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SNIPPITS The Lapdog's Lexicon of Grooming :Groomer Rumors

Updated on January 13, 2011
Jesse in his Easter basket
Jesse in his Easter basket


SNIPPITS The Lapdog’s Lexicon

Before I became a professional dog groomer, I tried to groom my dogs at home. For those of you ready to tackle the living room grooms, this is for you. The Lapdog’s Lexicon provides easy lessons for dog grooming. These methods are tried and true; just ask our clients! Now, get out there and get your groom on!

Today’s Lesson: Groomer Rumors

Many times I have heard clients ask if it is necessary to get their dogs groomed, and how should they go about finding a good groomer. I was once one of those clients, and my unhappy grooming experiences led me to become a dog groomer by trade. I have never forgotten those experiences, and thus my fellow groomers and I work diligently to ensure our clients have a great grooming experience. In this article, I will post common questions and our answers to these questions.

QUESTION 1: How much does a full groom cost and what is included?

ANSWER: Different shops vary in their services and prices. Our salon includes the following in a full groom package:

- double shampoo using hypoallergenic product (we’ve put this in our own eyes to make certain it does not burn!)

- deep conditioning treatment in the form of a spray-on conditioner, which is then massaged into the coat and skin of our client (dogs love this part!)

- while massaging and conditioning, we gently work our way back to the anal glands and carefully express those glands while our client is in the tub – this makes for easy and effective clean up afterwards!

- Teeth are brushed with puppy-friendly tooth paste (we brush the tongue too)

- Our clients are first towel dried to rid them of most of the moisture, then hand dried using a hand-held blow dryer. We do not use heat cages!! (Ask for a tour of a groomer’s facility when in doubt) Most often, we hold the client in our lap (unless it’s a great dane) and scruff or pet them while we dry them. This not only comforts the dog, but allows the groomer more control over drying the fur.

- After a good bath and dry, our client gets a 15 minute play break, when they can go outside into a secured, fenced area, and potty, romp, or just soak up some fresh air. Once inside, we escort them to a grooming table and begin. Our clients receive their style of choice – customized down to the last detail (we have two that get Mohawks). Styles can include puppy cuts, breed-specific styles, such as cocker cuts or schnauzer styling, poodle styles (lamb cuts, town and country, etc…). Sometimes clients bring a photo with them.

- We use a small set of clippers to shave the hair growing around the dog’s foot pads, which creates a nice, clean foot with a no-slip effect.

- We shave/trim the “potty patch” area to ensure no unnecessary messes will happen during restroom breaks

- The client’s ears are cleaned thoroughly – including removal of ear hair and swabbing with cleaning solution and cotton balls

- Nails are clipped and dremelled (a small hand-held sanding device) to ensure a smooth finish. Rounded, smooth nails keep our client’s people happy.

- Many dogs get a tummy-shave, especially in the summer. This allows heat to better escape their bodies when they get too hot. This also keeps the hairs on the tummy from getting knotted and matted.

- Finally, the finishing touches are made. This can include painting the toenails, placing bows in the ears or topknot, or perhaps a nice, handsome bandana is tied around the neck. A finishing spray is applied, both to enhance the coat’s appearance and to make our client smell wonderful. After this, they get a hug and then they go home to show off their new style.

QUESTION 2: Is grooming expensive?

ANSWER: Everyone has a different idea of what is expensive. To most of our clients, their people include them as a family member, much like a child, and see grooming as a necessity and not a luxury. Prices and services vary widely depending on the community and the services rendered. Here is our price list, complete with some explanations.

- Standard groom for dogs under 40 pounds costs $30. This includes all services mentioned above. This includes shih tzus, yorkies, cairn terriers, maltese, and many other breeds. Standard grooms make up 85% of our business.

- Specialty Groom includes breed-specific styling, which takes more time to perform. An example would be poodles: a lamb cut takes longer to accomplish due to the shaved feet, the precision cut of a top knot, the creation of poms, and much more. Poodles cost $35, Schnauzers cost $35, and Cocker Spaniels cost $40. Many of our cocker clients weigh more than 40 pounds, and they wear a triple coat. Double brushing and the use of thinning shears are often necessary in a cocker style.

- Nails are clipped and smoothed. They can even be painted! The cost is $5. We take walk ins for nails.

- Baths are $12 for dogs weighing less than 40 pounds. Heavier dogs add $.50 per pound. Remember, it takes a lot of shampoo, conditioner, water and hard work to bathe that St. Bernard!!!

- Tidy is a term we use for a touch-up style in between full grooms. This means our client gets a bath, nails, clean ears, clean teeth and clean foot pads. No body work is performed at this time. A tidy costs $20.

QUESTION 3: How do I choose a good groomer?

ANSWER: Just like you choose a great hairstylist! Word of mouth is first. Have a friend whose yorkie always looks great? Ask her where she gets her dog groomed. New customers have told us that they stopped a stranger on the street to ask who groomed their puppy! Great service will speak for itself. Secondly, call around and talk to groomers. Ask for prices and a list of what their grooms include. Take your pup to their facility and gauge his or her reaction. Take a tour of the facility. Ask questions.

