Dog being bathed by groomer.

For dogs such as poodles, bichons and many terriers, finding a good groomer is almost a necessity, because the maintenance involved with the coats of these breeds and their mixes is beyond the ability or interest of most pet lovers.

For many other dogs, such as collies, spaniels and the like, regular attention from a professional groomer can make at-home coat maintenance such as combing and brushing more manageable, and can keep dogs looking and smelling better.

Start your groomer search by asking friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations. Your dog's veterinarian or trainer may also be able to refer you to one.

A groomer should need only two to four hours for a routine wash and clip, unless your dog is matted and tangled. There's no reason for your dog to hang out all day when he's not being worked on.

Don't wait so long between appointments that your dog is full of mats and then expect the groomer to be able to work them out. Listen to your groomer: If she says clipping the coat away is the best way to go, you're better off following her advice than subjecting your dog to hours of fur-pulling.

Make sure, too, that the groomer is clear on what you expect your dog to look like when she's done if clipping is involved. And if you don't want bows, nail polish and perfume, don't forget to speak up beforehand.