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Lets help owners choose right groomers!

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  • Lets help owners choose right groomers!

    I was reading a tread about groomers on the breed forum I frequent. They were discussing how to choose a groomer.
    Some of the suggestions proposed were to the point and others were absolutely of the wall and in my opinion could turn a pet owner away from a good groomer.

    Most owners advise other owners to go and take a tour of the place during operation hours and ask questions.
    I agree that it is a good advise in general but a lot of groomers would not allow anybody in the shop area while they are working on pets due to insurance or inconvenience. I myself do encurage tours but not while I am scissoring or clipping.
    Asking questions is great but almost every groomer I worked with told client what they wanted to hear and were very nice and polite but some of them turned abusive toward dogs when clients were not around. I don't think there is anything can be done to weed out wackos like that and every owner should trust their gut feelings.
    But there are things that owners do not understand about grooming shops. Some of those things could be very dangerous for their pet.
    If I give advise how to find a good groomer I want them to concentrate on concrete things that could be evaluated.

    I think as responsible professionals we could help prospective clients to find our shops and salons and help them steer clear of our substandard competition if we provide them with tools which will help them evaluate the shops without getting into deep details and disturbing our days.
    I think we should come up with list of red flags that are should absolutely brake a deal and a how a safe and secure shop should look like.

    Imagine a situation where you need to take your dog to the groomer out of town where you don't know anybody. You get referrals from the vet or a stranger on the street. You talk to the groomer visit the salon. What would you look for to make sure you dog will be well taken care of?

    I will start.

    In my opinion pet's well being and safety should be valued over the style. If the pet is clean, tangle free but looks like a well scissored marshmellow instead of having flared show trim, it should pass.

    I do have high standards and I base my list on personal experience. I might be hard pressed to find a shop that will fit my criteria exactly, but this what I want for my dogs no less.

    My Black/RED LIST:

    1. Shop that is located on busy street,
    a. that keeps doors open
    b. does not have a decent barrier between holding area and a door.
    I had to chase a Maltese in Upper East Side Manhatten down 2 Avenu from 78St down to 59St. I don't know how eather of us did not get hit. The dog managed to cross Second Avenue twice! It was not my fault that dog escaped and he was found latter that day unharmed by postal officer.

    2. Groomer who uses pets own leash and a collar to take it into the shop instead of using a slip lead. We all know how generous owners are when adjusting collars, LOL. It lead to the above story.

    3. Multiple loose pets in the grooming area. It poses a lot of hazards: disease and parasite transmition, groomer tripping over dogs, dog fights, large dogs killing or injuring small dogs, groomer’s mistakes because they need to pay attention to many dogs at the time, etc.
    a. Unattended “doggy day care".
    b. I have seen pictures of shops that house dogs on open shelves and tie them down into cubicles where they could visit with neighbor dog. I would not want anything like that.

    4. Shop that does not ask for full information on new clients and just takes a dog and tells you to come back at noon.

    5. Groomer who leaves his station/tub leaving the dog unattended to ask you how she/he could help you or to check in/check out another client.

    6. I know that some groomers smoke while working, I do not smoke and I don't want my dog to go home smelling like burned tobacco. I don't have anything against smokers as such, if they smoke outside and wash their hands before handling my dog.

    If I am allowed into the shop for a tour I would make sure that:

    7. Dogs in holding areas can always be supervised. I don't like the set up of the shop I am in right now because it is L shaped and I cannot see what is going on with dogs in short part of L where the tubs and drying crates are. Usually somebody is there and we use only fans to dry dogs. However one of my personal dogs pulled in cord from the fan and chewed it up. I am grateful that it was not plugged in but now I am paranoid that it could happen with client’s dog. I make sure that all of my clients dogs are with me in long part of the l when I am done bathing. Heated Cage dryers would be a no-no in this set up.

    8. Areas around tubs are covered with non slip material. Groomer could easily fall and squish my dog!

    9. Condition of the crates. I would prefer to see stainless or fiberglass crates because in my opinion they are safer than kennel cabs or traditional wire crates. Also kennel cabs and wire crates are harder to clean so many people slack off when sanitizing those. I would also check to make sure that crates are well put together and there are no sharp points.

    10. Tables. If I had a large dog, I would not take it to the shop which is not equipped to handle it safely. If they do not have a hydraulic table that goes down to 12” I would be leery leaving my dog there. To me it would mean that groomers either plan to lift my dog on the table or probably would let it jump down when it is done. Both situations are injuries waiting to happen.

    11. I would casually look at groomers tools laid out. Are they in good shape? I would casually ask to show me what kind of brushes the groomer uses and see if they have to clean them before handing them to me.

