HER clients have bitten her, scratched her, they've even wee'd and poohed on her - but a Bowness businesswoman still insists she loves her job, writes Ellie Hargreaves.

After sitting at a computer five days a week, Carolyn Smith has swapped her marketing role for a new position as the Vidal Sassoon of the dog-grooming world.

With her recently-opened puppy parlour, Studio K9, titbits and bone-shaped biscuits look set to be banished to the back of the cupboard because the 24-year-old is offering pets the ultimate reward.

While her menu of treatments falls short of a blue rinse, Miss Smith has all the equipment and nous to give man's best friend everything from a shampoo and blow-dry to a nail-clip, de-louse and even a spritz of perfume.

She explained she decided to launch her salon when she was told by two local groomers that her Alsatian-Collie cross, Molly, would have to join waiting lists of up to three months.

"I didn't expect to be told I would have to wait so long for an appointment, so it got me thinking," she explained.

With the aid of a £1,000 start-up grant from the Cumbria Rural Enterprise Agency, the dog-lover opened her doors this August to hounds of all shapes and sizes from 13-stone Newfoundlands to tiny terriers.

"My whole service depends on the size of the dog and what they require. Obviously a long-haired dog needs a bit more attention than a short-haired breed, and the longer they have gone without a good brush or wash, the longer it generally takes to get them looking good again," she said.

"Typically it takes between one and two hours, but I have been known to spend more than six hours on a dog and some have left me absolutely drenched and with hair all up the walls!"

Armed with a ten-week training course (with the recently-named Dog Groomer of the Year, Agnes Murphy) and a certificate in animal first-aid, Miss Smith certainly knows what she is doing when it comes to her four-legged friends.

As well as offering a micro-chipping service, offering advice and knowing "thousands" of different cuts for poodles, she has happened upon illnesses and infestations that the owners were unaware of. "My main concern with this business is the welfare of the dogs I see," she explained. "Grooming benefits the dog more than people realise. If long hair doesn't get brushed, it can mat and that can end up being painful because the skin pulls tight.

"I decided when I set the salon up that I wanted to offer the dogs and their owners a nice relaxing experience like we would get in a hairdressers'. But I keep in my head that they are animals and not humans, I want them to leave the salon feeling proud, not ashamed, so I would draw the line at a pink mohican or painted nails.

"Some dogs think they have walked into the vets when they come in, and some you can tell never want to return. But most love it. In fact, the difference can be unbelievable. The dogs go out feeling really proud of themselves, you can see it in the way they walk.

"On occasion though some dogs - and particularly the males - go out feeling a bit shy. Especially if they have had a trim and are showing bits they might not have shown off for a bit!"

Miss Smith also insists that the chains and straps that hang almost sadistically from the ceiling are safety measures to prevent the pampered pooches from falling off the grooming tables.

"Lots of owners tell me that I'll never manage to groom their pets because they've never been able to themselves, but dogs relax more when they're not with the owner. And they don't try it on and kick up such a fuss if the owner isn't present while I'm at work."

With a fragrant squirt of Joop or CK One (depending on the canine's sex), Miss Smith charges between £20-£60 and, for a really dashing dog, recommends they are seen every eight to 12 weeks.

For more information, visit www.studiok9.co.uk or tel 015394-48387.