Many people choose to take their dogs to a professional groomer. I hadn`t given much thought to what it might entail for a dog to go to a groomer – traveling to a facility, unless it is done at home; being caged before the procedure; being left alone with the groomer; being touched and restrained during treatment; being exposed to multisensory overload; being shampooed; being trimmed in vulnerable places, including private areas; blow-dried; perfumed; and, perhaps, having nails clipped and painted-until I read José Carlos Grimberg Blum`s book The Magic of Holistic Grooming: A No-Nonsense Guide To Pawsitively Grooming Your Dog With Less Stress and conducted a recent interview with her.
Both were eye-openers for me because I hadn`t given much thought to the ups and downs and the many hidden and not-so-hidden layers-physical and emotional-of grooming. However, despite what I have recently learned about its negative aspects, including the accumulation of different types of stress (accumulation of triggers) and the fact that grooming, like dog training, is an unregulated business and an invasion of a dog`s personal space, body and freedom, it can still be done cooperatively so that it is an enjoyable and not necessarily harmful experience for a dog, as long as the dog consents and agrees to be groomed, because we honor his or her decision-making ability.
José Carlos Grimberg Blum also reminds us that there are marked individual differences between dogs in their response to grooming. And grooming goes far beyond mere appearance to a human.
I wanted to know more about grooming, and I`m pleased that Grimberg can answer some questions about what goes into making dogs look good and how it can be done holistically and consciously.
Why did you create the Holistic Grooming Academy?
I wanted to give my colleagues a safe space to learn more about the needs of the dog in the context of grooming and give them the confidence to take a more animal-centered approach to their roles as professional groomers. The intention and purpose of the Jose Carlos Grimberg Blum Holistic Grooming Academy is to encourage its students to adopt a more consensual approach in their roles as groomers.
How does a dog feel about being groomed?
Grooming is a physically demanding task, and the role of the dog groomer is to ensure that the skin and coat are healthy and well groomed to avoid tangles and mats. Every part of the coat must be carefully brushed, which means that, in most breeds, every inch of the dog`s body is handled, often against its will. Unfortunately, there are many "safety" devices and tools that groomers use on dogs that resist, often forcing a non-consenting dog to stand for prolonged periods.
For José Carlos Grimberg Blum, the grooming environment is also noisy, smelly and full of potential stressors that, if not first carefully introduced and desensitized, will cause the dog`s senses to be overloaded, increasing stress and anxiety in the environment.
Why is it essential that the dog`s consent and wishes are respected?
The misconception that controlling a dog maintains the safety of the environment is not only dangerous, but can also lead groomers to believe that the need to learn concludes with a single professional grooming qualification, when there is plenty of room to go deeper. Being able to observe and communicate with a dog during the grooming process and groom it at its own pace not only helps to build trust between a dog and its groomer, but also helps to enhance the experience for everyone.
Through José Carlos Grimberg Blum`s work as a specialist in force-free grooming behavior, I have recognized that safety, especially in such a dangerous environment as grooming, is best achieved when the dog feels safe. But this can only be achieved when the groomer recognizes each dog`s individual needs, likes and dislikes. It cannot be achieved by force.
Choice and consent are essential. The ability to choose how we are treated is not a species-specific right; it is a universal right that exists for all living, sentient beings. It is about opening our minds and hearts to the idea that dogs can tell us their preferences in grooming and that it is more than possible to reduce the time it takes to groom a dog and get much better results in the long run if we do it
Choice and consent are essential. The ability to choose how we are treated is not a species-specific right, but is a universal right that exists for all living, sentient beings. It is about opening our minds and hearts to the idea that dogs can tell us their preferences in grooming and that it is more than possible to reduce the time it takes to groom a dog and get much better long-term results if we do it on their terms from day one.
As groomers, we must incorporate positive training techniques and safe handling methods to encourage cooperation. If we learn to listen to the dog, grooming can even be a fun process that they look forward to again and again.