Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Do I Choose A Groomer?

Today's question is a little different.  No one asked me about it on Facebook.  Rather, it's one that I recently had to ask myself.  Today's question is:

How do I choose a groomer??

When I first got Cody, a Labradoodle, I didn't quite realize how extensive his grooming needs would be.  As he grew older, his hair grew longer, and his curls became much more pronounced.  It didn't take long for his coat to matt, and he was so very uncomfortable.  I realized fairly quickly that I needed a groomer.

Now then, way back when, before I worked with dogs professionally, I didn't understand how much of a difference there could be among groomers.  I went to the first place I knew that offered grooming at a fairly decent rate.  This ended up being one of the big box stores that everyone knows about.  I didn't realize that their groomers only had 2 weeks of formal training, or that they saw at least 15 dogs a day (that's per groomer and that's a lot).  I didn't understand that their prices really weren't that great considering the small amount of time they'd spend with my dog, and I definitely didn't understand how much their lack of skills would show.  When I picked up Cody, however, I knew there was something wrong.  Besides the fact that my motley, crazy dog now looked like a giant, over-fluffed marshmallow, he also seemed very agitated and overwhelmed.  He came careening around the corner and practically climbed up me trying to get away.  I hated the way he looked, and he seemed to hate being there.  So, we began the search for the perfect groomer.

Over the years I tried fancy places, small places with lots of clients, small places with only a few clients.  I tried a lot of places.  In that time, I learned a lot.  Cody really started to HATE grooming.  At one salon that I really liked (they made him look nice), Cody refused to get out of the car.  Considering the fact that Cody is often excited just to enter the vet's office (he doesn't love the vet, but he likes the building), I knew something was wrong.  At another salon, Cody was happy until we entered the building.  Then he proceeded to urinate all over the floor.  At one salon Cody was fine, but he ended up catching an infection because they didn't clean their tools properly.  Yeah, we weren't happy.  Finally, I opened the daycare.  I needed a groomer, and I wanted a good one.  One that dogs would be happy to see.  So, I learned to ask the right questions.  When looking for a groomer, make note of the following:

1) Look at the surroundings.  Are they fairly clean?  Sure, there may be hair, but it should be fairly clean of dust and dirt, and the place should be fairly tidy.

2) How much experience do they have?  Most groomers are not trained at a school, so ask about what education they do have (apprenticeship, self-taught, etc).  On top of that, how long have they been grooming?  Have they won any awards?

3) Do they know obscure grooming things?  When I first started training, I had no idea what hand stripping was (learn more about it here), but when I opened the kennel I actually had quite a few people ask me about it.  What I learned is that there are some groomers who have no idea what I'm talking about, some who have heard of it but never done it, some who have done it but prefer not to do it because it takes so much time, and then there are some who have done it, know what they're doing, and are more than willing to do it again to further the breed's look.  In my experience, this last type is worth their weight in gold.

4) Do you like them?  Chances are, if you don't like your groomer's personality, your dog won't either.  Don't stick around with someone whom you think is rude or mean or rushed.  It won't turn out well.

5) To that note, meet the groomer!  This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of places don't have you interact with the groomer.  They simply have the front desk staff help you at all times, and getting in touch with the groomer is a pain in the posterior.  So, at least once, meet the groomer.  Talk about your desires and your dog's needs.  If you decide to try the groomer, see if she/he followed your instructions.  If he/she did not, see if they're willing to try to correct the issue.  You can't regrow hair that's been cut too short, but a groomer can offer a discount on the next grooming to help make up for the error.

6) Find out where the dogs go when they're not being groomed.  A full grooming generally includes: waiting for the groomer to finish other appointments, bath, blow out, trim, waiting to be picked up.  This can last for 2 hours or even up to a full day, depending on how the appointments are scheduled.  Do dogs get a potty break?  Do they get more than one?  Some groomers work with day cares, so your dog can play in the morning and be groomed in the afternoon.  Either way, you want your dog to have ample time to stretch his legs and get a potty break.

Lastly, as with most things, ask around.  If you see a dog on the street who just looks gorgeous, don't be afraid to ask where they groom their dog.  If you have friends with dogs, ask them where they go. 

I hope this answers all your grooming questions.  If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask on our Facebook page.

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