How can you make grooming easier for your groomer, dog, and your wallet? Those are the most common questions at my shop.
But we also went around and surveyed hundreds (yes, hundreds) of veteran pet groomers and asked them what they desperately want their clients to know.
And in every single case it came down to these 11 points listed below!
Not only will these tips make grooming much easier and enjoyable, but it will make your dog feel more at ease, and relaxed dogs mean cheaper grooming bills.
1. Brush Your Dog
We'll start with the most obvious tip first: brushing.
Some breeds are far more prone to mats and tangles (Poodles, Doodles, Sheepdogs, Maltese, etc. The list goes on...), and that's usually where the problems begin.
The dreaded matted dog
Many of my clients with matted dogs tell me they do brush them often, and there is no doubt that many owners make a sincere effort. But some of them are not brushing all the way down to the skin.
We Have To Go Deeper
We need to get those hidden tangles, and for that we need to brush all the way to the skin everytime we brush (often times we recommend using a Grey Hound Comb with long pins to get in deeper).
Be meticulous and patient; make it a calming and rewarding experience for your dog. Never ever rip or tear at mats or tangles.
Also, be sure to brush in all the friction areas like armpits, bum, between the front legs and chest, and the collar / harness areas.
- For coats ½” or longer brush every night or every other night.
- For coats with less than ½” brush twice weekly.
You’d be surprised how a little bit of brushing can keep a lot more length on your puppy and a lot less extra fees.
2. Work With Your Dog
Dogs need training, we all know that, but for dogs visiting a groomer we need a different kind of training.
Imagine being a dog at a grooming salon where no one speaks your language: it’s noisy, scary, and other dogs are barking constantly. And now a human is using strange buzzing things on your paws and face and you really don't like that!
Your pup needs to feel relaxed in these environments, and we do this by mimicking the grooming process at home, while giving lots of rewards and treats.
Practice Grooming Session At Home:
- Massage your dogs paws between your fingers and hands daily.
- Rub the corners of the eyes gently, and hold the tuft of hair under the chin very gently for a few seconds at a time.
- Many groomers recommend taking a spoon handle and gently touching it near your dog’s eyes (careful not to hit the eyeball).
- Try using a vibrating cell phone or toothbrush near them to get them used to the vibration and sound.
- Use lots of praise and rewards!
This routine gets them very comfortable with the grooming process. This also makes it a lot easier for a puppy's first groom, although it's never too late to start with an older dog.
3. Let Your Dog Potty Before Their Groom
I can't tell you how many times a dog has "done their business" in the bathtub, kennel, or on my grooming table. It happens a lot more often than you think.
In fact, when it happens most grooming businesses will charge you extra. That’s because groomers have to now take your pup, re-bath their feet (and often half their bodies) re-dry, and re-scissor. This can take anywhere from 15 - 45 extra minutes.
So please, take your dog for a potty break before visiting the groomer.
4. Have A Grooming Idea In Mind
Groomers are more than happy to help you pick out the perfect haircut, but saying, “do what you like” is not helpful. You have to take the them home and care for that hair, not me!
If you come in saying “I’d like fluffy to have a shorter body with longer legs and a round head” that’s much easier for us to get your groom exactly how you’d like it. Without the information, there isn’t much we can do (and sometimes that means we groomers take off too much hair). Be specific and you’ll have a much better experience!
5. Don't Tease Your Dog With The Vacuum
I know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens often enough that it’s made this list, (and sometimes it's the kids teasing dogs when the parents are not around).
Puppies raised thinking it’s okay to attack or bite the vacuum means that puppy will bite our dryers, clippers, and sometimes (although they don’t mean to) they'll bite the groomer too.
6. Regulars = best clients, happiest dogs, and best haircuts
Scheduling a regular routine of grooming visits (typically 4, 6, or 8 week schedules) are the best thing you can do to keep everyone (including your pup) very happy.
First off, you’ll generally get a discount for being a regular, so no complaints there!
Secondly, dogs that stay with the same groomer learn to love them as their “aunt or uncle”. (Many clients call me Auntie because their dogs see me more than they see half their family.)
Your fur baby learns to love the process and feels relaxed in that environment. We love it because we get to know you and your dog, and we can fine tune the groom to give you exactly what you want.
7. Dropping them off is not the end of the world
So here's the thing about visiting your groomer: don’t make a huge deal about dropping off your dog like it’s the last time you’ll ever see them.
