SELECTING A GROOMER
by Barbara Bird
It has been said that finding a groomer is like looking for a great baby sitter
and a great hairdresser in the same package. Not only do you want to find
someone who can give your pet a good haircut, but you want your pet treated with
care and respect. Making a choice can be difficult. Look in the Yellow Pages and
you will find that most of the groomers listed pretty much say the same things,
all attesting to be the perfect spot for your 'Spot' to land.
Groomers can be found in store fronts, in superstores, in veterinarian offices,
set up in their homes, and in mobile vans. A growing trend is in-your-home
groomers who set up at your place. Really great groomers can be found in any of
these settings. It's impossible to make any valid generalizations about good
groomers based on location. In fact, for any generalization made, some
exceptions can be cited. With this in mind, now let me try.
Professionalism - Clues to professionalism can be found in membership in
a trade organization such as the National Dog Groomers Association (NDGAA),
International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC). Certificates attesting to
attendance at industry seminars, or testing for certification also indicate
professional identity. Many of today's groomers are networking through the World
Wide Web, sharing experience and learning through informal groomers' forums.
Basically you want to look for some indications that your groomer is not working
in total isolation, but has some links to the profession as a whole.
Experience counts - While experience itself does not automatically assume
mastery nor it's lack imply a lack of skills, it is true that the accumulation
of experience makes a difference in what the groomer brings to the table. With
each added year comes a confidence in assessing animal behaviors, knowing how to
groom specific breeds to the breed standard, accumulation of grooming skills and
knowledge of the options. It takes a few years to build a sturdy foundation of
experience. Hopefully your grooming establishment will have at least one veteran
A good groomer knows their limitations - Whereas it is always tempting to
think that our service can provide all things to all people, a good groomer
knows his or her limitations. Not every groomer has had the opportunity to
master each breed-specific trim, for example. And new, exotic breeds are always
showing up. The good groomer will admit to his or her areas of less expertise.
Some limitations have to do with groomer preferences, as some groomers are less
willing than others to attempt to dematt tangled coats, deal with difficult
behaviors, or custom groom to your specifications.
My best advice as a veteran groomer is to recommend that you get very clear on
what you want from a grooming service. If convenience is paramount for you, then
a superstore grooming department or the nearest groom shop could be what you
want. Those groomers may not be the best choice, however, if you have a purebred
dog that you want groomed to look like the pictures you have seen. Similarly, if
you want a rapid turn around time with your pet staying some place for the
shortest amount of time, this is not always consistent with having a scissored
or sculpted type of trim. If you want your terrier hand stripped, be sure to ask
specifically if a groomer does that kind of work, and be willing to have your
pet stay for a longer period of time. Know your lifestyle and what kind of
scheduling works for you. Know what you need. If you need flexibility in drop
off and pickup times, some groomers may not be willing to accomodate you. Those
groomers, however, can often give you an exact pick up time and stick to it.
Other establishments will have more give and take in their scheduling. Some
groomers who are highly skilled at doing show style grooming may be less willing
to accomodate specific owner requests that they perceive as compromising the
breed standard. If your pet is sensitive, high strung, or easily distracted by
other animals, you might be best off finding a low volume service with a relaxed
So ask yourself a few questions before you begin your search. Do you want
convenience? (nearby groomer, superstore, or mobile groomer), available medical
attention? (vet's office), advanced stylist skills? (certified groomer, groomer
with show background, groomer of experience), extra patience and special
handling?(smaller shop or in-home groomer).
One last thing: shopping by price is probably the least valuable variable in
finding a good groomer. There is a connection between the amount of time spent
grooming each pet and the price. Prices vary in different regions and between
individuals. They usually reflect the time it takes, overhead, and cost of
products. The cost of the grooming is also somewhat reflective of the
self-esteem of the groomer. Those groomers who have years of experience, have
paid to go to advanced learning seminars and certifications, take the time to
"create" and produce outstanding results, and who buy the best products, are
likely to charge more for their services. These are all things worth paying a
little more for.
With these things in mind, we hope to give you some confidence in searching for
your new groomer. Ask questions that enable the groomer to assess if your needs
match their service, and don't be afraid to show up and check the place out.
Trust your intuition and look for that person or place that with which you are
comfortable. Happy shopping!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Barbara Bird has been grooming for 30 years in Tucson Arizona, where she owns
Transformation Pet Health Center. She specializes in hand scissored trims,
custom pet styling and hand stripping of small terrier breeds. She also enjoys
tackling large, undercoated, breeds. Barbara belongs to the NDGAA, ISCC and is
certified in non-sporting breeds through the NDGAA. While sometimes tired, she
is rarely burned out and retains a passion for helping people with their pet
care. Links to other articles about pet care and grooming can be found at:
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:
Transformation Pet Health Center