Finding the right dog groomer for your pup can be daunting. Of course, your first priority should be keeping your dog happy and healthy. But beyond the basics, you want to find a groomer that understands and works well with your dog. Ideally, your relationship with a groomer is a long term one. The thought of such a big commitment can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are some simple steps for scoping out groomers, making your final decision, and ensuring that your pooch is getting the best care possible.
- 1 1. Decide what level of service you’re looking for.
- 2 2. Ask your friends where they groom their dogs.
- 3 3. Ask your vet.
- 4 4. Verify Professional Credentials
- 5 5. Talk to the Groomer
- 6 6. Let the Groomer Talk to You
- 7 7. Take a Look Around
- 8 8. Understand Fees and Pricing.
- 9 9. Make Sure the Groomer Can Meet Your Needs
- 10 10. Observe Your Dog.
- 11 11. Consider A Mobile Grooming Service
- 12 In conclusion
1. Decide what level of service you’re looking for.
Different groomers have different levels of training and offer different services. Are you just looking to get your dog’s coat trimmed? Or are you looking for bathing, trimming, nail care, ear cleaning, dental care, and manual expression of anal glands? In some states, groomers cannot perform manual anal gland expression.
Even in places where they are allowed, a groomer must be able to tell when a dog’s anal glands are impacted and should not be touched. Most groomers also offer flea and tick treatment. Deciding what level of care you want for your dog depends on what your dog needs.
These requirements can vary based on the breed, age, and individual characteristics of your pet. Likewise, it doesn’t hurt to think about what routines you’re willing and/or able to take care of yourself. Almost all dogs require regular bathing, brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning.
Long hair breeds require regular trimming, and in addition have coats that can be prone to matting. Certain breeds like poodles, Shih tzus, and cocker spaniels have associated cuts that only grooming professionals can pull off. Hopefully you already know what sort of care your dog needs, but doing a little extra research never hurts!
2. Ask your friends where they groom their dogs.
When it comes to finding the right groomer, word of mouth can save you a lot of work. Relying on your community of fellow dog-lovers lets you cut straight to the chase. Love the way your neighbor’s dog looks? Ask where they get their grooming done. Have a friend who treats her bichon frisse like a human child?
See what groomers she trusts with her precious furbaby. Finding out which groomers are safe and reliable and which groomers are not can go a long way on your search for the right doggy salon. Friends can also give you information on a groomer’s background, personality, prices, and other clientele—all factors you’ll want to take into account as you shop around for the best possible grooming professional.
If you have a breed that requires particular attention—a Shih Tzu, say, or a cocker spaniel—looking around for owner communities in your area that can point you to groomers specializing in the needs of a particular breed can go a long way in your initial search.
3. Ask your vet.
Most vets know which groomers to trust and which to avoid. They see the aftermath of poor grooming practices, after all. In addition, vets know what groomers work well with different breeds, various medical conditions, and assorted emotional disorders. Consequently, they can tailor their recommendations to the specific needs of your pet. Furthermore, they can give you advice on what to ask and what to look for when it comes time to interact with your top choices of groomer.
Make sure to ask about special considerations you should keep in mind based on your dog’s breed, age, and specific medical conditions. Also, make sure to ask about symptoms you should be wary of in other dogs. Some vets might even be able to clarify your local grooming regulations and give you guidance on what training and certifications to ask potential groomers about.
4. Verify Professional Credentials
Although licensing requirements vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to do some research on what the law requires of groomers where you live. Even if your state doesn’t require dog groomers to be licensed, most groomers should still have a certification from a grooming school.
Certified groomers receive standardized training on various things, depending on what courses they take. Some are trained only in trimming and clipping a dog’s coat, while others have taken courses on styling, nail care, and flea/tick removal. One of the most underrated (and most important) educational experiences for a groomer is a background in or understanding of veterinary medicine.
