Imagine how you would look and feel if you never bathed, brushed your hair, or trimmed your nails. To be healthy and happy, your companion animal needs basic grooming, too.
You can handle the brushing and other simple grooming procedures yourself. This type of regular grooming helps build a close bond between you and your pet, and keeps you informed of the condition of his fur, skin, teeth, nails, and ears. In fact, it is not uncommon to discover lumps, infections, and other problems during a thorough grooming routine.
Should you take your pet to a professional groomer? The answer depends on the type of pet you have and your comfort level. For example, many people feel comfortable grooming their short-haired cats, while owners of long-haired dogs prone to mats opt for professional grooming. If you fall into the latter category, this need not be a "hair-raising" experience for you, your pet, or the groomer. The key is finding the right groomer to provide quality grooming care for your pet.
Grooming is more than just a hair cut. It may include bathing, combing, brushing, clipping nails, cutting or shaving mats, cleaning ears, and controlling external parasites.
You may not have the time, tools, experience, or physical ability to adequately groom your pet. For example, some animals (like poodles) have their fur groomed into particular styles that require a professional. Or a pet may require regular or seasonal clipping, medicated or flea baths, removal of skunk odors or harmful substances, or removal of matted fur. Typically, a trained professional can more safely and humanely handle tricky procedures and temperamental or frightened animals. (Removing severe mats should always be done by an experienced groomer to avoid accidental cuts.) Keep in mind, however, that professional groomers aren't miracle workers; it's up to you to stay on top of your pet's grooming needs.
Start with a recommendation from a friend, veterinarian, boarding kennel, dog trainer, pet supply store, or animal shelter. Check the Yellow Pages under "Pet Grooming." You can also contact the National Dog Groomers Association of America; a link to its website is provided below.
Some groomers are registered or certified by a grooming school or professional association, but no government agency regulates or licenses pet groomers. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against a grooming facility. Then, after narrowing your search, call groomers to ask about services, costs, and hours of operation. Also request the names of a few current clients to interview.
Before selecting a groomer, tour the facility. Here are some factors to consider during your evaluation:
Grooming costs vary depending on where you live, your pet's species and size, the severity of matting, and the simplicity or difficulty of the cut. An average fee is $35 for a shampoo and brushing, and $40 for a shampoo and cut. More extensive grooming services cost more. Expect to pay $10-15 more for mobile grooming services that come to your home.
It's important for your pet to tolerate being groomed, regardless of how often you take him to a professional. To train your pet, groom him briefly when you're both relaxed. For example, begin by gently massaging his coat each morning as you feed him. Gradually introduce a brush or comb. Each day, increase the grooming time and work on different areas. Reward your pet for cooperating. The more comfortable your pet feels with home grooming and around strangers, the better he'll tolerate professional grooming.
For the health and safety of both your pet and the groomer, make sure your pet is up-to-date on veterinary treatment, including vaccines and sterilization. Spayed and neutered pets are generally calmer, and sterilized dogs are less likely to bite. (Sterilized pets also enjoy many health benefits and do not contribute to pet overpopulation.) A pet who is particularly nervous or difficult to handle makes the grooming process stressful for both your pet and the groomer. If this sounds like your pet, work with an animal behavior specialist or dog trainer.
When making the appointment, inform the groomer about your pet's needs. To provide special handling, the groomer must know in advance whether your pet is geriatric or has a chronic health condition. Also warn the groomer about any habits that could interfere with safe and successful grooming. Keep in mind, too, that groomers are not licensed to dispense tranquilizers; if your pet needs sedation to be groomed, find a veterinarian who employs a groomer. Finally, when you drop your pet off at the groomer, bid your pet good-bye quickly: Emotional departures will increase your pet's stress level. When you pick up your pet, both of you will enjoy that clean, mat-free coat that makes pets-and their people-more comfortable.