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Dog Grooming: A Positive Experience

Dog grooming is an essential part of overall health care for our pets. While a bath or nail trim can be done at home, many coats are extremely challenging for pet owners to maintain properly at home, therefore professional dog grooming is recommended. However, you worry about your dog’s behavior at the grooming salon, safety, and how the experience will affect your dog (and you). Those are all valid concerns that can be addressed by a grooming professional who can guide you (and your dog) through the process so that the overall experience is positive.

Finding A Grooming Salon
Here are a few tips for knowing what to look for when choosing a dog grooming salon:

  • Clean – The salon should be kept clean and have a pleasant smell—the same as you’d expect entering a hair salon or barber shop.
  • Calm – You should not hear excessive barking or noise. The atmosphere should be calm–the dogs and staff relaxed and happy.
  • Qualifications – Ideally, the lead groomer should be certified by and members of National Dog Groomers Association of America, the International Professional Groomers, and/or the International Society of Canine Cosmetology. These associations ensure the groomer is voluntarily staying up-to-date on industry practices and technology. When working with someone new to grooming, it’s best to confirm there is a lead groomer on staff. Daily guidance, supervision, and mentorship from an experienced groomer on staff is important for new groomers so that quality, efficiency and safety is never overlooked.
  • Handling – The groomer should also ask you about your pet. This is a great opportunity for you to talk about your pet’s personality, disclose any medical or behavioral concerns, and ask questions about their experience handling the dogs, especially for dogs that are nervous or aggressive.

“Each dog should be treated as an individual, which is why the groomer should be asking you questions about your pet. Groomers have different skills sets such as working with puppies or handling fearful rescue dogs. Getting to know your pet allows the groomer to determine the best approach for working together. The goals are simple: safety, wellness, and providing a positive experience,” said Liz Sines, master groomer and manager of The Spa on State in Doylestown, PA.

A Gentle Introduction
The best time to get started with grooming is during your puppy’s first few months. This is the time when you are introducing your puppy to many experiences, so teaching your puppy the skills needed for regular grooming is essential.

I just adopted an adult dog that’s never been to a grooming salon so is it too late?

Introducing a dog to a professional grooming experience is all about going at the dog’s pace. Whether the pet is a puppy or an adult dog, it’s best to begin with a series of short visits. The key is frequency, so weekly appointments for a couple of months may be recommended. Those first visits may simply be a gentle introduction to the salon and being handled by the groomer before progressing to being bathed, dried and brushed.

“As the dog gets more comfortable, it’s beneficial to expand the grooming experience by having other members of the team work with the dog. It’s about teaching the dog the skills for grooming rather than associating the experience with one person. I also give my clients homework like getting the dog used to being comfortably held for grooming, having their feet touched, or practicing to accept clipper noise by brushing with an electric toothbrush” added Sines.

Short visits and a slow pace may be helpful for working with fearful and aggressive dogs. As the visits become longer and include the full range of services, such as a haircut, ear cleaning and teeth brushing, reading the dog’s body language and giving frequent breaks along with praise and reward are important in building trust between the dog and the groomer.

If your puppy or dog is high energy, then a good walk and some play time before arriving is recommended.

Safety First
Safety for the dog as well as the groomer should always be a priority. When the dog has learned the skills necessary for grooming and becomes comfortable with the tools used, the session can be smooth. Add to that safety measures, then the entire experience is positive.

Besides the proper safety restraint while on a raised grooming table, a dog that is comfortable with being groomed may not need additional restraints. For dogs that do not like being groomed, are fearful or aggressive, there are a variety of safety tools available such as e-collars, gentle leaders and also basket muzzles. It’s important to let the groomer know during that initial meeting if your dog has known medical or behavioral issues in order to discuss how best to help the dog during the appointment.

“Depending on the situation, I have suggested that a trusted caregiver stay with the dog while being groomed. Most dogs do better without the owner present, but some do not. It’s part of assessing the dog as an individual and deciding what is in the best interest of the dog. If a dog is especially aggressive, I may ask the owner to train the dog at home to be comfortable wearing a basket muzzle. Basket muzzles are preferred over strap muzzles because the basket placed over the muzzle allows the dog to keep its mouth open and also take tasty treats” said Sines.

Always consult with your groomer and veterinarian if the dog requires sedation. Sedating a dog should always be done at a veterinarian office, never a grooming salon. If you sedate your dog at home before arriving to the salon, always tell the groomer that the dog has been sedated.

Finally, ask the dog grooming salon about drying method. Hand drying or cool dryers, depending on the type of coat, are optimal. Heated dryers can be used safely but only with diligent monitoring.

Professional dog grooming is an important part of your pet’s overall wellness. Regardless of the age or personality of your dog, the skills needed for grooming can be learned. With patience, encouragement, a qualified grooming staff, good communication, and appropriate safety measures, your dog can have a positive experience with grooming—and you’ll be happy with the outcome too.