Getting Great Service from Your Dog Groomer
Most people wouldn't dream of going too long between baths, or of leaving the house without combing their hair. We should hold our dogs to similar standards. A perpetually dirty dog smells bad, soils everything he touches, and is generally not very pleasant to be around.
Whether you bathe and trim your dog yourself or have a professional do it, your dog will thank you, your house guests will thank you, and even your veterinarian will appreciate handling a clean dog.
If you are planning to enlist the help of a professional groomer to keep your dog looking and feeling great, it's best to start early. As soon as the veterinarian gives you the all-clear to allow your puppy to socialize with other dogs, take him in for his first professional grooming.
Typically, the groomer will make special arrangements for a puppy's first visit. The dog should stay at the salon for no more than a few hours, during which he will have a bath in gentle shampoo, a blow dry, and have his nails clipped, his ears cleaned, and the hair trimmed around his face, feet, and rear end when appropriate.
Ask the groomer for an appraisal of your puppy's experience when you collect him. Puppies that are already crate trained usually accept the salon experience with aplomb. On the rare occasion when a puppy exhibits exceptional stress or temper tantrums on the first visit, discuss the possibility of bringing him into the salon once a week for a short while. Extra TLC during those first few visits will help the dog accept and perhaps even enjoy having his hair done for the rest of his life. (Your groomer may negotiate a reduced rate for these weekly services.)
In the dog grooming world, familiarity breeds comfort. Dogs who are on a regular schedule at the groomer definitely enjoy the process more than dogs who are not used to the experience. I knew a Norwegian Poodle breeder who would only sell his puppies to people who agreed to groom them every month. "If you don't want to groom your dog every month, then don't buy a poodle," he insisted. Some Labradoodles and Goldendoodles require the same level of maintenance as purebred Poodles, by the way.
Figure out the frequency of grooming that you are comfortable with, because then the groomer can make accommodations with the haircut. How often and how well you brush your dog's coat is another determining factor. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the longer you want the dog's hair, the more frequent the grooming appointments should be. Whatever frequency you decide on, it's a good idea to make your next appointment before you leave the salon. If your groomer is good, sooner or later appointments are going to be harder to get.
Speaking of appointments, do your best to arrive on time. The best groomers are very busy and one late client can throw off the day's schedule. As with any service professional, a phone call if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late is much appreciated.
If you like your dog's haircut, ask your groomer to note what he or she did on your client card. The best groomers will pay careful attention to your wishes and will keep a record of your dog's haircuts, as well as special requirements and requests.
Some dogs require special treatment shampoos from the veterinarian. In such cases, of course, you should bring them with you to the grooming appointment.
When it comes to ear care, some dogs, including many Poodles, tolerate having the hair removed from the ear canal, while others, including many Bichons and Maltese, do not. Likewise, some ear cleaners work better for some dogs than others. While dog groomers no longer clean teeth in the salon, they can help you determine when the time has come to schedule a dental appointment at the veterinarian's office. We are also pretty good at noticing ear problems, weight issues, and skin conditions, and are often the first to notice lumps and bumps, not to mention foxtails, ticks, and fleas. We love our dogs and never hesitate to suggest a trip to the veterinarian when necessary.
Remember that your groomer is a valuable member of your dog's wellness team. Help your dog enjoy his visits to the groomer by behaving in a calm and casual manner when dropping him off and picking him up. A special treat before and after the haircut can also help make the experience a positive one for your dog.
And don't forget that your groomer is just like your dog in one important respect - we respond well to praise!
Linda McFadden has been grooming dogs of all descriptions for over 30 years and can now be found at her new location in Mill Valley: The Kennel Club, 367 Miller Ave., 415-381-BARK (2275).