Does your dog like to be groomed? Or is this a time you dread? Have you got the kind of dog that tangles itself into knots the second you have put the brush down, or perhaps you are not tempted to clip by yourself? Maybe your dog has had a scary experience at the groomers and you aren’t sure what to do next.
Emma Jones shares her views and tips on finding yourself a really good groomer, one that you can trust your beautiful dog with and feel safe in the knowledge that their welfare is at the forefront. This is an excellent blog – thank you Emma for taking such time and effort to share this all-important knowledge which I am sure will help many dogs and put owners’ minds at rest. If you are reading, please share the link, or the information, far and wide.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
How do you find a good groomer?
by Emma Jones
‘I am a qualified puppy trainer and former dog groomer and recently it was brought to the attention of Karen and I that dog owners struggle to find a good groomer. Some owners and their dogs have been so traumatised by a bad experience with a groomer that they prefer to groom their dogs themselves. In an age full of health and safety and where animal welfare is huge on the agenda for professionals and the public alike I find this appalling! Dog grooming is not all pink poodles and show dogs, groomers earn their money by grooming pets and it is more about welfare than it is aesthetics…or so it should be.
So how do you know which are in it for the money and which a true professionals? Here are some tips:
Word of mouth – This is how groomers find most of their clients so ask friends or family for a recommendation. If you don’t have many doggy friends or family ask on your facebook page or join a pet forum. It takes years to build a good reputation but only one unhappy customer to ruin it.
Price – £10 for a full groom sounds like a bargin! Right? Wrong, you really do get what you pay for. If a groomer is advertising so cheaply they are either a student looking for practice or even an experienced groomer seriously undervaluing themselves. But more often than not it is someone who wishes to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time without putting in any real care or passion for their customers. I call these types of groomers ‘conveyer belt groomers’.
When choosing a groomer, depending on your location, expect to pay around:
£8 – £25 for a bath & dry for smaller dogs
£25 – £50 for a bath & dry for medium dogs
£50 and upwards for a bath & dry for large dogs
Even if you own a Labrador, depending on the behaviour and coat condition of your dog expect the cost to be around £30. It takes a lot of physical strength to just bath & dry a Lab, plus if you’ve ever had Labrador undercoat sticking to your face, getting in your eyes and going up your nose you’ll know how bad it smells!
In the time it takes a groomer to bath & dry your Labrador they could have done two or even three Yorkshire Terriers for more than double your £30 and saved their back that day too.
Full groom prices usually start at around £25 for small dogs and this will include a bath, dry, clip, scissor finish, ears cleaned, nails cut and extras such as perfumes, bows and bananas.
Groomers are not always having fun playing with dogs (occasionally you do get to!), it’s serious business with overheads and wages to pay. The price reflects the groomer’s skills, the quality of their shampoos and how many dogs they get through a day. The more it costs the less dogs are going through the doors, meaning that groomer is probably spending extra time and attention with each dog so they can do a good job for your money.
Qualifications & Experience – This is not necessarily a sure fire way of finding a good groomer because in an industry that has no regulating body anyone can set up as a groomer. However a groomer that boasts this qualification and that qualification, this award at a competition and that award at a competition and how ever many years experience, is telling you they are worth their salt, have seriously learnt their stuff and are constantly improving their skills.
Customer Service – A good groomer will always listen to your needs as long as they are within reason. For example, a Poodle trim on a Border Terrier is just not possible. Groomers are not mind readers so if you’re not happy, you can always ask for more or less off next time. Good groomers really do want you to be happy because they take pride in their work and don’t want to lose you as a client. A good groomer will discuss exactly what you want and may even have a portfolio of photos to give you both a better idea of the desired outcome.
On a serious note nails can only be trimmed down so far or otherwise the groomer would cut the quick, which is a collection of nerve endings and blood vessels that bleed if cut. If your dog has a few matts (large dreadlock like knots) your groomer will have to remove those with clippers and then blend the rest of the hair to even it out as much as possible. If your dog has a lot of matts the groomer will need to clip most of the dog short. Trying to brush matts out would be extremely unfair on the dog, take a lot of time, cost more for you and put a lot of strain on the groomers body too.