Dogs are pretty smart, and they're great at reading our emotions. A long and sad departure usually leads to an anxious canine, and a stressed out dog is usually very hard to groom (if we can at all).
In fact, dogs tend to get even more anxious if their owner is in the room, since they see you as a source of comfort they'll constantly try to break free. This is why vets and groomers will often lead your dog to a back room, as they'll be more at ease when you're out of sight.
Treat it as a normal appointment, say goodbye to your pup and leave, don’t make a big deal and both your dog and groomer will thank you!
What's Going On Back There?
With all that being said, you want what's best for your fur babies and want to know your dog is going to be in safe hands.
When visiting any new salon call a day in advance and see if you can come for a tour. Bring your pup if you’d like. Take a look around, talk to the groomer(s) and owner of the business if possible. Ask any questions you’d like to help you and your pup feel more at ease. If someone isn’t willing to answer your questions then that's a big red flag and it's time to find a different place.
8. Regular Health Checkups
Yes that’s right, going to the vet annually and semi annually as your pooch ages are the best way to make sure your pet is ready for grooming.
Fleas, Ticks, and Lice
Fleas, ticks, lice, and other parasites will results in a hefty charge or even a refusal to groom your pooch. Not to mention parasites can transfer to all the other dogs (and humans) in the facility.
Obesity and Joint Pain
Your vet can also make sure your dog’s weight is on track. Obesity is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to grooming.
If your furry friend can’t hold his weight up for more than 5 minutes you can bet his poor joints hurt. Can you imagine having sore joints and some random person tries to bathe you, dry you, and make you stand for two hours? Make sure your pup is a good weight and it will help them live a lot longer and make grooming a lot more enjoyable.
We don't just work with fur coats and nails, we also pay special attention to teeth. And we see many, many cases of rotting teeth (which is excruciating for your pup). I get it, veterinary dental work is expensive, but the longer you leave it the more expensive it gets.
The best way to avoid expensive vet bills is through preventative measures: brush their teeth, use chewable toys meant for dental health, or explore other means of keeping those teeth sparkling.
9. Leave It To the Professionals
Unless you're very comfortable with grooming, leave it to the professionals.
I can’t tell you how many repair grooms I have to fix on a daily basis. Every single time I have someone come in with a dog that’s been chopped up at home, the owners always say it’s so much harder than it looks. Problem is many owners end up cutting their dogs by accident. So now Fido thinks scissors are going to hurt him. Don’t do it.
In most cases it takes 2 grooms (and about 8 to 16 weeks) to fix a dog that has been poorly groomed.
But My Dog Can't See!
The #1 reason my clients attempt home grooming is because of hair growth obstructing their vision (but their next scheduled groom isn't for a few weeks.)
But did you know most salons offer face trims for $5 to $10? And since these are so quick and easy you can usually just drop in at your convenience.
10. Nail Trims
Contrary to popular belief nail trims should be done every 2 - 3 weeks for most dogs.
Most clients will get their nails trimmed during each groomer visit, but if you only drop by every 8 weeks then this leads to overgrowth.
Nails must be cut to keep from getting too long and causing permanent and painful damage to the toe tendons. Your groomer should offer nail trims for a reasonable price, and if asked I happily teach owners how to clip nails.
The most common complaint is owners are scared to cut the quick (blood vessel in the nail). While this is always a danger there are ways to see where the quick is on both colors of nails.
If your dog is petrified of nails trims, try this:
Once a day, use your thumb and gently massage your dog's paws for a few minutes. Get them used to humans touching their paws and nails, and they'll be far less concerned when the nail clippers come out.
11. Show Grooms vs. Pet Grooms (The Major Difference)
I have many clients that want their dog in a show quality groom. The problem is most of these grooms are very high maintenance.
I groom professional show dogs a few times a year, and most of those grooms take anywhere from three to fifteen hours. No, I’m not kidding. (I recently prepped a Schnauzer show groom, and it took about 12 weeks of 2 hour weekly sessions).
What you want is a "Breed Trim" - think of it as the diet version of a show groom. It's much more manageable but still has that show groom appeal.
Don't get me wrong, breed trims are still a lot of work. You'll be required to brush your dog everyday (which may take a few hours), and visit your groomer every 2-3 weeks for maintenance.
Talk to your groomer about getting a breed trim and how you can maintain their coat.
Katlin is a 7-year certified advanced professional groomer, a registered veterinarian tech assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice), and even owns her own popular collar and leash brand. You might say she's multi-talented when it comes to pets.