5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Dog Groomer

Written by Cammi Morgan
Published: October 27, 2023
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If you have a pup who requires regular grooming, finding the perfect dog groomer will ensure the comfort of your dog and a high-quality result. Depending on where you live, you may have a range of options from mobile services, brick-and-mortar companies, at-home businesses, and groomers who can come to your home.

Regular grooming can be quite stressful for a dog if the groomer is not trained and practiced in cooperative care, and positive reinforcement, and can quickly recognize the signs of stress in dogs.

In this guide, we’ll provide five tips on how to find the perfect dog groomer and what crucial signs to look for. Read on to learn more.

1. Look for Excellent Reviews

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In your search for finding the perfect dog groomer, start by looking at the reviews of professionals in your area.

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To begin your search, it’s a great idea to start by simply looking online for dog groomers in your area with excellent reviews. By starting with these criteria, you can easily weed out companies that have less than stellar or poor reviews. Make sure to read reviews that talk about both the quality of the grooming result as well as how the groomer interacted with the dog. A groomer with excellent reviews should produce beautiful results and keep your dog content or at least as stress-free as possible during the session. If there are a few bad reviews mixed in, make sure to read those too. Sometimes those stories can reveal information that can help you make your decision. For instance, perhaps the poor review described how the groomer is awesome with sociable pups but isn’t great with extremely nervous dogs, and perhaps your dog is also quite nervous.

You can also ask for recommendations in person at dog parks, vet offices, and other places that offer services for dogs. You may find a couple of practices continually being recommended.

2. How to Find the Perfect Dog Groomer: Check Out the Website

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If the dog grooming professional offers a website, thoroughly check it out for value statements, services offered, videos, etc.

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While not all dog groomers have a website, but some do, especially high-volume businesses or pet supply companies that offer grooming services. If the dog groomer has a website, it’s a great idea to thoroughly check out the website. Look at what services the dog groomer offers. Perhaps your poodle needs a specialized or more advanced coat cut that the website offers. You may also find videos of the dog groomer working or explaining techniques on the site. This allows you to evaluate the work and education level of the groomer.

You may also be able to read statements on the process of the groomer and their values. If the website does feature statements, keep an eye out for professionals who talk about prioritizing the mental and physical well-being of the dog during the grooming process.

3. Check for Certifications

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While dog groomers aren’t required to hold a license, searching for a professional who holds certifications will ensure safety, comfort, and a high-quality service.

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Currently, no states require a license to practice dog grooming. However, there are certifications dog groomers can acquire that prove their skills in grooming certain breeds or using certain techniques. Organizations such as the AKC and the National Dog Groomers Association of America offer certifications in grooming specific breeds, using grooming tools and various techniques, and following gold-standard safety procedures.

Fear-Free Certification

Additionally, the Fear Free Pets organization offers a Fear Free Groomer Certification Program. This program teaches groomers how to ensure that the grooming process will be enjoyable or as stress-free as possible for your dog. Holders of this certification are trained in how to help pets feel safe and to have positive emotional associations with the grooming tools and grooming location. They are also trained in how to recognize subtle to overt signs of stress and can adjust grooming techniques to help your dog feel more comfortable.

Finally, dog groomers with a fear-free certification will know how to physically set up the grooming area to be the most welcoming and comfortable for dogs. In finding the perfect dog groomer, it’s a great idea to specifically look for a professional with a fear-free certification. This is the best way to help ensure that the grooming process is as low-stress on your dog as possible. Through using fear-free methods, some dogs even enjoy grooming!

4. Finding the Perfect Dog Groomer: Ask Questions

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Before signing your pup up for an appointment, it’s best to ask the dog groomer some thoughtful questions. This will help ensure the well-being of your dog and high-quality service.

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After narrowing down your list of options based on searching reviews, asking for recommendations, checking the website, and looking for certifications, you can then interview your top choices. A great dog groomer will not shy away from answering reasonable questions about their practice. The following are some important questions to ask:

  • What specific services do you provide in addition to brushing and shampooing?
  •  Are you fear-free certified, and if not what methods do you use to ensure safety and comfort during the grooming process?
  • How would you handle a scared or nervous dog?
  •  What will you do in case of an emergency and my dog is in your care?
  •  Do you have liability insurance?
  •  Do you have a first aid kit with at least one person always present skilled in using first aid on dogs?
  •  How will you house my dog when you aren’t actively grooming them?
  •  Are you experienced with my dog’s breed and their specific grooming needs?
  •  May I stay and observe for the first few sessions?
  •  Can you offer me a quote after assessing my dog’s grooming needs?

5. Finding the Perfect Dog Groomer: Look for Red Flags

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In addition to searching for ideal traits in a dog groomer, you’ll also want to look for signs to avoid using their service. This includes using aversive methods and keeping an unsanitary salon.

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Finally, in addition to searching for the above-mentioned ideal qualities in a dog groomer, you’ll also want to know what to avoid.

Aversive Methods

It’s best to avoid groomers who use aversive methods during the grooming process. This involves restraining a scared dog to complete a procedure. While properly fitting muzzles that allow a dog to easily pant, drink water, and take treats are fine to use during a grooming session, they shouldn’t be used in this situation to bypass the signs of a distressed animal. If a dog is in distress during the grooming process, the professional should stop, assess, and alert the dog’s guardian.

A fear-free certified dog groomer will know how to respond to signs of stress and also how to use incremental desensitization, counter-conditioning, and classical conditioning to help your dog form a positive emotional response to the grooming process. They may also recommend that you practice positive associations with grooming tools, such as brushes, at home to help the dog feel more comfortable during the actual appointment.

The groomer should not use rough handling, punishment, or force to groom the dog.

Unwillingness to Answer Questions or Be Transparent

If the dog groomer is also uncomfortable with allowing you to observe the grooming sessions or doesn’t provide thorough or acceptable answers to the questions in the above section, then it’s likely best to avoid this professional. When you ask about how they handle scared or nervous dogs, pay close attention to their response. It’s a huge red flag if they describe these situations as the dog “acting up”, “being a brat” or otherwise placing blame on a dog experiencing FAS (fear, anxiety, or stress).

Poor Sanitation Practices

Avoid using a groomer who keeps an unclean grooming salon. You certainly don’t want to risk your dog acquiring an infection from unclean tools, tables, tubs, kennels, or bowls. A high-quality grooming salon should look notably clean and tidy, whether the salon is mobile or a brick-and-mortar company. Tools that a dog groomer brings to your home should be clean and well taken care of.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ana Vorkapic Marosevic/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Cammi Morgan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on mycology, marine animals, forest and river ecology, and dogs. Cammi has been volunteering in animal rescue for over 10 years, and has been studying mycology and field-researching mushrooms for the past 3 years. A resident of Southeast Appalachia, Cammi loves her off-grid life where she shares 20 acres with her landmates, foster dogs, and all the plants, fungi, and critters of the forest.

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