    I hope you could add something to this so we can make a comprehensive check list.
    I see that my list caused some people to feel a need to defend themselves. I don't want to judge anyone or poit fingers I just want to know what would you look for in the prospective shop. Or would you just take you dogs to the cheapest shop on the block?
    Last edited by lexapurple; 01-24-10, 09:06 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by lexapurple View Post
    Most owners advise other owners to go and take a tour of the place during operation hours and ask questions. I will make a guess, that most of us do not allow such a thing and even if I did and I was the meanest groomer on earth I would not mistreat the dogs in presence of the clients. I could tell him what he wants to hear and do opposite when he is not there. At least that it how the mean groomers I worked with behaved.
    I recommend this to people. You can get a vibe from a place just by taking a tour. One of the reasons to take a tour is to see if it's a clean facility. Have you ever worked in a nasty shop? I have and very briefly. What the customers saw was really nice. Behind the scenes it reeked of urine and ammonia. Dogs were running around everywhere. Your #3, it's also on my list.

    Your #3b. What is up with that? I would be concerned a dog would hang itself. How is it any different than leaving a dog unattended on a table? No way I'd go for that. Seems very dangerous.

    If I were to take my own dog to someone... If they did not allow for an appointment where I could stay and observe. I would gladly pay an additional fee but if they said no, I'd look elsewhere. I know how some feel about this but as a pet parent, it would be a red flag.
    That Tenacious Terrier!


    • #3
      I'm surprised you would think most do not allow tours. I would think the opposite. Every salon I have ever worked in has allowed clients to tour the facility and I wouldn't leave my pet someplace I couldn't. I think it's more to see the condition of the facility more than seeing how the staff is treating the pets. I've seen salons where the front area is nice looking and then in the back it looks like something TOTALLY different and not where I would want to leave a pet. So now you have me curious as to how many people allow tours.
      What a caterpillar considers the end of his world, we call a butterfly.


      • #4
        Want a tour? Sure look through the window! I have a large plexi glass window that looks into the grooming area from the retail area. Client like that we have nothing to hide. I do have a blind I can close if doggies get too wiggly.

        most people around here call the vet clinic and ask for referrals and they always send them to us

        Hmmm....for me if I were out of town and needed to find a grooming shop for my clan (and this is why *I* became a dog groomer, I knew I was a nut and needed to open my own shop and stop annoying other groomers who I thought should improve and just do it myself)
        I would want a CLEAN smelling shop.
        What does the tool area look like.
        Dogs that are waiting for owners what are they doing? Shaking in fear? happy and excited? On a blanket?
        Ask the shop for some referrals! Why not? I know I can rattle off dozens of clients they could call and ask for a referral from
        my biggest thing PICTURES!!! There are too many well meaning people who say they are groomers but cannot groom....I am picky, I want a NICE lamb trim, I like blending on my yorkies, fluffy...I want to see pictures!!


        • #5
          I encourage facility tours, and when confronted with a nervous owner, I explain why I don't want them to stay for the dog's groom and invite them to come and watch while someone else's dog is groomed. At one store I worked for, I had two families who had littermates; the breeder had told them that they should never leave the dog at a groomer, but a neighbor with the same breed had given me glowing referrals; what to do, what to do?

          Easy. They each stayed to observe the other's dog. It took a bit of convoluted reasoning but it all worked out nicely in the end.


          • #6
            I don't mind if people want to come in and see my place. I groom right out in the open and in front of big windows that anyone on the outside can see in. My shop is small and most can see it all with the exception of the tub area (since I've been remodeling). I have nothing to hide and gladly take time out of grooming (to a point) to answer questions or let people see how the shop is run.

            As for crating, I do have wire and plastic crates (mostly due to cost of the SS or FG cages) at this point, but hopefully in the future, I'll put in the nicer ones. They are cleaned and disinfected regularly and between pets, so I wouldn't ding groomers that use them.

            I think that your list is a good one and that we should be more into educating JQP on comparing apples to apples. I believe that there are to many people (that THINK they know) giving advice that don't have a clue what to REALLY look for, so many are just misinformed.

            Honestly, when I worked at a kennel, I got more people wanting a "tour" than I do now, but I guess that's because my shop is so open. My old boss only allowed tours during certain hours and by appointment only. She didn't want to be bothered by touring and while we kept it clean and smelling good, it just wasn't something she felt obligated to do.


            • #7
              Many do not allow tours due to liability clause in their insurance a prospective client slips or gets injured in the salon, the salon is liable for injuries sustained be it a slip and fall or injury caused by another clients dog. I personally allow clients to stay for the entire groom of the dogs behavior permits it. the digs are normally well behaved if the pet owner has stayed the full duration of the grooming vs showing up early during the finish( this does get them exited as we all know). as for having a table that lowers fully not all groomers can afford such luxuries . Yes I lift the dogs onto my table and my tub and never allow them to jump down as this would cause injuries to the dog. having a state of the art facility does not guarantee the best care for each pet nor the best grooming experience.many of us have newly open salons and do not have the finances as of yet to have the best of everything.. I have the best My money could buy at the time, what I needed to have to do my job to the best of my ability .. Do not judge a book by its cover .some of the most prestigious book covers hold nothing but smutt . You truly do have to open it to find out whats inside.


