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Things Your Dog Groomer Wishes You Knew

This is what a dog groomer deals with every single day! We hope this insight will help you find ways to make the grooming experience easier for the groomer as well as smoother for your dog.

There are many things to learn and consider when it comes to pet grooming both for the owner and the groomer. 

Q: What should you consider when looking for a dog groomer? 

Does the groomer have any certification or qualifications? How many years experience do they have? Do they have experience with different breeds or are there services limited to basic clip downs? Do they specialise in any breed or skill such as hand scissoring, longer styling, stripping etc? These factors and more can influence the pricing and time it takes to complete the service and whether the groomer is suited to your needs.

Q: What is the minimum amount of training a groomer should have before working on your pets?

Ideally, your groomer should have at least some training in pet care, first aid, infection control and hygiene routines.

Although there is no minimum requirement or licencing for groomers in Australia yet, pet grooming is slowly becoming a recognised trade all over Australia with the option to study at TAFE and other RTOs such as the International Grooming Company, to achieve a Certificate III in Pet Grooming and Certificate IV in Pet Styling

In addition there is the option of completing the Certified Master Groomer or International Master Groomer at associations designed specifically for grooming students. There is legislation in NSW for pet groomers and groomers Australia-wide can become a member with the PIAA (Pet Industry Association of Australia) who have a code of practice for their members.

Q: When enquiring about grooming prices... 

You need to find out exactly what is included in the session. You may be surprised with how much the groomer does to complete the service and what is required for that pet.
All dogs should be washed, dried, clipped and scissored (if required), brushed and combed, nails trimmed, and thoroughly checked over during every session. This also includes cleaning of the "hygiene areas". Nails should be checked and trimmed as required.

Some extras may be offered depending on the level of training and expertise. Some groomers do a lot of hand scissoring as opposed to clipping which requires a lot of skill and special equipment. 
Also consider the quality of the products used, a good groomer uses quality salon exclusive product as this provides a greater result and assists in achieving a higher standard of groom and helps keep your dog's coat in great condition.

It is perfectly acceptable for a groomer to limit their service based on their facilities, training or expertise. Some only service small to medium sized breeds, some prefer not to groom double or shedding coated breeds, and some only offer shave downs when others have the skills to complete a full hand scissor to a show level standard. 
There are many options and groomers are there willing to help, educate and service all types of pets.

Q: How long should a typical grooming session take?

Please remember your groomer needs to completely clean your dog, from nose to tail. This usually requires two shampoos, rinsing, conditioning and rinsing again.

Then your pet is completely dried - a clip cannot be performed on a damp dog - so groomers use a high velocity drier to remove all the water from the coat, then a fluff drier to straighten and fluff the coat up, so the coat cuts evenly when clipping or scissoring.

Once the coat is dry, the haircut can commence, although the coat may need to be completely brushed and combed first to remove any knots and fluff the coat even more.

Most small breeds (under 8kg) may be completed in 1.5 hours, depending on the length and condition of the coat, time between grooming (6-8 weeks is ideal), style required, how the pet handles the process. Some dogs that do not receive regular grooming may need extra time and patience! 

Then the phone rings, clients walk into the salon to make appointments and if a pet happens to toilet on the table (it happens!) and requires re-washing and a clean-up, the list goes on... So when a groomer needs to attend to something, the pet they're working on needs to be safe and secure in a crate or pen. 

Your pet should never be left unattended on a grooming table or in the bath. When it comes to crating and keeping pets secure in a grooming salon, remember they are very similar to a vet clinic where they need to keep pets safe. 

Mixing dogs or having dogs running around can create dangerous conditions. If one dog toilets on the floor, this can become a slip hazard too. 

Most dogs are completely comfortable sitting in a crate or holding pen when waiting to be groomed or picked up from the salon. It is when the pet cannot get to, or sees/hears its owner that it is more inclined to get worked up, excited or stressed.

Q: What questions should a good dog groomer ask you?

Your groomer will want to know what breed you have, your dog's age, their size and weight, their coat condition, vaccination status, grooming history and how regularly your pet is groomed. This is so they can figure out if they can complete the required groom on your pet, if they have done the requested trim before, how long it may take - so they can allocate the appropriate time.

Most groomers work on an appointment basis as some products are required, plus preparation prior to your dog's arrival, time for clean up afterwards etc. They also may want you to come in for a consult or arrive early for the appointment so they can go over your pet and discuss any concerns.

