Confessions of A Dog Groomer
Find out what the lady behind the perfectly permed ears and pretty manicures of Bangkok’s most pampered pooches has to say about raising your fuzzy friend.
February 24, 2017
Anyone who’s anyone who has a dog knows 'Aey' Kanokwan Vongsamart (she's the doggy stylist behind our Hair Apparent web series). This pet groomer extraordinaire, however, is admittedly more interested in her four-legged clienteles than their A-list owners. Actually, it all started with a cat. “My cat, Taro. He’s so fierce, no groomer will touch him. Well, one did try, but they had to sedate him just to bathe him! I wasn’t very comfortable with that. Another groomer stuck a fan on him after his bath, and he ended up catching a cold. So I decided, if no one could bathe Taro, I'd have to do it myself.” Following the feline fiascos, Aey started taking grooming lessons and soon after, opened her first pet salon, Groom Lounge, at Paradise Park in Sri Nakarin. 2Mag caught up with the pet whisperer at Bark Lounge, her Sukhumvit HQ located in premier doggy park Barkyard, to discuss the do’s, don’ts, and dyes of doggy grooming.
When it comes to haircuts, most breeds are fairly easy to work with. The longest it’s ever taken me was two and a half hours. And it was a Pomeranian! They’re fearful little things. The big dogs aren’t nearly as difficult; if they’re fierce, their owners will muzzle them, allowing me to do my job. But Pomeranians have tiny mouths! They can’t wear muzzles, so it’s just a matter of gauging the right moment: catching them off guard.
With nails, Beagles are the most difficult to work it. They won’t let you near their nails, let alone trim them! Plus, they’re very hyper and muscular and just won’t stay still. The easiest breed to groom would be Maltese. They appreciate beauty. They love taking baths. Poodles, too. I’ve seen poodles, after their baths and haircuts, actually checking their own reflections in the mirror! Oh, they’re definitely aware—and concerned—about their looks.
Some dogs are defiant around their owners but completely docile around their groomers. My advice to start early. Start grooming your dog when they are young such as brushing their teeth around 2-3 months of age. Once your dog has had all his or her vaccine shots (around 4 months old), you can start bringing them to a professional groomer. Be firm with your dog, but there’s no need to ever get violent: be stern and slowly the grooming process will get easier and easier.
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily. In the same way that we humans eat, chew, get food stuck in our teeth, dogs do as well. If your dog won’t let you use a toothbrush, there are special cloths you can buy to clean their teeth. I do my dogs’ once a day, right before bedtime. As for baths, it’s really up to the owner but the general standard is once a week, twice if you like them to sleep in the same bed as you.
If you have a short-haired breed, keep in mind that their hairs are coarse. The hairs on a Corgi, for example, compared to, say, a Siberian Husky, are even more annoying when they shed—in my opinion, because they’re prickly. Jack Russells, too. I shave a lot of Jack Russells because their owners can’t stand the prickly hairs. I have rather sensitive skin too, so I actually get little scars from these hairs. Even applying Vaseline before grooming doesn’t help: I just end up with rashes. My advice would be to use a special brush, a Furminator, designed especially for short-haired dogs.
Photographs courtesy of Aey Vongsamart
If you have a long-haired breed, comb your dog’s hair daily. If you don’t, their hairballs will get so tangled that they’ll actually stick to the skin and you won’t be able to comb them out; the only solution is to shave off the hair and start over. You can’t just shave the hairballs off, either. Your poor dog will look diseased! It’s a full body shave. Don’t let it reach that stage! Dogs are very self-conscious. Like when I cut my Maltese’s hair—not even that short, just a little bob cut—his whole demeanor changed. He went from super confident and defiant to getting bullied by all my other dogs! He just wasn’t the same dog.
I love seeing the transformation. I’ve had dogs come in, all sad, messy, and raggedy, but once they’ve had their bath, once we trim their fur and show off their eyes, there’s an immediate change in their temperament. They’re cuter. Sweeter. There was a Shetland Sheepdog that was basically left here: abandoned. I took him in; took care of him. Basically groomed him back to life. Now, customers come in, specifically asking for Russie. They want to hold him, play with him. I love that he’s regained his self-confidence.
Proper doggy hair dyes aren’t harmful to your pets. They’re expensive, but look very nice when done well. If I had a Bichon, I’d dye his ears and tail black so he’d look like a panda. I have a client who constantly changes the color of her Poodle; pink ears one week, orange the next. It’s become her signature. However, unless you’re entering your dog into shows and competitions and are fully committed to the upkeep, don’t half-heartedly dye your dog’s hair just for, like, an experiment. Remember, they want to look good, too.
I love working with animals. My staff have commented that I’m nicer around animals than I am around actual humans! I’m gentler, I guess; I even speak in a different tone. My boyfriend is the same. To me, he uses his “human voice”. To our cats and dogs, he’s all, “How are you today, my love, my baby, my dear…”.
If I were a dog, I’d be a Bichon. Maltese are perhaps too pretty? [Laughs] All long, straight, flowing hair, super needy to boot! I’d prefer to be a Bichon; they’re fluffy and playful, they love their owners but aren’t too attached to them.
The Barkyard BKK, 65 Sukhumvit 26