Before you set the appointment
When a human visits a hair salon or a spa, we generally know what to expect. The vibe is pleasant. The sounds and smells are, if not always pleasant, at least familiar. We can communicate our wants and needs. It feels pretty good to relax and be pampered for a while.
But put yourself in your dog or cat’s place as your pet faces a grooming visit. While your pet will experience much the same treatment as a human in a salon–wash, clip, blowout, manicure–he or she has no way of knowing what to expect. There may be dogs barking, which can overstimulate your dog or totally freak out your cat. Strange things buzz loudly. Water splashes. Nothing looks familiar. The first visit to a groomer can be scary for your pet. Imagine them thinking “How is this okay? Who are these strange people? What are they going to do to me? Are you really going to leave me here?”
Pet Groomers have seen it all, and there are a lot of stories they could share. There’s plenty of advice they’d like to give pet owners, but we’ve boiled it down to 9 helpful tips for making your grooming visit a pleasant success.
9 Tips for a Great Grooming Experience
- Don’t just make an appointment with the first salon that comes up on a Google search. Visit first. Visit multiple salons if you have to. Again, look at potential groomers through your pet’s eyes. You want to find a place with a soothing atmosphere and stylists who are calming, professional, and efficient in their work. Can you see the groomers at work? Is the salon clean? Or is it crowded and chaotic?
- Unless you are confident that your cat is okay in the presence of dogs, find a cats-only grooming salon. People have landed in the hospital with septicemia (blood poisoning) after being scratched by a frightened cat at a veterinary office or groomer.
- Even if your cat or dog has a short, no-fuss coat, visiting a groomer should still be a priority. Grooming is not just for appearances; it is for health maintenance. Groomers not only bathe and trim your pet’s coat, but they also check for skin problems or lumps, and they look for fleas and ticks. They clean ears and eyes and clip nails–something many pet owners neglect to do.
- Be realistic about the cut you want for your dog. You may think you want to get a show trim on your cocker spaniel after watching Westminster, but are you really up for all the work it takes to maintain the look?
- Don’t feed your dog a meal before a visit to the groomer. The possible stress can cause vomiting and diarrhea in a dog with a full tummy.
- Try to exercise your dog before taking him to the groomer. A tired dog will likely be calmer and stand still for his groom.
- Between grooms, brush your pet regularly to keep her coat shiny and healthy looking and to prevent matting. Pay special attention to the groin, chest, underarm, and behind the ears. We cannot overstress how bad matting is for dogs and cats. Matts can pull hair painfully and can cause infection. In extreme cases, matting can cut off blood supply, strangling a limb and requiring amputation. When you bring a matted animal in for a groom, groomers frequently add a significant charge since working with matts adds so much time to a groom. If it requires shaving, the hair is hard to cut and very hard on grooming clippers, not to mention the trauma your pet will go through. Matting is BAD! BAD! BAD!
- Before your first appointment, visit the spa with your pet. Let him sniff around, meet the staff, and acclimate to the unfamiliar environment. Your first official grooming visit should ideally be short–maybe a bath and a little trim. A full groom takes a long time and is a lot for a puppy or an adult dog to tolerate on the first visit.
- Prepare your pet at home. In the days and weeks leading up to the first grooming visit:
- Practice touching your dog in places that a groomer will. Gently hold her tail, run your hands down her legs, grasp the hair beneath her chin for a few seconds. Get her used to having her feet touched and her toes handled.
- Your pet will be up on a metal table at the groomers. Simulate this by lifting your pet onto a countertop, table, or washing machine.
- Introduce your dog to tools similar to those the groomer will use. Set a blow dryer or electric clippers on the floor and let him sniff. Without getting too close or touching your pet, let them run for a few seconds. Once your pet is comfortable with the sound, bring it a little closer. To get them used to the buzzing vibration, you could touch an electric toothbrush to his coat.
The Best Chance for Grooming Success
By following this advice, you will give your pet a good shot at a successful grooming experience and the chance to start a happy, long-lasting relationship with her groomer. Hopefully, a trip to the groomer will become as relaxing and pleasant for her as a trip to the spa is for her human.