Its not just John

In dog training circles there is a well documented ongoing case about a UK trainer. Now, I’m not going to discuss any of the details as I have no first hand knowlege of him other than one very brief meeting along with his online presence where I took the decision that he was not a person I wished to have any contact with. You can read more about the ongoing case here if you are unfamiliar

I wanted to write this post after a recent conversation with a young female trainer who described insistant and unwanted sexual advances made by a male trainer she was hosting to deliver a course. Not only did she feel that she had no recourse to complain but she was certain that any complaint would lead to a destruction of her career. She saw this as a common and accepted part of the industry and would continue to rebook him for courses and presumably put up with the unwanted attention.

There are laws protecting people in the workplace from sexual advances from coworkers (not as complete as they should be and not always actioned but at least a framework) but in unregulated industries consisting of mostly self employed people there seems to be little or no protection from this sort of innapropriate behaviour and it is beyond dangerous. Its easy to see why so many begin to see their professionals contacts as extensions of their social lives and so a blurring of boundries has taken place. Many of these people are travelling to deliver courses regularly and seem to adopt a ‘what happens on the course, stays on the course’ attitude and view each pool of clients with the same attitude that they would walk into a bar on friday night (pre covid of course!).

Part of the problem may be one of demographics, most course attendees of any dog training course I have ever done have been female and with the recent increase of interest in dog training there are many more younger women at these events and yet proportunately there are more male trainers delivering the courses. Its time that the same standard of professional behaviour that are supposed to apply to the rest of the working world apply to the dog training world. The only way this will happen is with help and support from established figures both male and female so that unprofessional and predatory behaviour is met with serious professional consequences

The rules are pretty simple and straight forward.

It really isnt complicated or difficult.

If you are paying someone for their professional knowledge or experience,

if they are paying you for your professional knowledge or experience,

if they are in a mentor or mentee position with you

If you are professionally repsonsible for them or they for you

Do not attempt to engage in sexual activity with them

I’m glad that so many people have now been able to speak out about Johns behaviour and I applaud their courage. I think we need to have the wider conversation about the industry that still finds this acceptable.

Its not just John

#dearjohn #ibelievethewomen #metoo #moderndogtraining

The Collected Proclaimations of Princess Poppet Rocket 1st




Her Royal Poodleness, Princess Poppet the 1st would like to take the opportunity to wish her faithful and obedient human subjects health and vigor for 2015. Here follows her Royal proclamations
1. Her Royal Fuzziness would like it to be known that she will now no longer be considered as one of the floor dogs.
2. More tributes of sausages will be given.
3. Cino and Teaser are not to collect tributes as they have proved themselves to be treacherous and untrustworthy.
4. The current sleeping arrangements are unsatisfactory and from hereforth Princess Poppet the 1st shall sleep in the sofa and Cino and Teaser shall be moved into the box. If space proves to be an issue, they shall be fed less until they fit.
All the toys shall continue to be the property of Princess Poppet the 1st, failure to recognise this fact shall be punishable by Her Royal Fuzziness.
That is all







Her Royal Poodlyness, Princess Poppet the 1st would like to extend wishes of good health and prosperity to all her loyal 2leg, 3leg and 4leg subjects. Here follows the royal proclamation….

1. Her Royal Fuzziness was gratified to finally be given her rightful place as a front seat dog although the 2legs have continued to place her in the co pilot’s chair and so not always been reliable in arriving at the desired destination. This will be rectified.

2. Princess Poppet the 1st will also be receiving CVs (canis valorous) for the position of co pilot as the resident floor dogs are inadequate for such an honoured occupation. Teaser is scruffy and a poor navigator, he appears to completely rely on something he calls the cat nav and so mostly he wants to go through hedges and up into trees. Cino is not very bright and has problems understanding that the road signs for a roundabout do not mean there is a ball on the road so go round and round trying to find it.

3. While Her Royal Cuteness understands that austerity measures mean that times are somewhat hard, she feels that the levels of tributes are still falling short of appropriate. This will be rectified as it would be a terrible shame if people suddenly started finding poops in their shoes wouldn’t it?

4. There should be more toys available for Princess Poppet to steal from the floor dogs in order that they are reminded of her magnificence. All the toys are and will always be the sole property of the Poodle Princess

5. The weather is unacceptable which has led to an unprecedented level of bathing, this must end. Whoever is responsible for the sky hose need to jolly well sort it out or there will be consequences






It is the time when Her Most Royal Fuzzball’s faithful subjects will once again be honoured with furry wisdom and guidance in order to honour and serve their ruler more adequately.

1. Princess Poppet 1st was extremely saddened to discover that ‘Brexit’ was in fact not a new and exciting bikkit. Her Royal Fluffiness is now given to understand that it is actually a process to make it more difficult to meet and acquire new and exciting subjects, this is highly displeasing.

2. The diplomatic visits to the pod place have been most illuminating, they are having a definite and positive effect on the royal household’s two legged subjects. There has been increased volume of steak tributes during this time and Princess Poppet 1st is keen to make it known that this is most pleasing in her sight (and even more pleasing in her mouth) although feels that Durham has been incorrectly positioned and should be relocated to the Cotswolds. It has also been a wonderful opportunity to meet with fellow rulers. Her Royal Friskiness has most notably enjoyed Her time with Queen Fia, Empress Molly and a most interesting delegation known only as ‘Kai and The Shits’ who seem to be some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune.

