What a joy it is to own a pet. Along with that joy is the tremendous responsibility of caring for it. This will most likely mean regular trips to the groomer if your dog or cat has hair. You want to be comfortable when you leave your beloved pet and know that he/she is in good hands.
The first step to choosing a pet stylist/groomer (We will refer to the pet groomer as a stylist) is to determine what your grooming needs are. Some dogs and cats need regularly scheduled haircuts, while others need bathing and brushing and nail trimming. Some require flea and tick treatments. Some pets would just love a day at the spa enjoying a special glamour treatment. Once you have determined what your grooming needs are, then go and ask your friends, neighbors, your veterinarian, and your family members. You can even ask a delivery person or mailman if they service any grooming salons. After all, the mailman is in the salon daily at different times and unannounced. Once you have 2 or 3 recommendations, go and visit the salons. Talk in person to the owner or stylist. Pet grooming salons can be very busy but the owner or stylist should be able to take a few minutes to speak with you. Ask if you can have a look around and see where the dogs are kept during the day and where they are bathed and groomed. If you visit during the day, there may be hair on the floor. That is to be expected. However, make sure the facility looks and smells clean and that the staff is helpful. Also, ask about the staff. Is there a large enough staff to meet the needs and demands of the salon? Ask how long the salon has been in business. Ask where and how the groomers received their training and how long they have been grooming dogs? Are they certified? Do they attend continuing educational seminars and conferences? Does the salon require vaccinations? Ask about the bathing, grooming, and drying process. Do your homework before you go so that you know what questions to ask especially pertaining to the grooming and care of your breed.
Now it is time to go a little deeper.
Beware! Pet grooming is NOT a formally licensed vocation. Anyone can get a book, pick up a clipper and scissor, hang out a sign, and call themselves a groomer/stylist. That is dangerous. You want to make sure that the stylist you choose has been properly trained. They can get their training in a few different ways.
The first would be to go to a reputable school of pet styling (there are some good schools and some not so good schools). A school that is accredited by the state does not always mean one will get a proper education.
Stylists can also receive their training by doing an apprenticeship program at a salon. When they do this they usually begin by learning to properly bathe and blow dry the dogs. They learn the basics of skin and coat care. Over a period of time, (usually a year or two) they work their way into becoming a pet stylist/groomer.
There are also online courses that are available to teach pet grooming but learning to groom requires hands on work and that would not be possible with an online course.
Once the new stylist completes their training they will probably want to go through the proper testing to become certified. Certification is voluntary but it shows that you do have skills and knowledge to pass the required exams for certification. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of certifications available and some of them mean absolutely nothing. Three reputable organizations that offer certification in the United States are:
National Dog Groomers Association of America, The International Society of Canine Cosmetolists, and International Professional Groomers, Inc. These 3 organizations require the passing of a practical and a written exam to become certified. There are other less acceptable types of certification that may not test the skills and knowledge of a stylist.
Try to choose a stylist who attends continuing educational seminars, conferences, and trade shows. The industry is always evolving and these seminars help to keep the stylists up to date with trends in styling, safety, health, and other issues.
How much will it cost to have your pet groomed and how long will it take? That answer varies from salon to salon and city to city. Pet grooming salons come in a variety of shapes and sizes as do the clients. There are different types of salons to meet the different needs of the people. The wants and needs vary from owner to owner, from the owner of a shaggy outside dog on a farm who just wants the hair off and his dog comfortable and doesn’t want to pay a lot to have that done to the pet owner who takes pride in how their dog looks and enjoys taking their dog to the salon for a little pampering. There is a salon to meet every need. Scheduling is done differently for each shop. Some salons try to get the dogs in and out quickly while other salons prefer have all of the dogs dropped off early and stay most of the day. The reason for this is because they have to stop what they are doing and put the pet that they are working on up in order to check the clients in and out during the course of the day. That can make it hard to get your work done in a timely fashion.
Some private salons may take more time with your pet, offering hand-fluff drying, hand scissoring, offering a more artsy side of grooming. Their main focus is quality not quantity. These salons may be higher priced. The extra time spent on the pets will equate to a higher fee. There is a need and a call for this kind of salon.
There are mobile groomers. They usually have a grooming van or trailer and will come to your house and groom your pet in your driveway. This is a great service that is offered and suits the needs of many. This service is also usually higher priced but worth it to many.
There are also salons that do more clipper work and less scissoring, they may offer some fluff drying, and they usually do more dogs in a day. This will meet the needs of some clients as well. The prices in these salons will probably be mid range.
There are shops that are operated by individuals who do not have proper training and are so eager to groom. These shops can be a dangerous place for your pet. The pricing is usually very inexpensive and you get what you pay for. Remember, there is no licensing. Anyone can call themselves a groomer/stylist.
Once you have visited the salons, it is up to you. Trust the recommendations and most of all trust your instincts. This experience will be enjoyable for your pet as well as for you. Your pet is sure to feel much better after spending the day being pampered.
Written by: Karen Ritacco
How to find a Pet Stylist for your pet