How well do you think you know your groomer? Have you ever really taken a moment to think about the person who you are paying to clean, clip, and fluff your "little angel"? Much like you should take time to research day care centers for your children, you should also take the time to find out what kind of training, skills, and knowledge your groomer has acquired. For instance, does your groomer know pet first aid? How to handle problem, scared, or nervous animals? Does this person treat animals with respect or are they rough and impatient? Some people may think these questions, or even considering them, might be ridiculous, but if your pet is like most, they are an important part of the family and quite irreplaceable.

This article is not intended to scare anyone away from using a groomer, but rather to help people realize that just because someone says they are a groomer doesn't necessarily mean that they are properly trained or possess all the right skills to be one. Many people begin grooming by simply picking up a pair of shears (scissors) and starting with only a rough idea of the proper way to groom. Most of these people quickly realize that they need some training and get some either through educational organizations or grooming schools in their area. Once trained, many groomers display their certificates or diplomas that they have earned. This is one way to quickly find out if the groomer you would like to use has had the right kind of training or not. The concept of "educated" groomers may sound unusual, but these people have worked very hard to earn their certificates and diplomas, having undergone rigorous training that includes both written and practical testing.

It is worth your time to check out the local groomers in your area, whether they operate or are employed by a private shop, are affiliated with a pet supply chain or with a veterinarian. Simply going by the shop and observing the way the groomer handles the animals and noting the condition of the shop, can give you a reasonably good idea of whether or not this might be the right groomer for you and your pet. When you are visiting a prospective groomer, you should keep these questions in mind:

  1. Do the animals look relaxed, or tense and nervous? Animals should be relaxed and comfortable with the groomer and the shop environment.
  2. How are pets infested with fleas, ticks, or other dermatological problems handled? Are they kept separate from other pets to avoid infestation? Cages need to be cleaned in between animals to ensure that healthy pets and pets free from infestations do not become exposed.
  3. Are clipper and scissor blades changed out and/or cleaned between animals? Mange and other dermatological diseases can be passed from animal to animal if the blades are not properly sanitized.
  4. Is the shop well organized and clean? Shop owners should take the time to make sure the grooming, bathing, and kennel areas are kept as organized and as clean as possible. A well-organized and clean shop means that the staff is concerned with a safe and healthy workplace, which is a good benefit for your pet.
  5. Have there been any complaints or problems reported? Check with your local Better Business Bureau or local animal rights groups to find out if the shop you are considering has had any problems or complaints registered against it.

A reputable groomer will always be happy to spend the time answering any questions you might have, plus be willing to show you the areas where the animals are kept, bathed, dried, and groomed. It is worth it to a groomer to spend time with prospective clients because not only do they want your business, but more importantly, they want to ensure that you and your pet will be comfortable utilizing their services.

In addition to the above questions, here are some key items that you should definitely inquire about while talking to your groomer:

  • Dryers - an important, but often overlooked, item that can cause harm or even death to your pet if used improperly. The most dangerous type of dryer to your pet is the cage dryer because it blows heat directly into the cage and doesn't allow for proper circulation of air. A pet can become overheated or suffocate if the dryer temperature is set too high. It should only be used on an animal if constant supervision is given to ensure the safety of the animal. Many groomers have started using other types of dryers, such as forced-air, that are much safer and gentler on the skin and coat of the animal.
  • Nooses - used both in the tub and attached to the grooming table to reduce movement, the animal should be able to move its head comfortably and be able to relax. If the animal is straining on "tip-toe", the groomer has the noose too short. This is a potentially dangerous situation if the groomer is not paying attention as the animal might try to jump or may lose it's balance and may hang itself. Conversely, if the noose is too long the animal might trip over it and become entangled. Also, the noose should not be too tight around the throat so as to avoid choking or suffocation.
  • Clipper & Scissor blades - blades can carry many bacteria including tetanus, e-coli, staph, and many others. Cleaning the blades with a sterilizing solution between dogs can reduce the risk of spreading these diseases to healthy pets.
  • Certification & Knowledge - are the groomers encouraged and/or required by their employers to obtain or continue their education and certification? A good groomer should be well educated and take pride in his or her work. They should be knowledgeable about skin diseases, animal behavior, first aid, and proper bathing and drying techniques. We are not suggesting that every groomer should be as knowledgeable as a veterinarian, but they should be able to recognize certain diseases or problems that could be harmful to your pet. A groomer is your pet's first line of defense by noticing and bringing to your attention, as well as a veterinarian's, any problems they might see while grooming.

Hopefully this article has given the discerning pet owner the tools to find that perfect groomer for their pet. The right groomer, as well as yearly vaccinations and lots of love, is an important part of any pet's health and well-being. Understandably, in our busy lives, it may seem like a time consuming or insignificant thing to find a good groomer, but if you take the time and effort, you will be rewarded with confidence in your groomer and peace of mind that they will respect and care for your pet as much as you do!



Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Pam Lauritzen & Company, All Rights Reserved
Promoting Education and Higher Standards in the Pet Styling Industry
Last Update: August 23, 2004