We’ve talked about keeping a pet’s coat healthy at home, but let’s face it: Some breeds’ grooming needs just can’t be realistically met by most owners. For example, Poodles of all sizes need regular grooming to remove dead hair and trim the coat. Spaniels, terriers, and toy dogs also often require professional grooming. While an owner can learn to groom any breed at home, most pet parents don’t have the time or the desire to learn to do so. That brings us to today’s subject: Choosing a professional groomer.
I tend to avoid chain pet stores’ grooming salons unless I know a particular groomer personally and have seen their work in the past. When starting a groomer search, the best first step is to ask friends for a referral. If you don’t know anyone who has a dog and takes it to a grooming salon, try Googling “dog groomer reviews” and your city.
Once you locate a promising prospect, pay the shop an visit. Arrive unannounced and take a few minutes to simply observe the goings-on in the salon. If you can see the kennels where dogs waiting for services are kept, check to make sure that the dogs have fresh water and are not being dried with heated dryers, which can cause heatstroke. It’s also a good sign if collars and tags have been removed and hung on the front of each kennel.
Look for a clean shop with sanitary equipment. Dog hair is normal, of course. Feces, urine, or other bodily fluids are not, and should be cleaned up immediately. The shop should also be set up so that visitors can observe the groomer at work. A good groomer has nothing to hide, and wants to show off his or her best work! Check for information readily available on the brands of shampoo used on dogs, as well as carefully selected products for sale.
Try to watch the groomer working with a dog. See how he or she reacts to it if it wiggles or whines. A groomer who snaps at dogs or immediately muzzles a dog for wiggling a little isn’t likely to be a good choice. Look for a groomer who tries to minimize stress on each dog to prevent bad behavior, rather than responding harshly when it occurs.
A good response to a wiggling dog is to redirect its attention with praise or a treat and petting, then slowly reintroduce the grooming tool that caused the wiggling, taking care not to cause pain or fear. If a dog is very fearful or aggressive, the groomer should take the time to consult its owner before continuing the groom. A groomer who would rather traumatize a scared dog to earn a fee than call the owner and ask them to make that decision is not a groomer you want working on your dog.
Make sure the groomer never, ever leaves a dog on the table. If he or she goes more than arm’s length away from the table, the dog should come along.
Finally, speak to the groomer when she or he is free to talk and won’t be distracted from a dog. Look for someone who is friendly and excited about grooming your dog. A good groomer loves their job and will enjoy talking about technique and the proper grooming style for your dog’s breed. Groomers work for themselves or on commission, so don’t expect one to take a lot of time to talk with you, but a ten minute conversation with the understanding that you’ll schedule an appointment if you’re satisfied is plenty of time to evaluate the groomer.
Finally, go with your gut. If you don’t feel right about a groomer, walk out of the shop. There are always others.