Tips for Choosing a Pet Grooming Service
A professional session usually includes:
- A bath and a brushing.
- Nail trimming.
- Ear cleaning.
- Cleaning around the eyes.
- A haircut or cut.
- Cleaning the anal sacs, which helps prevent them from compacting.
How often your pet should be groomed depends on the breed, size, coat type and your personal standards. Professional groomers say all dogs can benefit from regular visits to help maintain their overall health. It’s a self-serving statement, but there’s some truth to it: constant grooming improves hygiene and means Fido will be checked periodically by someone who sees a lot of dogs and can spot potential health issues. . It also helps keep your pet’s coat in good condition, making appointments easier and less expensive. (With some breeds, if you wait too long, their coat may become too matted to keep, and they’ll suffer the complete shave of shame.)
How to Find Quality Pet Care Without Spending a Fortune
Groomers work in salons dedicated to pets, as well as in pet stores, boarding houses and some veterinary practices. There are also mobile operations that operate in specially equipped trucks or vans that can come to your home.
Here are some tips for finding the right groomer, at the right price. Additionally, Washington Post readers can access Checkbook’s local groomer ratings through October 10 at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/groomers.
Get references. Good sources of information include your veterinarian, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Also check out the reviews Checkbook has collected from consumers in the area. While the majority of reviews submitted for grooming operations are positive, we also receive feedback that warns of mistreatment, injured animals, sloppy work by untrained staff, and rude service.
Compare the prices. Even among highly recommended groomers, you’ll find a range of costs. We researched prices from businesses in the area to groom (including a haircut) a Cocker Spaniel and a Golden Retriever, and were offered $45 to $135 for the Cocker Spaniel, and $72 or less to $150 or more for the golden retriever. Don’t assume low prices mean lousy work; several of the less expensive groomers received high marks from their surveyed customers.
Experience matters. You wouldn’t want your hair cut by a newbie – and the same goes for your pets. An experienced groomer has had time to hone the craft and become an expert at assessing dog behaviors and responding appropriately to nervousness or restlessness. Also ask if the groomer knows your breed. (Even professionals won’t have extensive experience with all of them.) The best groomers will be honest about their limitations and, if necessary, refer you to another groomer who knows a breed better.
Check training and credentials. Several organizations certify dog groomers, including the National Association of Dog Groomers of America and the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. Because the time and effort required for certification is considerable, it indicates that groomers are serious about their profession and have at least the basic skills for the job. On the other hand, many talented and experienced groomers have not taken the time or paid the fees to become certified.
Discuss your expectations. Do you want basic grooming services, without worrying about your dog’s size meeting rigorous breed-specific standards? Or do you have higher expectations: a hand stripping for a terrier, a scissor haircut or a sculpted cut? If you have a certain look in mind, share photos with the groomer.
Check if you can watch the grooming. You will learn a lot about how groomers treat your dog and other puppies if you watch them in action. If you can’t be in the same room, grooming tables visible from reception are a plus.
Take a ride. Each dog should have its own space and access to clean water. If dogs are placed under hair dryers and left to dry instead of being hand dried, staff should be able to monitor the area, so dogs do not become overheated or burned. Cage drying is controversial; some in the industry argue that these dryers should not be used, as they can cause stress and other problems. Short-snouted puppies, such as Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and Pugs, are prone to overheating, as are very young or old pets of all breeds. You should also assess the staff. Does everyone seem knowledgeable and caring? Are they willing and able to answer questions?
Consider health issues. Check to see if groomers are taking steps to prevent the spread of disease. They should require pet owners to provide vaccination records. And ask about their plan for health emergencies. Will they rush your dog to a vet, if needed?
Consider the convenience of pickup/drop-off arrangements. Most groomers require appointments. You can usually drop the dogs off in the morning and pick them up before the store closes. While this arrangement is fine for most pet owners, it means your dog will need to spend the entire day in the facility. Some groomers require customers to pick up their pets at specific times. It’s not as convenient as open drop-off or pick-up times, but it does make your dog’s stay shorter.
Minimize stress. If visits to the groomer bother your dog, consider using a mobile operation, which typically offers one-on-one service, minimizing exposure to other dogs and shortening the process.
Avoid groomers who sedate animals. Even if your pet is nervous, do not leave the dog sedated unless the medication is administered by a veterinarian who will also monitor your dog’s care throughout the stay.
Kevin Brasler is editor of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and the nonprofit organization checkbook.org, which is consumer-backed and takes no money from the service providers it reviews. You can access Washington Area Groomer Checkbook reviews for free through October 10 at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/groomers.