Finding a groomer for your pet can be as stressful as finding a new doctor or hairdresser for yourself. So, don’t be shy to ask questions! Here is everything you need to know to make sure your groomer is a perfect fit for you and your furbaby.
1. How experienced is the groomer?
In pet grooming industry, it is not uncommon to come across an individual claiming to be an expert groomer, where in fact all they might have done was an apprenticeship for a brief time, a course from a questionable online “school”, or simply a few amateur “grooms” on their own unsuspecting pet. Trusting such people with your companion's wellbeing and safety can prove very risky, because an inexperienced groomer will likely cause a physical injury and/or unnecessary stress to your furbaby, not to mention potentially ruining your pet’s coat by misguided (or out-dated) grooming practices.
Ask your groomer how they were trained, and how long they have been professionally grooming. A good rule of thumb is to expect at least 5 years of hands-on, full-time experience in a professional salon. This profession requires a very broad know-how and practice plus lifelong learning and updating of one’s knowledge on the latest industry trends. They need to be proficient in handling all the major breeds that vary greatly in their individual behavioural and personality patterns, breed standard haircuts, and unique coat care requirements. On top of that, a professional pet groomer knows and follows the proper safety precautions and handling techniques. With all that in mind, even a couple of years of experience will simply not cut it.
2. Does the groomer show interest in your pet?
Do they want to know your dog’s or cat’s name, age, particular health conditions, general attitude towards grooming and other pets? Do they offer you proactive and professional advice about the services you requested or do they just do whatever they’re told, even if it means damaging your pet’s coat or causing them pain? A caring and inquisitive groomer is a great sign, and we encourage total honesty here from your end. The more your groomer knows about your pet, the better he or she can serve you and your four-legged friend.
3. Is the workstation clean?
How often does the staff clean the facility? How clean are their uniforms? Is there an overwhelming smell of animal droppings lingering in the room? How clean are the floors, the bathtubs, the grooming tables, and the kennels? It’s expected to see some occasional mess around a pet being groomed - but how soon is it cleaned up after the grooming is done? Look at other areas for cleanliness as well, especially the hard-to-reach spaces where bacteria tend to grow if not disinfected properly and often enough. Ask about their cleaning procedures for the grooming tools: brushes and combs, clipper blades, scissors, etc. Are they thoroughly disinfected between each pet? Do they appear well maintained, with no grimy build-up or chunks of hair stuck in them? What about their flea/tick policy? Do they allow infested pets in the facility and if so, how do they prevent other pets from getting infested as well?
4. Is the facility safe?
Is the shop or a van prepared for emergencies? Are there tangled electrical cords all over the floor? Is there plugged-in electrical equipment left unattended in close vicinity of water and/or pets?
Are all the pets present monitored at all times, or are they left to their own devices until it’s time for their groom? Do all the waiting pets have access to fresh water? Does the facility use cage (kennel) dryers and if so, do they leave the pets alone inside for extended periods of time? When the grooming restraint loop is used, does the groomer leave the dog unattended? This is a serious choking hazard in case the pet slips off the table. Please keep in mind that there should never be a grooming loop put around a cat’s neck, which can lead to an injury or worse.
Also, are there separate rooms for cats and dogs (most cats get scared in the presence of dogs, especially the barking ones)? Is the ambience relatively calm and quiet? Of course, it’s impossible to avoid certain noises, such as blow dryers and barking, but is the staff doing their best to keep the environment as relaxing for their four-legged clients as possible? If you see them talking loudly over the running blow dryer or playing loud music over the speakers - this is not an ideal place to be for your furball. Not only will it add stress to your already anxious pet, but also it shows the groomer’s lack of concern for their clients’ wellbeing.
5. Does the groomer know how to handle difficult pets?
If your groomer believes in getting rough with an unruly or aggressive pet as their go-to handling technique - this is a major red flag. This will only escalate the unwanted behaviour as well as make your furbaby dread and overreact to every next visit to the salon. There are plenty of non-confrontational techniques to deal with such situations; a good groomer works with (and not against) the pet, giving them breaks and not rushing, and treating each pet individually, eventually building a close bond with them in the long run.
What about sedatives? No groomer is qualified to recommend and/or administer sedatives! Doing so basically constitutes a practice of veterinary medicine without a license, which is illegal, unethical, and unsafe. In some cases, the sedative might be unavoidable, to be able to groom a very aggressive pet, but it should only be done by a licensed vet in a safe and controlled environment, in case of any complications.
Does the groomer muzzle almost all the dogs without the owners’ knowledge or consent? Muzzling might be required from time to time, but it’s important to discuss it with the owner first. And, a good groomer will make sure to give your dog a break every 15 minutes or so, since muzzles don’t allow panting, which is your dog’s way to cool down their body temperature.
6. Is your groomer transparent about the products they will use on your pet?
Do not fall for the general terms such as “natural” or “organic”. These words have been widely misused nowadays, and are basically meaningless unless you can actually see the ingredients on the bottle. What you want to see are non-toxic and gentle shampoos and other products. We encourage you to do your homework here. Most of the countries have little to no regulations over what goes into dog/cat cosmetics, meaning that there are loads of commercial products out there that are harsh and chemical-heavy, and contain harmful and dangerous ingredients that you would never want on your pet’s skin.
7. Is the groomer honest with you?
In this line of work - with moving animals and sharp tools - occasional nicks or clipper burns are inevitable. Does the groomer try to conceal these from the owner or do they “come clean”, explain what happened, and how they will prevent it from happening again? If the latter is true - this shows a genuine care for your pet, even if it means that the owner might not be very understanding. Having said that, repeated injuries should be a cause for concern.
8. Is your pet extremely stressed after each appointment?
Patience and genuine love of animals are a must for great groomers. While grooming appointments can be sometimes stressful for your pet, they shouldn’t be deeply traumatic. If your furry friend is showing extreme signs of distress immediately after leaving the grooming salon, do not ignore it. Likewise, your companion should be generally relaxed (or at least not upset) when you bring them back for the next session.
Grooming should be an enjoyable experience for your furball, and not an ordeal to tolerate. There are plenty of wonderful and skilled pet groomers out there to choose from - and now you know how to pick one!