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Lessons Learned: Grooming Large-Breed Dogs with Elyna

When it comes to grooming large-breed dogs, it demands a unique blend of expertise and understanding. From the Great Pyrenees to the Saint Bernard and the Akita, these large dogs have distinct grooming needs that deserve some unique attention

That’s why we sat down with Elyna Walker, the owner of Amante Animals LLC, who specializes in the care of large-breed dogs. With a background deeply rooted in animal behavior πŸŽ“ and an extensive journey that includes working in the Navy, training dolphins 🐬 and sea lions 🦭, and overseeing five animal hospitals πŸ₯, Elyna brings a wealth of experience and insight to the world of grooming 🐢.

In this blog, we will explore Elyna's unique journey and the tips she offers for grooming large-breed dogs. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out in the field, Elyna's expertise promises a rewarding grooming experience that leaves both groomers and their furry clients in high spirits.

 

About Elyna Walker

Elyna specializes in caring for large-breed dogs. With over 23 years of experience in animal care and behavior, she founded Amante Animals LLC, a Moblie grooming salon dedicated to meeting the unique needs of larger canine companions.

 


 

From 1000-pound Marine Life to Large-Breed Pet Care

β€œI used to work with animals who were 1000 pounds, and it’s no different than working with an animal who is 100 pounds." - Elyna Walker

Between the ages of 18-19, Elyna worked at SeaWorld in the education department. There, she worked closely with the public, educating them, sharing her knowledge, and fostering a love for the ocean's incredible creatures.

Elyna's remarkable journey into the world of animal behavior and grooming began with her college education, where she pursued a degree in animal behavior and wildlife education. Upon graduation, Elyna embarked on an incredible adventure as a contractor for the Navy, where she dedicated seven and a half years to training dolphins and sea lions.

 

Amante Animals: Founded with Professional Knowledge and a Whole Lot of Love

β€œII was asked a lot by my animal training, pet sitting and dog walking clients if I knew anyone that grooms large breeds. I was like, this is something I can do and this is what I specialize in. I'm always working with the larger animals.” - Elyna Walker

Elyna's background also includes private and service dog training, where many of her furry clients were large-breed dogs. It was during this phase that she often got asked: ""Do you know any mobile groomers who can groom large breed dogs?" Elyna realized that her unique background, which included training large animals, equipped her with the skills to venture into grooming. She began by training and shadowing to develop her grooming proficiency.

Amante Animals LLC came to life when Elyna acquired her first customized grooming trailer. This innovative space was designed to cater specifically to larger dogs, offering a safe and comfortable environment for grooming.

Today, 90% of Elyna's clients are large breed dogs, and she skillfully grooms 3 - 4 dogs daily. Some of the most common breeds she encounters include Labradors, Huskies, Akitas, German Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. With her extensive knowledge and genuine love for animals, Elyna has created a haven for large-breed dogs in need of grooming services.

A Trailer Made for Large Breeds

Recognizing that standard grooming vans and trailers were often designed with smaller dogs in mind, Elyna took the initiative to create a space that would make larger dogs feel more at ease. She started by having a window strategically placed to allow the dogs to look out and put their heads out the window while they are being groomed. This mimics dogs looking out the car window. It also allows them to focus on other things outside and relax while being groomed.  This also lets in more natural light and giving the dogs a greater sense of openness. Elyna also made sure to provide a low wide step to enter the trailer creating a spacious entrance, ensuring that the dogs wouldn't have to squeeze through a small door.

Inside the trailer, she prioritized floor space. The tub was widened and lengthened to accommodate the size of the larger breeds, and Elyna even added a ramp for easy access, eliminating the need for dogs to jump or be lifted. For the grooming table, she included an electric lift feature that could be adjusted to a low position, allowing the dogs to step up onto it themselves without the need for being picked up. 

 

Elyna's Guide: How to Care for Large-Breed Dogs in Grooming

πŸ§‘β€πŸ« Understanding Canine Behavior: Taking an Animal Behavior Class

β€œIf you learn how to be in control of the situation, you can do anything regardless of the size of the dog.” 

Taking an animal behavior class is highly recommended when caring for and grooming large-breed dogs. This type of class provides valuable knowledge on understanding the unique behaviors and body language of large dogs. It equips groomers with techniques to handle them safely and effectively.

βœ‚οΈ Grooming Large Dogs with Proper Equipment

"I customized my trailer to be more accessible for the larger dogs, starting off with a low and wide step and a wide door."

When it comes to grooming large dogs, having the right equipment is essential. A larger grooming table and tub are necessary to accommodate their size and provide comfort. Giving them ample space allows them to lie down and move freely during the grooming process. Ensuring their safety and comfort should be a priority.

πŸ• Managing Dog Behavior for a Positive Grooming Experience

"If you learn how to make the situation positive and rewarding, then the animal's going to work with you."

Dealing with unwanted behavior from the dog during grooming requires a calm and patient approach. Ignoring the behavior whenever possible can help prevent reinforcing negative actions. Stepping back, avoiding eye contact, and waiting for the dog to calm down are all methods that can be used.

πŸͺœ Accessibility Matters: Using Ramps or Stairs 

"I have a ramp so they can just walk up and they don't have to jump or be lifted.  My table is electric and it goes down to about 16 inches off the ground. So all they have to do is step up onto the table and they don't have to have somebody pick them up."

To make grooming easier for large dogs, consider using a ramp or stairs to help them access the grooming table or tub without strain or stress on their joints. This accommodation ensures their physical well-being and reduces any discomfort they may experience during the grooming session.

πŸͺ Positive Reinforcement: Make Grooming Rewarding

"With the owners permission, offer the dog treats. Especially for food-motivated breeds/dogs. Use what you know and make it more positive and rewarding for the dog."

Creating a positive and rewarding experience is crucial when grooming large dogs. Before starting, communicate with the owner to understand their goals and expectations. Prioritize the dog's comfort and well-being over completing every grooming task and explain this to the owner especially if there was any negative grooming history in the past.

When you explain to the owners that you want to make this grooming experience as positive as possible and therefore some minor details might not get done, because the fight and struggle is not worth it in the long run. Most owners will understand and appreciate the fact that you are willing and able to work with their dog(s).

Explain to the owner that by keeping their dog on a regular grooming schedule and working with you, over time you can get the dog to relax and possibly enjoy the grooming process therefore allowing you to get everything done without the struggle. Using treats, praise, and a soothing tone of voice can help keep the dog calm and cooperative throughout the process.

🎡 Less Music, Less Distractions: Minimizing Overstimulation 

"Music, especially, really fast and upbeat with a lot of pounding, can be overstimulating."

While music can be enjoyable for humans, it can sometimes overstimulate dogs. Unless it is necessary, it is best to turn off music during grooming sessions while grooming a dog who is already showing signs of discomfort. This minimizes potential stress or anxiety and allows the dog to stay focused and calm. Dancing around to music can also overstimulate the dog. In the absence of music, the tone in the trailer or grooming room remains at a calmer level.

🧑 Patience, Patience, and Patience: Taking One Step at a Time

"Take it one day and one step at a time. Patience is key. If it means you don’t get everything done, that is ok. Communicate with the owner so both of you are on the same page."

Patience is vital when grooming large dogs. It is important to take things one step at a time and not rush the process. Each dog is unique, and some may require more time to adjust to grooming than others. Patience, understanding, and a gentle approach will ensure a successful and stress-free grooming experience for both the dog and the groomer.


 

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