Numerous conditions such as hip dysplasia, seizure disorders, asthma, skin conditions, and allergies can make safely grooming a dog much, much more challenging. Making sure your groomer is educated in handling these conditions can help keep your dog safe. Additionally, medical training means that a groomer can spot lumps, growths, or infections as they go over your dog’s coat. A good groomer will always be on the look-out for such things, as well as make sure to ask for a list of your pet’s pre-existing conditions.
Beyond a groomer’s education, certifications, and background, there are also professional organizations that groomers can join as a testament to their skill. The National Groomers Association of Canada, or NGAC, and its U.S. counterpart, the National Dog Grooming Association of America or NDGAA, are two of the largest and most reputable.
The latter group even offers special certifications like that of ‘master groomer’ which require both written and practical tests. Furthermore, membership in a professional organization tends to indicate that a groomer is committed to keeping up-to-date with the latest advancements and trends in their field. Consequently, such people are more likely to be using the latest, safest techniques and tools on their clients.
5. Talk to the Groomer
It’s a good idea to get to know the groomer you’ll be working with before you take your dog to them. Be sure to ask any questions you think are pertinent when it comes to your furbaby. How long has your establishment been in business? What kind of training do you have? Did you study at a school or apprentice with an older professional? Do you carry liability insurance? What ethical standards do you bring to your work?
Are you willing to give dogs non-standard haircuts (a poodle-poof on a Shih Tzu, for example)? How comfortable are you working with older or more temperamental dogs? Ask about their experience with your dog’s breed, the most difficult client they have ever had, and if they can put you in contact with their current customers. Ask how they respond to dogs that act anxious or aggressive while getting groomed.
“Some dogs just need a little tough love,” or anything in that vein is definitely not what you want to hear. Figuring out what strategies a groomer has for dealing with anxious dogs is particularly important if you have an anxious dog. Ideally, a groomer’s answer will involve gentle treatment, breaks in grooming for anxious pooches, pleasant distractions and rewards, and built in stops for overstimulated dogs. Look for someone that seems committed to giving your canine the least stressful experience possible. Gauging the groomer’s experience and reliability is key, here. After all, you wouldn’t want to entrust your pup to just any pair of clippers!
6. Let the Groomer Talk to You
It’s a very good sign if a groomer has questions for you. You’re the customer, after all, and conscientious professionals will want to make sure you get what you’re looking for. She should also have lots of questions about your dog. Age? Breed? Sensitivities? Medical history?
Has the dog ever been to a groomer before? Do they have any injuries or painful conditions? Arthritis? Allergies? How are the dog’s senses, particularly eyesight and hearing? Dogs with dulled senses tend to be more anxious. Are there body parts your dog is particularly sensitive about? Are they crate trained? How do they do with other dogs? With new people?
7. Take a Look Around
Scope out the place where your pet is going to be groomed. What products will the groomer be using on your pet? Ideally, the answer will involve gentle, high quality grooming products without too many harsh or non-natural ingredients. Do things seem clean? Do the other dogs seem healthy?
How are the tools cleaned or stored between uses? What vaccinations are required before the groomer will work with clients? There should not be any foul odors or sick animals. If there are, run the other way. Contagious diseases like mange and kennel cough can spread like wildfire at poorly kept grooming establishments.
Note how many people are involved in the grooming process. Does the same person bathe, trim, and dry? Or do many different people handle dogs as they make their way through the grooming process? Does the salon use cages? Crates are fine, so long as your dog is comfortable with that.
If not, you may want to find a groomer that doesn’t use cages. Similarly, watch out for places where pooches are cage dried. Cage drying is a process where dogs are placed in enclosures and dried by having hot air blown around them. It’s easy for dogs to overheat and become dehydrated when subjected to this method. Older dogs have even been known to go lame.
Similarly, if you have a pug, bulldog, or other flat nosed breed make sure that any groomer you’re considering knows not to use a cage dryer on flat nosed breeds, as it can cause them respiratory distress. Despite these dangers, a well trained and conscientious groomer can use cage dryers properly. For most dogs, however, the use of a hairdryer and brush to table dry a wet coat is far superior.
