Linda Usereau is a pet groomer who runs Toilettage Le Spaw Grooming in Ormstown. She has worked in the field of animal care for well over 15 years and knows a lot about the best practices to keep pets safe and happy. In honour of National Pet Day, she offers advice to dog owners on keeping pets content when they visit a groomer.
Usereau has always had a love for animals, particularly horses. According to her mother, her first words were “Mom,” “Dad,” and “horse.” Though she always wanted to work with animals, she used to work at the textile factory in Huntingdon with her partner. When the factory shut down, they both lost their jobs. At the time, she had been considering going to school for animal grooming, so while her partner found a new job in textiles in Hawkesbury, Usereau trained for and received her grooming certificate in 2005.
She began grooming professionally at Maxi Zoo in Ormstown and stayed for about three years. In 2008 she transferred to Toilettage Le Spaw Grooming, another Ormstown business, after its groomer had to leave her practice due to an injury but didn’t want to abandon her clients. There, Usereau performs services like the washing and drying of pets’ coats, nail clipping, and ear cleaning.
Grooming can be stressful for pets, so a puppy’s first encounter with a groomer is an important opportunity to set a positive example: “You have to go really softly and encourage a lot of positivity. Give them treats, pet them a lot, [give] positive affirmations, using a high voice to stimulate them.” If a puppy starts to get upset, she recommends giving a treat between each nail trim, and taking breaks when necessary. She says that puppies are like babies, and one must be careful with them. “They don’t understand your language, but they understand your movements and motivations,” she explains.
Usereau emphasizes that most groomers agree that when dogs become older, keeping them in low-stress environments is crucial. Often, people bring their senior pets to a new groomer after they have moved to a new town, but Usereau urges against this. “The [previous] groomer will be used to the dog and the dog is used to them… It’s already a lot [for the dog] to adapt to the new surroundings. [It] may not see everything and bump into things. You’re adding a new groomer, with new smells, new equipment, new ways of working.”
It comes down to limiting the stress in a dog’s life. “If you can limit stress even by 10 per cent by keeping the same groomer, that could save its life.” Sometimes, clients want to groom a dog for the first time in its old age because it may have begun to have less thorough hygiene; but starting them too old can be more of a hurt than a help to a canine friend.
Usereau, who is a dog owner as well, recommends that the best thing to do before getting a dog is to speak with a trainer or canine behaviourist to see what breed best suits you. This way, you’ll have a dog that fits in with your household perfectly. “You’ll be able to have fun for the next ten to fifteen years with your dog. You don’t want to spend those years with a dog that doesn’t really match you.”