Dog Being Groomed

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.

Grooming Etiquette 

A bad haircut can be a bummer — whether it’s your hair or your dog’s. Alert the groomer or salon owner immediately if you’re not pleased with your dog’s look. If a correction can be made, they should offer to do so right away. If that’s not possible, you should be able to schedule a “repair” appointment ASAP. But be fair: If the problem occured because you weren’t specific or clear in describing what you wanted, you shouldn’t expect a free fix.

You may find that you’re not just displeased with one particular cut but are unhappy with the groomer; in this case, don’t hesitate to try someone new. It can feel like cheating, especially if you stay at the same salon, but business is business, and there’s nothing wrong with requesting a different groomer, whatever your reason. “If you feel funny about doing so, you might want to explain your switch to the owner,” Miller says. “If you’re switching from the owner to someone else, you should just let him or her know that you’ve observed groomed dogs done by the employee and want to see how your dog will look.”

When the groomer does a good job, be sure to thank her — and consider offering a tip. We’re used to tipping for services at hair and nail salons, but it can be confusing to know whether you should also tip your dog’s groomer. A tip is a thank you for service well done, but it is not a requirement — sometimes it’s all you can do to afford the cost of the grooming. “Tip if you can, if you received good service in a reasonable time frame, and your pet tells you it was fun to be there,” Miller advises. If you do choose to tip, the typical amount is 15 to 20 percent of the total or $5 per dog.

Speaking the Language

Knowing the terms for certain services can help ensure that you get what you want. Here are a few that may come in handy.

All-over cut: The dog’s fur is trimmed to the same length over the entire body, although the hair on the head, ears and tail may be left longer.

Lamb cut: Hair on the body is trimmed to the desired length, with the legs left fluffy, scissored neatly to blend into the body hair. This style is often seen on Bichons, Poodles, Schnauzers and Shih Tzus.

Lion trim: The front end has a mane of hair while the rear is clipped close to the skin. This is frequently done for dogs who are heavily matted or for certain breeds such as the Lowchen or Portuguese Water Dog.

Potty path or sanitary trim (sani for short): Shaving the area around the anus, vulva and inside of the hind legs to prevent urine or feces from staining or getting caught in the hair.

More from Vetstreet:
5 Easy-to-Groom Dog Breeds 
Why Grooming Your Dog is Great for His Health
Why Does My Dog… Hate Having His Paws Touched?