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The Best Dog Groomer: How to Find One

If you have a doodle like us, you know that doodles and poodles spend a lot of time at the groomers. So it is very important that you pick the best dog groomer for your dog. But too often when picking a dog groomer people tend to focus on how their Doodle will look. Let’s face it; we all want our dogs to look great. While a good haircut is important, you need to also focus on finding a safe, clean grooming salon. You want a groomer that will care for your pup just like you do.

You may not realize it, but dog grooming salons can be a dangerous place for your pup. Just search on dog grooming accidents. You will find stories about dogs that were hurt at the hands of their groomers. Now accidents do happen.  But there is a difference between an experienced, dedicated groomer and one that is not.  That difference may be the difference between bringing your dog home with a nick and something much worst.  To help you we have gathered information on what to look for when picking the best dog groomer for your dog.

Groomed dog with comb

What to Look For When Picking the Best Dog Groomer for Your Dog

Here are the 10 areas you should look at when picking the best dog groomer for your dog:

  1. Reviews
  2. Experience
  3. Training
  4. Cleanliness
  5. Safety
  6. Insurance
  7. Where will your dog be kept?
  8. What products they use
  9. Price

Join us as we review each area and provide tips on what to look for.

1. Reviews

When picking the best dog groomer for your dog, you should ask people you know for recommendations. Start with your family, and friends. They are more likely to give you their honest opinion. Ask what they like and don’t like about their groomer. Ideally you should ask people who have a dog with the same hair type and demeanor as your dog. This is particularly important if you have a poodle mixed breed. Remember all dogs are different; one groomer might be great with a certain type of dog and not so great with another. You can also ask people you meet that have the same type of dog. I found most people are willing to talk about their groomer if they have had a good experience.

When you can’t get recommendations

If you don’t know of anyone who uses a dog groomer, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. 

You can also trying searching on the internet. Use keywords like “dog groomer near me”, “dog grooming near me” or “find a dog groomer near me”. If you use Google you should receive a list of area groomers along with their contact information, reviews and website address. We found our dog groomer by searching on “best dog groomer near me”.

Once you have a few possibilities you need to do some research. Look on the web at review sites. But don’t just look at the number of stars; make sure to read what people have to say. Pay special attention to complaints regarding cleanliness, safety, and how the place treats their canine clients. 

Also look to see if there are any complaints with the Better Business Bureau. If there are complaints, how were they settled? If there are a lot of complaints stay away.

2. Experience

Experience is not just how long they have been grooming dogs but where they trained and if they are keeping up with their training. You can find some of this information on line by checking out their website or Facebook page. If it is not there you will need to ask them during an interview. Ideally you want someone who has at least a few years of grooming experience with some of that experience coming from an apprenticeship under an experienced groomer.

3. Training

Currently dog groomers do not need a license to groom a dog, which means anyone can call themselves a dog groomer. Because of this you need to pay attention to how the groomer was trained. When talking with the groomer make sure to ask them:

  • Where they received their training
    • Look for a groomer who has completed a qualified grooming program.
    • Find out if they are certified by a national dog groomer association.
  • Some states require that groomers are licensed and certified in flea and tick applications. Ask to see if your prospective groomer is certified.

4. Cleanliness

Once you have picked a few dog groomers you like, your next step is to visit the salon. I suggest that you pop in unexpected for a quick visit. That way can see what the place looks like and who is grooming the dogs when they are not expecting you. However don’t expect a tour or long conversation. The groomer may be busy with a client. You should be able to take a quick look around. Then setup another time to talk extensively and get a tour.

During your first visit look to see if the place looks and smells clean. A messy place can result in injuries. Some red flags to look for are dirty, musty smells, forceful handling of the dogs and unattended dogs on tables or in front of dryers. We will talk more about the interview process later.

5. Safety

Your dog’s safety should be the most important consideration when picking a groomer.   In recent years there have been reports of dogs becoming injured or dying at the hands of their groomer.   Here are some of the things you should look for:

  • First Aid Kit – Make sure your groomer has a first aid kit for dogs.  It should be easily accessible in case of an emergency.  Ask if there is a staff member always present that is trained in pet first aid and CPR.  
  • Medical Records – They should keep track of your dog’s medical and vaccination records and emergency contact information in addition to their grooming records.  Ask the owner if they have a procedure in place for emergencies.  Do they have a veterinarian on call?
  • Muzzle – Ask if they use a muzzle during grooming.   If so what is the policy for when and how long a muzzle is used.  Remember a muzzle can restrict how easy a dog can breathe.
  • Hair Dryers – Drying a dog after they had a bath can be dangerous for your dog if not done properly. Dogs can become over heated if left in front of a dryer for too long. Ask the groomer how they dry the dogs. If they use a dryer find out how it is monitored to insure the animal does not overheat.
  • Handling – Observe how friendly the staff is and how gentle they are with their four-legged clients.  Ask about how they handle difficult dogs.

Our story

Our previous dog’s groomer worked alone when we started to use her. As her popularity grew so did her workload. After a couple of years of going to her, we started to notice what looked like grooming mishaps. Spots where our dog’s fur was cut too short and the skin looked irritated. We also noticed that our pup did want to go to the groomer anymore. So at her last visit we decided to pop in early one day to check on our pup. What we found was that the owner of the shop was no longer the person who was grooming our dog. At no point during our conversations at drop off or pick up were we told that she had people working for her. The lesson here is even after you find a great groomer it is important to stay vigilant.

