finding a groomer

DON’T just open the phone book and pick the first groomer you see. DO some research to ensure you select a well-run salon that’s right for you and your dog.

Cathy took her Shih tzu to a new groomer recently, but was less than happy with the results. “They nicked Tinker’s skin in one place when they were clipping him,” she says. “They also didn’t listen to my instructions, and his coat ended up shorter than I wanted it. Needless to say, I won’t be taking him back there.”

Cathy’s experience isn’t unusual. As with anything else in life, there are good and not-so-good groomers, and finding the right one means taking the time to visit a few salons, meet with the groomer/s, and ask some questions. Here are some points to consider, and things to look for or avoid, before you make your dog’s first appointment.

1. Ask to tour the salon before making a commitment.

Is it well-operated and organized, or chaotic, hectic and noisy? Make sure it’s clean. This minimizes the odds of your dog contracting skin infections or other contagious diseases.

2. Ensure the groomer is properly educated.

She should be able to answer questions such as how often a dog should be bathed, or why the nails should be trimmed, and give expert advice about things like shedding, etc. If a groomer responds to such questions evasively, beware! It may mean she does not have the expertise to ensure a positive and safe grooming experience for your dog.

3. Ideally, groomers should be certified.

Some states require by law that grooming facilities be licensed, and groomers certified. This is an important distinction. Certified groomers must pass both written and practical exams given by accredited grooming schools. This qualified individual will confidently demonstrate the proper and safe use of sharp grooming instruments like clippers and scissors on wiggling animals.

4. Check to see what kinds of products the salon uses on dogs.

High quality shampoos, conditioners and rinses that are as gentle and natural as possible are preferable to harsh, commercial, chemical-laden ones.

5. Ask how long the grooming establishment has been in business.

Find out if it’s licensed to operate within your state. Is it a member of the Better Business Bureau or any other comparable accredited business watchdog organizations? Read company reviews and talk to other clients. Word of mouth referral is the best advertising and truly the best compliment a company can receive.

6. Some medical training is always an asset in a groomer.

She should show an interest in discussing your dog’s breed, age and general health. Each breed possesses a distinctive temperament and a unique set of potential health issues, and grooming approaches will vary depending on these. Common health issues that could affect how your dog is groomed include hip dysplasia, disc disease, seizures or ACL infirmity, as well as skin problems, allergies, asthma and others.

The groomer should ask you for a list of any pre-existing medical conditions or sensitivities specific to your dog. This health information is extremely crucial should an emergency occur while your dog is in the salon’s care.

By going over this list, you and the groomer can determine whether or not she can accommodate your dog’s physical limitations or requirements – and use the proper procedures to keep him safe during an emergency. Some medical background can also allow her to inform you of possible health concerns spotted during the grooming procedure.

7. If your dog is the anxious type, ask what the groomer can do to calm his fears.

A good groomer knows how to soothe a dog’s anxieties using positive reinforcement and natural remedies.

a) Some grooming salons have multiple people handling each dog during the process. Others offer a one-on-one service where a single groomer handles your dog exclusively. The latter might be more desirable for the anxious canine.

b) Look for a salon that doesn’t use cages. This creates a less stressful environment for the dogs.

c) If you feel your dog is going to be anxious no matter what, you may want to consider a mobile grooming service. This way, he doesn’t have to leave the familiar surroundings of your home.

8. Research the salon’s pricing structure.

Many grooming establishments offer standard services such as bathing, clipping and nail trimming, as well as teeth brushing, ear and paw pad cleaning, and anal gland expression. These services may be charged as all-inclusive packages or a la carte. In the latter case, for instance, teeth brushing may not be included in package pricing, but is offered for an additional fee. Some shops charge extra for incidental items such as choice of shampoo. Also find out whether rates increase for cases of extreme matting, or if the dog is at risk of biting or displaying other aggressive behavior.

9. Consider your personal observations and feelings about the groomer.

Are you comfortable talking to her and asking questions, or does she seem rushed, distracted, disorganized or impatient? How does she interact with clients, dogs and fellow workers? If you feel uneasy about anything, chances are your dog will too.

10. Watch your dog following a grooming session.

If he seems nervous or lethargic, or suffers from diarrhea for a couple of days, this indicates he is over-stressed. Talk to the groomer about it, and ask what she can do about it. If she has no solutions, switch groomers.

When you take your dog to the groomer, you want to know that he’ll be well cared for, and that when you go to pick him up, he’ll be looking and feeling his best. By taking these suggestions into consideration, you can ensure you make the right choice for him.