Not all dogs need to go to a groomer regularly. But all breeds can enjoy grooming, even if it’s just a wash and tidy up. Certain breeds, however, need regular grooming. If you don’t have the time, skill or inclination for that, then you’ll need to find a groomer. Good groomers are often booked up weeks in advance, with owners booking their next appointment as they leave. So it’s worth thinking about even before you get your new dog!

So how do you make sure that you choose a good one and that the process is enjoyable for you and your dog?

Firstly, talk to other dog owners in the area

Particularly if they have the breed that you are interested in. Word of mouth is a great way to find out about groomers in your area. Ask at your vets as well, to see if there is someone that they recommend or work closely with. Most groomers will have a website or Facebook page so you can see if you like the style of their clips and check out reviews.

Decide your budget

There will be price differences depending on where the groomer is located. A groomer working in a shed or pod in their garden may have lower overheads than a high street salon. If price is important to you, it’s best to establish this up front.

If you are after a breed standard cut…

Then seek out a groomer who works with lots of that breed. All groomers have clips they do more often or have favourite breeds. So work with someone who has a particular affinity with clipping your dog as you want them to look.

Check their qualifications

There are many grooming qualifications, but some of these are online courses where the graduates have never handled, clipped or even washed a dog. So check out the experience of the groomer you plan to use. The most recognised qualifications are City & Guilds level 3, OCN level 3 and the ICMG qualifications, all of which involve practical elements in their examinations. 

Consider your dog’s temperament

If you have a nervous, or highly strung dog, then taking them to a busy salon probably isn’t the ideal for them. A mobile groomer, or someone who comes to the house would be better, as they are in familiar surroundings and haven’t had the stress of a car journey, or an unfamiliar place with lots of new smells, sights and sounds. 

If you are leaving your dog at the groomers, check how long they will be there for. Some groomers will admit dogs for several hours and keep them in cages between elements of grooming. Others will groom a single dog and expect you to come back straight away to pick them up. Make sure you know when you are expected to return, or roughly how long you will be leaving them for. 

If you have a new puppy…

Then you should start grooming them at home as soon as you get them. Acclimatise them to being brushed all over, cleaning their teeth, checking their eyes and ears, and picking up their feet and wiping them with a towel. This is really important as it will make things less stressful for them. And much easier for your groomer (and vet) when the time comes. 

For a puppy, pick a groomer who offers puppy sessions. Book them in as soon as they have had their vaccinations and are allowed outside, as this will help them learn to enjoy going. Most groomers will offer a puppy groom or a set of puppy packages. This is designed to get your little puppy used to and desensitised to (relaxed about) grooming before having a full cut. Groomers want your dog to enjoy themselves and be happy during a grooming visit. Waiting until puppies are 6 months or older can make it more stressful for the dogs. This is because they have not experienced the grooming salon during the critical socialisation period.

Listen to your groomer and ask them if there is any homework you should be doing before sessions. Groomers will give you feedback if there is anything you can do at home to help desensitise them to being groomed. 

If your dog has aggressive tendencies, be honest with your groomer. 

They won’t turn you away or ban you, it just means they will probably take things slower, with a muzzle on standby to keep everyone safe. 

If you have an adult dog who becomes very stressed or aggressive at the groomers, talk to your groomer and your vet about what can be done to help them. A mild sedative, administered at home, may allow grooming to take place when your dog is calmer. Sometimes several short sessions are needed with a nervous dog to acclimatise them to grooming, and the groomer must work slowly to build trust.

Other dogs are so worried or defensive that they must be deeply sedated at a veterinary surgery to be clipped. But this is rarely ideal for the dog or the veterinary staff and will work out expensive for you. So it is best avoided if possible. There is also a small risk with any anaesthetic or sedation, so if that can be avoided then it is better for your dog. It’s better to spend time working with a vet and groomer to solve the problem for the future, by training and re-educating your dog. 

At the end of the day, grooming is a partnership between you and your groomer

Like all partnerships, it is far more successful if you both work together to make this a happy and rewarding experience for all three of you – primarily your dog, but also you and the groomer too. 

If you are not sure, ask. Both groomers and vets are happy to talk things over to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for your dog.

With thanks to Kiera Gould Thomas, groomer, for advice.

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