'studying is never lonely job in this house'
‘studying is never lonely job in this house’

In this instalment animal behaviourist Tracy McCrindle gives an insight into her working day. 

Working purely with clients who need behavioural assistance means my daily routine is probably a little different to that of other salons. I thought I’d record the events of an average day to give an insight into the work of a groomer/behaviourist.

6am: The day starts with a rude awakening from my special alarm clock. It’s brown, hairy and goes by the name of Cooper. There aren’t many long lies in a house containing Beardies and the youngest takes his job very seriously.

6.45am: I get harnesses, toys, clickers and treats ready for the morning walks. I have three dogs of my own and try to make sure they get individual training walks a few times a week on top of our group walks. My eldest Beardie loves doggy dancing, much to the amusement of the other walkers.

8.15am: Time to grab a coffee and a quick look at the laptop. There are emails to answer, Facebook posts to respond to, and seminar details to confirm.

'most of my clients need a little extra tlc'
‘most of my clients need a little extra tlc’

8.45am: A quick commute takes me to work in my converted garage. I get today’s client records out, make sure I’ve printed off any homework sheets, and top up the treat tin ready for clicker work we’ll be doing later on. 9am: First client arrives – a springer rescued from a life chained up alone. He is very touch sensitive but responding well to a desensitisation programme and his owner is wonderful at doing her homework. I work with them regularly as he also has trouble with separation anxiety. It’s hard not to
get a bit emotional when you see a dog so glad to have a person of his own that he can’t let her out of his sight, but helping him cope for short periods when mum isn’t around is very rewarding. His owner is a model client – from having no knowledge of behaviour modification she has studied recommended books, mastered everything I’ve taught her, and can now assist with him brilliantly. I often joke that I’m going to give her a job. 11am: A quick break between clients. I throw a ball for my boys in the garden while I call back anyone who’s left messages for me this morning.

11.20: The next job of the day takes me out of the salon to see an Akita who is subject to a court-enforced control order meaning he must be on leash & muzzled in public. He finds the combination of leash, muzzle and grooming salon a bit too much for his stress levels so I go to his home to blast out his dead coat and clip his nails. His tolerance for grooming has improved greatly since we came to this arrangement and I’m even working on a little project with him. Akitas are notoriously hard to read so I’m teaching him to exaggerate his stress and warning signals so that he can tell me sooner if he is uncomfortable. This means he doesn’t need to wear the muzzle while I work, and we’ve even convinced his owner that she can stop worrying he’s going to have me for lunch!

'a happy client ready to get to work'
‘a happy client ready to get to work’

12.30pm: On my way home I spot one of my favourite dogs and stop to say hello. She is one of the smartest border collies around and just happens to be blind and deaf too. I’ve been teaching her how to respond to commands using touch. It’s lovely to see her owner ask her to sit and settle while we chat and I manage to rustle up a piece of liver cake from my pocket to give to her before I dash off. 1pm: This afternoon I have company in the salon in the form of the vet’s assistant. I have a fantastic relationship with my local vet and most of my work will come referred from there. When people ask for sedation they will be sent to see me first as we agree that it’s much better to change the way the dog feels. Owners are delighted when they see improvement after just a few sessions. Sometimes it’s a handling issue I’m asked to help with. Today we have a lab that needs a kennel cough vaccination before his owners can board him and the mere sight of the nasal spray turns him into a bull in a china shop. We work with an atomiser filled with water, allowing him to hear the sound while playing with a favourite tug toy and gradually reducing the distance until he is happy with the spray being set off just inches from his nose. He’s done really well so we call it a day and he’ll come back later in the week to move things along a bit more.

'with the garden right outside , any breaks are play opportunities for the resident dogs'
‘with the garden right outside , any breaks are play opportunities for the resident dogs’

1.30pm: I grab a chat with the vet on the phone to go over a few cases. We work closely to ensure I have all the relevant information on dogs undergoing treatment, and it gives me a chance to point out any concerns I feel she may need to have a look at when she next sees the dog herself. If the pet is not being medicated it’s not unusual for me to see more of them than the vet does so I sometimes pick up on things she wouldn’t have a chance to spot. I give a vet referral card to owners with any concerns listed and they can then have them checked out. By observing behaviour I have identified issues like joint pain, sight and hearing problems and hypothyroidism in dogs and with an early alert they can be treated more effectively.

2pm: My final grooming client arrives. This boy has various health problems and neurological disorders, making him very unpredictable. His owner will testify to him having a bite like a great white shark. He is extremely difficult but I love working with him as he makes me push my knowledge to the limit in coming up with ways to communicate with him effectively, and I learn something new from him every time.

'the boys take a walk while i grab some down time'
‘the boys take a walk while i grab some down time’

3.30pm: I spend some time writing up the client notes and catching up on calls and emails before closing the salon. It’s not an early finish though – after grabbing another walk with the dogs I settle down to study. Fitting a degree around a full time job and home life can be a bigger challenge than some of my clients!

7pm: I have no evening clients today so I’m free to catch up on chores after dinner. My husband, Barry, takes the dogs on their last walk while I grab a shower and a few minutes of peace and quiet. Soon it’s time to head for bed and reset the Beardie alarm clock for another early morning. Thank goodness I love my job as much as I love my dogs!