Restraining difficult dogs is challenge for every groomer, and every groomer needs to seek his or her own solution.
A huge time waster for groomers has always been handling difficult dogs—those that wiggle and squirm to escape, those that try to bite to avoid being touched or handled, and those that are overweight or old and struggle to stand for the timespan that grooming requires. Most groomers find various ways to deal with these dogs, ranging from getting assistance from another groomer to hold and restrain them, to muzzling them and continuing to work through the bad behavior. Some of us come up with do-it-yourself equipment solutions, like looping the restraint around the dog’s middle, just in front of the hips, instead of around the neck. Others use two grooming arms on either end of the table—one with a loop for the neck, one with a loop for the hips. These methods work but can be difficult to maneuver around. Rarely do groomers have the time to train a dog how to behave on the grooming table, so we tend to just waste time putting up with difficult dogs, and occasionally we charge owners extra for the time and effort.
Meanwhile, various manufacturers have tried to find an answer for this grooming time sink, and the results of their efforts are worth consideration. For example, ProGuard’s No-Sit Haunch Holder is a double-loop system—one for the neck attached to one for the tummy. It is useful for some dogs and is inexpensive, but a determined dog can still beat it, just as a determined dog can squirm over the type that has a bar clamped to the table that goes under the belly.
Companies also offer many types of slings—ones that go under the belly and ones that hang independently from the ceiling, with holes for legs and without—and all have worked to some degree, although they tend to be hard to work around. Tica Verret of Tica’s Bows makes a “grooming purse” with leg holes designed to be suspended from a standard grooming arm.
Although my default restraint for dogs in the salon remains a loop around the neck, attached to a pole with a safety release, I sometimes use a Groomer’s Helper, a safety and positioning system. The system is designed to keep pressure away from the dog’s trachea, unlike a grooming loop, which can place pressure directly on the delicate trachea when a dog pulls against it. It’s a one-way tether that a groomer can easily tighten but that can’t be manipulated by the dog, so each dog can be given a range of motion that suits his behavior. Chuck Simons, the system’s developer, says the dog quickly learns its limitations under the restraint. Most dogs give up the fight and figure out that they may as well stand still, allowing the groomer to finish quickly.
The basic system consists of a clamp that goes around a grooming pole, a loop with a ring at the bottom and a tether to connect them. A quick-release buckle is part of the loop. System upgrades include poles and straps to prevent dogs from sitting, and they are designed so a dog cannot beat them, yet they are relatively easy to work around.
Hanvey Engineering’s Linked Interval Positioning System—LIPS—integrates an overhead pole system for hammocks and head restraints with add-ons ranging from a table divider that keeps pets close to the groomer to wide-band hip supports for geriatrics.
For many years, Clipper Vac has offered belly slings and supports that are used with an overhead pole system. Its Pet Vest Support System connects to safe, plastic chain links on the overhead pole, eliminating the need to frequently raise and lower grooming poles. The restraint goes around the muzzle as well as the neck, keeping the animal safely in place and reducing the chance of biting.
Keep an open mind about trying something new. We are all resistant to change, but the thought of wasting less time on persuading dogs to do less spinning, biting, sitting, and head-ducking and therefore more grooming has to be appealing.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.