Pet groomers and stylists are in the service industry. Our role is to help people and their pets. When we do it well, we make people happy.
What if you can't make them happy because you can't groom the dog safely due to its aggression or health? Should you still groom the pet?
If you have been in business for any amount of time, I'm sure you've run into this scenario. Even seasoned professionals struggle with this dilemma at times. Should you groom the pet or turn the client away?
The easy answer is to refuse to groom the pet. However, there are many variables. If you feel the situation presents a high risk for the pet or you - simply say no. That's your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.
You must put the safety of the pet and yourself first.
Once you have that clearly established in your mind you can start analyze the situation.
- What is raising the red flags in your mind?
- What are your qualifications when it comes to handling a difficult grooming situation?
- Is this a new or a long-standing client?
- Can the pet be groomed safely with the help of an assistant?
- Will the pet cooperate if the owner stays or assists in the grooming process?
When I think about these questions, I always mentally play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want is to have to tell an owner that their pet was injured while in my care. Or that we had to take him to the vet for treatment. Worse yet - that their dog died during the grooming process.
Let's face it, there are a host of things that could go wrong in any grooming salon even under the best of circumstances.
The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. We are working with:
- live animals
- sharp instruments
- tall tables
- abrasive brushes
- stacked kennels
- slippery floors
On most days, an experienced bather, groomer, or pet stylist takes all these dangers in stride. We know how to avoid accidental injuries to our four-footed clients.
So what do you do when that internal gut instinct kicks in?
You are standing there, looking at a dog (or cat) and listening to a client talk about their precious fur child. Deep down - some type of internal fear grips you. You just have a bad feeling about this particular groom. You know the old saying, "trust your gut instinct?" Well folks, that natural instinct is working in full force.
Listen to it.
It's okay to say "no" to a grooming client. It's never worth grooming a dog you honestly feel is beyond your level of experience. If it's more than you can handle, you have a potentially dangerous situation. The pet and you are the ones at risk - not the owner. I don't know a single pet care specialist that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet.
Yet, if something goes wrong with the groom on that day, whose fault will it be? Yours.
Weigh out the risks. Whenever you need to decline service to a client, it's an uncomfortable situation. But the alternative is much, much worse. Telling an owner their pet has been seriously hurt or died in your salon it the most difficult task you will have to address. You want to avoid that at all costs - even if it makes the client angry or upset.
If it's a new client, it's much easier. There isn't that emotional tie that comes with repeat or long-time clients. It's much easier to refuse to groom a dog that is too big or too aggressive for you to handle.
It's the long-time clients that are tough. The longer they have been a regular client, the harder it is. If a pet has physical ailments, it's tougher. This is when you need to weigh out the risks and look for alternatives to your standard grooming practices. The health and wellness of the pet has to be a top priority.
Here are the questions you need to ask.
- Could the pet be done safely with an assistant?
- Would the dog benefit from the owner staying with the dog during the grooming process?
- Would a different time of day work better for the pet? Maybe a time when you can focus solely on the pet without distraction?
- If your salon is busy, would a solo stylist or mobile stylist be a better option?
- Would it be in the best interest of the dog to get the grooming done without stopping? Maybe it's best to break the grooming into sections, letting the dog rest between sessions? That might be over the course of the day or even over several days.
- Would it be in the best interest of the dog to be groomed at a vet clinic where medical attention could be rapidly administered, if needed?
Years of experience have taught me there is not an easy answer. Whenever you need to decline services to a client, it's an uncomfortable situation.
However, if you decline services, do so out of care and compassion for the pet. Be prepared to offer alternatives to the client, even if that means you simply tell them "no," you cannot groom their dog. Be ready to refer them to someone better suited to handle their pet. List all the reasons WHY you cannot and will not groom their pet. Do it with the confidence of a professional.
In the end, as difficult as it is to say "NO" to clients, you will sleep a lot better at night when you do. Trust me on this one.