Regardless of what type of pet you have (dog, cat, gerbil, etc), there will come a time when you will want to clean your pet.  The question is, would you rather do the cleaning yourself, or would you prefer to hire a professional?  A lot of that depends on the breed and your specifications.  For example, a short-haired cat can be fairly low-maintenance on the grooming side.  You may only need to consult a professional when it comes to nail length.  A long-haired dog, however, may have more specific care requirements.  A poodle, for example, can be cut into many different patterns and designs and you may be more comfortable hiring a professional.  So, the first step, of course, is determining your needs and your comfort level.  Once you have that sorted, it’s time to find the perfect groomer.

Is the facility clean?

First, it’s important that you actually visit the grooming salon where you’ll be taking  your pets.  You can get a lot of information over the phone and from pictures, but there are many other things to look for.

While you should expect to see some hair on the floor, the rest of the facility should be tidy.  Is the hair just from the dog that is currently being groomed or has the groomer failed to sweep up hair from multiple dogs?  Many groomers will even sweep / vacuum at various stages during the grooming process (after the initial brushing and clipping, before working on the feet, etc).  Floors should be regularly mopped and tubs should be rinsed after each bath.  Kennels should be regularly cleaned between dogs.

The facility should also be fairly odor free.  While some pet smell is expected and understandable, a strong pet odor may be indicative of poor cleaning practices.  Also, be weary of a strong cleanser smell.  This may be a sign that the tools used are too strong and may not be safe for your pet.  Take time to discuss the cleaning practices with your groomer.

What method of grooming do they use?

Is the grooming straight through / by appointment, or is it a day long process (what’s best depends on  your pet)?  Some groomers refuse to use muzzles or restraints.  Is that appropriate for your dog?  Find out how they clean ears, express anals, and clean feet.  While there’s not one, right way a decent groomer will be knowledgeable on a variety of methods and should discuss what method might be best for you and your pet.

How were they trained?

Many groomers are trained via apprenticeship, in which case you’ll want to know how long their apprenticeship was and what their duties entailed.  Some groomers are trained in a school setting, so it doesn’t hurt to learn a little about the school.  A good school will offer classroom education as well as hands on training.  While this doesn’t hold true for all groomers, you may want to avoid anyone who was self-taught or anyone whose training was under 2 months, particularly if you have a specific pattern you’d like to see on your pet.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask how long they’ve been grooming.  No matter how great the schooling, there’s no substitute for experience.  It may also be interesting to find out how and why they got into the grooming world.

How many people will be handling your pet?

Is the groomer the sole person in the building or is there an assistant?  Are there other people who can walk your dog throughout the day?  Also, does the groomer do 100% of the grooming or does an assistant do the prep work?  Many of the follow up questions then depend on your pet and his /her specific needs, such as whether or not your pet is comfortable around a variety of people and if he / she needs extra attention.

If you are taking your pet to a kennel-type setting, ask how long the rest of the staff has been there and how much experience they have.  A high turn-over rate could mean less-experienced staff and could cause unnecessary stress for your pet.

Who do they know?

This is where you ask your friends, vet, other pet owners for recommendations.  Find out who’s popular and why.  Keep in mind that a recommendation from a vet means there’s a good working relationship and that could come in handy if there’s an emergency.

You may have to try a few different groomers before you find the perfect one for you.  Don’t be afraid to shop around a little.  In the end, it all comes down to who you and your pet feel most comfortable with and how much you like the groomings.  Oh, and pay attention to your pet on return visits.  While most pets don’t love the grooming process they should love the groomer.  Any signs of fear or dislike towards the groomer should be a warning that something is amiss.

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