AQUEOS - What happens while your dog is at the groomers?
Grooming is an important part of caring for your dog. These days, however, many pet owners don’t have the time to take this on themselves. It’s not just the time constraints — dogs are a lot like children in some ways, and will often stand much better for a groomer than they would for their pet parent! Finding a groomer that you trust is key here, since groomers do much more than wash your dog! So, what does happen while your dog is at the groomers?
Preparing for a trip to the groomer
Choosing the right groomer is really important! Faulty electrical cables or excessive heat from dryers can cause nasty injuries. Once you have found a reputable groomer that you like the look of, it’s a good idea to ask to meet them and see the facilities. Good groomers won’t mind showing you their DBS checks, certificates of insurance, pet first aid qualifications and electrical safety documents. Check that everything looks clean and cared for.
Consider the price. Good quality grooming equipment, insurance, further training…. these all add up. It’s not always a good idea to go with the cheapest service. It’s much more important to look at reviews and reputation.
Of course, it’s just as important that your dog gets on with their groomer, so look for kindness too! Similarly, consider your dog’s personality and the set-up. Would they be happy and settled at a groomer’s where they wait in a kennel? If not, consider a groomer that runs an appointment system, where each animal is allocated a slot of time. Are they comfortable being around other dogs? If not, look for a groomer that comes to your home, or one where the waiting kennels are separate from the grooming area.
Try to prepare your dog for what might happen if it’s their first trip. Mimic the actions the groomer will take, such as picking up their paws, lifting their pinnae (the ear flaps) and acclimatising them to the noise of clippers or hair dryers. Re-enforce with lots of positive praise and treats! This will make the groomer’s job easier, as well as making the trip less stressful for your dog.
The grooming session
Naturally, each groomer will have a preferred order of doing things. They will often change the order depending on the individual dog too. For example, for a dog that is nervous of having their nails clipped the groomer may opt to do this last. This way they can go to their owners straight after. Currently, most groomers are heading straight for the bath, with a disinfectant shampoo, under COVID-19 safety protocols.
Whether or not your dog is admitted into a kennel will depend on the groomer’s diary planning. Some will admit several dogs first thing and then work their way through, whilst the others wait in their kennels. Others will have allocated time slots, so you bring your dog at a specific time and they will be groomed straight away (if the groomer is running on time of course — delays can happen!).
The groomer will gently place your dog on the grooming table and check them over. They will check for any sore patches or wounds which could prevent them from being able to continue. They will check their ears for signs of discharge or bad smell. They may examine their bottom, for any obvious abnormalities around their anal glands.
If your groomer has any concerns, they will advise that you book a consult with your vet. Remember, groomers spend all day every day with dogs. This means good groomers are great at picking up what’s normal and what isn’t! With time, they will come to know what is normal for your dog too. So it’s a good idea to take any concerns they have on board and call your vet.
The groomer will clean inside your dog’s ears, clip their nails and may express their anal glands. Groomers are only allowed to do this from the outside, which can be tricky, or even impossible, in some dogs. If they aren’t able to express them but feel they need to be emptied, they may advise you to have them done at your vets.
This is no reflection on your groomer or your dog, just that vets are allowed to express them from the inside, with a gloved finger. This can be much easier in some cases!
Some groomers will give a quick brush before bath time, others prefer to comb through wet hair. Baths usually consist of a tub table with a handheld shower attachment. The groomer will choose a shampoo based on your dog’s skin and coat type. They will often shampoo twice for extra shine. Next it’s time for a brush through before drying the fur.
After an initial towel dry, your groomer will move them to a table and use a special hair-dryer for dogs to blow them dry. This is known as ‘blasting’. The groomer may then use a lower velocity hair dryer to finish off drying the coat whilst brushing, so that the fur lays as it should.
Some groomers use ‘drying boxes’ instead. However, dogs sometimes find these distressing. They can also be dangerous, since dogs cannot remove themselves if they are uncomfortable and cannot regulate their body temperature while inside. In fact, the RSPCA advises against their use. It’s worth checking which method your groomer would use before you choose the best establishment for your dog.
Clipping / styling
Usually lastly, your groomer will clip your dog’s fur and carry out any trimming or styling. Not only does this leave your dog looking great, some of it is for welfare reasons. For example, keeping long fur out of your dog’s eyes, or removing excess fur to help prevent heat stroke in summer.
In between grooms
Ask your groomer for advice on how to keep your dog’s coat in good condition between grooms. Regular brushing removes dead skin and fur, keeps their coat shiny and helps to ensure your dog is used to being brushed. Your vet, or vet nurse, will be able to advise you if you need to be cleaning your dog’s ears at home, as well as teaching you how. Cleaning them too often, or incorrectly, can cause problems.
So now you know what happens at the groomers! Many dogs actually enjoy being groomed. A good groomer will let you know if this isn’t the case for your dog, so that you can work together to make it a positive experience for them. Paying an experienced groomer is worth the money. They have specialist equipment, most have excellent dog handling skills and they may spot potential issues you hadn’t noticed.
By Dr Sarah-Jane Molier MRCVS