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October 25, 2013

How to Choose a Pet Groomer

When it's time to ask a professional to trim, comb, bathe, or clip, make sure your pet is happy and safe

  • Professional groomers often can handle tricky tasks such as removing mats from long-haired dogs and cats with more speed and less pain. istockphoto

Imagine how you would look and feel if you never bathed, brushed your hair, or trimmed your nails. To be healthy and happy, your pet needs basic grooming, too.

You can handle the brushing and other simple grooming procedures yourself. This type of regular grooming helps build a close bond between you and your pet and keeps you informed about the condition of his fur, skin, teeth, nails, and ears.

In fact, it is not uncommon to discover lumps, infections, and other problems during a thorough grooming routine. Grooming may include bathing, combing, brushing, clipping nails, cutting or shaving mats, cleaning ears and controlling external parasites.

1. Decide if you need a professional groomer

Should you take your pet to a professional groomer? The answer depends on the type of pet you have and your comfort level.

For example, many people feel comfortable grooming their short-haired cats, while owners of long-haired dogs who are prone to mats opt for professional grooming. You may not have the time, tools, experience, or physical ability to adequately groom your pet. For example, some animals (like poodles) have their fur groomed into particular styles that require a professional. Or a pet may require regular or seasonal clipping, medicated or flea baths, removal of skunk odors or harmful substances or removal of matted fur.

Typically, a trained professional can more safely and humanely handle tricky procedures and temperamental or frightened animals. (Removing severe mats should always be done by an experienced groomer to avoid accidental cuts.) Keep in mind, however, that professional groomers aren't miracle workers; it's up to you to stay on top of your pet's grooming needs.

A side benefit of thorough grooming: It's not uncommon to discover lumps, infections, and other problems.

2. Find a groomer

Start with a recommendation from a friend, veterinarian, boarding kennel, dog trainer, pet supply store, or animal shelter. Check online or in the Yellow Pages under "Pet Grooming." You can also contact the National Dog Groomers Association of America.

Some groomers are registered or certified by a grooming school or professional association, but no government agency regulates or licenses pet groomers. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against a grooming facility. After narrowing your search, call groomers to ask about services, costs, and hours of operation. Also request the names of a few current clients to interview.

3. Evaluate the grooming facility

Before selecting a groomer, tour the facility. Here are some factors to consider during your evaluation:

  • Is the facility well-lit? 
  • Does it look and smell clean? 
  • Does the staff appear knowledgeable and caring?
  • Does the staff handle pets gently? 
  • Are cages the appropriate size? (Do the animals have enough room to stand and turn around comfortably?)
  • Are dogs and cats caged in separate areas? 
  • Are pets monitored regularly to prevent overheating during blow-drying? 
  • Does the groomer keep complete pet records (including grooming, medical, vaccination, and emergency contact information)?

Help your pet tolerate professional grooming by slowly getting her used to brushing and combing at home.

4. Understand what grooming will cost

Grooming costs vary depending on where you live, your pet's species and size, the severity of matting, and the simplicity or difficulty of the cut. Fees for a shampoo and brushing and/or cut can range between $40 to $60, depending on those factors. More extensive grooming services cost more. Expect to pay more for mobile grooming services that come to your home.

5. Ease your pet's fears

It's important for your pet to tolerate being groomed, regardless of how often you take her to a professional. To train your pet, groom her briefly when you're both relaxed. For example, begin by gently massaging her coat each morning as you feed her. Gradually introduce a brush or comb. Each day, increase the grooming time and work on different areas. Reward your pet for cooperating. The more comfortable your pet feels with home grooming the better she'll tolerate professional grooming. (This is also true of strangers: The more comfortable your pet is around strangers, the easier it will be for her to relax at the groomer.)

6. Prepare for the first visit

For the health and safety of both your pet and the groomer, make sure your pet is up-to-date on veterinary treatments, including vaccines and sterilization. Spayed and neutered pets are generally calmer, and sterilized dogs are less likely to bite. (Sterilized pets also enjoy many health benefits and do not contribute to pet overpopulation.)

A pet who is particularly nervous or difficult to handle makes the grooming process stressful for both your pet and the groomer. If this sounds like your pet, work with an animal behavior specialist or dog trainer.

Before hiring a groomer, ask for the names of a few current clients that you can interview.

7. Tell the groomer about your pet's needs

When making the appointment, share all essential information about your pet's health and temperment. The groomer must know in advance whether your pet is geriatric or has a chronic health condition, if he or she is to provide special handling.

Also warn the groomer about any habits that could interfere with safe and successful grooming. Keep in mind that groomers are not licensed to dispense tranquilizers; if your pet needs sedation to be groomed, find a veterinarian who employs a groomer.

8. Keep goodbyes short and sweet

Finally, when you drop your pet off at the groomer, bid your pet good-bye quickly: Emotional departures will increase your pet's stress level. When you pick up your pet, both of you will enjoy that clean, mat-free coat that makes pets—and their people—more comfortable.

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