Is your Pet Proud of his/her Coat?
Animal caretakers who specialize in grooming or maintaining a pet’s (usually a dog’s or cat’s) appearance are called groomers. Some groomers work in kennels, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or pet-supply stores. Others operate their own grooming business, typically at a salon or, increasingly, by making house calls. Such mobile services are growing rapidly as it offers convenience for pet owners and flexible hours for groomers. Groomers answer telephones, schedule appointments, discuss pets’ grooming needs with clients, and collect information on the pet’s disposition and its veterinarian. Groomers often are the first to notice a medical problem, such as an ear or skin infection, that requires veterinary care.
There is no licensing requirement for pet groomers. However, certification is available. If a pet groomer does not undergo training at a school or institute supporting the highest standards of pet care, and/or training provided by associations offering certification, and/or an apprenticeship in a similarly conscious environment for excellence and pet care knowledge, the door is wide open for an opportunity for less than adequately trained pet groomers to ‘set up shop’. Is it not then ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) for today’s pet owner seeking a qualified pet groomer where there are no requirements? It is. As a result pet owners should never expect the same client and pet grooming services from one business to the other. It’s simply open territory for how each owner manages their business, salon, shop, grooming department in corporate stores or privately owned pet care centers.
Routine grooming and cleaning is as important for our pets as it is for us: it improves their appearance, helps to prevent diseases, and contributes to their overall well-being.
Grooming the pet involves several steps: an initial brush-out is followed by clipping of hair or fur using electric clippers, combs, and grooming shears; the groomer then cuts the nails, cleans the ears, bathes, and blow-dries the animal, and ends with a final clipping and styling.
Bathing should be done on an as-needed basis. Frequency depends on the individual pet. Never use a shampoo intended for human use. A dog’s skin is much more sensitive than human skin and human shampoo can cause serious skin irritations. It may also cause excessive drying of the hair coat and flaking of the skin.
Ears are an important part of pet hygiene. The ears should be examined routinely and if your dog has excessive hair, dirt, or wax build-up, they must be cleaned.
Cotton-tipped applicators should never be used to clean ears because of the risk of inadvertently damaging your pet’s eardrum.
Keeping the nails trimmed contributes to the health of the paws and also ensures that your pet will be comfortable when running and walking. Failure to keep nails clipped can, in some cases, result in in-grown nails, which can become infected and painful.
There are more cats than dogs in most countries, yet the majority of pet owners still think of ‘pet groomers’ as being ‘dog groomers’. As early as the 1960’s the term ‘pet groomer’ was rarely used, in favor of ‘dog groomer’. Times have changed, and the number of groomers providing both dog and cat grooming has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.
Fallacy: Cats don’t need grooming, they groom themselves.
Cat owners know that hairballs are a problem, and almost certainly they have cleaned up purged hairball messes around their houses. Professional grooming can significantly reduce the amount of hair licked by cats, and thereby reduce the hairball syndrome. Yes, cats were equipped with an abrasive tongue to perform some grooming, but it is not the same as an overall beneficial grooming, let alone styling. Obviously cats can get in a lot amazing positions, but they cannot lick clean all of their body. It’s surprising how many cat owners don’t find ticks on their cats either. A cat groomer is almost certain to locate tick problems (and cats don’t do well taking off or deterring ticks by themselves though they groom themselves).
Cat dirt and dander can be a real problem even for enthusiasts, and to the dread of visiting friends. Anyone with allergies to cat hair and dander is likely to notice a significant reduction in reactions when cats are regularly groomed.
Types of Grooming Businesses
Commercial Locations is a broad category. In nearly every community you will find independently owned grooming salons or shops in commercial locations. But there are also many grooming businesses that are departments within veterinarian clinics, kennels, pet daycares and pet retail stores also located in commercial locations. Some of them have pickup and delivery services, but typically you will deliver your pets to their location for services.
Mobile Groomers and House Call Groomers. These have seen the greatest growth in the last 5 years. The major difference in service is that groomers come to YOUR home. The Mobile Groomer comes with a specially equipped mobile vehicle or trailer with many of the same features found in a modern pet salon. The House Call Groomer comes to your home too, but they don’t bring a “salon on wheels” and instead bring some equipment in hand and groom your pets inside your home. House Call Groomers are more common in large cities where it is not always practical for a mobile groomer to find a parking space outside a large high-rise building.