3. The floor dogs still fail to observe the appropriate levels of deference, even allowing for their sadly limited intellect and the fact they are both a ‘bit spesh’, and in Teaser’s case strongly resemble a compost heap. Failure to demonstrate improvement will result in sanctions.

4. Bad people continue to trespass in the royal residence without Princess Poppet 1st giving permission. This must cease!

5. Insufficient rabbits……………Get it together people, how hard can it be?

6. Princess Poppet 1st would be most pleased to receive a visit from President Elect Donald Trump’s hair, however the fat shouty man underneath it may stay at home.

7. Her Most Royal Haughtiness has noticed some glaring administration errors in the comings and going of her hooman subjects, clearly it is not desirable to dismiss David Bowie, George Michael and Carrie Fisher while keeping Nigel Farrage, Peter Mandelson and Jeremy Clarkson. No more of these errors shall be tolerated.

8. Princess Poppet 1st wishes her loyal subjects a prosperous and most excellent year







Princess Poppet Rocket I 2018 Proclaimations to Her people

It has been an interesting year and while improvements have undoubtedly taken place, Her Royal Stinkiness has graciously agreed to once again enlighten her subjects with the Royal Wisdom.

The visits to the pod place continue to inspire a positive improvement in the behaviour of the household two-legs. This is most pleasing to Her Esteemed Fluffiness although she noted that her command that Durham be relocated to the Cotswolds for ease of access has not yet been actioned. The discovery of Unit 13 is a very welcome one as this has led to a much needed increase in food tributes without the floor dogs around to spoil things. HRP is not clear what has led the two legs to develop this obsession for teabags and why, if they like them so much, they keep losing them.

It has come to the attention of Her Royal Poodliness that whoever is responsible for the sky taps has been not doing a very good job, this has led to an unwanted frequency of extra baths. This will not be allowed to continue

HRP Princess Poppet I will not be issuing an invitation for a state visit to Donald Trump’s hair as it appears that the fat shouty man underneath it would be its plus 1

During the last 12 months HRP Princess Poppet I has generously been adding body mass in order that there shall be more of her for her subjects to adore. It is undesirable that Cino and Teaser, the floor dogs, should emulate their betters in this regard as they take up too much room in the Royal chariot as it is.

Her Royal Fuzziness continues to feel displeasure at the repeated talk of Brexit, once it was made clear that it was not, in fact, a new and exciting bikkit it is unclear why it was needed. Resources would be better spent on poodle related matters.

HRP Princess Poppet I is pleased to reveal that she has discovered a new and exciting level in the royal household containing diverse and interesting beds. She is enjoying her daily visits before the two legs get up, although the tallest of the two legs is clearly overawed by the royal visits and sometimes closes the door. Her Royal Fuzziness will be forgiving, as this must be attributed to an oversight but it should be rectified forthwith.

Although the planned remodel of the household gardens was a welcome one, HRF believes that it should have been achieved without allowing oiks to roam the royal residence. Cino revealed himself as an untrustworthy defender as he demonstrated a shameless level of obsequency and general suckyuppyness towards the invaders. It is not clear if he is a defector or merely defective

The re acceptance of the Davie two leg was a slightly prolonged event. HRP had to put in many hours of rigorous training to ensure he achieved the accepted standard of poodle care that is required. Sadly just as this standard was achieved he escaped and now returns only for short periods of time. HRF also observes that although frequently carrying the most enjoyable aroma of beef and chicken this has not translated into food tributes and this must be rectified with immediate effect

The new treat dispensing box in the kitchen is a good thing, HRP notes that there is room for many more of these devices so expects the roll out to commence within weeks.

Her Most Fluffy and Divine Royal Princess wishes all her loyal hoomans a joyous and loving 2018. The year of the dog begins in February so remember to follow the example that this noble and most excellent species offers to you

Sleep, eat and play whenever you can
Be curious and learn





Her Magnificence Princess Poppet Rocket 1st once more has extended a loving and benevolent furry paw towards Her dear friends and loyal subjects, once more generously sharing her thoughts and wishes (that’s orders, for those of you you still do not speak Poodlese) for 2019.
**amendment- the lateness of this publication is entirely due to Her Royal Fluffiness’ undersecretary lazing about all day with a face like a slapped bottom, complaining about feeling ‘a little fragile’. While Her Majesty understands that the underlings must have some enrichment this should not be allowed to interfere with essential royal duties henceforth.

1. Tributes are now reaching an almost acceptable level but Her Royal Fluffiness believes that the quality must always be improved. Roast meats are tasty but with a little imagination We believe that subjects could reach for greater standards.

2. The other resident two legs has been spending time away from the household, Her Royal Fuzziness very much approves of this because he is doubtless recruiting and reinforcing new areas of the Poodle Empire, also because without his overzealous and unwarranted gate keeping, Princess Poppet sleeps in her rightful place in the center of the upstairs bed.

