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Generally, you'll probably need to take your dog to the groomer's once a month. Consider the cost of these visits versus the time and expense involved in purchasing and using grooming tools at home. Many people find that they become very proficient after only a few tries and the time spent dropping off and picking up the dog equals the time spent doing it themselves.

If you decide that regular grooming is best left to a professional, you will need to choose someone that's right for you. 

Mobile Groomers: 
It's usually less expensive to take your dog to the groomer rather than have him/her visit. However, if you can't get to the groomers mobile groomers (available in many areas) can come to your home and groom your dog while you wait. Most mobile groomers bring a fully equipped van and clean your dog while parked in the drive way or street saving your time and travel. 

Choosing a Grooming Shop

  • The shop should be clean and well-ventilated. 

    • Most dogs spend at least half a day there and should be comfortable and safe. 

  • Find out exactly which services are included in the fee.

    • Most places include a bath, brushing, ear and eye cleaning, nail trimming and complete drying service. Teeth cleanings are not usually included, but may be available for an additional charge

    • If your dog has special needs, make the staff aware of them. You may be able to bring preferred shampoos or ear treatments, for example.

  • Ask if certain vaccinations are required before a dog is accepted for grooming. 

    • If there is a requirement, ask how compliance is documented. For example, on the first visit, does the owner need to present written proof of current vaccination? 

  • Also ask if the grooming facility has a policy on dealing with sick dogs that are presented for grooming.

  • How long does a grooming session last and how quickly you can pick up your dog. 

    • In some cases, you may leave your pet at the grooming location during the day. What kind of arrangements are made in these situations and are additional charges incurred? 

  • How far in advance must I make an appointment?

    • Most groomers can see your dog with only a few days notice, but make sure that they can accommodate you before you go. 

  • Emergencies

    • Ask about emergency services (dogs can be sprayed by skunks or roll in noxious substances).

Working with a Groomer:
Each time you go in for service, be specific as to how you want your dog groomed. Shorter cuts in the summer are common, but some people like a tight cut all year to reduce shedding. If you prefer a thick mane on your dog, be clear that you do not want it removed or trimmed. Don't expect the groomer to know what you want unless you verbalize your needs.

Whatever grooming method you choose at-home, professional, or some combination of both, remember that daily brushing, proper diet and exercise, frequent teeth cleanings, and an occasional bath will go a long way towards keeping your dog healthy and happy. At www.petgroomer.com the following comments on professional pet groomers can be found

Generally professional pet groomers will agree that a "grooming" would include the following, and often for one inclusive or flat fee except de-matting, add-ons for pets with very matted haircoats.

Stage One: Prior to Grooming

Inspection: A brief inspection of the pet from head to toe (external) noting the condition of its coat and the appropriateness of the services desired by the pet owner. The professional pet groomer will record notes of the observations made.

Interview: A professional groomer will consult with the pet owner about styling objectives, and inquire about any medical or behavioral conditions that might affect their grooming the pet. Sometimes the styling objectives are either inappropriate or not possible, and the professional will provide alternatives. Then again some pet owners have no idea about mixed breed styling options, or breed standard styling, and look to the guidance of the professional groomer. If your pet has a substantial coat especially where it is normal for it to shed into the existing coat (Poodles, Cockers, Bichons, Maltese and several others), and you haven't regularly removed the undercoat by brushing and combing between grooming, your pet's coat may be matted and require "de-matting" or "de-tangling". A professional groomer can make these procedures more comfortable for your pet by virtue of their training and experience, and sometimes the matting can be so advanced the pet groomer will advise the coat be "removed" usually about inch with clippers. As a general rule of thumb, if de-matting requires the pet groomer more than 30-minutes, the professional groomer will require coat removal as a pet should not have to endure these procedures any longer. Be aware that a heavily matted coat prevents necessary air circulation to reach skin below. When this is the case, the skin below becomes unhealthy and easily aggravated by de-matting. Rather than risk aggravating your pet's skin condition, the pet groomer will often require coat removal, and suggest a follow-up inspection by your veterinarian.

Records: When interviewing the new customer, the professional pet groomer will record substantial contact information including both day and evening telephone numbers, emergency contact information, vaccination records, veterinarian contact information and more as well as medical and behavioral notations. On follow-up appointments the professional pet groomer will ask if there has been any changes in your contact information, and ask how your pet has been since the last grooming. If your pet was treated by a veterinarian for a medical condition since the last grooming, it is wise to let your groomer know, just to be on the "safe side." If you have observed abnormal pet behavior or conditions and haven't yet taken the pet the your veterinarian, the pet groomer may suggest you do so first. It's a good sign of a professional groomer to operate on the safe side for the welfare of your beloved pet.

Advisory: On rare occasions pet groomer inspections discover conditions that require a veterinarians' diagnosis and release before grooming (sometimes conditions are not observed until the groomer has actually started the grooming procedures and for that reason they will refer to the telephone number(s) you provided and contact you). For example, the groomer may observe foul odors originating from pet ears or eyes including discharges and swelling, various types of serious skin conditions, seeds and other foreign objects embedded in the skin, lumps, sores and many other possibilities. We have even seen highly-matted pets with maggots feeding off organic matter in the matts. Never expect the pet groomer to diagnose a condition but instead to provide you with a written description of the conditions observed, and then take your affected pet and the groomer's notes to your veterinarian. A medical diagnosis is the sole domain of a medically licensed veterinarian. If the pet groomer does not provide you with a written description of conditions observed, request that service. To be characterized as a "professional" pet groomer requires providing every pet owner with a written report of any and all observations of their pet for every grooming, even if it is to say, "We made no observations of any health or behavioral conditions today that indicate the need for veterinarian review. However, we always recommend regular veterinarian check-ups."

