What to Look for in a Dog Groomer
What This Article Covers
Just as we establish a regular hygiene regimen for ourselves--showering, brushing our teeth and hair, trimming our nails, etc.--our dogs need a grooming routine. Grooming includes basic tasks, like brushing and bathing, as well as more demanding tasks, such as cutting or trimming your dog's coat, clipping your dog's nails, and cleaning your dog's ears, just to name a few.
Proper grooming is important for Fido for many reasons. First, it makes him feel good and helps keep him healthy--just the way showers and haircuts keep us healthy and clean. Second, infections, lumps, cysts, and other skin or health issues are often discovered during a thorough grooming session, and can then be addressed by your veterinarian. Third, it helps decrease the risk of parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and other undesirable pests, that can harm your dog's health and make him uncomfortable.
Some grooming tasks, such as brushing and bathing, may be done at home, and can provide an excellent way for you to bond with your dog. Other, more involved tasks, may require a professional groomer. A professional groomer may be in order if your dog:
- requires an involved haircut or shave that you are not equipped or trained to produce.
- has severe mats that require clipping or shaving.
- needs a flea or tick bath.
- needs a medicated bath.
- needs a bath to remove skunk odor.
- is difficult to groom due to behavior concerns, anxiety, etc.
- requires a seasonal trim or shave.
- cannot be groomed by you due to limited time, tools, experience, or physical capability to groom your dog on your own.
If any of the above reasons apply to you or your dog, seeking the services of a professional groomer is likely a wise decision. Once you have decided to hire a professional groomer, you then must find the groomer that will best serve your dog. There are several factors to consider, including education and training, experience and background, licenses and certifications, professional organizations, services and cost, and your dog's temperament, among others.
Education and Training
A qualified groomer should be able to provide proof of having attended and completed a program at a grooming school or of having successfully completed an apprenticeship with a trusted, experienced, and successful groomer. While medical training is not mandatory for a groomer, you may feel more comfortable with a groomer who has some basic medical knowledge.
For example, does the groomer you're considering know what your dog needs based on his general health, age, and breed? Did the groomer ask you for a list of health issues or medical records? What about the medications your dog takes? In addition, a groomer with some medical background or knowledge may be more likely to spot potential health issues during a grooming session.
In addition to asking for proof of training, you may consider asking questions such as: How often should my dog be bathed? or Why does my dog need his nails trimmed? Attempt to gauge whether or not the groomer can readily and knowledgeably respond.
Experience and Background
You may want to know whether or not a groomer has experience with your dog's particular breed. Is the groomer familiar with your dog's breed's health issues, temperament, behavior, etc.? Do they know how to best work with your dog's breed's coat, common skin allergies, etc.?
It can also be helpful to know how long the groomer has been grooming, or how long the grooming facility has been in business.
Licenses and Certifications
Know your state's requirements for flea and tick treatments. Some states require that groomers be licensed to administer these treatments. If your state is included, make sure your groomer possesses the proper documents. Some states also require grooming facilities to be licensed, and groomers to be certified. Find out if your state does and ask the grooming facility and groomer to see proof of licensure and certification.
Even if your state does not require groomers to be certified, you may prefer a certified groomers. These groomers must pass practical and written exams given by accredited grooming schools before they are considered proficient and ready to work with your pet. A certified groomer provides added peace of mind for a concerned pet parent.
Ask your groomer or facility if they are a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), any state grooming groups, or the National Dog Groomers of America Association. Membership in these organizations can help ensure higher standards.
Your Dog's Reaction and Your Intuition
Once you think you may have found a suitable groomer, visit the groomer ahead of time with your dog. Trust your gut, and watch your dog's reaction to the facility, as well as to the people who work there. Also, you'll want to pay attention to how the groomer(s) react to and treat your dog, as well as how happy or calm (or anxious and uncomfortable) other pets in the facility seem to feel.
Be sure to understand what services at your potential groomer cost. Ask whether package deals exist and what they include, as well as whether or not you can add services to packages and what that will do to the cost. Some facilities offer packages, while others charge a separate fee for each service. You may also want to ask whether they use certain standard products, and if there are additional charges for other, more upscale or specialty products.
Atmosphere and Location
Some facilities operate out of storefronts, while others are mobile or offer mobile or in-home options. If this is important to you, as a potential groomer about these possibilities. If you will be taking your dog to a facility, consider the duration or the drive, and whether or not dropping off and picking up your pup will be convenient.