6. Insurance

When picking a groomer it is important to make sure the groomer and everyone who works there is covered by insurance in case of an accident. Ask the groomer about the type of insurance they have and who is covered. Ideally they will have both general and professional liability insurance.

7. Where dogs are kept?

During your tour ask where your dog will be kept when they are not being groomed.  Some groomers will keep the dogs in a cage when they are not being worked on.  Others will have play areas where well behaved dogs can be around other dogs.  In either case pay attention to how clean and well-lit the area is. Is the area monitored? Is there room to move around comfortably?   Find out what their policy is regarding aggressive dogs.  They should have a way to separate aggressive dogs from the other dogs.

8. What products do they use?

What products the groomer uses will have an effect on your dog’s skin and fur. Make sure to ask about the products they will use on your dog. All-natural or organic dog shampoos and conditioners are gentler on your dog’s coat and skin than products that are full of chemicals. This is especially important for dogs that are prone to skin conditions or have allergies.

9. Price

Although you shouldn’t base your decision on price, you do want to make sure you know what you are getting and at what cost. Make sure to ask what is included and what is not.

Be cautious of a groomer that is priced much lower than their competition. Either they are new or they are unable to get clients at an average price.

The Best Dog Groomer: How to Find One For Your Dog - Westie being groomed

The Interview

Now that we have gone over items you should look for when picking the best dog groomer for your dog, let’s get into some tips for the actual interview.

During your scheduled interview and tour take a closer look at:

  • How clean the facility is?
    • Some hair on the floor is to be expected, especially if there are dogs being groomed. However there shouldn’t be hair lying around from a previous groom.
    • Does the salon smell of accidents, vomit or wet dogs?
    • If the groomer uses holding cages are they clean?
    • Are there fleas?
      • An easy way to check for fleas is to wear something white on your feet. Glance at them periodically throughout your visit. If the place has fleas, you will see them jump on your feet and ankles as you walk.
  • Is there fresh water available?

Do they ask questions?

A good dog groomer will not only answer all your questions, but they will also ask you questions about your dog. At a minimum they should ask:

  • The age of your dog
  • If your dog has previously been groomed
  • They should inquire about your dog’s health. Remember to tell them if there are any medical conditions such as:
    • Skin problems
    • Allergies
    • Arthritis
    • Other aliments
    • Let them know if your dog has mobility issues or if they cannot stand for a long period of time.
  • They should ask you how you want your dog to look. Bring pictures so you can show the groomer how you want your pup to look.
  • For proof of age appropriate vaccines. Stay away from a groomer who doesn’t ask for this.
The Best Dog Groomer: How to Find One For Your Dog - Dog getting a bath

How to Save Money at the Groomers

Picture of a Yorkshire Terrier mix on a grooming table with hair and scissors next to her. Part of What to look for when picking a groomer post
Petfinder.com

As the saying goes “Time is Money”. Dog groomers often determine the price based on how long it takes to groom a dog. The easier it is to groom your dog the less it will cost. The three big time commitments are:

1. Matted Fur

  • To keep your dog from becoming matted you need to brush and comb them often. How often will depend on how long their fur is. Since we keep our pup’s hair on the short side every few days seems to work. For long haired dogs, brushing and combing needs to be done daily. Pay attention to the areas that matt the most.
    • Use a slicker brush, than run a comb over their entire body to make sure you did not miss anything. A small mat today will become bigger by tomorrow.
  • Stay out of the rain. Wet hair mats quickly
  • Consider going to the groomer more often
  • Keep their hair on the shorter side

As an Amazon and Cherrybrook affiliate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

The Chris Christensen slicker brush is highly recommended by dog groomers and doodle owners for at home use. We recommend buying it from Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies. You can also find it on Amazon.com.

We use the Chris Christensen Poodle Comb from Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies to line comb our pup. It is a heavy weight comb that should last for a very long time. Plus the long 1.25″ teeth are long enough to get through all of her fur. You can also find it on Amazon.com.

2. Dogs that don’t like to be groomed

  • Brush them at home to help your pup become comfortable with being groomed.
  • Give them a special treat when you pick them up from the groomers.

3. Specialty cuts and dyes

  • Today, dog grooming goes beyond a simple bath and cut. Dogs can get elaborate cuts and dyes. But it will cost you. If you want to keep your expenses down go for a simple haircut.

Types of Dog Groomers

Here are a few common types of dog groomers you can choose from.

Big Box Store

  • This is a corporate run salon that is attached to a retail store. There has been some bad press around corporate salons in the past couple of years due to dog deaths. Remember accidents can happen in any type of salon. If you go to a corporate salon, ask who will be grooming your dog. Then interview them just like you would at a smaller groomer before booking an appointment.
  • An advantage of this type of place over smaller salons is that you can watch as your dog is groomed.

Small business

  • Small salons tend to be owner operated businesses. In this type of salon the owner does some if not all of the grooming.
  • Sometimes they have a small staff that helps with the bathing and grooming. These places may have an apprentice working with them.

Mobile

  • Mobile groomers operate out of a van that has been designed to be a grooming salon.
  • They come to you.
  • Your dog will be the only one they are working on. This is particularly good for dogs that don’t get along with other dogs.
  • Maybe more expensive than a groomer you go to.

When picking a dog groomer for your dog remember that they are one of the few people you will leave your dog with alone.  For this reason it is important to find a groomer that you trust to treat your pup the same way you do.

Take your time and be selective when picking the best dog groomer for your dog.

Resources

There are two canine groomer associations that offer certification and advance training.