Choosing a Groomer for your Best Friend

Choosing a pet groomer for your pet requires time and patience. Although there are some similarities to choosing a hair stylist for yourself, it is more complex: you not only want to be pleased with your pet’s new haircut, you also want to be sure that your best friend’s coat and skin health needs are tended to, and your pet is well-treated while in the grooming shop’s care.

If you’ve never worked with a dog groomer or cat groomer, begin your search by asking for recommendations from pet-owning friends. You can also get referrals from the shelter or breeder where you obtained your pet. Also check with trusted pet service providers, including your boarding kennel and your vet hospital.

Visit the salonIt’s important to visit any salon in which you are interested, says Val Penstone, internationally-recognized stylist and Director of Grooming for Best Friends Pet Care.

Drop by the shop, without your dog, during normal business hours. You should not need an appointment to do this. A quality grooming shop will be happy to have you watch the groomers in action. Penstone offers the following tips for assessing the salon:

  • Observe the groomers and assistants. How do they handle the dogs? Do they interact with the animals? Do they handle them gently and confidently?
  • Look around the shop. Is it clean and well-lit? Are the grooming tables sturdy? Do the dogs and people look happy and relaxed or is everyone frazzled?
  • Ask about equipment. Many shops fluff dry coats by hand. Some compartment drying is acceptable, but check that the pet will be relaxing in a gentle flow of room temp air,. If a salon uses heat dryers on confined animals, be aware that some pets – especially short-nosed breeds and elderly animals — may be at risk to heat prostration.
  • Check health policies. Check into the shop’s health requirements. A quality grooming salon will ask for proof of vaccinations. If they don’t, your pet could bring home more than a new haircut.
  • Look at the book. A quality grooming shop will have a book illustrating work that the groomers in the shop have done for clients. You should see a variety of styles and lengths, indicating that the groomers are responsive to a wide range of customer and animal needs.

If you like what you see, now is the time to discuss the salon’s services and fees in detail. Do not expect to be quoted a firm until your pet is seen by the groomer. Without seeing the pet, the groomer will be giving a quote based upon a typical specimen in good condition. Things like tangled hair, fleas, or uncooperative behavior may lead to extra charges.

Your pet’s first visitFor your pet’s first appointment with a new groomer, schedule your drop off for an hour when the groomer can spend time with you discussing your pet’s needs and your preferences.

Keep in mind that you and the groomer may have different perceptions of what certain styling words mean. For example, how short is short? It’s important to be specific; if possible, show the groomer photos of what you have in mind.

When you pick up, inquire about how your pet responded. Don’t be offended if the groomer confides that your pet was less than angelic. Some pets can be difficult about some parts of the process, especially if they are not used to grooming. However, you need to know what problems arose. For example, if your pet is sensitive about brushing, you will want to consider a style that is easy to maintain. Or if you pet is phobic about his feet, you need to know that he may nip at someone trying to clip his nails.

If you like the results, schedule a second visit. A good groomer will keep notes and add comments to the file each time your pet visits. With time and good communication you can develop a relationship with the groomer that will benefit your pet.

Once you’ve found a groomer that you like, it’s a good idea to set up a standing appointment at regular time intervals. This will keep your pet in tip top condition, and you and your pet will become "preferred customers" with the professional groomer of your choice.

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