Operations Manager and Leader Groomer, Elyse Agone, has been grooming professionally for 11 years. When she was a kid she used to go to work with a babysitter that was a groomer, It was her favorite summer job. She's been around all sorts of animals my whole life though – dogs, cats, horses, ferrets… and even had a pet skunk once! Elyse has two Australian Shepherds and two rescue cats now, plus all the dogs & cats she takes care of at Awesome Doggies. To quote Elyse, "I can’t picture life without animals in it."
When deciding on a groomer what specific traits should they have and what are the top 3 questions to ask?
"I think the top traits are being gentle with the pets, being reliable, and having good communication skills. I would ask what’s included with every groom, so you know exactly what you’re getting & what –if anything - will cost extra… what kind of products they use, so you know they’re using quality products designed specifically for pets & preferably all natural… and if they’re experienced with handling anything specific to your pet’s needs (an older pet, a rescue, anxiety, a new puppy, etc) – they should be familiar with special circumstances and how to accommodate them."
How often do you recommend to get your dog groomed and why?
" Most people go about every 4-6 weeks, and that’s about right for most pets. It all depends on how active they are, how stinky they get, and if they need a lot of brushing or regular haircuts. We see a few dogs every week or so because they either go to the beach all the time or have a lot of fur to maintain… and we see others every few months or so that are low maintenance and keep pretty clean. Pets that sleep in bed with their owners or the kids tend to get groomed more often, too."
What’s your favorite part about your job?
"Building a relationship with the pets I take care of and their families. I love being out and about in San Diego, too (catching a quick view coming down Soledad Mountain is a great reminder of what a beautiful place we live in), but getting to know the pets & their people is the best thing. I’ve got some I’ve known since they were puppies, and some that used to hate being groomed that have gotten much better over the years."
How do you soothe a dog’s grooming anxiety?
"Most pets just need a lot of love. We talk them through it, offer treats & take it slow if they need it… it’s like taking a kid to the doctor – they might be scared & might not like it, but it’s good for them & you just have to get them through it as smoothly as possible. We can limit the scope of work if a pet is really stressed, but a lot of times it’s just a matter of paying attention to what bothers them, and customizing our approach so that we can get the job done without asking them to get too far out of their comfort zone. Lots of positive reinforcement helps too: praise, patting, treats, and even games. Over time, most dogs start to realize it’s not so bad. When they start waiting for us at the door, and come running to the mobile salon, we know we’ve made a convert… but even for the ones that aren’t thrilled to see us, if by the end they come out of the salon prancing & happy, we know we’ve done our job & made them feel great."
How can I control my dog’s fur/shedding?
"Brush and de-shed regularly, or get somebody to do it for you! We’ve got a great de-shedding process. We use the FURMinator before and after a bath to brush out the undercoat (that’s the part that sheds all over your house), plus a few other tools for various coats… and we also work out a lot of fur during the drying process. We can reduce shedding up to 60-80% if we’re coming every 4-6 weeks. If you prefer to do it yourself, the FURminator tool can be purchased online and at most pet stores. Just be careful not to overdo it (a good rule of thumb for do-it-yourselfers is to limit the FURminator to ten minute sessions to avoid possible skin irritation) and repeat regularly. Consult with your groomer about what other tools work best with your pet’s coat. Not every brush & comb works on every coat type."
Can I teach my dog to let me trim their nails?
" You can, but it’s not for everybody. There are two parts to the process: one is to get your dog used to having his feet handled, and to participate calmly in the process. The other part is that you have to the right equipment, and handle the clippers properly. There are a couple of tricks to using nail clippers that take some practice – knowing how short to go, and being able to round the nails off a bit so they’re not too sharp. It is definitely possible to hurt a pet while trimming nails, so be very careful and only trim a little bit off at a time. We have several blog posts on this topic, which you can access here."
Please share a funny/memorable grooming story.
" Oh man, every groomer has so many of these. We always remember the pets that maybe aren’t in great shape when we first come out & we’re able to really make them feel better, or the ones that we succeed in winning over in time, and the puppies that we get to watch grow up or the older pets we get to love on in their last years. But animals are always making us laugh, too. I’ve got one house I go to where the family cat is pretty bold & he always comes in the trailer while I’m grooming their Golden Retriever. You can imagine most cats we groom don’t walk right in begging for a bath, but this guy hangs out over the tub where there’s a sunny spot he can lay in, or walks around under the dog while I’m brushing her. One time he crawled into my truck while I was working & decided to take a nap in the back. I didn’t know he was in there until I got in the driver’s seat & he hopped up and came to sit beside me. Of course I took him back to the house, but now I always check the truck for stowaways before leaving. We groom cats as well as dogs, so you never know, someday he may get his wish!"