Soapy water sprayed through the air, the sound of five blow dryers filled the room, and clients whined impatiently as they waited their turn.
This is the scene of an average Saturday morning at Muddy Paws Pet Parlor in Eugene. Located on River Road, the shop is a self-service dog wash, gluten-free dog bakery, and professional grooming parlor.
On this particular Saturday, the next client to be groomed is a black and white Landseer Newfoundland named Rainier. She walked through the parlor doors with her owners, just on time for her morning appointment. All 120 pounds of her, covered in long hair, jumped excitedly as she waited and tried to lick her owner’s face. One of Muddy Paws’ groomers, Rachel, began to talk to the owners and plan how Rainier will be groomed.
“Yes, the lion cut,” the owner said. Rainier is to have a cut that leaves her hair shaved short in the back and long in the front. Rachel worked closely with the owners, taking a long time to talk with them and understand exactly the kind of cut they wanted for Rainier.
Communicating with the dog’s owner is a big part of the job. Customer service is crucial for keeping clients.
“If somebody’s not happy with it (their dog’s cut), you fix it,” Rachel said.
The world of dog grooming is surprisingly cutthroat and competitive, Rachel said. Although not required, many groomers go to a technical dog grooming school or get an online certification. Others, like Rachel, just learn from experience.
Each dog breed has its own specific grooming style, and it takes time for a groomer to learn and perfect these styles.
Once her owners left, Rainier was taken back to one of the six large tubs that are used for bathing the dogs. Rachel clipped Rainier’s leash to a hook on the tub, then began to shower her with warm water. She gets into the tub with the dog as she washed the dog’s long hair with hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner.
“One thing I like about grooming dogs is it’s like a party,” Rachel said. “Dogs are so funny, they each have their own preferences and personalities.”
Depending on the dog’s behavior, the bathing process can be either easy or difficult. Once she was washed clean, the groomer sprayed Rainier with a liquid to detangle and give shine to the hair. Rachel puts Rainier into a drying crate where a large hose blew air into the space, drying her wet hair. As Rainier dried, the groomer began to clip another dog. The groomer usually has several dogs to groom at once, and she also has to keep an eye on the clients using the self-service dog wash tubs.
Once Rainier was dry, Rachel took her to a grooming table where she began to give the massive dog a hair cut. Following the owner’s instructions for a lion cut, she began to shave the dog’s back half to about a quarter inch long. She also shaved the dog’s tail, leaving a large lion cut poof on its tip. Rainier’s front half was left long and uncut, resembling a lion’s mane.
Rachel has found that the best technique to clipping dogs is to make sure they remain in their normal range of motion. This means that unlike some other groomers, she clips the dogs without unnaturally twisting them in order to get an easier clip. Throughout the process, Rainier cooperatively sat still and seemed to shrink in size as her long hair was shaved.
Muddy Paws Pet Parlor is just one of 50 pet grooming facilities in the Eugene/Springfield area. Rachel worked 10 years as a veterinarian technician at a veterinary hospital before becoming a dog groomer. Although there are so many competitors in the area, Rachel feels secure in her job and says that the pet industry is one of the few recession-proof occupations.
“People will always care for their pets,” she said.
Once the clipping was done Rainier was properly groomed and looked like a different dog than the one who had come in hours before.
“Dogs know when they look good,” Rachel said. “They like the extra attention they get from their owners after they’re groomed.”
Rainier seemed proud of her new look as she excitedly wagged her tail and left Muddy Paws Pet Parlor with her owners.