Are restraints necessary for everyday dog grooming?
Here at Abbfabb Academy of Dog Grooming Training, we believe that the well-being, safety, and comfort of the dogs in our care is paramount. There is a school of thought that believes that all dogs are restraints in the grooming salon regardless of their temperament, age, or medical condition. Our policy is using restraints ONLY when necessary is the best way to groom the many different dogs in our care.
Are restraints effective in a dog grooming salon?
It’s commonly accepted that dogs react differently when on a lead, compared to when they are free to use their natural instincts.
A dog’s experience during their visit to a salon should be as relaxed and stress-free as possible and it is our view that routine use of restraint can make dogs feel insecure and anxious. There is no need, in our experience, to restrain a calm and cooperative dog.
Human hands used gently to hold a dog is a far more effective way of encouraging a dog to stand still and allow itself to be groomed than immediately using a neck strap and a belly strap. Dogs need to feel that they can trust their groomer and feel relaxed and happy during the grooming experience. Dogs that are anxious have either had a poor experience in the past or haven’t had any form of training from their owners. A nervous dog will become even more worried if the first thing we do is restrain them.
What are the different types of restraints in the grooming salon?
Neck nooses: A neck noose is a form of dog lead that is put around a dog’s neck and attached to a post above the grooming table. Some dog grooming schools will fit a neck noose onto a dog as soon as it is lifted onto the grooming table. We work differently. We teach all our students to be prepared and to have all the equipment and products ready before they begin. This means that once the dog is on the table the groomer doesn’t need to turn their back on the dog, and that human hands are there to hold the dog if necessary. I have witnessed many dogs in grooming salons jump from the table and be swinging from side to side by the neck until somebody manages to lift them back to safety to prevent choking.
Belly straps: These are designed to provide support to dogs on the table by securing a band around the dog’s middle and attaching the two sides to the arm over the table. Some establishments attach these as a matter of course along with the neck noose. At Abbfabb Academy we believe that belly straps should be used only for the comfort of the dogs if they have a health problem and can only stand for a period with support. This can be the case if a dog is severely overweight, or has painful arthritis, or possibly a missing limb. Our belly straps have thick padded bands which provide maximum comfort while they’re being used, and we have different sizes for different dogs.
Muzzles: These have one use only and that is to prevent the groomer from being bitten. There are several types including the ones that allow the mouth to stay exposed…. which is no use whatsoever. So, the basket-type muzzle is the only one that can prevent biting because it encloses the whole mouth. Dogs are not born aggressive, and in a grooming environment, they bite for several reasons. Possibly because they have either not been trained to accept grooming, they are in pain, or they have been traumatised in the past and are so anxious that defensive biting is their form of defence. And there is the additional problem that comes when the face and head need to be groomed. At Abbfabb Academy we use the Elizabethan cones that veterinarians often recommend after a dog has had an operation to prevent it from chewing at a wound or operation site. Wearing a cone, a dog still has its head free but can’t reach the groomer. This still leaves the issue of being able to groom the head, but normally because the dog has been relaxed and calm, we manage to persuade he or she to let us groom the face. And if not, we try and try again over a period until the dogs learn that we won’t hurt them. If a dog has dental pain or an ear infection, they are more likely to be very reactive when the mouth or head is handled and of course, this will mean that the owner will be strongly advised to make an immediate trip to their veterinarian.
Comfort Cradles: These are a body sling with four leg holes which the dog wears like a jumper. Then the entire dog can be lifted off the grooming table. At Abbfabb Academy we have two very small comfort cradles which we use in exceptional circumstances for very small dogs who won’t let us trim their toenails and/or paws. It is always a two-person undertaking… one to lift the dog and one to trim the nails and feet very quickly. And once the job is done the dog is immediately put back down onto the table.
Crates: Dog crates are the only form of restraint or safe housing, that we always use at Abbfabb Academy. There are many scenarios that could occur in a grooming salon that can potentially cause serious injury and spread of issues like parasites and zoonotic disease. Dogs could escape and cause fights and accidental mattings and could get out of an unsecured building onto a road causing injury or death to itself and/or road users. A dog with fleas that is allowed to wander around a salon could cause infestation to other dogs and people. And although unlikely in a professional establishment, a dog with an infectious condition such as sarcoptic mange could pass this to another dog, or a person where it will become scabies. Crates also serve as rest and drying areas for the dogs in our care. All our crates have thick padded waterproof cushions which provide comfort and a place for sleep whilst being dried or waiting for their owners to collect them.
Slip leads: We offer the dogs in our care regular comfort breaks, so naturally slip leads are used during this time.
Can professional training eliminate the need for restraints?
Training, whilst being the most important investment you will make towards your future grooming career, will not mean that you never have to use restraints, or grooming aids. Abbfabb Academy teaches you about the types of restraints that we have in our salon, what they are used for and when they are necessary. However, all our students are taught how to approach dogs in a non-threatening way and to use their hands to reassure them. And to understand that the most dangerous thing any groomer can do is to turn their backs on the dogs they are working on. Dogs love being handled kindly and confidently and this alone can be all the restraint a groomer needs.
How can a professional groomer ensure the safety of both the dog and themselves?
Naturally thorough training as we discussed above helps ensure the knowledge of the groomer in the use of restraints, or grooming aids as I prefer to call them.
A professional groomer will have evaluated the dog that they are going to work on and have all equipment ready and at hand before they begin. All salon doors should be closed, and half gates will be in place to prevent escapees!! They will approach the dog quietly and confidently and use a variable height table to lift the dog onto…. this helps the groomer to easily have the table at the height that is appropriate for them.
No bending or stretching to work safely on the dog. The process should be done in order and a kind voice always be used. At no time should a groomer leave a dog unattended, either on the table or in the bath. If the phone rings, allow the answerphone to start. If clients enter the salon, ask them to wait while you either finish the job or put the dog safely in a crate.
Be sensible when booking dogs in. If you work alone, have a bad back and then book in a Newfoundland, you should try to have a helper. The same if the dog is a known biter. Occasionally a dog will be so aggressive and difficult to handle that it becomes a danger to the groomer. The right course of action is to stop grooming and contact the owner to explain the situation. The owner will be strongly advised to ask their veterinarian to groom the dog under sedation.
Are they restraints or are they grooming aids?
I use a homoeopathic vet whenever I can. I was discussing with her the cynical attitude towards homeopathy from people and vets alike and she said something to me that I will never forget…. “If you have seen it, then it’s real”. And so, it is with our policy where using restraint in the grooming salon is concerned. We know that dogs are far happier being able to free-stand on a grooming table because we see it every single day of our working life. Our prospective students often comment when they come for a visit, that they can’t believe their eyes… how all the dogs are calm and cooperative and not a restraint in sight. If we use the term “grooming aids” everything becomes easier to understand. Grooming aids and restraints are the same things but to see them as a way of making the dog grooming process easier and used only, when necessary, then it becomes clear that they have a place. But at Abbfabb Academy they are not the things that we reach for first.
Grooming aids should be just that… aids to the grooming process.
Our grooming training school complies with the Small Animal Welfare Act, and we believe that the process of dog grooming should be a stress-free and positive experience for all the dogs that we work on. Our students are taught this principle from the very beginning of their training course. Using restraint routinely, in our opinion, is unnecessary. A calm and well-behaved dog does not need to be tied or restricted. Human hands and a calm voice will always be more effective. If you think of restraint products as aids for the comfort and safety of some dogs, then they only need to be used when necessary. The overriding purpose of all dog grooming activities is to promote and enhance the health and well-being of the dogs in our care.