3. Her Royal Highness is very pleased at the addition of The Dog Nose, an annex which has been filled with the most entertaining collection. She very much looks forward to uncovering the persons of the diverse animal species that appear to be also residing there as they regularly leave their scents, but to date, they have eluded Her.

4. Her Royal Furriness was well pleased by the reduction of sky hose activity but the sky fire was left on rather too much. She believes that a better balance should be reached as The Royal Paws don’t appreciate being fried and Teaser is rather ungallant when it comes to sharing the best fan.

5. The two legs are reaching a better understanding of appropriate Royal activity and so it is with pleasure that Her Royal Princess can report a honing of her already magnificent olfactory expertise

6. The floor dogs have a nice new sofa to sleep on, Her Royal Fluffiness likes to watch them enjoying it from her rightful place on top of the two legs.

6. Events in the two leg world appear to be inexplicable, the Royal Wisdom is to ignore all that nonsense and place more energy into canine concerns.
Live in every moment
investigate anything that interests you
forgive and love easily
dont snap when a look will do
walk away from conflict, shake it off and find something better to do






HRP Princess Poppet Rocket 1st wishes to extend blessings to all loyal subjects for 2020 and the new decade. Here follows Her Fluffy Majesty’s Commandments.

1. HRP Princess Poppet 1st feels that Brexit is much easier to understand with a little understanding of resource guarding behaviour. She wishes to point out that the cure for this is increasing availability of resources, not reducing them. All resources actually belong to The Most Royal Poodle anyway so subjects should stop squabbling over them like a bunch of cat people

2, The sky hose was left running for far too long last year, this leads to an increase in unscheduled bathing and is most undesirable. Whichever minion is responsible will be facing a severe poke with the royal paw when identified. It will be recified this year.

3. Her Royal Fuzziness wishes to announce that Cino dog is to be honoured with the new title of Creaky making his full name Creaky Mr Cino and is to be officially recognised as lord of the floor dogs. This is to show Royal thanks for a lifetime of service to the Royal Poodle Person and also to annoy the Teaserdoodle

4. Tributes have finally reached a mostly acceptable level with the addition of unit 50 to Her Royal Pawsomness’ Empire. Because she generously understands that two legs need something to work towards to remain happy, she suggests that steak, scampi, fish and chips are all areas that are underrepresented in tributes so there is still room for improvement.

5. HRP Princess Poppet is very much pleased by the increase in recognition for her superior olfactory brilliance, however she is not sure why the two legs wish to keep finding tea when she is equally good at finding mousies, bunnies and other nice crunchy things.

6. The two legs are finally being honoured with The Royal Princess choosing to sleep on their heads during the dark time. She has been tolerant about their learning curve during this process but if the man friendbeast doesnt settle down soon he will be directed to alternative sleeping quarters.

7. Her Royal Furrybutt wishes all her subjects a healthy, happy and prosperous year.

With woofs, nose pokes and poodle paws
HRP Princess Poppet Rocket 1st

“Love is the emotion that a woman feels always for a poodle dog and sometimes for a man”
― George Jean Nathan

Finding Your Tribe



I attended a great online interactive workshop recently focusing on becoming better at communicating and connecting with clients  (thanks to We talked about the need for a strong support network of our own and since then the phrase ‘finding your tribe’ has been on my mind.

It has its roots in a concept about the natural size of a social group

‘The psychological demands of living in large groups mean that, in primates, species-typical group size correlates rather closely with the species’ brain size. On the primate model, our oversized brain would predict a group size of around 150, the number now known as Dunbar’s Number. We find it in the typical community size of hunter-gatherer societies, in the average village size in county after county in the Domesday book, as well as in 18th-century England….. It is also the average personal network size – the number of people with whom you have a personalised relationship, one that is reciprocal (I’d be willing to help you out, and I know that you’d help me) as well as having a history (we both know how we came to know each other).’

Robin Dunbar


There are degrees of closeness within that group size,

1. The 5 or 6 people who are our closest connections. These are the people we speak to with the most frequency and are able to maintain the most intimate relationships with, commonly those will be close family members or people we have a deep shared history with.

2. There are work friends, given the length of the average working day this can account for quite a sizeable amount of shared experience but they might not all be people we would choose to spend so much time with. We have facebook friends,  pub friends,  hobby friends, club friends, school friends and there are degrees of closeness with all of the people in those groups.

3. These are people like our neighbours, the fellow commutors, the shop keepers, the bus drivers, the milkman, postie etc, people we know by sight and to exchange polite greetings with.

With recent advances in technology, we have an unparalleled ability to connect with other peoples lives and yet polls and studies seem to suggest that people living in developed countries increasingly report feeling lonely and isolated. The first thing we need to be aware of is that social pain is real pain, the same regions of the brain that are activated in response to physical pain and damage are activated when we fear that our place in our socal group is under threat. Feeling disconnected, rejected or unwanted are all as painful to experience as a physical injury.

Social pain is a basic emotional response which tells us that our connections to others are weakening or have been lost or damaged. This motivates the repair and maintenance of those connections.