You may also want to consider the cleanliness of the facility, and whether the work area appears well-lit. Ask yourself: Does the facility offer a friendly and welcoming staff? Do the customers-- both human and canine-- seem happy and satisfied? How are dogs and cats contained? Are they kept separate, and in large enough, well-ventilated spaces? Are pets' records on hand at all times and reviewed prior to appointments? How are pets monitored during their session for things like heart rate, over-heating, etc.?
In addition to convenience, safety, and cleanliness, ask yourself if this is a place your dog would likely feel safe and comfortable.
Products, Equipment, and Tools
Ask to see what kind of shampoos, trimmers, etc. a potential groomer uses. If your dog has known allergies, you may even want to read the ingredient labels for products like shampoos. You might also want to ask if a groomer would be willing to use your own products, such as medicated or hypoallergenic shampoos.
Asking about the products a facility or groomer uses is also important if you prefer organic products, natural products, or cruelty-free products.
If in your search for the right groomer for Fido you experience any of these red flags, we recommend you consider your search elsewhere:
- Your dog seems traumatized, anxious, or otherwise unlike himself after a grooming session.
- Your dog seems to dread going to the groomer.
- The groomer seems evasive when you ask questions.
- The groomer cannot produce any proof of license, certifications, or education.
- The groomer or facility has poor reviews.
- The groomer seems rushed.
Ask a Dog Mom
To help ease your worries about finding a groomer, we sat down with three different dog moms and their fur babies to ask their expert advice on choosing a groomer. Our three dog moms include Jennilee Green (JG), dog mom to Kensington the Cavapoo; Katie Jo Prince (KP), dog mom to Grover the Cockapoo; and Terri Moody (TM), dog mom to Sammy the Shih Tzu. We asked them five questions we thought any concerned dog parent looking for a groomer might want answers to. Here are our questions, and the dog mommas' answers!
1. What were your main priorities in looking for and choosing a dog groomer?
JG: I would say the cost has to be reasonable. It’s equally important to me that they treat my dog well! I get nervous about dogs not being properly supervised and jumping off the grooming tables, which is harmful to them. The groomers are also using sharp tools and can injure the dog if they are not careful. Lastly, I want a good-looking haircut!
KP: We wanted Grover to be in a safe environment where we knew he would be taken care of and treated like one of the groomer's own dogs.
TM: Safety, cleanliness, and price were the main factors.
What were some considerations you made before choosing a groomer?
JG: A convenient location was helpful.
KP: We didn’t want to take Grover to a chain because we knew he would be too shy and cry a lot and we wanted someone who would take care of him and be patient with him. We wanted someone he could build trust with, as opposed to having a different groomer each visit.
TM: We’ve used four groomers. We started with the groomer at our vet’s office but found it got too pricey. Then, we moved to a chain, which proved to offer inconsistent results. Then, we went to a local doggy salon. This groomer did a great job. Then, a friend referred me to a groomer who works out of her home and charges less but still does a great job. We’ve been with this groomer for about three years.
Did you tour, call, or visit any groomers in your selection process? If so, what did you ask? What were you looking for?
JG: No, but I have only gone to groomers for which I’ve received a referral or thoroughly reviewed their online references.
KP: We Found 4 The Love of Dogs, the local facility where we take Grover, in passing one day. They opened up near our home, so we decided to try it out. We took him in, let him meet the owner/groomer, and they hit it off, which made us feel at ease.
TM: No, we trusted the recommendations of friends.
What grooming services does your dog take advantage of and why?
JG: Bath and haircut. I’m not really looking for anything else.
KP: Grover gets a full hair cut about every three months, along with nail trim and expressing of his glands if they need it.
TM: Bathing and clipping of hair and nails.
What made you settle on the groomer you use?
JG: Location, affordability, and fairly consistent results.
KP: Just so happened the time we got Grover, 4 The Love of Dogs opened up about 10 minutes from us. We were some of her first customers and it is the only place we have ever taken Grover. They took Grover in and made him feel safe, and now, since they have built his trust, he does well. When we pick him up, he is happy to see us and always looks and smells great.
TM: She does a good job, her weekend appointments fit our busy schedule, and she has reasonable fees.