In Search of the Natural Groomer
By Pamela R. Martin  >^..^<  August 29, 2008

All dogs including the mixed and short coated breeds require some degree of grooming.   
Grooming is a necessary and most important part of your dogs’ life.   The long coated
breeds may require professional grooming.   Chances are if you have a dog, you will eventually
seek out a professional groomer.  

The best way to find a good groomer is by recommendation. Ask friends, family and neighbors
who grooms their pets.  Pet owners will be happy to share their experiences with groomers.
Looking for the “cheapest� prices in town or the most convenient location may not be
your best option. Your final decision may depend upon the size of your area, but hopefully you
have more than one option. If not, it may be in yours and your pets’ best interest to travel.  
Finding a “good� groomer is not always easy.

Most groomers work by appointment since they can only groom so many dogs per day. Before
scheduling with a new groomer, ask a few questions over the phone. If possible, visit the shop
and bring your pet along.   You will get a visual impression of the shops inside and outside
appearance and upon return your pet will have received a previous introduction.

Is the shop & reception area clean, noisy or smelly? Keep in mind you are visiting a doggie
parlor so there may be a slight doggie smell; however, it shouldn’t be overwhelming.  Good
groomers stay busy and might not have a lot of time to talk but perhaps they have a brochure
that will answer most of your questions.   If they don’t, you’ll need to ask your
questions directly.

Another consideration is location. Is the shop located in a busy area with a lot of traffic and
streets to cross? Are there stairs to climb? If so, make certain your pet is securely leashed if
he/she is too large to hand carry.

After the visual assessment, you will want shop credentials. How long has the shop been in
business? Who will be grooming your dog(s)?   How much experience and training does the
groomer have? Will the same groomer always groom your dog or does the shop have a lot of
turn-over?  Are groomers capable of grooming puppies, dogs with special needs or your specific
breed?   Do they specialize in any particular breed?    Are the holding cages in view of groomers
at all times?  You will want to know how long the grooming will take, how long your dog needs
to stay and if they will call when he/she is ready.

One of the first things pet owners want to know (and it’s an excellent question) is will their
pet be given any drugs. Pets are only sedated when taken to a vet’s office for grooming.
Groomers cannot administer drugs. In a normal grooming salon environment, the groomer
relies on her experience, skills and lots of patience to naturally train and calm your pet during
the grooming process.  Pets unable to tolerate natural grooming shop procedures will need to
be groomed at a vet’s office under sedation.

You will want to know what products will be used on your pets and within the shop
environment.  Groomers often treat for fleas and ticks and minor skin issues.  Are the products
used safe and approved for dogs?  Are they organic or harsh chemicals?  Are the same products
consistently used or rotated and are they recorded in case there is an allergic reaction?

A dogs’ skin is nine times more sensitive than human skin. Even some widely used safe
organic products such as citrus, may cause allergic reactions in some dogs.  If your dog has any
known allergies, your groomer will need to be advised of this.

Are heated dryers used?  If so, how are they monitored and used? Are they approved pet
dryers? Do the dyers have timers, thermostats and safety features?  When heated dryers are
used, the confinement cages must be fully ventilated on all sides and within monitoring view
of groomers at all times.
A grooming shop can naturally be a noisy place with some dogs barking and dryers running.   
Additional activity such as loud radio or tv, people and dogs walking around  can easily distract
the groomer as well as the dog; thus,  potential for accidents.

It’s always been my opinion that the best groomers are people with a background of  special
interests such as dog rescue, breeding and exhibiting and training that leads them to the
natural art of professional pet grooming.   Before grooming schools were so widely established,
this is where groomers originated.  Grooming requires a lot of patience.  People with a special
and natural ability to work well with dogs make the best groomers. Even the most highly
trained and artistic groomers are of little use without that natural ability to communicate and
train well with the dogs.

Having the cheapest prices shouldn’t be the determining factor for your pets’ groomer
either. Operating costs will vary from shop to shop, location to location and groomer to
groomer. It’s not practical to expect to pay apprentice prices for the seasoned groomers’
expertise.  Once you find the right groomer for you and your pet--stick with them for life.
Grooming will become a natural occurrence   for you, your pet and your groomer once a
trust is established.
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