I came across an interesting article titled “10 Things Your Dog Groomer Wishes You Knew” and got me thinking just how difficult this job really is. My friend, Theresa, is a groomer and breeder of standard poodles and when I see and hear about the effort that goes into keeping these dogs, not only beautiful, but healthy inside and outside, I feel that groomers really don’t get the respect they deserve. So I started talking with some professional groomers and got even more insight on what groomers really wished their clients knew.
The following contains the 10 Things Your Dog Groomer Wishes You Knew from the Pet Adviser site, as well as information provided to me from the groomers I spoke with. I hope that dog owners will read these and have a better understanding of what a dog groomer deals with everyday and can look to find ways to make the grooming experience easier for the groomer as well as smoother for your dog.
1. Prepare Your Dog Early. Simply put, the earlier you can start handling your puppy the better. Get them used to having their paws touched for nail trims, their tails lifted for rear end grooming, etc. Older and adopted dogs can be taught that these experiences are okay with positive reinforcement.
2. Start Grooming Early. Even puppies should be introduced to the groomer- it makes for a less traumatic experience as they get older.
3. Brush Regularly. Short hair or long hair, all dogs should be brushed regularly. The goal is to avoid mats in the coat. Ask your groomer which type brush is best suited for your dog’s breed and don’t be embarrassed to ask them how to properly brush your dog to prevent mats and keep the coat healthy.
“Learning how to brush your dog is the most important way to prevent matting. Most owners mistakenly brush the ‘top coat’ and don’t go all the way down to the skin. If you can’t pull the hair apart and expose the skin easily, the dog is tangled or matted. Many owners feel the hard layer of ‘cast matting’ underneath the layer that looks brushed to them and think it is the skin. It is important to be able to get a comb through all of the dog’s hair all over its body.” – Brianna of Methuen, MA, Professional Groomer
Nice try, but they know when you have been slacking!
4. Check Feet and Ears. Keep an eye out for debris, overgrown nails, ear problems such as yeast and bacteria infections, etc. Nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks with many groomers recommending dremmel filing every 2-4 weeks as this procedure of filing will take the nail down much shorter than a standard nail clipping could while cauterizing the blood supply at the tip of the vein. Ingrown nails can cause great discomfort and misaligned gait in a dog.
5. Groom Regularly. Regular brushing isn’t enough. Bring your pet to the groomer regularly. For most breeds this is about every 8 weeks. If you keep your dog’s coat very short, you can schedule groomings about 10 weeks apart. If you have a long haired dog (about 1 1/2 inch or longer), more frequent groomings could be around every 4 weeks, with full show coats needing grooming every week.
Knowing your breed and what type of hair maintenance they will require is something that should be considered before you even get a dog. You would be amazed at how many times groomers are told things like “make my poodle not look like a poodle”- its a wonder why people would select that type of breed then!
6. Keep Calm and Carry On. Stay calm- your dog can sense your anxiety! Also, don’t drop in to see if your dog is finished as it can cause your dog to get excited and make finishing up the grooming much more difficult.
7. Be Specific. Know what you want at the beginning of the appointment. Try to avoid calling in mid-grooming and change your mind. I read many comments from groomers stating that owners will request a specific cut length then call right as the dog is being clipped to say they want it a different way! How frustrating!
A huge miscommunication between owners and groomers would have to be the dreaded “puppy cut” request. It doesn’t truly exist as a specific style but as a blanket description of a style that is one length all over. Unfortunately, many owners have very different ideas on what a puppy cut is- it’s like walking into a salon and asking for a bob. There are many variations to the bob, so unless you have a clear idea on what exactly you are looking to have done, your stylist…and your groomer…are not going to know what you want exactly.
Another misconception is when the owner says something like they want the dog’s hair “short but not shaved”, then freak out when electric clippers are brought out or blades are mentioned! Many groomers will require the use of clippers to make the hair even and to speed the process (if you have even hand scissored a dog’s haircut before, you would understand!). Clippers come with a variety of length blades to cut the hair to a certain length. Before bringing your dog in, familiarize yourself with the length you want the hair to be by looking at a ruler. Having an exact length in mind and being able to communicate that to your groomer will make it much easier for them to understand what you would like the end result to be- how long or short they need to make it.
“What I tell my clients: ‘”Short but not shaved” – I think you are confused about what tools we use. I can leave your dog relatively long depending on what blade or attachment I use, however it still will technically be a shave. Anytime I use the clippers, whether it be long or short, I am in essence shaving your dog. So lets focus on how much hair you want left on/to take off instead of the tools I use to achieve the look you want.” – Lindsay of Stroudsburg, PA, Professional Groomer
Sometimes a dog’s current coat condition will require a shorter length than you requested such as that of a very matted coat. When you have a matted dog, you have to get under the mat where the hairs are not all bound together. Sometimes their is only about 1/8 of an inch of unmatted hair separating the skin from the mat. This requires the groomer to use a blade that is short enough to safely separate the matting from the skin without cutting the dog. This leads up to #8- listening to your groomer.
8. Listen to Your Groomer. Remember, they are the ones that went through the training. They can take one look at your dog’s hair and tell you whether or not that luxurious cut you saw on the Westminster show dog would work with your dog’s coat texture and condition. If they offer suggestions, hear them out, even if you don’t settle upon their recommendation. Like an artist, they take pride in their work. They are not going to steer you wrong and will strive to make your dog look beautiful!
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Wash. If you use the right shampoo for your dog’s coat, you don’t have to worry about drying out their coat or skin. Your groomer is the perfect person to ask about which shampoo is right for your dog. Frequent washings will make your groomer’s job much easier.
10. Avoid Matting. Matted fur is probably the biggest complaint from groomers. Mats can mask other health concerns such as parasites, growths, and injuries. Groomers have found some interesting things hidden in tight mats on their client’s dogs such as twigs, a fishing hook, a penny, maggots, an earring, a spring, even a seed that sprouted!
“When hair gets knotted up, it basically becomes the same thing as a human dread lock. If you tried to brush the dreadlocks out of a person’s head, it would not only be excruciatingly painful, but it would mostly just rip out the hair and break it. There are humane techniques and products specifically for dematting, but not in extreme cases and it is still uncomfortable.”- Brianna of Methuen, MA, Professional Groomer
11. Seek Medical Care for Your Dog’s Conditions. Growths, abscesses, infections, infestations, etc are all things that a veterinary medical professional should be addressing- not your groomer.
12. Obey Your Time Frame. Be on time to your appointments and notify your groomer in the event you must cancel. And understand that when a groomer says they have “no appointments available until Wednesday”… you should not respond with “so nothing for Monday then?”
13. Tip Your Groomer. You would tip your hair stylist right? An appropriate tip percentage for a grooming should be 10-20%. Its not unheard of people giving their groomers up to 30% for a very matted or difficult dog grooming.
14. Understand that dog haircuts can cost more than your own! And for good reason! This photo pretty much says it all!
And if you still don’t get it, check out this cleverly created music video by Frazel, a dog groomer:
15. Know Your Groomer Loves Dogs. Dog grooming isn’t a get-rich profession. They do it because they love working with dogs and take pride in their work. Its a strenuous and sometimes exhausting job with heavy lifting, wrestling with uncooperative dog, bites, scratches, getting poop/pee/vomit/and who-else-knows-what on them, smelling like a mixture of wet dog and flea dip, and more. But the reward is knowing their clients will be happy in the end when their dogs come out looking fabulous! Respect your groomer- they deserve it!