Let's face it, some dogs require more grooming to stay looking their best, and you may not have the time or skill to do it all. A lot of people use dog groomers to help with the more difficult aspects of grooming, such as haircuts, baths, drying, and nail clipping, but if you're going to spend the money on a groomer, you should also spend some time choosing a good groomer who's right for your dog.
The best way to start a search is by asking around: talk to your friends, veterinarian, and shelters to get recommendations. You can also try asking owners you meet in the dog park -- if their pooch is looking stylish they should be happy to recommend their groomer. Once you have a short list of potential groomers, the next step is to ask some questions.
Keep in mind that groomer's schedules can be tight, so try to schedule a time to ask your questions. While you may not be able to ask about everything before your first appointment, you can learn about your groomer over a couple visits and, if needed, shift to another who better meets the needs of you and your dog.
Grooming services come in all forms, so you can't expect to get the same service wherever you go. It's important to ask informed questions and have your expectations and needs in mind.
Questions to ask in advance:
1. Have you worked with my breed of dog before?
Different kinds of dogs require very different grooming techniques. If your groomer has experience with your breed, they'll have a better approach to the process. When you go in for an appointment, you can also get a sense of how comfortable they seem handling your dog — it's important for the groomer and dog to build a bond to make the experience less stressful. Grooming is easier if your dog is calm and cooperative.
2. How is payment structured and what is included in the groom?
Grooming can be expensive, especially for larger dogs with thicker coats. Some grooming sessions may only include a haircut or wash and dry, but toe nail clipping and careful ear cleaning are important too. Before you get started, get a quote and make sure you know what is included.
3. When and where will you groom my dog?
Grooming can happen in many different locations, depending upon the groomer. Some commercial salons, often in vet offices or pet stores, require you bring your pet in, and may have a staff of groomers (so you may not get the same groomer every time). The up-side is that these often have more flexible hours to work with your schedule, and may still include experienced and qualified groomers. Other groomers are “mobile,” bringing a van or supplies to your home, which can mean added convenience for you and possibly less stress for your dog.
4. How long have you/the staff been grooming and did you go to grooming school?
Not all groomers are formally trained, but this is not a problem if they went through an apprenticeship with a knowledgeable groomer. Even if they didn't go to grooming school, years of experience can make a difference, and knowing their background can inform your decision.
5. Are you certified or a member of a local or national dog grooming association?
While there isn't a nationally recognized certification for groomers, some states require certification in flea and tick application or general grooming. If the groomer is a member of an association, they are more likely to be keeping up with refresher workshops and classes and have an interest in becoming a better groomer.
6. Can you do breed-standard grooming or accommodate my styling preferences?
If you have a pure breed, or are interested in showing your dog, your groomer search will take a lot more work. If you have special requests for the way your dog is groomed, the groomer should be able to accommodate these. While it's important to respect their judgment when it comes to health or safety issues, it's your dog, so you should be able to decide what they look like!
7. Can I come for a short tour of your facility?
You should be able to see where your dog will be groomed before you make an appointment. When you see the grooming area, you'll get an idea of how clean and well-maintained it is, see how the groomer interacts with other pets, and maybe have a chance to talk with current customers about their experiences.
8. What information do you need about my dog?
A good groomer should ask for vaccination history, and maybe even medical history to ensure that dogs coming in won't bring diseases to infect other animals. They should also ask you about any skin conditions to use the appropriate shampoo to avoid irritation.
Questions to ask during your first few visits:
9. How do you handle accidents or emergencies?
Grooming requires the use of some dangerous implements, so there is always a possibility for injury. Find out what your groomer's accident and emergency policies are, and bring contact information for your vet or pet hospital.
10. How often should my dog get a bath?
Not all dogs have the same bathing schedule: it depends on a number of factors such as age, breed, lifestyle, and medical conditions. You may already knew when it's time to go to make an appointment, but your groomer can help you set a general schedule to avoid bathing too often or getting caught with a smelly dog.
11. How much maintenance should I do at home, between appointments?
You groomer can recommend the best ways to keep Fido pretty between visits, and a little bit of maintenance at home (brushing, removing mats) may also save you grooming fees. Groomers may also be able to recommend certain foods or diets particularly good for your breed's coat.
More on Grooming Dogs
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Haircut Styles for a Westie