Caring for our four-legged friends

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Vicky Meets...Charlene Upton of Shaggy Paws Dog Grooming

How did you become a dog groomer?

My background is in the corporate world, but when my children started school I decided that it was time for a change. I have always loved dogs and making Shaggy, my labradoodle, look beautiful! I trained to become a qualified dog groomer with the London School of Pet Grooming. Regular trips to Crufts and grooming competitions helps me stay up-to-date with changes in the industry and I love attending seminars held by industry experts so that I can learn new skills.

Why is grooming important to our four-legged friends?

Apart from having a lovely smelling dog, grooming promotes good health. Fluffy designer dogs can get extremely matted very quickly. Regular grooming prevents discomfort and limits the probability of having to shave a dog to get rid of the matted hair. As a dog’s hair gets matted it actually tightens against the skin and can, in extreme cases, cause serious injury. De-shedding treatments release most of the dead hair from a double coated dog, helping it stay cooler in hot weather, and ear and eye cleaning can avoid painful infections. Nail trimming prevents deformities in a dog’s feet and discomfort in walking. I have seen many dew claws (the little claw on the side of a dog’s foot) that have grown so long that they are actually growing back into the dog’s pad – ouch! Grooming appointments are also often the first stage of health checking. I once found a small lump on a beautiful border collie during her groom. Unfortunately it was cancerous, but because it was caught early the vet was able to remove the lump and she made a full recovery.

What are the highs and lows of the job?

I have a wonderful customer base and it is definitely a ‘high’ to be able to welcome them in and hear about their day. I have customers who have been bringing their dogs to me for several years so we have a great relationship. I don’t have many ‘lows’, although it’s always a shame to have to clip short a very matted dog.

How do you calm anxious dogs?

Lots of cuddles and reassurance is the most important. I also use an essential oil diffuser and calming music to give them something to focus on. Other options include lavender shampoo and choice of treats.

What should people look for when they are looking for a groomer?

It’s a big deal to trust your groomer enough to leave your precious dog with them, so do your research. Read online reviews and remember that a good groomer should have a portfolio of their work they can show you. I think it’s important to check whether your groomer is trained in canine first aid so if an accident happens your dog will be looked after correctly. The appointment shouldn’t be rushed and a clean and tidy salon with the correct equipment is a must.

More information: www.shaggypaws.co.uk