We are social creatures for a reason, it was this set of cooperative behaviours that allowed us to survive, thrive and pass on this genetic information. These traits are reinforced heavily from our birth as weak and helpless infants receiving round the clock attention, physical contact and nurturing.  Mortality rates go up as maternal and social care go down whether we are a rat, a dog, a cappuchin or a human.  Leaving a baby to cry alone in a crib or leaving a puppy to whine alone in a crate causes long term and permanant changes to their brain structure and chemistry,  it affects their ability to feel safe and secure for the rest of their lives. This damage also changes the infants understanding of how to form and maintain secure relationships.

With this in mind it makes sense as to why the relationship between people and their dogs has also changed notibly over the recent past.  A study conducted by Link last year asked several questions about peoples relationships with their dogs.

81% said they talked to their dog like they were a friend.

73%  told their dog things they wouldn’t say to anyone else.

90% said they felt safer with their dog nearby.

78% said they make life decisions based on their pet. More than 50% would avoid social occasions in order to be with their dog

75% reported they did not like to be away from their dog at all.

Studies done in the 80s and 90s proved that brief social connections (smiling, eye contact, verbal greeting) between strangers were much more likely to happen if one party was accompanied by a domestic dog, a further study showed that people were much more likely to agree to help a stranger if the stranger was accompanied by a dog. Researchers polled 2,700 men and women in four different cities,  Perth, San Diego, Portland, and Nashville and found that pet owners were 60% more likely to get to know new people in their neighbourhood. Fellow pet owners were more likely to meet up and interact on a regular basis, some of these relationships remained aquaintances, while others developed into deeper friendships and even relationships.

So its easy to see why this relationship works well for the human but what about for the dogs?

I know that dogs have an unusual ability to bond with us but I think they get more than enough of that in most situations so for now I’m just focusing on their relationships with other dogs.

Right from the start we are altering the development of the dogs ability to be a happy, secure, social being.  In a natural setting the weaning period is between 7-13 weeks during which there is a gradual decrease in the time that the mother will settle and let the pups suckle, at the same time there is an increase in bringing food back to the puppies which allows for the transition from milk to solids and also develops their social skills with competing siblings. They are becoming familiar with the scents of the immediate environment as they are brought back with returning adults.  Around 4 months they begin to move and explore the world in more detail but recieve protection from a familiar adult care giver. Dispersal from the family group begins after this period,  around 5-6 months however many do not disperse until 12+ months and some remain with their family group after this time. Meeting unfamiliar dogs is mostly a process, there are scent introductions, visual, auditory information all taking place before they get in each others physical space.

Human practice is to remove mum from the pups as early as 4-5 weeks either for part of the day or entirely to force weaning. Removed from their family group at 7-10 weeks of age, often taken into a new home with no familiar sensory elements. Often with no resident dog.  Use of confinement is common.  Minimal contact with other dogs until the vaccination period is up. Then when the time comes to go out into the big wide world we take them out and they meet strange dogs, over and over again.

Its a testiment to dogs as a species that any of them survive this process not totally disfunctional

This brings me back to the idea of Finding Your Tribe. Its an idea that I think would benefit the dogs who share our lives. We interrupt the process which they would learn about safety, communication and social skills so it is up to us to make sure they still get those opportunities. Back at the begining I talked about the different levels of social contact and this is relevant in our dogs lives too.

1. The closest friends. I think dogs should have a core group of dog friends. It might be just one or two, it might be ten or twelve but dogs should be given the opportunity to build long term relationships with other dogs who they feel completely safe and comfortable with. For puppies and young dogs its so beneficial to spend quality time with well rounded adult dogs. Social learning is an important way that dogs learn about the world and how to react to it so give them a good teacher to learn from.

2. The play friends. Social skills, create opportunities for social activities with other dogs which aren’t just manic running and aroused rough and tumble games. Sniffy walks, treat searches, interesting environments, practicing their communication and their social skills. Spending time with each other doesnt have to be energetic or overtly playful, it can just be sharing the same space.

3. The pass on by friends. Teaching them how to deal with this is potentially one of the most important life skills both for us and them. How to pass other dogs and humans politely,  the equivelent of a nod, smile and  ‘good morning’. Humans tend to walk in straight lines, social dogs walk in curves, circles, turn aways and sniffs. If we mimic what social dogs do when we have our dogs on leash, we create the model that they will find most comfortable. (Link to Turid’s wonderful book at the bottom)



Nicolas Guéguen & Serge Ciccotti (2008) Domestic Dogs as Facilitators in Social Interaction: An Evaluation of Helping and Courtship Behaviors, Anthrozoös, 21:4, 339-349


Why rejection hurts








A Knotty Problem – stress and the groomer part 2

In the previous post I looked at coats and coat types, now Im going to detail the possible triggers in the grooming process and some of the ways that I have found to relieve them either through changes to the owners routine or in the grooming environment and reduce the trigger stacking effect. Ive broken this down based on the order of the grooming process and listed as blocks of common problems then possible solutions. This is just based on my experience and understanding. Your mileage may vary


-Car/travel sickness and anxiety, the dog only goes to the vet or the groomer by car

-Matting causing pain and discomfort

-Previous association, traumatic or uncomfortable past visits

-Unknown or scary environment

-Injury/illness, you would not believe how many times I have had to tell the client to turn around and go straight to the vet

-Long walks/fast exercise straight before coming, many clients think this is a good idea

-Hungry/thirsty/needing the toilet

How can we help

-Separate work on improving the dogs experience of the car, find a groomer close enough to walk to in the short term

-Good coat management, no dog should ever be matted as a matter of course

-Change the context. Set a new day 1 with a new groomer or a distinct way of doing things so we can start a different learning experience

-Social visits, will describe those in a moment

-Daily health checks, so owners are aware of the condition and fitness of their dogs

-A sniffy walk instead of running around

-Basic needs should be always be met!

