I had the pleasure to speak with Meghan Sogge of Senior Paws Grooming in Rhode Island. During my interview with Meg, she provided some insight on what to look for when hiring a groomer for your senior dog. If you are in the Rhode Island area, look her up and schedule an appointment.
CP: Tell me a bit about your background. When did you start specifically grooming senior dogs?
MS: I have been working with dogs for what seems like my entire life. I have experienced almost every aspect of dog-related care. Working in boarding, daycare, and vet hospitals all led me to grooming. I have been grooming for over ten years now and I have loved every minute of it. Something about making a dog, especially a senior dog, look and feel their best really made my heart happy. There is something truly special and unique about working with senior dogs that has always resonated with me. In every job I had, I always found myself giving the seniors a little more attention. Two years ago I started to exclusively groom seniors. I really felt like there was a need for someone to take the time and care to give these senior friends the best spa day possible!
CP: What makes grooming a senior different then grooming an adult/puppy?
MS: Senior dogs are more fragile than adults or puppies. They have more medical issues that need to be taken into consideration while grooming and they get stressed very easily. In my opinion, senior dogs have a time limit when it comes to grooming because they can be so fragile. If I cannot complete a grooming or I cannot do a bath because they are too stressed for one reason or another, then I stop no matter what. There comes a point when grooming is just to keep our senior friends healthy and comfortable and it is not about looks anymore. Whereas, if a puppy is stressed during a groom it is usually because everything is new to them and the more they get groomed the more familiar it is and they get less stressed.
CP: What traits should a senior pet parent look for in a groomer?
MS: I think the most important trait a pet parent should look for in a groomer is how caring they are. I believe a great groomer wants to build a relationship with you and your dog. You want a groomer who takes the time to get to know your dog’s personality, quirks, medical issues etc. especially for senior dogs. That way they have all the information they need to groom your dog with the best care possible. A groomer should ask how your Senior is doing at every groom. Questions like, how has their energy level been? Have they had any accidents in the house recently? How have they been getting around? These simple questions will give your groomer a deeper understanding of your senior’s overall well being and comfort level to really make sure they give them the best grooming experience possible. The best groomers truly care about your senior inside and out of the salon as if they were their own dog.
CP: How do you reduce the anxiety of a senior dog during a grooming session?
MS: Keeping seniors as comfortable as possible is what I believe will help them have the least amount of anxiety. As a groomer, one way I try and keep them as comfortable as possible is to make sure I have all the necessary grooming equipment. One piece of equipment I always have on hand is a yoga mat for them to stand on during the groom. Grooming tables tend to be too hard on their fragile joints, and the yoga mat helps relieve some of that pressure. I also always make sure their ears are covered while they are drying. Dryers can be too loud and really get them stressed. Keeping the grooming environment quiet and calm is another big thing to help with anxiety. I only groom one dog at a time out of my house. Even though it is not their home, it is not as overwhelming and loud as a grooming salon can get. I always use a gentle touch with seniors, never any quick movements that might hurt or startle them. And I always, ALWAYS give them love while I'm grooming, reassuring them that it is okay and that they are the best doggie in the world!
CP: How much of the anxiety is spurred from being in a different environment than their home?
MS: Even though I groom out of my house, I truly believe taking a senior out of their environment is very stressful for them, especially if they are blind, deaf or have dementia. Familiar smells and a regular routine really comforts dogs, seniors especially. When those are taken away, senior dogs tend to get easily confused, triggering their anxiety. I think car rides are what also trigger anxiety. Even if your dog used to love car rides. As they get older, the two places they probably go the most are vet appointments and grooming appointments. For seniors, those are not particularly fun outings, especially if they start thinking those are the only places they go in the car. I actually used to primarily do house call grooming (going into the pet parents home to groom). That way they never leave the comforts of their home. But with everything going on these days it is a little safer to groom out of my house. Mobile grooming is something that I am seriously considering in the future. Having the grooming salon come to you is perfect for senior dogs and as a groomer I still have the set up of a grooming salon.
CP: What are the top tips for grooming a senior either at home or with a professional? MS: Always making sure they are comfortable is so important. If they are comfortable, then they are more apt to let you groom them for a little longer and they also will not associate being in pain or uncomfortable with grooming anymore. Knowing their limits. Whether you are a pet parent grooming your senior yourself or a professional groomer, it is so important to know when they have had enough or need a break. Overstressing seniors can be really dangerous. And lastly, giving them lots and lots of love during the groom! Have a gentle touch, talk sweetly to them while you groom. Make the grooming process as happy and stress-free as possible!
Look for our next blog from Meg when she shares how to bathe your senior dog at home on your own!