It is not a sign of a bad groomer if they feel they must clip the dog short despite what you want for your dog and most will provide you with a disclaimer to read and sign before it is done. It is not the fault of the groomer if a client has failed to brush their dog regularly enough to prevent matts.
Grooming at home – continuing the good work
A good groomer will show you how to brush your dog correctly with the right tools. If your dog has issues with being groomed and handled a good groomer will have attended seminars (and have evidence of attending) and spoken to behavioural professionals so they can get your dog groomed stress free for all involved. As when choosing a good dog trainer, does the groomer proposing the plan of action say things such as ‘food rewards’ and ‘positive association’? They would discuss issues with you and then have your dog at the salon for socialisation, play and groom sessions going as slow as necessary so that over time, your dog would learn that going to the groomers is fun. There would be extra costs involved for you with this but your dog would be much happier.
Some owners wish to stay with their dog while they are being groomed. Some dogs will relax and be reassured by their owner’s presence. Some will not stand still as they are slightly apprehensive but mainly excited that their owner is near by. Some will become more stressed because their owner is in sight but not within reach. A good groomer will let you have a look round, talk you through the process and equipment and let you stay for the groom providing it is in the dog’s best interest.
A salon that runs with an appointment only policy means that the groomer has given themselves an amount of time with each dog so that again, each dog is being given a lot of attention so that the job is done properly. This way means that only a limited number of dogs are in the salon at one time so no one is overwhelmed by having to be groomed surrounded by other dogs they don’t know.
Puppy Visits – Socialisation is important for all puppies but grooming and going to the groomers is often forgotten until the dog is a complete fur ball. Dogs don’t usually get clipped until they are around 6 months old but it is vital that they visit the groomer as soon as they have had their inoculations so they get used to the environment and process.
A puppy visit will involve the puppy having a good play about the salon and with the groomers. They will then have a bath slowly and gently, be towel dried as much as possible and then dried with one dryer as close or as far away from the puppy as he or she is comfortable with. Then they will have a little trim and have another play if they aren’t too tired after all the new sights and experiences. A good groomer will discuss all this with you and make sure the pup isn’t too overwhelmed.
Equipment – A good groomer will use good quality shampoos and always be on the look out for new and interesting products and will be very keen to discuss this with you. Anything can be an allergen; anything can cause a reaction so even a good shampoo can cause irritation. An allergic reaction would make itself known within 24 hours, not two weeks after the visit. A good groomer would be horrified to know their shampoo caused a reaction and would want to put it right.
Clipper blades can cause irritation and cuts but this shouldn’t occur often especially if the blades are clean and being used properly. Cuts from scissors can also occur as these are very sharp and being used on a living creature with a mind of its own but a skilled groomer would prevent this from happening as much as possible and it shouldn’t be happening every time your dog visits the groomer.
Finally, please help your groomer! As I’ve mentioned above, a coat in bad condition is not the fault of the groomer. Brushing is the responsibility of the owner and if you brush properly and regularly at home this will help your groomer give your dog the style you want. It will also mean your dog will be much more comfortable and happier and you will find less hair about the house.
Clean up your dog’s eyes and back end regularly and practice body checking your dog too so your dog gets used to being handled. Feel all over the body, feel through the coat and check the skin, have a look at the eyes, ears, nose and paws. This will also help you to spot anything out of the ordinary and get it treated promptly. And remember, always praise your dog for good behaviour with your voice and treats.
(Special thanks to Watt-A-Dog Groomers Forum, Heather Bulfinch and Jo Pay.)
Image: (‘Beautiful Coco came for her first pamper! Such a sweet angel with an ever wagging tail and happy to settle in her carrier with a chew afterwards’. Chinese Crested by Susan Gardner at Mutley Makeovers dog grooming salon in Polesworth, Warwickshire)