How The Canine Senses Affect The Grooming Process

Dogs are amazing creatures that are designed perfectly for each job they are bred to perform. The canine senses are far more attuned than ours in every way and it is worth taking this into consideration while grooming them. The first time a dog visits your salon can be a terrifying experience. Imagine all the new experiences they will encounter; smells of other dogs, the fear pheromones they leave behind, strangers, loud noises on their sensitive ears and the height of the table to name a few.

The dogs auditory system is 4 times better than ours, hearing in a greater pitch and volume. Some breeds rely on their hearing to do the job they were bred to do, so they in fact have more sensitive ears than other breeds. The equipment that we use in the salon can reach over 100 decibels, which is louder than a pneumatic drill or the front row at a rock concert. To help ease this anxiety we can use a ‘Happy Hoody’ to cover the ears. These are useful not only while drying but throughout the whole process. Arco trimmers are also very useful in reducing noise when clipping the face as they are a lot quieter and don’t seem to vibrate as much.

The canine race have a whopping 300,000,000 scent receptors in their noses. This is what enables them to be able to sniff out a tea spoon of scent in a swimming pool full of water! It is said that dogs are also able to smell pheromones, fear and medical problems such as cancer or an epileptic seizure before it happens. They do this by detecting subtle hormonal changes in the body. By using appeasing smells during the grooming process we can actually relax the dog and make them feel much more comfortable. For example using a high value treat or using calming sprays.

We have a slightly better sight than our canine counterparts, however they have a much wider range of vision. Especially breeds of dogs bred for that purpose, such as sight hounds who have a range of up to 250 degrees. Sometimes we need to take a step back and realise how big we must seem to our dogs. Imagine a world where we are two feet tall. Lorries passing you, giant people looming over you and picking you up, being put on a table and lifted to a height more than 3 times taller than you. I am a firm believer that dogs can be afraid of heights (Acrophobia), just like us. If you find this is the case, lower the table or groom the dog on the floor. Its not the most ideal situation, however it could make all the difference to that dog. It will then give you the opportunity to work with the dog at a level they are comfortable with.

Touch is the first sense to develop in dogs. It enables puppies to find their mother and her milk. I always teach my students to be aware of how sharp and hard some of the grooming equipment can be. Test a clipper blade on your arm or across your knuckles. It can be surprisingly uncomfortable. Be aware of how it must feel against the dogs boney areas, such as the spine, elbows or toes. Especially on older dogs which may be silently suffering from Arthritis. Roll the skin from one side of the bone to the other when clipping. When you let go, it will move back into position and the coat over the bone will have been clipped. Using a comb attachment is also a great alternative to using a metal blade, for example, instead of a 5f try a dark purple comb attachment, or instead of a 7f try a peach or yellow comb attachment in reverse. Another thing to consider when grooming are the dogs whiskers, known as Vibrassae. These are hard pointed hairs around the face. They aid the dog in spacial awareness, wind direction and they also use them for behavioural signals. It is thought that trimming these hairs can be uncomfortable for the dog. So personally I try to avoid it if I can. I believe that these hairs may contribute to the fact that dogs do not like their faces trimmed. The vibrassae are located above the eyes (supraorbital), under the chin (mandibular), around the muzzle (mystacial) and on the cheeks (genal).

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