A professional session usually includes:
- Bath and hairdryer.
- Nail clipping.
- Ear cleaning.
- Cleaning around the eyes.
- Hair cutting or cutting.
- Cleansing the anal sacs prevents their congestion.
How often your pet needs grooming depends on breed, size, coat type and your personal standards. Professional groomers say all pooches can benefit from regular visits to maintain their overall health. It’s a self-serving claim, but there’s some truth to it: Regular grooming improves hygiene and means Fido will be checked periodically by someone who sees a lot of dogs and spots potential health issues. It also helps keep your pet’s coat in good condition, resulting in easier and less expensive appointments. (In some breeds, if you wait too long, their coats may become too matted to save, and they will be shamed for a complete shave.)
How to get quality pet care without spending a fortune
Groomers work in specialty pet salons, as well as in pet stores, boarding homes, and some veterinary practices. There are also mobile operations that operate in specially equipped trucks or vans and can come to your home.
Here are tips for finding the right groomer at the right price. Additionally, Washington Post readers can access Checkbook’s ratings of local caregivers through October 10. Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/groomers.
Get references. Good sources of information include your veterinarian, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Also see the reviews collected by the checkbook from regional consumers. Although the majority of ratings submitted for grooming operations are positive, we also receive comments warning of rough handling, injured animals, sloppy work by untrained staff, and poor service.
Compare prices. Even among highly recommended groomers, you’ll find a range of costs. We looked up prices from area businesses to groom a cocker spaniel and golden retriever (including haircuts) and found prices ranging from $45 to $135 for a cocker spaniel and $72 or less for a golden retriever to $150 or more was given. Don’t think that low prices are a bad thing; some of the cheapest groomers received high marks from surveyed customers.
Experience counts. You wouldn’t want your hair cut by a newbie – the same goes for your pets. An experienced groomer has taken the time to perfect the craft and become an expert at evaluating dog behavior and responding appropriately to nervousness or excitement. Also ask if the caregiver knows your gender. (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 the breed better.
Check training and credentials. Several organizations certify dog groomers, including the National Dog Groomers Association of America and the International Society of Canine Groomers. Because the time and effort required for certification is significant, it shows that grooms are serious about their profession and have at least the basic skills for the job. On the other hand, many talented, experienced groomers didn’t take the time or pay to get certified.
Discuss your expectations. Want basic grooming services without worrying about your dog’s grooming meeting breed-specific standards? Or do you have higher expectations: hand dressing, haircut with scissors or sculpting for a terrier? If you have a certain look in mind, share photos with the groom.
Check if you can’t view the view. If you watch them in action, you’ll learn a lot about how grooms treat your dog and other puppies. If you can’t be in the same room, then the grooming tables visible from the reception area are a plus.
Take a tour. Each dog should have its own space and access to clean water. If dogs are placed under blow dryers and left to dry instead of hand drying, staff should be able to monitor the area for dogs overheating or burning. Cage drying is controversial; some in the industry argue that these dryers should not be used because they can cause stress and other problems. Short-muzzled puppies such as bulldogs, Lhasa apsos, and pugs are prone to overheating, as are very young or old animals of any breed. You also need to increase the number of employees. Does everyone seem knowledgeable and caring? Are they willing to answer questions?
Consider health issues. Check to see if caregivers are taking precautions to prevent the spread of disease. They should require pet owners to provide vaccination records. And ask about plans for health emergencies. Will they take your dog to the vet if needed?
Consider the convenience of pickup/drop-off arrangements. Most caregivers require an appointment. You can usually drop the dogs off in the morning and pick them up before the store closes. While this arrangement is convenient for most pet owners, it does mean that your dog will have to spend the entire day at the facility. Some groomers require clients to pick up their pets at designated times. It’s not as convenient as open drop-off or pick-up times, but it shortens your dog’s stay.
Minimize stress. If visiting the groomer makes your dog uncomfortable, consider using a mobile operation, which generally offers one-on-one service, minimizes exposure to other dogs, and shortens the process.
Avoid pet sitters who sedate animals. Even if your pet is nervous, do not allow the dog to be sedated unless a veterinarian will administer the medication.
Kevin Brasler is the executive editor of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and nonprofit organization. Checkbook.org, is supported by consumers and does not take any money from the service providers it evaluates. You can access Checkbook ratings of Washington area barbers for free through October 10th. Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/groomers.