Learn How to Get the Best Results From Your Dog Groomer

Dog Being Groomed
Before you leave your dog in the hands of the groomer, make sure everyone is on the same page about the type of cut you want. You can even bring a picture.

While your veterinarian will always be your BFF when it comes to caring for your dog, your groomer should be next on the best friends list. A great groomer does more than keep your dog clean and presentable — he or she can also help you keep parasites at bay, inform you of potential ear infections, and alert you to the presence of lumps and bumps that should be checked.

As with any good relationship, communication is key to keeping your pet at her prettiest. We talked to long-time groomer Barbara Cole Miller of San Juan Capistrano, California, for her tips on some common grooming situations, including what to do if you’re unhappy with your pet’s do and whether and how much to tip. We also rounded up some common grooming lingo to help you better describe what you want and understand what the groomer is suggesting.

Express Yourself

When you meet with a groomer for the first time, start with basic details, like how old your dog is — puppies and senior dogs can have different grooming needs. Explain exactly why you’re there and what you need. Was your dog skunked? Has he been rolling in mud? Or does he just need a bath and a haircut?

In addition, if your dog has health issues that could affect grooming, be as upfront about those as possible. Is your dog a senior who might not be able to stand while nails are being clipped? Does your dog have epilepsy? Is your dog on a drug that causes frequent urination? Let the groomer know so she can be prepared for any problems. If she knows your dog has special needs, she can make allowances for the condition, such as providing support for him while his nails are being done or taking him out to potty on a schedule so he doesn’t have an accident after he has just been bathed and trimmed.

In addition to sharing background information and special concerns, be specific about how you want your dog to look after grooming. Don’t just say “a short clip,” Miller says. “Either clearly demonstrate using your thumb and forefinger or use terms like ‘half off,’ ‘only trim up the edges’ or ‘very short like a Lab.’ You and the groomer should be on the same page before you leave.” The best way to convey what you're asking for may be to show a picture. The groomer can then advise you whether that particular style is appropriate for your dog’s coat.

And don't hesitate to say what you don’t want. Owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels often go into shock when they pick up their dogs and find that groomers have given their pups a Cocker trim. If the fur on your dog’s paws is supposed to resemble a dust mop, be sure the groomer knows that you don’t want it trimmed short — or, conversely, that you’re OK with having your dog’s coat trimmed short for easier care.


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