Home-Based Groomers simply means that the groomer has converted a portion of their home and property into a pet care facility. Rural areas commonly have groomers operating from such facilities and some can be just as well equipped as commercial location businesses.
Choosing a Groomer
You must invest some time to find a groomer right for you and your pet. Pets remember their groomers and it is less stressful when they recognize their groomers and the surroundings positively. To have faith and confidence in your decision you are going to need to gather information that will support your decision.
Four helpful steps are: Referrals, Interviews, Toursand Intuition.
Step 1 – Referrals: Experienced grooming business owners know that referrals are ‘the lifeblood’ of the grooming industry. Most pet owners ask for pet groomer referrals from friends and family, or pet professionals such as veterinarians, breeders and trainers. If you see a well-groomed pet ask its owner where they have their pet groomed. Most pet owners are flattered by your asking, so take a chance and ask for their referral.
If your veterinarian or retail pet store has an in-house groomer, their referral is almost certainly going to be their own groomer. It’s likely that their groomers are responsible and dependable, but that alone does not mean they provide the grooming services you require.
There are types of grooming services that require more extensive training and experience beyond traditional training. For example, if you require hand stripping or show grooming on a purebred pet your search is going to be more complex. The majority of groomers do not provide hand stripping or show grooming specialty services. We have found professional breeders to be a reliable source of groomer referrals for these services.
Step 2 – Interviews: The wise pet owner will interview prospective pet grooming business owners, hired groomers or managers working in a pet care facility or retail location. Start with the owner or manager whenever possible because they have the actual liability for a business unlike hired groomers.
Hopefully the business you interview will provide you with a brochure explaining the services offered, operational information and historical background of the owner and business. You cannot rely on a brochure being available. Groomers often overlook the need for brochures, and few available brochures are written from the perspective of pet owner information needs. We wrote what we believe is the industry’s best example of a brochure with this perspective and published it in our book, From Problems to Profits in pet grooming.
Your interview should glean the following information:
Related experience of the owner and their grooming staff.
Where did they learn to groom? Apprenticeship? School?
How many years of grooming experience?
When was the business established?
Are they veterinarian recommended?
Description of the grooming operations.
Do they keep permanent written client and pet service histories?
Do they offer convenient days and hours of operation? Are they open weekends?
If you don’t have a scheduled appointment, how long is the average wait for one?
Do they keep your veterinarian’s name on file?
Do they offer special appointment programs and appointment reminders?
What is their pricing system? Do they offer a printed price list?
Do they offer special care appointments for aged or disabled pets?
Do they offer daylong appointments for working pet owners (morning drop-off, late afternoon pick-up appropriate for some pets if cared for properly)?
Do they offer short appointments (usually 2 to 4 hour stays)?
Do they have a safety and supervision program for people and pets?
How do they handle pet emergencies?
A grooming business owner that can answer all or most of these questions in a positive manner is a likely candidate. We can’t imagine operating a pet grooming business without this level of operation and much more. Don’t expect all pet groomers to have positive answers. Grooming business owners are not required to have formal education in grooming operations and there are not formally adopted standards of operation. As a result having the above information ready for you is entirely voluntary. Thousands of grooming business owners are volunteering to learn more about professional management of grooming operations and during your interviews you may be fortunate to discover some of them. At this point, just keep gathering information.
Do they have a dedicated hired manager?
Less than 2% of all grooming businesses in the U.S. have a hired manager, one that only manages and does not groom regularly. To afford a full-time hired manager the business must have a large clientele, so it is not necessarily a bad mark against a business not to have one. If someone can build a large business and hire a manager, it is a positive mark and you should learn more about that business.
Will they groom your pet to your desired styling preferences?
If you have a purebred pet but don’t desire breed standard grooming and styling that should be okay with most groomers. They will accommodate your desires. However some groomers are resistant. You should let them explain why. It’s one thing not to accommodate a pet owner desiring services that are not healthful or comfortable for their pet, but if the resistance is purely aesthetic, we believe groomers should accommodate the pet owner. The key is to listen to the professional groomer at this point.