Ideal first visits (2 stages)

These can be done at the start or end of the day. I do give them for free but we should be expecting to pay for this time. One of the problems we see is the devaluing of professionals time, its an investment in our dogs comfort and wellbeing.


-Lay out an enriched environment before the dogs arrival

-Owner stays, they have a cup of tea, we chat and take detailed information about the dog while observing the dog exploring. talk over the persons expectations and hopes.

-We show the dog the toilet area.

-Treat search or chew to finish, starting to build the association of calm enjoyment with the location

-Depending on the dogs personality and experience, this stage can be repeated until the dog is comfortable and also following any traumatic or stressful visits

Second Visit

30-60 mins

-If grooming in a separate area we move into that area

-I have another calm friendly happy dog on the table so the new dog can watch some of the processes and see that dog enjoying the contact

-Allow the new dog to investigate not placing any demands or requests on them

-Introduce the sounds and routines one by one in a controlled way, watching and responding to the dogs feelings.

-Start to introduce consent based handling techniques

-Providing soft bedding areas and chews. If there is any food anxiety then offer the chews after making provisions for the other dog

Although it seems at first like a lot of hoops to jump through, this pays off with a dog who is easier and safer to groom, happier to take part and owners who are more confident and tend to have good standards about home maintenance.

Handling and physical proximity


-Fear, looming and being leaned over, being picked up or restrained, previous associations of fear or pain,

-The smell of other fearful or stressed dogs

-Is the groomer stressed or in pain?

-Is the coat knotted or matted, is the dog more sensitive to certain parts of their body because of injuries and other reasons

-Memory of pain, nail trimming, being cut.

-Compulsion and panic, is too much being asked or demanded from them, do they feel rushed or pressured?

-Moved into stress positions , holding up legs, angles of neck

How can we help?

-Recognising, respecting and responding,

-Stepping back from the ‘naughty’ label and understanding that this is the dogs reality or their truth

-CPD, better awareness of their emotions, needs and language

-Choice, simply by allowing the dog enough time and ability to control their experience we usually find the dog is willing to accommodate us doing what we need to do

-No restraints, no muzzles. They set groomers up to fail as they ensure they will take less notice of the dogs communication. If we are routinely needing to muzzle a dog in this environment we are already past what is suitable for that dog and we need to take a step back and come up with a more holistic plan. If necessary working with the vet to use medication/anaesthesia that can buy us time to work on a longer term without compromising safety or forming a negative association to us and our environment.

-Compulsion is sometimes the lesser of two evils, when we are looking at an immediate welfare need we might have limited choice in how we can help but it is up to us to leave as much choice as possible or to minimise the impact. For example, with a severely matted dog then leaving them for several weeks isn’t an option but can we do social visits every other day for a week and then groom over 2 or 3 days? We might be able to overshadow the most stressful elements and work on them as learning processes later

-Recognise pain and treat prior to grooming along with adapting the handling to ensure the dogs comfort (think about how many dogs have severe conformational faults which lead to early onset arthritis and painful conditions – eg shi tzu, bichon, poodle)

-Preparation and maintenance. This is the biggest and most important way to help the dog. All happy grooming starts at home



-Feeling insecure,  tables wobble,  they may be set too high, the dog may fear falling and not have enough grip

-Restrained/ feeling trapped, this is often excused as a safety issue

-Loomed over/ feeling threatened

How can we help?

-Grooming on the floor if the dog is more comfortable there

-Using a non slip surface, many tables don’t give enough grip even with rubber tops. Yoga

mats can be cut to size easily and clamped to the surface

-Set the table low enough for the dog to jump on and off safely, if concerns about hard floor then padding round with towels or beds

-A clear route on and off, the dog shouldn’t feel that the only way off is through the groomer

-Blocking the two other sides prevents the risk of falling

-No restraints

-Groomer sits to groom, lowering them to a less threatening position helps prevent looming

-Groomer positions themselves angled side on to the dog, lowering the risk of intimidation



-Hair must be clean to groom , brushing and clipping dirty, matted hair increases the risk of causing pain, damage to the follicles and skin, infection, destroys blades and scissors

-Slippery surfaces, plastic, metal or enamel surfaces are slippery even when dry, when wet and soapy they become even less secure for the dog. The more insecure they feel the stiffer they will be, trying to grip the surface with their nails and less safe they become.

-Feel of the water on the skin, as we have already seen the coat is designed to keep water out and protect the skin from intrusions.