Stage One procedures are not always provided even by professional pet groomers. Again, we are characterizing the ideal professional pet groomer in our opinion and based on our actual experience of providing this level of service since 1961. Did you know that unlike hairstylist for people, pet grooming is not a formally licensed vocation? What does that mean? Almost anyone can hang a sign out saying "pet grooming services available." As a consumer and pet owner you can benefit from becoming more informed about pet grooming. Our intent here is to help you to locate the professional in your area that is likely to follow high standards of operation in both pet care and client services as if the profession were licensed. In other words, they are operating as if they were fulfilling a formally adopted, legal, fiduciary relationship between pet grooming business owners and their clients.

Referrals are the "lifeblood" of most grooming businesses, so ask your veterinarian for a groomer referral, or family and friends satisfied with their professional pet groomer. Here, we are taking an unusual and new step in the pet grooming industry to provide you with one of the most detailed accounts of "grooming" stated for pet owners. PetGroomer.com is doing this to make you a wise consumer, and in concern for the welfare of all of your beloved pets.

Stage Two: Pre-clipping

Now you are getting a real insiders term, "pre-clipping." Not every grooming includes pre-clipping, and rarely is it used in cat grooming unless the coat must be shaved down for some reason. Pre-clipping includes clipper grooming procedures completed before the pet is bathed. It includes clipping the face, feet, neck, tail, anus area, stomach and sheath areas as required and appropriate to the owner's styling request and the appropriate breed standard styling. Some mixed breed pets being styled also undergo some pre-clipping as appropriate. Pre-clipping is most common when grooming a Poodle. You've probably seen a Poodle with "stripes" down its back. Those stripes represent a "pattern" usually done as part of pre-clipping procedures, but some groomers will clip them in after the bath instead.

Many breeds of dogs besides Poodles undergo pre-clipping by having their "coat removed." If a pet's haircoat is severely matted it may be necessary to clip the coat down to about1/4 inch long. It may sound easy but coat removal where there is severe matting requires a skilled pet groomer. Skin below heavy matting is typically not healthy, dry and itchy, and can poorly react to necessary but potentially risky coat removal procedures. In severe cases we have seen such unhealthy skin below severe matting that the skin broke and lightly bled as the coat was removed. We always advised the pet owner first and had them make arrangements to go to their veterinarian immediately following their grooming. Coat removal is done as part of pre-clipping because it allows the skin below to be washed more thoroughly during the later bathing procedures. Some pet owners residing in hot climates regularly have their pet's coat removed every summer in order to keep them "cooler." When a coat is removed the groomer typically leaves haircoat on the head, ears, and tail and styles that hair after bathing.

Coat removal for cats? Rare but yes some owners do although the coat may be left longer than 1/4 inch, and again hair is left on the head and tail areas.

Stage Three: Bathing

Any professional groomer will tell you that their styling performance is absolutely dependent upon a professional bathing procedure executed perfectly. Here you will begin to understand why.

Bathing procedures are subdivided into three areas. There are pre-bathing procedures, bathing procedures and post-bathing procedures for fluff-drying.

Pre-bathing procedures include nail clipping and filing, and hair and matter removal from the external ear opening. Again this can be messy work so it is done before the pet is bathed. Nail clipping and ear cleaning should only be done by trained professional groomers or your veterinarian. Since most pet groomers perform these services as part of a grooming service, it is more economical to have the pet groomer complete them rather than paying for an office visit to the veterinarian. You may want to make these procedures a part of your regular veterinary check-ups for your pet dogs and cats.

Some breeds of dog and cats have an "undercoat" (hair that sheds into the existing coat). Undercoat shedding must be completely removed by proper brushing and combing before the pet is bathed. Of course, some breeds do not have undercoat requirements, such as Dachshunds, Dalmatians and other smooth-coated dogs. If you do not remove the undercoat before bathing the pet, it becomes tangled and matted from the moisture, and makes drying the pet more difficult. Removing undercoat without posing a risk to the pet requires a trained professional. It is never comfortable for a pet with a tangled and matted coat to undergo "de-matting" but a professional groomer can make it pain free. It is still not uncommon for the pet to resist, and try to move away. Proper handling of a dog and cat is vital during grooming, and especially de-matting, and this is where many pet owners have actually inadvertently hurt their pet's joints, even dislocating a knee. One of the greatest trade secrets of a professional pet groomer is how to safely position and maintain the position of an animal during grooming. Sometimes the untrained groomer simply brushes or combs too hard and abrasively, resulting in red scratches on the skin, or a "brush burn." Pet owners can reduce the build up of undercoat and eventually matts by proper brushing and combing between visits to their groomer. In the long run the pet that is regularly maintained is the most comfortable, safe and happy. Many professional groomers are glad to demonstrate to their clients maintenance brushing and combing.

Bathing a pet involves risks just as there are risks associated with bathing human babies. The most common risks are getting soap into the eyes which could result in "soap burn" (and a vet bill) and water allowed to flow into the ear canal. Both of these risks are bad news and may require your seeing a veterinarian to correct side effects. Professional pet groomers have methods to prevent these risks entirely. During a bath most professional groomers will "express the anal sacs." This is a foul procedure to most pet owners, but more than that the untrained owner can bruise the sac forcing it to expel and the result is a pet in pain and an office visit to the veterinarian. Leave this procedure to the professionals! Some pets have a strong tendency to jump at any moment from the bathing tub, and again pet handling experience is a major benefit to prevent a pet from hurting itself by leaping from the tub. Don't forget. Bathing areas are wet areas, and you can slip and fall too.

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