You should also make not of how aggressive dogs are dealt with at the salon. No dogs should be given sedatives under any circumstances. Similarly, some groomers might use a ‘grooming noose’ to restrain dogs on the grooming table. That’s fine, but make sure that groomers aren’t leaving dogs alone in the noose for any amount of time.
There should also be a pre-set limit on how far the noose can tighten, so that struggling dogs are simply restrained and not choked. Grooming muzzles may sometimes be necessary for the sake of safety, but as muzzles also interfere with a dog’s panting, you should make sure that your groomer uses them carefully and judiciously.
A muzzle should not be on a dog for much longer than fifteen minutes at a time. If you see a groomer leaving a muzzle on a dog for longer than that, you might want to take your canine companion to someone else. Finally, when your dog is getting groomed, it should not be a requirement that the pooch leave your sight. Ever.
If a groomer is good, they have nothing to hide. They’ll be willing to perform all of their work in front of you. Some groomers might point out that an owner’s presence makes the dog more likely to act up, but if they’re patient and willing, such a problem can be worked around.
8. Understand Fees and Pricing.
A good groomer will clearly label how much they charge for what. That doesn’t mean, however, that the special package pricings and various options can’t get confusing. Most groomers will offer at least a few service bundles for less than the price of those individual services. But lower prices don’t necessarily mean you should pay for what you don’t need.
Understanding a groomer’s pricing structure is essential. Exactly what services are included in the basic package? In the premium? What services are available individually? How much do they cost? What extras might you want for your pooch? Does the groomer charge extra for double coats? For heavy matting or aggressive behavior? Be sure to think about what services your dog needs to be happy and healthy, what you’re willing to pay for, and what a given groomer is willing to do.
Ask the groomer what they think your dog will need, and what they are willing to do. Ask about dog-sitting fees and kenneling fees, and if such charges are in play, either make sure you’re willing to pay them or don’t be late to pick up your pooch. Finally, make sure that you settle on an exact list of services and prices with the groomer before any clippers or scissors come out. That way, you can save yourself hidden charges and unpleasant surprises when you finally do receive your bill.
9. Make Sure the Groomer Can Meet Your Needs
Similarly, it is important to make sure that any groomer you settle on is willing and able to meet your pet’s grooming needs. It’s a good idea to discuss in depth what you want from the grooming session. Do you simply want a trim to keep Fluffy from dragging her belly fur through the mud? Or do you need a full-on bathe and style because Fido is about to make his runway debut? Does your pet have any special conditions?
Does the groomer know how to deal with said condition? Is she willing to do so? Do you have a snappy, anxious, or aggressive dog? Do you have a dog that mixes badly with other canines? Getting a sense of how a groomer might react to and manage such situations, as well as letting her know about your pet’s peculiarities, is essential if you’re going to entrust your dog to her expertise.
10. Observe Your Dog.
Be sure to watch your dog closely after her first appointment with a new groomer. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior when you first pick her up from the appointment, but continue to be vigilant for several days afterwards, as well. Stay on the lookout for cuts, injuries, or any signs of undue stress. Unusual shyness and aggression, or more physical signs of stress such as hair loss and diarrhea, can all be signals that you need to continue searching for the perfect grooming professional.
11. Consider A Mobile Grooming Service
If you can’t find a traditional groomer that meets your needs, consider trying a mobile groomer. These services tend to be slightly more expensive, but the advantage is that your dog can be groomed in an environment with which she feels both familiar and comfortable. As an added bonus, home grooming tends to be much more convenient for dog parents, too!
while you should be thorough when selecting a groomer, the process doesn’t have to be daunting. Ask questions, keep your eyes open, and be picky! Remember that it’s absolutely all right to keep shopping around until you find a groomer with whom both you and your pooch feel comfortable. Don’t settle for someone you don’t feel safe entrusting your dog to. Finally, if you can’t find a traditional groomer you like, consider springing for a mobile grooming service and allowing the clippers to come to you!