(Imagine wearing a pair of socks for a week then taking them off and someone tracing their fingers up the sole of your foot !!)

-Scent, many of the products used are scented for human tolerances which will be a sensory onslaught for dogs. We are altering their smell which is a critical part of their identity and communication

How can we help?

-Management of coat

-Flat bottomed bathing area, a good non slip surface

-Steps or ramp into the bath area so the dog steps in

-Use a harness restraint, once a dog is soapy and wet they will chill very quickly so only put them in there when you know they are able to cope with the whole procedure

-Temperature should be close or a little warmer than skin temperature, No surprise that most dogs dont like being bathed with the hose, swimming and water play are different as water is often not touching the skin directly.

-Start with water directed over the hand and then begin to massage in, introducing the sensation gradually

-Use a bathing brush or zoom groom to remove the majority of the undercoat, this cuts down on time spent drying and brushing after the bath, also ensures the shampoo is taken into and then rinsed from the entire coat

-Cut the nails in the bath if possible, overshadowing means we can avoid another stressful event later

-Use unscented or mildly scented products

-Conditioner on longer areas that are not going to be clipped off, tangles are less painful to brush out

-Allow them to shake as often as they want, it helps!



-Coat must be dried both for health and to be groomed as clippers will clog in damp hair

-Noise, there are two different driers commonly used

Blaster, blows out warm air at very high velocity, louder but faster, also will blow undercoat debris, dead skin out of the coat via a flexible hose. Noise in excess of 100 decibels at the point of the hose (approximate noise at a rock concert)

Finishing drier, a very large hair drier, fixed to a stand and blows hot air from a rigid hose. Needs to be used with a brush to part the hair to work effectively, noise in excess of 95 decibels at the point of the hose. (approximate noise riding a motorbike)

Note that the dogs ear will not generally be at the point of the hose however its important to notice the sheer volume that is being produced

-Air pressure, the noise and air flow can be extremely stressful, especially for dogs with upright and large ears. The dog may already have sound phobias.

-Heat, the driers can generate enough heat to burn the skin. Any large change in temperature can shake the dogs thermoregulatory system, this can be particularly dangerous for young dogs who’s system hasn’t developed fully yet and old dogs who’s system might not be as effective anymore. Also dogs with shortened muzzles or any other reason that affects the ability to maintain a safe body temperature.

How can we help?

-Use the appropriate tools for the dog and their coat

-Use wicking towels to draw as much of the water out of the coat manually before drying

-Ventilation, trying to ensure the temperature of the room remains steady and monitor minutely signs of any signs of heat stress

-Take as many breaks as the dog needs

-Using a snood, hood or other ways of muffling the ears

-Short durations, being aware that even for humans at those volumes hearing loss can occur in 30 mins for the drier and 7.5 mins for the blaster. Dogs hearing is much more acute than ours

-Enabling the dog to lie down during the drying process

– Chews, lickmats or Kongs can be a nice accompaniment but if done right, most dogs will doze or sleep

Clipping and trimming


-Danger of sharp objects

-Clippers only go underneath mats, not through them. The result will be as short as the mats are tight

-Human expectations, groomers and owners both want a good looking result BUT the dog just wants to be pain and discomfort free.

-Noise of clippers

-Handling of sensitive area of the dogs body, particularly if they are also painful

-Vulnerability, areas where extreme caution must be observed, eyes and face, folds and crevices, bottom and hygiene areas, are often areas the dog is most protective over (critical for survival)

How can we help?

-Regular and effective coat management. The coat gets the care it requires, the dog is not having to endure 6 or 8 weeks worth of grooming in a 2 hour visit

-Manage expectations, a less than perfect finish on a happier and more relaxed dog is a better outcome than a perfect finish on a stressed and overwhelmed dog.

-Keep the coat at a length that can be maintained within the dogs comfort level and owners capability

-Understand that grooming out large areas of mats is unfair to the dog and a violation of their trust

-Prepare the dog to be fully comfortable with all areas of their body that will need to be handled, this will also pay off thousand fold for the dog in cases of injury or vet handling


Chin rests and touching around their eyes, ears and areas where they cant see your hand

Being comfortable with having their feet handled

Tails and bottoms,

Most importantly, if there are areas that the dog is uncomfortable about, the groomer should not be the first one who finds this out.

Everyone needs to be prepared

After care

-Toilet and a drink

-Chews or treat searches

-Social time with other dogs if appropriate

-If the owner left then they should always come in and sit for a few minutes. This gives the dog the chance to say hello and then go back to what they were doing before. Its a chance for the groomer to talk over the groom, flagging up any concerns or informing the client if any aftercare will be needed

eg  could we cut all the nails or will we need to do some short just nail visits

do they need some social visits

were there parasites, infections, injuries,

changes in the coat that might indicate something that needs the vets attention

have they lost/gained weight. Was that what the owner had been trying to achieve

Did we have to clip the hygiene areas very short? Is there a risk of irritatio, if so,  what to do

This helps manage expectations and problems

After leaving

-Rest, no long or fast exercise

-Keep in a nice comfortable temp for several hours to allow the body to acclimatise properly particularly for young and old dogs

-Manage problems, communicate

Kirsty 🙂

P.s. I closed my grooming business at christmas last year in order to focus on my work at The Dog Nose but I still have around 20 dogs who I will groom for the rest of their life (or the rest of mine, whichever is longer) as they would find the move to a new groomer too stressful. Like almost all of the groomers that I have ever met, I love my clients dogs as my own. Grooming can be hard, dirty, often thankless and lonely and the people who are brave enough to do it deserve the support to do the best job they can xxx

A KNOTTY PROBLEM – Stress and the Groomers Part 1



I became a groomer by accident!

