• Hackles

How to Choose a Dog Groomer?

At the risk of annoying fellow groomers and unnecessarily worrying dog owners, I must emphasize, these are my opinions and are offered only as a guide for those dog owners who are unsure where to start when looking for a groomer and to raise awareness of the potential for poor grooming practices and ultimately poor dog welfare.

The dog grooming business has exploded - in my own area alone, the numbers of practicing groomers has doubled since I started 6 years ago. Perhaps reality TV has had a hand in the boom in fashion for high maintenance designer, cross-bred dogs with cute little faces and lots of hair that can be styled to look like a cute teddy bear. Whatever the reason, dog grooming is big business and since dog grooming is currently unregulated - yes, that’s right, unregulated - anyone can set up as a groomer.

That may not sound alarming to many, it’s just bathing a dog and using a pair of clippers to cut hair off . . . right? Well, essentially yes, but there is much skill involved in grooming a dog without causing stress, knowing how to handle a dog correctly so as not to put it at risk - accidents with scissors and clippers can be horrific - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2101379/Petco-pet-shop-sued-accidentally-cutting-puppys-ear-GLUING-on.html - dogs can’t be told to sit still like a human, they have no idea what you’re trying to do to them! Understanding behaviour, anatomy, recognising stress and illness and reacting appropriately and carrying out basic first aid are only part of the knowledge required to safely groom dogs.

Being able to turn out a beautiful haircut, is, in my opinion only part of the equation and to my mind, not the main priority. Your dog doesn’t know or care if bits of his hair have been missed or that the hair on one ear has been cut slightly shorter than the other - only you care! However, your dog does care how they were treated and will remember a bad experience for a long time, if not forever.

Owners tend to judge how good their groomer is on the quality of the haircut, how cheap they were or on availability . . . none of these things is a guarantee that your dog was or will be treated correctly. Whether a groomer is qualified rarely comes in to it - before I learned to groom I assumed everyone was trained and never considered asking a groomer if they were qualified - no one has ever asked me.

Suffice to say, when you’ve realised your dog is well overdue a groom it’s worth pausing and considering why one groomer might be offering to groom your dog for £20 when another may have quoted you double the money - it’s a cliche, but it’s likely you’ll "get what you pay for"!

Here is a list of the main questions you should consider when looking for a groomer:

1. Are they qualified? These days, being qualified (usually City & Guilds) is essential - don’t be afraid to ask or even look at their certificate - anyone can claim to be qualified and download a logo off the internet!

2. Are they fully insured? Again, don’t be afraid to ask. Though it’s uncommon, dog’s can get injured and even die whilst being groomed – a reputable groomer will have full insurance covering incidents that occur whilst being groomed.

3. What are they charging? Beware a groomer who is offering much lower prices than everyone else - it is likely they are unqualified.

4. What are you getting for your money? A full groom should always include a basic health check, nail clipping (where necessary), a bath, blow dry, styling and finishing. I know of groomers charging premium prices but who are not bathing a dog and just clipping and spraying a cologne on. This is not wrong but in order to achieve a good finish on a clip, bathing is absolutely essential and the coat must be completely dry before styling - a trained groomer would always so this.

5. What is their reputation? This is a difficult one – plenty of groomers get nasty reviews from clients hell bent on ruining a reputation when in reality expectations were unrealistic and the client was disgruntled because their dog needed shaving as it was covered in matts! A reputable groomer will always agree with you what’s going to be done and how much it will cost. If a groomer is unable to stick to the original agreement – usually the dog’s coat was found to be in worse condition once grooming began or it was too difficult to handle which hampered styling – they should inform you. Word of mouth is usually pretty reliable.

6. Have you been asked to sign a grooming consent form? This is usually a good sign and does not mean you are waiving your rights should anything untoward happen. A consent form is usually for insurance purposes and should make you aware of the risks involved in grooming - if you don’t declare underlying health problems it could undermine any insurance claim.

7. Are they part of any trade association? This is not a guarantee in itself but is a good sign that your groomer is adhering to certain standards set by a reputable body. Examples include, PIF (Pet Industry Federation), British Dog Groomer's Association.

Dog groomers are not miracle workers and in most cases will do what is in the best interest of your dog. If you have high expectations, it’s no good turning up with a matted dog or one who hasn’t seen the groomer for 6 months!

If you’ve never used them before have a few questions ready and definitely ask to look around their facilities and ask how they are going to groom your dog. Ask about any items of equipment you don’t know about - their willingness to show you around and the competence of their replies will tell you a lot. And of course, use your gut instinct - if you don’t like them or get bad vibes from them, don’t use them!

My final question is this - would you take your child to a nursery where none of the staff had any formal training, experience, or any first-aid basics? It’s only changing nappies, feeding and playing with children . . . right?

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