What I Learned from a Cocker Spaniel
About twelve years ago I went to a dog grooming expo in San Bernardino California. At the time I had been grooming for a few years and thought I knew lots. I remember watching the scissoring competition. One of the entries later became a team member of Groom USA. The whole experience humbled me and helped me strive to be better at my art.
Then one of the judges for the competition gave a lecture on grooming the Cocker Spaniel. At first I was only mildly interested. She began her lecture with “Most people don’t really understand the Cocker Spaniel”. She went on to say that Cocker Spaniels were “sensitive dogs”. A Cocker was a dog who’s feelings were hurt easily. While she was giving this lecture she had her own Cocker Spaniel on the grooming table, let us call her, Buffy. The woman began demonstrating how to groom Buffy. I still was not ready to buy into this whole “sensitive” thing. That was because before the lecture, Buffy was being walked through the crowd up to the lecturing platform. Two different audience members tried to pet Buffy as she walked to the front. Buffy let out a yelp, a snap and a little tinkle each time.
While this woman groomed Buffy, I noticed that the dog stood very proudly, cooperating at every step of the grooming. When the woman would start to turn Buffy around the dog would immediately turn around for her. Then Buffy would be quietly praised by her owner and she would stand straighter and more proud. This is where I started to think that maybe this woman had something with her whole “sensitive” thing.
Well wouldn’t you know it…first dog scheduled on Monday was a Cocker Spaniel. We referred to her as “the brat”. The honest truth was that if a dog came in with an attitude I would just groom them. I Didn’t take their attitudes personally, just did my job to the best of my ability. The “good” dogs got the pats, the praise and the added attention.
On this Monday I decided to groom her differently. Whenever she did any small thing well, I praised her. If she waited a second before she growled at me for picking up her foot I would tell her how brave she was. Slowly I noticed a change in her that day. Although she was still a brat she seemed to want to be good. Her patients with me seemed a little longer. When I finished grooming her I actually saw her tail wiggle. I told her how good she had been and how brave she was, it wiggled even more. I realized that there was a “good” dog in there and it was too sensitive to trust just yet.
That day changed my whole outlook in regards to my work. I realized that positive reinforcement was my best grooming tool. From then on, no matter how busy my shop was I tried to give each dog a little added attention. After a time I was amazed at how many dogs that would normally wear muzzles during the grooming would later graduate to never having to wear them. I began getting more and more dogs that were being referred to me because no other dog grooming shop in the area would groom them. Although not all of the dogs got over their little quirks, many of them became more trusting and more cooperative. Praise and patience are the keys to cooperation.
Dogs are similar to people. If you give them a chance, let them relax, and try not to initially judge and label them, you are sometimes surprised at what you learn.
Katherine Durr is a professional dog groomer and the author of “How to Groom your Mutt”. Visit her website at Doggie Dews
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/