Q: What sort of styling options are available?

With so many mixed breeds these days, groomers see a lot of dogs mixed with poodles and their coats vary widely in texture and appearance. Some shed and some don’t, some are curly, some are wavy so there are many options when it comes to styling!

Shih Tzu in Asian Influence Style Trim
A Shih Tzu, a Bichon, a Silky Terrier or a Poodle doesn’t have to be kept in full coat or trimmed to breed standard, but they can also be practically styled. 

Groomers are certainly embracing the "Asian Influence" style with these sorts of breeds and cross breeds. This can be a combination of short lengths on the body and full longer legs, flared legs, teddy faces and round muzzles.

These styles however do require maintenance at home plus a regular trip to the stylist every 4 to 6 weeks.

Q: What will happen if my dog is not regularly groomed? 

Groomers don’t really enjoy shaving matted pets bald! However leaving a matted coat on a dog can cause bacterial and fungal skin infections, discomfort, redness, irritation and baldness from the matted hair pulling at the skin, and in extreme circumstances- necrotic tissue.

There are many issues that can arise from a shave down on a pet that is overgrown and unkempt. They can get sunburn, heatstroke or hypothermia, irritation due to the removal of tight matting, scratching and chewing/self-mutilation and stress

Before and after a spring haircut! - Source: Reddit
A groomer only wants your pet to be comfortable and they will try to achieve that in the most humane way possible. They will not tug and pull at hair to attempt to brush it out as this will result in pain and discomfort, balding and irritation and most of all – you pet will learn that grooming is unpleasant and painful. 

Unfortunately, the groomer has the only option of clipping the pet short to remove the matted hair and make that pet comfortable again. This is usually the result of lack of understanding with owners when it comes to the required grooming and upkeep of the coat for the dog’s comfort.

Before selecting a dog breed: do your research!

PIAA Dog Grooming Competition - Perth Royal Show
Find out what type of coat they have, what is required to maintain and groom that coat. All hair needs grooming: from Staffies to Old English Sheepdogs!

Ring groomers before choosing your dog to find out "how much, how often, the options when it comes to style and length, what to do at home between grooms?" Also try and get your pup started at a groomer soon after they are fully vaccinated - the younger the better - so they can get used to the process and enjoy grooming!

A lot of groomers are small businesses: they do this job because they love animals…. 
They love making your pets feel comfortable and look fabulous!

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a groomer?

Schnauzer in Breed trim - Photo: Marianne Suckling
It is hard work and although rewarding, it is not a gold mine industry. The longer it takes and the difficulty of the groom will affect the cost. 

Remember your groomer doesn’t have a magic wand, but they are professionals and will do the best they can do to restore comfort when grooming your pet. If they are presented with something that just cannot be brushed out or saved, they are trained to make the best decision and do the best they can. 

When there is a long period between grooming, there are the issues of the dog not being accepting to the process, being fearful, stressed and difficulties adjusting to the environment. They may bite in fear, jump and thrash around, cry and whinge. This makes it harder to complete the groom safely, can result in an increase in the risks associated with grooming and the groom may not get completed at all. There may also be a change in behaviour at home following the groom. 

A good groomer will work with you to assist in conditioning and teaching your dog that grooming should be a stress free, enjoyable experience. They will also discuss and provide feedback and training tips if they happen to encounter an issue with your pet during the grooming process.

Give your groomer time to complete the groom…

Shih Tzu after haircut - Photo: Marianne Suckling
Returning early to see how your pet is going could be the difference between a good and a bad haircut. When owners are present, the pet can get easily distracted, even the smell or the sound of the owner’s voice can distract the dog and make them get too excited to complete groom.
Therefore some salons are designed so the groomer is out of sight, making the environment just a little safer and less distracting for both the pet and groomer.

The key to finding the right groomer is asking the right questions. If you ever have any concerns when it comes to grooming and your pet, talk to your groomer and discuss it, a good groomer will work with you to rectify any issues and put your mind at ease.

Marianne Suckling is the Grooming Director for the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA). 

She's also an award-winning stylist with over 13 years grooming experience. 

She holds a Certificate III in Companion Animal Services and Certificate III in Pet Grooming.

She is the Owner and a Senior Stylist at Mojo’s Grooming Shed since 2011. She also lectures regularly on Grooming at TAFE SA.

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