Finding a decent dog groomer is a very important part to dog ownership. You’re often entrusting your dog to a groomer for hours at a time in order for them to work with nail clippers, drying cages, and dangerous shears. It can also be a scary situation for your dog, especially if they already have a fearful temperament.
Do you need a professional groomer?
Before you delve into the world of expensive groomers, first figure out if you actually need a dog groomer.
If your dog has hard to manage fur, like a long, thick coat or one that mats easily, it’s probably going to be a lot of maintenance you would have to keep up with on your own.
For example, this dog’s coat will easily mat if not brushed weekly. Its coat is thick and curly, and it only gets worse if you don’t keep up with trimming it as well.
If you struggle to get your dog in the tub or he shows aggression when you try to groom him, I’d suggest leaving it up to the professionals, otherwise it’s going to suck up a lot of your time and patience.
The last thing you want is for your dog to get hurt or start to be fearful during the grooming process.
However, if your dog has easy to manage fur, is comfortable with you grooming him, and you have enough patience and time on your hands, then you probably don’t need to hire a professional groomer.
So how do you find a good dog groomer?
Do your research
I wouldn’t recommend just googling and going to the first groomer that pops up on the list. Start with word of mouth, as that’s usually the most trusted source.
Go to friends and family who are dog owners, your dog trainer, veterinarian, coworkers, or any other pet specialist who could give you a valid recommendation. Even if you see a dog on the street with a haircut you like, you can ask the owner where they go to get their dog groomed.
People are often more than happy to talk about their dogs.
I once passed someone on the street who had a beautiful looking dog. When I asked him about his dog’s haircut, he said he regularly participated in professional dog shows and spent over $2000 a year on dog grooming alone.
Make a list
Make a list of the potential groomers you’re interested in, then look them up in the Better Business Bureau, reputable dog blog reviews, or even the National Dog Groomers Association of America.
Look for bad reviews and cross the ones with bad recommendations off your list.
Before you immediately schedule an appointment, give them a call or show up to ask them some questions.
- Do they have experience with your breed? Different breeds will need different care. For example, flat-faced dogs like bulldogs and pugs should never be put in drying cages due to breathing issues.
- Are they a certified professional groomer? Some states don’t require any certification. They could not know the first thing about grooming, pick up the clippers and say they’re a professional groomer.
- How long have they been grooming dogs for? The more experience the better. I recommend they have AT LEAST one year of professional dog grooming experience.
- Do they know doggy first-aid? If there were a pup emergency, would they be able to step in and help?
If your dog has anxiety, ask them how they would cater to that. If they don’t have any advice, I would recommend finding another groomer. If they aren’t willing to cater to your dog’s needs right off the bat, that’s a red flag.
Groomers have plenty of options when it comes to dealing with anxiety-ridden dogs, like making sure only one person handles your dog or opting out of using cages.
Take a Tour
If you called, make sure to walk in at some point before you drop your dog off to take a tour of the facility.
- Is it clean and well-lit? If they’re not taking care of their facility, there’s a good chance they aren’t taking care of their dogs. Wear white socks when you go in to check for fleas. They’ll jump around your ankles if they’re there.
- Is it well-managed? Do operations seem to be running smoothly? Are the employees treated kindly? A well-managed facility ensures you will get your money’s worth.
- Are there other dogs there? Lack of business could mean bad business.
- Are they well-taken care of? Pay attention to how the employees treat the animals, because that’s most likely how your own pup will be treated. Look to make sure the dogs left under-blow-dryers are regularly checked on.
- Do the dogs have enough room to be comfortable? Are they boarded up in tiny, confining crates?
- Do they keep medical records, like vaccinations? Unvaccinated dogs should not be allowed around other dogs.
- What kind of products do they use? Do they use harsh shampoos and conditioners loaded with dangerous chemicals? Their products should be natural and gentle enough for sensitive pups.
Before you leave, make sure you see a physical copy of the dog groomer’s certification so you know it’s valid.
Some groomers have all-inclusive packages, such as bathing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, paw pad cleaning, teeth brushing, and anal gland expression.
These could be part of a package or charged separately. You may also find some groomers have extra fees for different types of shampoos, dogs with more difficult to manage fur, or dogs who tend to get aggressive when bathed.
Check out their prices to make sure they’re reasonable enough for you to purchase before setting up an appointment.
Be wary of doing anal glad expressions with a breeder, however. In some states, it’s illegal for a breeder to offer that service and should be left up to a veterinarian to keep your pup safe.
Some groomers also might try to offer you spa treatments for your dog, like facials. But at the end of the day, those kinds of services can just be a waste of money. Dogs don’t usually like stuff on their face, and it seems more for the shop to make money since they know dog parents are intrigued by it.
Trust your gut
If you leave the facility not feeling great about your experience, don’t let your dog be groomed there.
You may have gotten a bad feeling because the employees weren’t treating the animals with love, you didn’t like the people, it wasn’t well-managed, it was dirty, or maybe you feel like your dog just wouldn’t function well there.
That’s okay! Move onto the next one. It’s better safe than sorry.
Monitor your dog afterwards
Once your dog has come home from a new groomer experience, make sure to keep a close eye on their behavior. A dog who experiences diarrhea afterwards most likely had a really anxiety-ridden experience.
Examine their body for any knicks and make sure you actually got your money’s worth.
Picture of my dogs post groomer day. Once you get into a routine, you’ll be able to tell if your dog is enjoying the experience or not. My dogs love their groomer so much, that whenever I say, “You want to go get a bath?” they flip out in excitement. And when they come home, they’re completely exhausted from socializing with people and other dogs.
At the end of the day, some dogs will always hate being groomed and some will love it. So if you have a really good feeling about your groomer, and your dog still seems anxious afterwards, next time just try to make the experience as positive as you can for him.
Some groomers won’t let you stay in the room while they’re bathing your dog, just because your presence makes him more likely to squirm and possibly get nicked. However, if you feel your presence would help calm your dog, that’s worth having a conversation about with your groomer.
If your dog is special needs or struggles with intense anxiety whenever you leave the house, you have options too.
You can look into a mobile grooming company. Mobile grooming companies base their business out of their truck. They have all the necessary tools and equipment to groom your dog right in your own driveway.
If your dog is special needs, you can try to find a special needs dog groomer. They will probably be a little more pricey, but well worth it if your dog needs the extra attention. They will cater directly to your dog’s condition, to make sure they are comfortable and happy during the grooming process.