difference between this and flooding and are not trained in these processes.
  •  It is often done with significant positive punishment and physical negative reinforcement resulting in the fact that people are becoming unable to tell when a dog is shut down and they believe that a quiet dog is calm or submissive when in fact they are far from calm from the point of view of their nervous system.
  • Because we no longer believe dogs deserved to be punished for normal or scared behaviors.
  • Because there is now an understanding that dogs need socialization and experience of scary events from an early age

Victoria Stillwell in her blog on Positively.com makes the following comment about the use of flooding:

 In some cases flooding works, but this therapy is controversial because the likelihood of failure is so high. In the majority of cases flooding only makes a dog more anxious and forces the dog to adopt a different coping mechanisms such as fighting, irrespective of how many dogs there are, or shutting down – where the dog becomes almost numb to the environment and behaves in a way that is truly out of character – an instinct that keeps him safe and ensures survival. This shut down lasts as long as the dog is in the flooding environment, and once back in his comfort zone, the dog is free to be able to show his true feelings again.4

Is flooding still an appropriate technique in this modern age?

NO

Groomers, vet technicians and vets should be willing to adopt more humane methods when it comes to dealing with dogs and cats that are brought in for their care. If flooding is deemed to be, after everything else has been tried, the most appropriate method to use it should only be done by professionals specifically trained in the procedure. Pet owners should insist that their dogs are not traumatized in the process of being cared for by pet care professionals.

Regards

Louise Ker
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au

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Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

1http://selfhelpdogtraining.com/wordpress/?p=115

2.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flooding_(psychology)

3.   http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/140102.htm

4.   http://positively.com/positive-reinforcement/victoria-stilwell-articles/flooding/

5.  Practical experience as a professional groomer for 13 years

6.  Thousands of Facebook, Yahoo group posts, You tube videos and blog entries from groomes and trainers  per week over a career of 20 years as a Pet Care Professional

7.  Hours of video and audio tapes and attendance online and in person at seminars.

My dog will not get hot if I remove his coat – Fact or fiction?

Spring has sprung here in Australia and the forecast is for a hot spring and summer with reduced rainfall. Groomer’s telephones have started ringing with clients needing appointments to “take off the matted long hair my dog has been carrying over winter, so that he will be cooler”

But is a dog actually cooler or not when they are shaved down? Should dogs be allowed to develop heavily matted pelts during winter that are never brushed and then put into a boom or bust scenario during the hotter months? Do we shave Shih Tzu’s and Maltese off to make them cooler or just to make them easier to maintain?

Dogs come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colours; they also have different grooming needs. Here is a blog I wrote some years ago about this. What they don’t vary in is that they are susceptible to heat stroke and get matted if not brushed effectively.

Humans cool by producing sweat from our biggest organ, the skin. We perspire and cool by the evaporation of this perspiration as air moves across our skin. The human body controls temperature regulation using the sweating centre located in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This centre stimulates the sweat glands to release sweat and for each gram of sweat that evaporates half a calorie of heat is dissipated1.

Dogs however have a panting centre which stimulates panting. Panting is rapid sallow breathing that causes air to be passed through the nose and over the tongue allowing efficient evaporation to occur. The tongue has a rich blood supply and heat produced in the muscles and tissues enters the blood and is transported to the tongue. A dog’s nose maximizes this process due to its many tissue folds that increase the surface area the air can come in contact with. This tissue also perspires and has a large blood supply, so like a car radiator, body heat is reduced. Air is brought in via the dog’s nose and then exhaled through the mouth and it picks up moisture and heat from the nose, thereby cooling and drying it. Exhaling through the mouth where there is less blood supply and a lesser surface area, results in almost all of the moisture being absorbed and heat leaving the dog’s mouth via to the surrounding air. When he no longer wishes to lose body heat he exhales the air brought in via the nose back out the nose. This causes a greater proportion of moisture and heat to be returned to the large surface area in the nose thereby minimizing heat loss.1

Dog’s also have a spleen that is much larger relative to its body size than a human. The spleen stores blood and during exercise it contracts, releasing blood into the blood stream. This extra blood is then available to carry more heat to the tongue for removal. This is what gives dog’s much better endurance than people.


