How pet groomers work

Pet groomers are often attached to pet stores but may also operate on their own as specialty services or pet salons. Mobile pet grooming services offer customers convenience and flexible scheduling. Self-service dog washing businesses have emerged as well, which allow you to bathe your pooch in a large, clean area with access to soap, water and drying tools.

Animal groomers typically take appointments, with their cost based on the breed, hair length and size of your pet and the type of service you desire. If your dog or cat is resistant to grooming, this may also increase the cost. If she reacts negatively to being touched or brushed, she may not be a good candidate for grooming.

Some pet groomers offer spa or salon packages that include specialty services. (Photo by Mike Penney)

Most grooming salons will have multiple stations, each of which has a leash attachment to prevent your pet from jumping off the grooming table or running away. Both cat and dog grooming services are commonly available, but dogs are by far the more frequent customers of these businesses, as transport to a new location and the grooming process itself can be very stressful for cats.

Mobile services also may help reduce stress for your pet by eliminating the need for a car ride, a long stay at a salon and anxiety caused by other animals. A mobile groomer may cost more than a storefront salon, however, with some charging a $15 convenience fee on top of regular charges.

Be sure to visit any grooming business and observe the staff working before you commit to a service. Take a look at how the dogs are tethered and what the general atmosphere is like. Environmental tension manifests itself obviously in dogs, and grooming can be a stressful process — if you see bared teeth and generally unhappy animals, you may want to look elsewhere.

Pet grooming services

While brushing and combing are tasks you can easily accomplish at home, trimming your dog's coat is a more difficult task.

Some breeds, such as border terriers or Newfoundlands, need to have their coats trimmed back to keep them comfortable during summer and to keep their fur from matting and knotting.

Professional animal groomers are able to thoroughly trim your dog's coat using a variety of tools, including shedding blades, scissors and stripping combs. Used correctly, these will remove excess, dead or damaged hair; it should not cause the dog any harm.

Bathing is also a widely available service, but it is not something most dogs need frequently. Dogs with oily coats, such as Labradors, are generally self cleaning, though they may require the occasional bath if they are sprayed by a skunk or roll in something unappealing.

Salons, mobile or in-home groomers provide baths, haircuts, nail trims, teeth brushings and ear cleanings. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

If you choose to use a groomer to bathe your dog, ask what kinds of products — soaps, shampoos, lotions — he or she uses, and consider testing a small amount of similar product on your dog before taking her in. Just like humans, pets can have allergies to certain chemicals.

Nail clipping is offered by most groomers, as well, and is often sought by owners who have trouble keeping their dog still while they try to trim nails. Of all the services offered, this one can be the most stressful for pets and owners alike. Groomers who can keep dogs calm and quickly trim back nails are often worth the price.

Specialty pet grooming services

In addition to standard cleaning and cutting, some pet groomers offer more artistic services, such as haircuts to have dogs resemble lions, or the classic "poodle cut."

Some also offer non-toxic fur dyeing and nail painting for owners with a particular sense of style. Competition groomers help dogs prepare for upcoming shows and are often some of the best trained talent in the business. They are expensive, however, and may only cater to a very specific set of clients.

Many animal groomers also sell products in addition to providing services. These may include dog hair care products, nail clippers, de-furring devices and dog clothing, which has itself become a booming pet industry.

Dog clothes include backpacks, sunglasses, sweaters and hats, in addition to more exotic costumes, and some of this clothing is produced by popular global brands.

Finding a pet groomer

Dog groomers and animal groomers fall into two general categories: Those focused on sales, and those focused on pets. You'll typically be able to spot the difference within a few minutes of coming in the door.

Companies which cater to pets will be curious to know what your dog likes and doesn't like, what scares her, and whether you've taken your pet to a groomer before. Those more focused on sales will immediately try to convince you to purchase a "package" of services and will treat your dog more like property than a companion.

It's worth asking if your prospective groomer has any kind of certification, as there are several accredited online schools. The industry isn't regulated, meaning certification is not necessary to open and run a dog grooming service, but master grooming certifications indicate a commitment to the business over the long term, rather than as a short-term, money-making venture.

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