Have we talked about ‘Comfort Grooming?’ Do you know what that means? Well here’s a breakdown.
There will come a point when your dogs haircut will be about 10% determined by you and about 90% determined by them. When this happens your pup will have entered the comfort groom stage of their life. No matter how hard we try, how much you beg, or how sweet your dog is there is no way a senior dog will be going home looking the same as they did as a young puppy or a middle aged adult.
If I’ve been with you through a pets aging we’ve probably had some difficult conversations about how your pups grooming evolves as they age. If we haven’t had to have those conversations yet hopefully this prepares you.
Getting older affects them just as aging affects people. Their joints become stiff or sore, their skin becomes tissue paper thin, they start losing their sense of awareness, their muscles tremble, their balance is shaky and they get various skin blemishes and tumors. But how does this change their haircut?
A poodle with arthritis in their toes for example might not be able to spread them apart to get those pretty shaved toes anymore and so we adapt and start doing a fluffier teddy bear foot.
A schnauzer who’s developed some canine dementia might not tolerate having tangles brushed from his beard without panicking so we will start trimming it short to keep him calm and comfortable.
A shihtzu who’s always had long hair might end up having to get a short puppy cut because their skin has thinned too much to handle the extra brushing required to maintain a lot of hair.
A bichon who’s always had a pretty fluffy scissored bichon trim but when his joints start getting stiff and his legs start trembling we do a shorter cut that can be done faster.
Along with these things are a few things that we ask you as an owner to remember. A comfort groom is not a show groom, odds are it won’t be perfect. We do what we can while keeping the dog comfortable which means sometimes there may be some slightly straggly looking areas depending on your dog and their individual issues. If they can’t balance on three legs without collapsing then their feet may still be a bit fluffy for example.
Skin blemishes are annoying and moles in particular bleed if the wind blows the wrong way. We don’t intend to irritate them but sometimes the bath, drying or brushing can cause them to ooze a bit.
Give us the time we need to get them done, rushing through a senior is dangerous for them and stressful.
Occasionally we will have a senior who just can’t be totally finished in one session for whatever reason, either they’re having a particularly bad day and just can’t handle it or there’s something else going on with them.
No matter how hard we try to make it easy on them grooming is still physically demanding for older dogs who usually nap 23 1/2 hours a day. We are stretching their legs out to shave them, manipulating toes to trim nails and turning their head side to side to trim it. If they start acting sore after routine grooming they may need a prescription for arthritis medication from your vet to be given on grooming days.
These grooming decisions will always be made with your pups comfort as the ultimate deciding factor and after discussing everything we need to do with you because we do this job to help pets, not to hurt them for the sake of human vanity. Now hug your pups and cherish those grey whiskers.