Dogs do have sweat glands in their feet and ears, however they are inefficient and play a very small role in thermoregulation. A dog’s fur also acts as insulation both against heat and cold, functioning much like the insulation in the roof or walls of your house. It keeps in warm air and cool air as required. Their skin has more than one hair growing through each follicle with a guard hair that is normally longer than the others. Dog’s can piloerect (raise these guard hairs) by contracting or lengthening muscle fibres. The dog’s hair insulates against cold and heat with degree of insulation increasing with fur thickness. The natural seasonal shedding in summer and winter is the dog’s natural way of dealing with the amount of hair required to cope with winter and summer temperature demands if the dog is kept well groomed.   Kittens and puppies are born as cold blooded animals and if shortly after birth they are removed from their surroundings will rapidly lose body heat, hence mother dogs and cats will snuggle with their babies for long periods up until they develop coat.   Dog’s also utilise behavioural adaptations to handle heat, resting in the heat of the day and being more active at dusk and dawn. So let’s say we decide to clip off a Border collie or Belgian shepherd what happens to its ability to deal with heat?   Biophysics in the form of Newton’s law of cooling provides a formula for measuring temperature at the tip of a hair and temperature at the surface of the skin. It can estimate the ability of a hair to conduct heat. 2   Most mammals attempt to keep their skin at about 85oC (29oC).The sun can heat the tip of a hair to more than 150oF (66oC). Using the formula for Newton’s law of cooling (see the full articlefor the details) it can be determined that if a dogs hair is six inches long the number decreases however if the dog’s hair is clipped to 1 inch then the number rises with a higher number meaning increased heat at the dogs skin. Therefore a dog with longer hair will have less heat at their skin than a dog with shorter hair i.e. the hair insulates. If you surgically clip with a very short blade such as a 10 or 30 the number becomes dangerously high. Hence many groomers will attempt to find a happy medium between clipping short and clipping off half the length of the coat with snap on combs. If the dog’s coat is heavily matted and the night time temperature decreases then the dog will be losing skin heat i.e. becoming hypothermic. A matted coat impedes the dog’s ability to vary the length of the hair (piloerection) and the mats also alter the dog’s ability to dump heat from their skin surface to the outside air, thereby causing hyperthermia. Exercise makes this situation even worse. When dog’s are suffering from heat stress they are soaked in tepid water which makes the hair more conductive to temperature, and also flattens the coat, allowing body heat to be dissipated more rapidly thereby reducing the core temperature of the dog.

Many owners will state that they think their dog feels better after a clip as they see them running around. I posed this question to a number of American master groomers via the Groomers email list at Groom-TNT, the largest international professional pet grooming E-mail network in the world. 

Barbara Bird, Certified Master Groomer, recognised at a leading groomer educator worldwide summed this up nicely

“As to the matter of the dog running around and seeming to feel better after clipping, we have no comparison of how the dog might “feel” after a professional deshedding and removal of the excess shedded undercoat.

In the US, a growing number of groomers are declining to do shave downs on double coated breeds, or will do them only when the owner signs a release form that states that they are aware of the possible outcomes and agree to hold the groomer harmless in the event of poor regrowth, sun damage, or heat related episodes”

I also posed the question to a facebook site on which many experienced animal behaviour observers comment on behaviour and the speculation was that the zoomies seen after a grooming session are actually more a stress relief reaction to how different a dog feels once the coat is removed rather than what owners see as a reaction in which the dogs are “running around because they feel cooler”

Do I clip off my black Belgian Shepherds when we get consistent temperature over 30oC in summer?

No I don’t but I do try to ensure they have well groomed out, dematted coats and plenty of drinking water and a cool place to lie. I do some clipping for my very old dogs to remove some coat weight around the britches and sanitary area to allow the dog to lie on a cool damp place as  most older long haired dogs normally have a great deal of coat build up in this area. I also refuse to clip off dogs that I believe will be adversely affected by the process, no matter how much the owner attempts to persuade me otherwise. As a scientist I have now examined too much scientific information that I believe points to this practice being detrimental to our canine companions.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

http://www.elitepetcare.com.au
petcaremagician.com

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

References:

1http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/591736.html

2http://www.sonic.net/~cdlcruz/GPCC/library/hairlength.htm

http://itsthedogslife.com/2011/05/shaving-your-dog-for-summer/

http://blog.aspca.org/content/heat-wave-should-you-shave-your-pet

http://www.theunion.com/article/20110603/NEWS/110609950

http://ezinearticles.com/?Not-All-Dogs-Benefit-From-A-Summer-Haircut-or-Shave-Down&id=188653

http://www.atomic-canine.com/news/2011/03/clipper-alopecia/

http://www.expeditionsamoyeds.org/dogtemp.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_regulation#Variations_in_the_temperature_of_man_and_some_other_animals

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