Here are some words of advice garnered from our personal experiences: SMELL the grooming business when you walk in their door!! If your groomer’s waiting area smells like urine and worse, there could be a sanitary issue. When a client enters our facility and says, “It smells so good in here!” that is like music to our ears! We vacuum and mop every day – NO CARPET anywhere! Your dog’s feet can pick up – or track in – viruses and germs like Parvo. We keep our floors clean! Ask where the dogs are kept. We have a designated room which houses several kennel cages. Although we arrange our appointments to prevent our clients from having to wait, there are sometimes situations in which a dog must spend 15-20 minutes in a holding area, such as a waiting cage. Some people detest this option, but it keeps your dog safe. Any grooming facility that places all dogs together in a room or cage is a bad idea. We have heard horror stories of dogs sharing kennel cough – and even mating!!! Our clients get to wave at each other, but they are otherwise treated like an only child.

This may sound silly to some of you, but talk to your groomer the way you would talk to a hair dresser or a doctor. If the groomer/stylist makes eye contact with you and listens intently, they are taking you seriously. No matter how picky you are about the style you want, a great groomer will not be fazed and will comply with professional willingness. Never be embarrassed to take a dirty dog to a groomer. It’s our job! We love it! (I have a client who bathes and refreshes her dog the morning of her appointment with us – I always feel guilty charging her for a bath!) Remember, we have seen things you could only imagine.

A good grooming facility is much like a daycare center. Your dog is your child, you are dropping him or her off for a day at the spa. It is understood that while you are gone, your dog will be treated with love and respect, cleaned and groomed, and will not suffer abuse in any way. We even encourage first time clients to call and check on their baby. We understand your anxiety! I have been there myself many times!

Finally, inspect your dog after each groom. Stand in the waiting room and look your puppy over. If you are not satisfied with some aspect of your dog’s appearance, do not be afraid to say something! Your stylist will bend over backwards to please you and your puppy, and the stylist wants to get the groom correct. Having said this, remember that on some levels we are not miracle workers. There does sometimes seem to be some confusion there. Just like the perfect hairstyle is not equivalent to lipo and a new car, a great groom cannot correct your dogs bad habits or weight issues.

QUESTION 4: How long does a groom take?

ANSWER: We hear this question 20 times a week. A standard groom on a standard client takes 2 hours – this includes the bath, drying, playing, grooming, and more. Your groomer should inform you of a pick up time. If your dog is special and needs extra attention – say in the form of a muzzle and no sudden movements on the groomer’s part – then things tend to change. Most cocker spaniels take 3-4 hours to groom because it takes us over an hour to dry them. Poodles take 2.5 hours to groom. Large dogs take longer to dry. Dogs which arrive in a heavily matted condition take extra long to groom – and it’s painful for them to have those mats! Your groomer knows how long each dog should take.

QUESTION 5: Why does my dog need to be groomed?

ANSWER: Does it? It depends on the breed and nature of the dog. Many people bring their dogs in because it makes the dog feel absolutely fabulous. I have often said I would make a video of some of our clients when they arrive. A dog will come into the shop dirty and matted and sullen. It will be timid and quiet. Once they get in the tub and get that massage, they start to relax. Then they enjoy some conversation with their stylist, and they dutifully get their groom. During this time, something really cool happens; they become a different dog. Just like a great haircut turns a bad day into a good one, a great groom turns a sad dog into a happy one! By the time we finish, the same dog will be wagging his tail, jumping, talking, and playing! He will strut around the waiting room like he’s in Westminster. The transformation is awesome. To me, that’s worth a lot!

Another obvious reason for grooming is preventive maintenance. It is a good idea to have those anal glands expressed. It is a good idea to have those teeth brushed. It is a good idea to keep hair controlled instead of having your dog feel the pain involved with mats and knots. Ears get infected when they are dirty and filled with hair. Nails become ingrown and cut into foot pads, which cause your dog much pain. There is a clinical reason to have your dog groomed. Grooming keeps your dog healthier. Often we find ailments or tumors while we are styling a client. We always tell our client’s person, and they thank us for noticing things they tend to overlook (simply because they aren’t digging around parts of their puppies like we do!).

Lastly, grooming can be a fashion statement, an anti-depressant, or a form of identity. In the same ways we take care of ourselves and our appearances, we also take care of our dogs. Especially when the whole family is coming over for Thanksgiving and Fifi needs to look as great as the rest of us! Afterall, they are family members. When we take the time to have them groomed and pampered, we send our dogs the message that they are important and loved.


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      6 years ago

      Excellent article, I am a professional groomer in New Zealand and we run our shop very similarly to how yours sounds.

      We don't have a policy of caging and separating our dogs after their grooms, mostly because there aren't many contagious diseases in this country and dogs here are vaccinated against all the possibilities. We do crate if the particular client warrants it, it's just not a policy for everyone. Love a positive grooming environment!


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