How to Choose a Dog Groomer

There are a whole lot of things to consider when selecting the right groomer for you and your pet.  Some questions are obvious (do you like the way your dog looks afterwards?) and some less obvious (is your groomer insured?).

Here’s what to look for…
Purpose of Groom – Family Pet or Show Dog?
There are two basic forms of grooming; pet grooming and show grooming.  It is important to note that all groomers should be able to complete pet grooms – grooms that are primarily done for ease of maintenance – while only highly skilled and specifically trained groomers are competent in show grooms – which are grooms that conform to the breed standard.  A good show groomer will charge you more for their time (rightly so) and may be difficult to find.  A good way to locate a show groomer is by contacting local breeders for a referral.


Salon Setup

One thing to take note of is your groomer’s salon setup.

Where will your dog spend its down time?

Many groomers book several dogs in the same time slot in order to groom more dogs in one day and to allow time for breaks for your dog.  These “breaks” can become highly stressful on your dog if the crates are located in isolated, potentially noisy areas. For example, I’ve worked in a salon where the crates were located in the same place where multiple dogs were being bathed and dried at once.  It was an extremely loud and stressful area of the salon, even for the groomers, and highly unsuitable for nervous dogs.

Another consideration is whether or not your groomer can easily monitor your dog. When dogs are crated out of sight from customers, they are also away from the groomer’s line of vision. This prevents the groomer from monitoring your dog for signs of stress.
Unlike human grade products, products used on dogs are not required to include a list of ingredients.  If your dog has sensitive skin or skin conditions, be sure to ask your groomer about the products they use so you can ensure that they are suitable to your dog’s needs.
Also, keep in mind, that many groomers do not use tearless shampoo on your dog’s head and face.  It seems like a no-brainer that they would, but unfortunately it’s not so.  I personally feel it’s more humane for groomers to only use tearless shampoos around your dog’s eyes.


Do you have a Bad Dog?
Some dogs HATE being groomed. They scratch, fuss, bite, and basically do anything they can to prevent the groomer from doing their work.  Many groomers will simply refuse to groom difficult dogs because it slows them down and keeps them from grooming as many dogs as possible in one day. Switching from groomer to groomer will only make the situation worse and increase your dog’s stress levels – familiarity is important for many dogs. If your dog is terrible at the groomer’s it is imperative that you find a groomer that is willing to take on  this challenge and work with your dog to improve over time.


What happens when things go wrong?

While groomers don’t like to talk about it, sometimes things do go wrong. Grooming is often more about animal handling than artistry, and animals can be unpredictable.  Combine their unpredictability with sharp scissors, and it’s clear why occasional injuries do happen.

One of the most important things to ask your groomer PRIOR to bringing your dog to them is what happens if your dog is injured?  Will you be responsible to pay for the groom? What about the vet bills?


As a side note, if your dog is ever injured in any way your groomer should inform you.  I have many customers who switched to me from other groomers because they were left to find an injury on their own.  Full disclosure in case of injury is 100% necessary as it allows the owner to monitor the injury and seek veterinary attention if necessary.
This point goes along with the one above, but it’s important enough that I wanted to single it out.  I highly recommend only taking your dog to a groomer who has professional liability insurance SPECIFICALLY designed for groomers. For example, I have a very comprehensive policy which provides me coverage if your dog is injured or even lost while in my care.

Unfortunately, the grooming industry in Ontario is totally unregulated. This means that formal training isn’t required to become a groomer, and there isn’t a governing body preventing “bad” groomers from continuing to groom.  Be leery of online reviews (both good and bad) and try to get references from someone that you know and trust.

Another option is to get in touch with a local rescue group for a recommendation. Rescue volunteers typically have a lot of contacts in the pet services industry and can send you somewhere reputable.

What does the groomer ask YOU?

When you bring your dog in for their first appointment with a groomer take note of what the groomer asks you about your dog.

A responsible groomer will take time to ensure the dog is up to date on vaccines, ask about your dog’s medical history, behavioural issues, for emergency contact numbers and for your dog’s veterinary information.

Your groomer should be someone who you can easily communicate with.  While we all get busy, you want to know that your groomer will take the time to learn about your grooming preferences and about your dog’s unique needs.  Good communication will help to quickly develop trust between you, the groomer and your dog.

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