Stéphanie Logeais of Dubai-based Happy Puppy animal grooming is aiming to bring a dash of French flair to the lives of pets and their owners in the region. She talks about spotting medical problems, bath-shy cats and smelly pooches...

How did you get into this, Stéphanie?

My husband and I are French and when we came to Dubai we brought our cat with us and soon rescued another one. It wasn’t easy finding a recognised grooming service, good pet food — the things that busy pet owners need. I had previously worked in the food industry and liked the idea of moving into pet care, and it struck me that the perfect business opportunity in Dubai was to take care of pets. We bought a pet care company that was on sale, and set about implementing our vision.

And what is that?

We call it FFF: French, Family and Fun. We’re French, our cats are like family; and the fun aspect is about having fun and playing 
with the animals and making sure that the pets are happy.

What is a typical day for you?

I go to the boutique and meet with the team — we have eight staff working either in the store or in our mobile pet grooming van. 
I’m working on a new website at the moment, plus there is admin work. What I like most is seeing a client’s face when they pick up their 
pet and can see that it is clean and has had a really nice cut.

The staff talk the pet through the process: ‘How does this feel?’, ‘Do you like what I’m doing?’, ‘Now I’m going to cut your hair’ and so on. It works
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What’s the worst part of pet grooming?

The trickiest part is washing cats. My groomers are good and I actually wondered when we first started if they maybe had some way of sedating them, but they don’t — it’s just a skill they have.

Are you seeing any strange styling trends?

Some people want their pets’ accessories to follow whatever is on-trend for that season. One thing we keep seeing – and it’s one that we don’t follow — is that some pet groomers keep doing the same cuts on certain breeds, but it is not right for that breed. A Rhodesian Ridgeback, for example, will have some curly hairs along the spine, and some people just cut these off – but if you do things like that, you lose these breed specifics. We try to look at the cuts that are being done in the US, which is quite advanced when it comes to this, and find the cuts that best respect the breed.

You say on your website that the team are ‘pet whisperers’ – what does that mean?

A lot of people who have rescued pets are finding that the animals are very timid because they were beaten, and they are very scared of men in particular. When they come to us, the groomers, who are Filipino, speak in Tagalog, and they whisper to them while they are grooming to keep the animals calm. I asked them what they were saying and they said they’re basically just gently talking the pet through the process, ‘How does this feel?’, ‘Do you like what I’m doing?’, ‘Now I’m going to cut your hair’ and so on. And it works.

What was the smelliest dog you came across?

There was a guy who came whose dog was so smelly that it needed three full shampoos and showers to get the smell out. Another thing we see quite a lot is when people bring in their dogs after they’ve been to the beach. They sometimes come in wet with seawater and full of sand and salt and that can be a challenge.

What’s your top tip for getting rid of dog smell?

You just have to keep at it, really. We use a special home-recipe shampoo and the main thing is to keep showering until they are completely clean before we start cutting hair.

Is there a breed of dog you don’t like?

No. Occasionally the owner of the pet can be a problem, but not the pet itself.

Are you ever able to spot medical problems when cleaning a pet?

One of our groomers spotted a tumour under a dog’s skin and told the owner to go to the vet, which he did, but unfortunately it was too late. We also see when dogs are losing too much hair compared to what would be normal, or if the nails are broken – which can indicate a nutritional problem.

When we do a full grooming service we clean the teeth and we clean the ears and we can sometimes see problems, and we also do medical baths to treat eczema and also to get rid of things like fleas and ticks. The record we ever saw was 100 ticks on one dog.

Do owners often try and pull out ticks themselves?

They do, and they often do it wrong. You have to first get the tick in a ‘sleeping’ mode, which is what the medical bath does, and then you have to twist it out, like a screw, and there is a special tool for it. If you do it wrong, you leave the head of the tick in the animal’s body and it can become infected and it can lead to disease.

Finally, what was your funniest day at work?

We had some Pomeranians boarding here and they were dancing dogs – they would suddenly stand up and start to dance, and it was the funniest thing ever. I watch the video I took of them if ever I’m feeling a bit down and it cheers me up straight away.