If you have a purebred pet and desire breed standard grooming you have an extra task to ensure that they are skilled in breed standard grooming of your particular breed. Again, not all groomers are qualified to offer hand stripping or show grooming on purebred pets where appropriate. Ask them for their qualifications in such a case. Some pet groomers have little or no experience grooming rare breeds such as the Portuguese Water Dog.
Are they a member of pet grooming industry associations? Are they certified?
Approximately 10% to 15% of U.S. pet grooming businesses belong to national grooming organizations, or regional grooming associations. Keep in mind though that membership is not ‘certification’. Major organizations such as the National Dog Groomers Association of America (N.D.G.A.A.), International Pet Groomers (I.P.G.) and International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (I.S.C.C.) do offer voluntary workshop training leading to testing and certification, which may vary from certification for a breed, breed group or overall certification. Groomers successfully certified by an organization may be licensed to place initials indicating their certification after their names, and the logo of the organization in their advertising. For example, the N.D.G.A.A. offers certification testing to become:
Jill Groomer, N.C.M.G. (National Certified Master Groomer). It is very favorable to discover a well-certified pet groomer. In fairness, there remain thousands of groomers who are reputable but never sought certification. However, acknowledge the effort and dedication it takes to become certified and favor it.
Do they have a presentation photo album with pictures of their work?
Not many groomers offer a photo album, but they should. It would make their work easier. It can be very difficult to explain what a style looks like without photos. If a grooming business shows you an album of their work, well done! It should be easier for you to determine if you see the type and quality of the grooming services you desire.
Do they offer other client services as well as pet care services?
Perhaps the weakest area of the pet grooming industry is its services for pet owners, not pets. Most groomers provide above average to excellent grooming services, but their client services may seem secondary. It’s a welcome surprise when you find an owner that knows that you, the pet owner, is just as important to serve as your pets.
You may find that you must have your pet groomed only on Saturday’s because they are not open extended hours to accommodate commuter pet owners, nor do they keep dogs all day or comfort dogs left all day with potty breaks, water and larger accommodations. Do they offer alternatives such as mobile pet grooming at your home, or pickup and delivery? Do they provide appointment reminder calls? Do they require their employees to dress neat, perhaps in groomer uniforms, and maintain a hygienic ambient environment? These are client services, and there are many more. Here your interviews are likely to find very diverse results.
Did they provide you with adequate time for your interview?
Don’t be surprised if very small grooming businesses have little time to answer so many questions. The smaller the business the less likely you will find hired receptionists or managers that give the owner more time to talk with you. In fact, grooming business owners that are also the groomer, with no or few employees, may be stressed to spend more than a few moments with you as they have a tight schedule to keep each day performing all or most of the grooming and client services. Perhaps you can ask them to schedule a time to meet with you when they have adequate time.
Step 3 -Tours Don’t forgo taking a tour of the facility! Ask the business owner if you can tour their grooming business? No? Why not? What are they hiding? Even if it is a mobile grooming van or a grooming area in a home, tour it. Mobile groomers typically love to show their vehicles. From the moment you drive up to prospective commercial or home-based businesses, use your senses. Listen! Smell! Look! Is the property clean both inside and out? Do you detect foul odors? Is the facility well maintained? Is noise controlled? Do you hear groomers or staff saying objectionable words? Yes, some frustrated groomers do use harsh language or slang when pets are not comfortable being groomed, even if they don’t physically abuse pets. Does that bother you? Take it all in. Never use the services of a grooming business that would not accommodate your request for a tour of their facility of any size.
Step 4 – Intuition: Now is the time to consider all of the information gained from your referrals, interviews and tours. What are you going to fall back on to make the decision? Intuition, just as you would use when searching for child day care. It probably won’t be too hard if you’ve invested time in the first three steps.
This paper is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal, financial or other professional advice. Transmission of these materials is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any relationship of any kind between the provider and the recipient. Some of these points may not apply in your area. Different term and conditions may vary from state to state and province to province. All articles, text and photographic material presented here is for the use and pleasure of the recipient only. Download PDF