I am a compusive student, I left school with next to no education because of family issues but I love to learn so whenever I could afford to I would buy books and complete courses in any subject I was interested in. Working, living and loving dogs, of course most of them have been dog or behaviour related. So when I had a little windfall, I booked myself onto a months residential training program in dog grooming.  I learned the basics of cutting and styling, then returned to my kennel job where I worked under the watchful eye of my boss while I gained confidence. Then I joined a large commercial salon where the emphasis was purely profit driven and I left never wanting to work in that way again. For the next 10 years I worked as a groomer from home on a 121 basis.  In 2016 I began an 18 month course with Turid Rugaas, an education which had a profoundly life changing effect on the way I worked and lived with dogs. So it seemed like a natural choice in 2017, that my final project would focus on grooming.  Identifying where stress was likely to occur and if there were any ways that I could help owners and other dog professionals relieve or remove it for the dogs they were working with. For many dogs this is a regular event in their lives, but one that is unseen by their owners and all the other dog professionals they had contact with. My first step was to find out what was happening for dogs visiting other groomers around the UK, so I started with an anonymous survey of 10 questions about the frequency of medium to high stress signs in dogs while in the grooming environment and I posted the link on the largest UK groomer facebook group. Within a few days I had over 400 responses and the results were not what I had expected.  Below are a few of the examples

Because I had worked in several different environments with dogs before doing my grooming training I had not appreciated how many trainee groomers were spending thousands of pounds and months or years of hard work only to be left with huge gaps in what I regarded as essential understanding into dog behaviour, communication and needs. This has lead to serious welfare issues and hazard to both dog and groomer.

Can visiting the groomer ever be totally stress free for most dogs?

In my opinion, probably not.

There is always going to be some element of stress involved even if it is at a level the dog can manage. To put it into perspective, I don’t like visiting the hairdressers, I feel trapped and confined, they take too long, I don’t enjoy the smells or the mirrors, I feel vulnerable. My hairdresser is perfectly nice, its not uncomfortable or painful and yet still I feel stressed. Most people don’t like visiting the dentist. You feel vulnerable, its invasive, awkward, it might be uncomfortable or painful. My dentist is lovely, very gentle, the environment is calm, relaxing, there is nice music playing but none of these things remove my stress for the procedure. For most dogs the grooming process is somewhere between the hairdresser, the doctor and the dentist, its quite invasive, there is a lot of physical closeness and handling involved, there may be some discomfort. I chose to go to the dentist or to the hairdresser, I know why I need to go, our dogs don’t have that luxury.

So why do it?

If its going to be stressful why don’t we just stop doing it? For some dogs that is absolutely the right choice. Dogs with low or self maintenance coats, care givers who can learn how to do the grooming at home in small stages (done correctly this is the ideal situation!) But we are seeing a dramatic increase in the population of dogs with high maintenance coats, living with people who are not maintaining them. Matting is not just unsightly, it constitutes a serious health and welfare risk. It is uncomfortable, it impedes movement and causes pain when it is moved. It constricts the blood vessels reducing circulation, particularly to the extremities. Severe matting can cause flesh death in ears, toes and tail. The area between the pads can become stony with mud, grit and matted hair, causing painful movement and changes to the gait, increases to the risk of fungal and bacterial infections. It can conceal injuries, illnesses and foreign bodies. It prevents the normal function of the coat, it traps damp, heat, spores and parasites within. Matting around the hygiene areas can trap faeces and urine leading to infection and even flystrike. It doesn’t matter who takes responsibility for keeping the dogs coat groomed and healthy but someone has to.

A few hair and coat facts

Hair is a filament that is grown from a mini organ under the skin surface called a hair follicle. These are also a repository for the stem cells which manage the repair and regeneration of the skin layers. Dogs have compound follicles which means that each one can produce several hairs at the same time.

The coat is the name given to the mass of hair covering the body. First I will talk about the coat as it evolved from natural selection and I will talk more about breed differences later on.

The coat has several important functions,

Protection from-
Thorns and vegetation
Insect bites and stings
Bites from other animals
Impact trauma and cushioning
Insulation –
Trapping air close to the skin as part of the thermoregulatory system
Visual communication –
Piloerection (commonly described as raising the hackles)
I am just going to talk about the two main types of hair that make up the coat, but there are also a small number of tactile whiskers found mostly around the face, these are thick, stiff and banded hairs which are surrounded at their base by a cluster of nerve cells that transmit sensory information back to the brain

Down is the undercoat or secondary coat, these hairs are finer, softer and often kinked. Their job is to trap tiny pockets of air inside the coat and provide cushioning. Guard hairs are thicker, glossier, straight and longer, their job is provide a sturdy waterproof covering over the top. These are the hairs that are raised in piloerection.

