How to Choose the Right Groomer

It takes lots of careful handling to properly groom a dog, not to mention the precautions required around dangerous, sharp implements like scissors and electric clippers? A dog groomer will be bathing yourpet in soapy water and rinsing thoroughly. We surely aren't going to trust her to "just anybody".

Would you like it if you could never take a bath, clean your hair or trim your nails? Of course not! Now imagine how your dog feels? Good grooming is healthy and happy part of his life, too.

Some grooming steps like brushing can be handled at home. Performing this regularly will not only keep your dog looking good, but will also give you a chance to inspect your dog for swelling, fleas, and possible infections.

Depending on your abilities, you may also want to take your dog to a professional groomer. Short-coated dogs may only require a bath and brush, and an occasional trim of the nails. Long- and thick-coated dogs, however, may be more prone to tangles and mats. For these breeds, you may want to consider using a professional groomer. The question is, how do you choose the groomer that is right for you and your dog?

Here are basic tips to choose a professional pet groomer.

  1. Ask around. Every time a dog leaves the groomer, it is a walking advertisement. Talk to your veterinarian, your kennel manager, your neighbor. If you see a dog on the street with a style you like, stop the owner and ask where the dog was groomed. People are usually very willing to talk about their pets, especially their new "do". Some veterinary offices have policies not to refer clients to any certain groomer or breeder. Don't despair; ask more specific questions like "Have you treated any problems from this groomer, such as cuts or clipper abrasions? Have you had any complaints about this groomer?" 
  2. Call the groomer you are interested in using. Ask him/her questions. Did you go to grooming school or apprentice with a professional groomer? How long have you been grooming? Do you have much experience with (insert your breed here)? 
  3. Ask for proper certification. Some states require that groomers are licensed and certified in flea/tick applications. So ask if she or he is properly certified.
  4. Be patient. Keep in mind that groomers are usually on an extremely tight schedule. Ask him/her if they would be able to call you back to answer these questions when they have ample time to talk. It's hard to answer questions while fluff drying a dog. You should be able to develop a rapport with the potential groomer that will give you an overall impression. Hopefully it will be a good impression.
  5. Trust your intuition. Just by asking around you will be able find answers to most of your questions. Using a groomer for the first time can be a disconcerting experience. If you've done some research by asking around and then place your trust in your groomer and then see a good result ... then you can pamper yourself, too, like "Fluffy" was pampered.
Next, extra tips for you!

Why a Professional Groomer?

In our busy lives, we may not always have the time or know-how to keep our dogs looking good. Some dogs (like Cocker Spaniels) require special cuts to keep that classic look. Any dog may need to be groomed to remove multiple mats or are too fidgety for you to handle. Then there are those times your wandering dog meets up with a skunk or somehow acquires a mystery odor that home remedies just don't help. A grooming pro can help in any and all these situations. They are trained to groom your dog with a gentle hand during difficult situations and know just what to do when you need your French poodle to look like a French poodle again. However, grooming pros can't perform magic; it's up to you to stay on top of your dog's grooming needs.

Finding a Groomer

Begin by checking with friends and family. They may have someone they know well from years of experience. Your vet, dog trainer, or even your doggy daycare spot may also be able to recommend someone. You can also contact the National Dog Groomers Association (who certify groomers) through their website. If all else fails, there's always the Internet or the local phone book.

There are no requirements for a groomer to be licensed by a government agency. Many, however, are certified or registered by a local school or association (see National Dog Groomers above). To see if there are any complaints on file, call up the local Better Business Bureau.

After gathering a list of groomers, call them to check on prices for your breed of dog (they vary), different grooming packages they offer, hours they are open, etc. If they are willing, ask for a current customer to interview about their experiences.

Take a Tour of the Grooming Facility

Prior to deciding on a groomer, pay the business a visit. When you do, these are signs of a good grooming salon to look for:

  •  Is the lighting adequate?
  • Is the facility clean and free of any heavy odors?
  • Do the staff groomers handle their clients in a caring and professional manner?
  • Are the kennels for dogs and cats separated? Are they of varying sizes to accommodate different breeds?
  • Are pets checked consistently for overheating during the drying process?
  • Does the salon keep records regarding a pet's health, vaccinations, past visits etc.?

The Price of a Pampered Pooch

The price of grooming can differ due to location, breed, what services are needed (e.g., heavy mat removal will cost more), and the style of the cut. A typical fee might be $35 for a shampoo, brush, and dry, whereas adding a cut might run $5 to $10 more. Coat problems will add more to the fee. In some areas there are groomers who will make house calls with a specially equipped van. These services typically run $10 to $15 higher than a salon fee.

The Trials and Trepidations of Grooming

Your dog will probably not take to grooming naturally. Fido needs to get used to the process, something you can do long before he needs a grooming. Begin by massaging your dog all over so he gets used to being touched all over his body. Next, introduce brushing, adding a few minutes each day, and reward him afterwards. A bath and brush at home will go a long way toward getting your dog to behave for the groomer.

Before the First Appointment

First, be sure your dog has been vaccinated for rabies, kennel cough, and other infectious diseases. Many groomers will require proof of current vaccinations before they will accept your dog as a client. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered are more likely to be calmer and more tolerant of the grooming. However, if your dog is anxious or fidgety, this can make grooming hard for both your dog and the groomer. You may need to take some time and work with a trainer to help calm your dog down before a groomer will accept him.

When you schedule the grooming, let the groomer know of any extraordinary requirements your pet may have. Alerting the groomer to health conditions, such as arthritis, or sensitive areas on your dog's body can help them prepare and be cautious. If your dog is too hyperactive, check with your vet--he may recommend a sedative. Some veterinary offices employ groomers who can then monitor your pet and provide medical attention should they notice anything wrong.

Lastly, when it comes time to bring Fido in, make your goodbyes short and sweet. As with leaving home, your dog may get stressed with a long, tearful departure. When he is done, you both will take pleasure in his shiny coat and sweet smell.

source : Pet MD, Sharon Larson,

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