Finding a Pet Groomer

Grooming for many pets is as much about health as it is about making your pet look pretty. Many dogs and cats have long, silky hair that twists and easily gathers up dirt, leaves, grass, oil into a glob known as a mat. Matting can become painful over time and some dogs will chew at their mats causing irritation to the skin. The mats are home to bacteria and germs that may cause your pet to become ill. Other pets have allergies or skin conditions and regular grooming can aid in the prevention and relief of the dandruff and itching. For pets with thick coats and heavy shedding, grooming can relieve not only your pet, but also your home, of unwanted hair.

There is a lot of confusion about pet groomers and picking out the proper groomer for you and your pet can be a challenge. I expect that most of the public does not know that, unlike a beautician, there are no licensing requirements to become a pet groomer. Thus, there is no minimum standard of care for a groomer except those required by state and local animal control laws and regulations. This does have its advantages in that the market place decides who is good enough to be in business but the disadvantages are many. Without licensing requirements and standards it can be difficult to find a good groomer.  If you presently have a groomer that serves your pets and your needs well - keep them.

The grooming industry does self regulate a great deal and there are certification programs for groomers that set a rather high standard for the profession. It usually takes years to become a breed specific certified groomer and far more years to become a Certified Master Groomer (CMG). The groomer certification process includes knowing the standard for all AKC recognized breeds (there are over 155 breeds), pet safety, proper pet handling, pet health and the list goes on. To become certified the groomer you must pass a dog group specific test with a score of over 80%. This test is not easy. After the groomer passes the written test they must demonstrate group specific grooming proficiency by grooming a dog that is judged by a Master Groomer who is usually a Grooming Competition Judge. After the groomer has passed all the breed and group specific requirements with an overall average of 80% or greater they can sit for the Master Groomer test. There are very few Certified Master Groomers in the industry. 

Beyond the groomer, pet grooming facilities are a key component when selecting a groomer. The facilities should be well maintained, extremely clean and properly arranged for grooming. A lot of groomers work out of their house, which can be both personal and economical, but remember, a house is for living not grooming.

The best way to begin your search for a groomer is seek out dogs or cats like the one you have and, if they look good, get the groomer's name. Ask the groomer for references and make some calls. Remember, grooming your pet is not a one-time event so you need to do your homework when selecting a groomer. Once you have made your initial selection call the groomer. If you talk to a receptionist ask to speak to the groomer. This is important because you want to see if the grooming shop has time for you and not just taking appointments. You can get a pretty good idea about the grooming shop by the initial telephone call. If they are unpleasant, rude, or don’t give you the time you require, then surely they don’t have time to meet your needs. If they are unpleasant to the person who will be paying them, how likely are they to be friendly to your pet?

If the telephone call goes well, visit the grooming facility with your pet. Be sure to put your pet on a short leash. In this case first impressions are important. Does the facility have that wet dog smell? If so, that is an indication that pets are not properly bathed. Is there excessive barking in the facility? That is an indication that pets are stressed. Next, meet with the groomer and observe how the groomer reacts to your pet and, more importantly, how the pet reacts to the groomer. Ask for a tour of the facilities. If they won’t let you in the “back room” – leave! You would not leave your children in a facility you have not inspected and neither should you leave your pet in a facility you have not inspected. Once in the “back room” notice the stress level. If the bathers and groomers are stressed out you can be assured that the pets are also. Look closely at the cages where the pets are kept. Most animal regulations require that the cage be big enough for the pet to stand and turn around. This can be a pretty small cage so you want to make sure that the cages are big enough and clean – extremely clean. Trust your feelings – if it feels right, it most likely is right.

On your first appointment go over your grooming requirements in detail with the groomer The groomer will tell you what they can and cannot do and if there is any doubt, trust the groomer’s judgment.

When a pet is properly groomed you should be able to get a comb through your pet's coat with ease - all the way down to the skin. In addition your pet should smell good (unless they roll in something) for a week or two. Good luck and remember that regular grooming is not just about a pretty pet, but a way to keep your pet healthy.

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