Growth Cycles – the rate of growth, life span and shed of hair is controlled by
Daylight hours
Friction or injury

Hair has a life cycle that is divided up into 4 main stages and a fifth being a relatively recent term.

Anagen – Growth

This is when new hair is grown. Dogs such as Poodles, Bichons, Maltese Terriers spend most of their time in anagen. Poodle hairs spend around 98% of their lifespan in anagen

Catagen – Regressing

The growth is stopped and the outer root sheath attaches to the hair shaft

Telogen – Rest

The hair remains stable. For most coats this is the longest phase. Cold climate breeds such as the Nordics can spend several years in this phase enabling them to conserve energy rather than expending it on continuing to regrow new coat

Exogen – Shedding

The hair falls out and the follicle moves back into an anagen phase. This is affected by seasonal and temperature changes but also by health factors

Kenogen – empty. This is a hair follicle that has passed through exogen but remains empty for a time before moving back into anagen

Down hairs generally work on a six monthly cycle, a denser crop for the winter months and a lighter one for the summer. Just like changing out your winter and summer duvets. Guard hairs have a lifespan of several years. Some are shorter, some are longer but all are subject to environmental pressures.

Follicles are at different stages all over the body for the very good reason that if you did all your shedding in one go you would be cold, wet, naked, and vulnerable for a few weeks and would have to expend a huge amount of energy on regrowing all the necessary coat. To put into perspective, some 30% of a dogs nutritional intake is spent on hair.

ref – The Hair Follicle: A Comparative Review of Canine Hair Follicle Anatomy and Physiology

Monika M. Welle, Dominique J. Wiener


Photo credit….. Dingoes – Robert Lynch,

G.Retriever -Dirk VorderstauBe,      Mini Poodle – B.Hakins Miller

Human Meddling

So having looked at function, the coats that are developed by natural selection to fit a natural purpose, we need to be aware that dogs have been subject to an intensive selective breeding process by humans who wanted to preserve and promote changes that they valued. Many of these modern breeds of dogs are now not capable of maintaining a healthy functioning coat without outside help. For example, when we look at this dingos coat we can see a strong guard coat layer and the padding that’s provided by the undercoat. Because the straight, short guard hairs allow the shedding undercoat to easily work their way out of the coat they can fall, be scratched, nibbled or rubbed out.

When we look at the Goldie, he has different length guard hairs, some waving and curling, heavy feathering and a dense undercoat. The shed hair will find it harder or be unable to work itself free of the longer and curling hairs and can become caught by the new hair growing in. So lack of care commonly leads to tangles and matting in the areas around the bottom, chest, ruff .

The Poodle ( remember they spend most of their time in active growth) has a coat that doesnt produce a seasonal shed, they gain protection and insulation by the hairs waterproof quality and tight curl.  If not well maintained, the hair can become entwined back on itself on itself and mat into lumps and dreadlocks. However for the most part these breeds are fairly stable and conform to a known type from quite predictable lines so are a low to medium/high maintenance and its quite easy to get fairly accurate research about what to expect.

Then came the doodles and so called ‘designer’ cross breeds

Some common pairings are:

Poodle, Bichon, Maltese, Yorkies

Coats mostly remaining in anagen producing little to no undercoat

crossed with

Cocker spaniel, Labrador, Border Collie, King Charles Cavalier Spaniel,

Dense double coats with seasonal shedding

These crosses will result in aspects of both parent breeds, in varying degrees and as many of these are opposing in form and function what commonly results is some form of long growing, dense, often curled or wavy coat which produces a seasonal shed. Often leading to the shedding hair being trapped within the curling guard hairs unless carefully manually removed.  Crossbreeding leads to much less predictable results in coat types and a large percentage result in medium to high maintenance coats. In a recent survey almost half of all groomers clients were listed as poodle crosses. With price tags ranging from £800 – £4000 the demand for puppies from these crosses has been exploited by unscrupulous breeders, leading to many dogs being bred from anxious and stressed mums, in poor conditions with no attention to welfare or puppy development.

Added to this we have the intense marketing of these dogs through image based media such as instagram/ facebook etc. They are being heavily targeted towards first time dog owners, active and busy families with young children, as service or support dogs and often these people are are choosing dogs based on an image that isn’t realistic. It is extremely common for there to be a lot of distrust between doodle/ cockapoo owners or breeders and groomers, for people to be told by the breeder that they are hypoallergenic, non shedding and only need grooming a couple of times a year which I’m sure you can already see is very unlikely to be true.

In part 2 I will detail the potential causes of stress and some of the solutions I have found to be useful.

Kirsty 🙂

P.s. I closed my grooming business at christmas last year in order to focus on my work at The Dog Nose but I still have around 20 dogs who I will groom for the rest of their life (or the rest of mine, whichever is longer) as they would find the move to a new groomer too stressful. Like almost all of the groomers that I have ever met I love my clients dogs as my own. Grooming can be hard, dirty,  often thankless and lonely and the people who are brave enough to do it deserve the support to do the best job they can xxx