SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers resident Debra Gittleman wanted a chic, smart and sophisticated name for her dog-grooming business when she opened in Mount Kisco a dozen years ago. “All I could come up with was a simple everyday name,” she said, “but it clicked.” The name was Reining Cats & Dogs, and it clicked with clients as well.
Customers come from as far as Manhattan to have their pets groomed or to leave them for day care. “Five or six dogs come up every day,” says Gittleman. “In some cases, we’re seeing the fourth generation of dogs since we opened our first shop in Manhattan.”
Gittleman started out as a translator for a French bank 30 years ago, but her lifelong dream of working with animals could not be stifled. One day she crossed the street to the local vet’s office and said, “If you don’t have a job for me I’ll clean kennels until you can hire me.” A week later she was on the payroll and stayed for five years working as a veterinary technician.
She applied to veterinary school but was not accepted. “There were only nine in the country at that time, and they were predominantly male,” she says. Instead, she opened a grooming shop called Pet Superette on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Soon customers were asking her to train their dogs, too. So she took seminars, studied with top dog trainers and became a certified trainer and a TTouch Practitioner. TTouch is a training method that incorporates touch, lift and movement exercises.
“Communication is the most important thing in dog-training,” Gittleman says. “The relationship works when your dog understands what you expect. Never use force and give constant positive reinforcement.”
No matter the breed, she says, monthly bathing is crucial. “Your vet usually sees your dog once a year. A groomer sees the dog monthly and can pick up on ear infections, dental issues, hot spots, skin infections and other things the owner wouldn’t notice.”
Regular grooming should start early in life, she adds, so a puppy gets used to the sights and sound of clippers, the smell of shampoo and being around other dogs. For households with multiple dogs or senior dogs, Gittleman offers a home grooming service called HoundSpa.
The most popular breed these days is the “doodle-something. The goldendoodle, the labradoodle, the cockadoodle, etcetera.” The shop sees unusual breeds as well, such as Tango, a French Brittany spaniel, and Kima, a Eurasier.
What is Gittleman’s favorite breed? “I love them all,” she says. “The only one that ever bit me was a Chihuahua.”
Reining Cats & Dogs is at 200 E. Main St. in Mount Kisco. Services include grooming, training, day care, pickup and drop-off services, and house calls. It is open Monday through Saturday.