How to pick a Groomer and maintain a good relationship with this important member of your dog’s wellness team
Many new puppy owners wait until a first hair cut is long overdue before they begin to look for a Groomer. But finding a good Groomer can be a challenging task, so you should begin your search early on. Many breeders also groom, so if this is the case with your dog's and you live fairly close by – lucky you (and lucky them as I’m sure they would love regular visits with your dog)! If this isn’t the case, ask your breeder if they can recommend someone in your area.
Word of mouth is the best way to go when it comes to finding a Groomer. You can also ask industry professionals like Veterinarians and Trainers. I often have people ask me while I’m out walking my dog who grooms her, so don’t be shy and ask owners when you see a nicely trimmed dog as they will no doubt be flattered (as I always am).
Social media can also be a great place to search for a good Groomer near you. Many shops and stylists have Facebook and Instagram accounts where you can see their work. You can also read numerous reviews on social media pages like Facebook and Yelp. People are more likely to leave an unhappy review on a shop’s social media page so you may wish to take these critiques with a grain of salt.
Signs of a good Groomer
When it comes to looking for signs of a good Groomer, I would always trust my gut. If you’ve received good reviews about the Stylist from people you believe to be caring, responsible dog owners, then that is a good sign. Next, I would visit the shop and have a look (depending on the individual shop, you may need to call ahead before dropping in). Is their workspace clean and tidy? Does it smell good? Are the dogs being left unattended on tables and in tubs? Do the employees treat the dogs in a gentle manner and do they seem happy to be working there?
Ask the Groomer what they have learned recently. Dog styling is an art form that is forever evolving, so a successful Groomer is usually one that is a lifelong learner when it comes to their craft.
“Groomers should always be continuing to learn about grooming from new techniques to new and better products. This can be done through trade shows, seminars and competitions. This allows the Groomer to gain experience over years and find out what works best for each individual dog,” says Allison Hardie, a professional Handler and Groomer at Masterpiece Groomery in Milton, Ontario. Allison competes in grooming competitions all over the world as part of Groom Team Canada and competed in Italy at the World Championships in 2015.
How long should the process take?
Most owners lead busy lives and would like to know how long their dog’s bath and haircut will take. The answer for this varies. Christopher O’Mara is a breeder, exhibitor and professional Groomer who owns Prettypaws in Haliburton, Ontario. He says that the time it takes to groom a dog is “Extremely dependent on the dogs shape, size, coat, and temperament as well as how the Groomer runs their salon.”
“Times can vary, as well as time spent in the salon. A huge factor is the way your Groomer chooses to work on a dog, either straight through or offering breaks in between, if they are appointment based or have their dogs arrive in the morning and picked up in the late afternoon. Communicate with your Groomer so you know what to expect” recommends Nadia Bongelli. Nadia is the Head Groomer at Doggieland in Toronto, Ontario. She is a very successful competitive Groomer and will represent Canada on Groom Team Canada when they take on the World Championships in France in February 2020.
Allison Hardie also agrees. “Every shop is different. For me dogs come in at two different times, morning and afternoon. This helps with interruptions. I usually give a time when to pick-up or in some cases I call or text when finished. A dog can take anywhere from two-four hours. I know 4 hours seems like a lot of time, but some dogs need breaks.”
The key to finding out how long your dog’s haircut will take is communication. Ask the Groomer for a time frame when they expect to have your dog finished and then have them or one of their staff call or text you. Coming into the shop and waiting may delay the process as a dog who is excited to see her owner is challenging to work on.
People are often surprised when I tell them how much is costs to get my Standard Poodle’s hair cut. But when I explain that this haircut can take upwards of 4 hours and includes a bath, blowout and pedicure, the math usually begins to make sense.
Pricing varies for a variety of reasons. The condition of the coat, the size and breed of a dog, how comfortable the dog is with the process and the location of the shop are all factored into the price.
There are several different pricing structures, by breed, size, hourly, etcetera. Usually a salon will give a “ballpark” if they are quoting sight unseen or even in person. It is up to you to decide if you are comfortable with the price range.” Nadia Bongelli.
How To Be A Great Client
I asked my Groomer friends to help me put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for us clients.
* Do show up on time or slightly early.
* Do have reasonable expectations. If you can’t run a comb through your dog’s coat without hurting her, neither can the Groomer.
* Do let your Groomer know in advance if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment.
* Do follow the advice your Groomer may give regarding your dog’s grooming schedule or advice about behavioral or health concerns.
* Do mention behaviour problems. Most Groomers are willing to work with behavioural issues provided they’re disclosed up front.
* Do book in advance to avoid disappointment.
* Do value the Groomer’s time, as well as be understanding when they running behind or cannot accommodate a desired appointment time.
* Do let your Groomer know if there are any new or chronic health issues with your pet.
* Do give your dog the chance to relieve himself before his appointment.
* Don’t be late and especially without giving notice.
* Don’t bring your dog into the salon without a leash.
* Don’t ask to come in to watch the Groomer work on your pet. As mentioned earlier, this makes the process difficult for both the dog and the Groomer.
* Don’t feed your dog immediately before their grooming appointment.
* Don’t rush the Groomer.
Dog Grooming is both an art and a business. A Groomer is a professional who exists between the two. A Groomer’s goal is have you pick up a dog that looks and feels his best. With a little communication and patience, this can be a wonderful relationship for both you and your dog.