              • #8
                hehe I would not pass your requirements. I always take turns letting a dog or two at a time stay free in the shop. Many of my clients drop off for the entire day (due to their work schedule, not mine) and a bit of time loose breaks up a long day in cages for them. It is fun, lets them bond with me a bit more, and most of my doggy clients actually enjoy coming which makes their owners happy.

                My grooming area is behind locked doors so there is no chance of escape and in 18 yrs I have yet to trip over a dog. They don't really get underfoot anymore then they do in your home and you don't walk around at home tripping. At least I hope not.

                I also take dogs in on their own leashes and collar which really has no risk at all in my case since my grooming room door is about 3 feet from where I take the dog in and all leashes and collars come off as soon as they get in the shop anyway. I need their collars to put bows on!

                I consider myself experienced, knowledgeable, safe and careful. I'd leave my dog with me anytime! hehe.


                • #9
                  You know this tour thing while working irritates me. I have had several people ask and I tell them NO. #1 - My entire grooming area is open to plain view, the bathing area is the only enclosed room and they are not going in there unless it is dry (floor) and we are not working. #2 - I am working on other peoples pets so to stop and give someone a tour would not be an option. If it is that big of deal I will give them references of long time customers if they are that worried about it.


                  • #10
                    Starting a biz and this is going to very helpful to me
                    Great trend thanks


                    • #11
                      I agree with most of your post..

                      I as well let the dog(s) run but no mixing.. meaning one dog at a time or two if they are friends. I often put dog #1 on the table and let #2 hang out on the floor next to me..

                      I cannot see my cages. But I can hear them as the room is not completely closed off.. I need some sort of sound barrier and sight barrier.. I can turn the light off and the room has a dutch door..

                      I do leave dogs in the tub but I am no more than 5 or 6 steps from them really

                      I also give tours but they arent necessary as my shop is very open and 90% can be seen from the front counter.

                      I am not sure I would pass your test


                      • #12
                        I frequent a Maltese forum and briefly belonged to a Yorkie forum and some of the groomer advice was laughable! They all think that cage dryers are horrendous and any groomer that has one in their shop is Cruella DeVille. Groomers are idiots b/c they don't know exactly what you are mean when you say "puppy cut." Oh, and groomers cut the hair around the eyes, the hair that's supposed to go into the topknot, just to be vindictive. I think too many people expect a perfect groom the very first time and/or put more emphasis on how their dog looks instead of what kind of experience it had.

                        I honestly don't think there's a formula for finding a groomer. I think word of mouth and finding someone who gives you a good vibe is your best bet, but nothing is 100%. I always tell people to be vigilant and talk to some people w/ well groomed dogs. My SIL is the sweetest person, has great handling skills and infinite patience. She's worked in some pretty seedy places and one puppy shop that looked great out front and horrible in the back, but any dog she ever groomed was in the best of care.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jadenlea View Post
                          hehe I would not pass your requirements. I always take turns letting a dog or two at a time stay free in the shop. Many of my clients drop off for the entire day (due to their work schedule, not mine) and a bit of time loose breaks up a long day in cages for them.
                          same here ... I know many frown upon this, but it's one of my favorite parts of my job - spending time w/the pups out of kennels. and many owners appreciate this aspect of my shop as well.


                          • #14
                            Ok, I guess I fail in some things, pass in others...

                            I am located in a small town and I am a new groomer, with distance education. I didn't go to a grooming school that cost however much they cost. So I do not know all the different cuts for all the different breeds, and I can not groom to show standards.
                            I have a home based shop in my basement, which anyone is welcome to look at and walk around, when there are no other dogs in the area, if it is their dog, I have no problem with them walking in and taking a look or even staying.

                            I am not the best groomer, but I am learning, and every client that calls me is told that. Most are referrals from other clients, as I have not advertised yet. If they want a show trim or a perfect cut, I tell them the places they can go that are more able to do the requested cuts/styles they would like.

                            I have one cage, and I only take one dog at a time, 2 if they are from the same family and I leave the cage open with a blanket in case the dog wants to go in, but I do not lock them in it. They are free to walk around and sniff if they choose to do so. I am aware of them and am extra careful with a dog walking around.

                            I am an animal lover. I treat all dogs with great care and talk to them, I take my time to make them comfortable during each phase of the grooming so they are more comfortable the next time they come in.

                            I treat each dog as if they are the only one that exists in the time I am with them, I keep them in full view at all times, and never leave them unattended, not in the room, not in the tub and not on a table, I do not even answer the phone when I am grooming, my machine takes a message and I return the call as soon as I can.

                            My equipment is not top of the line, but it works, and I try my best on each dog I do, and I try to learn more about grooming each day. I practice, I read, I joined this forum and have had some great help on here.

                            I am also getting busy. People like the way I treat their dogs, they like that I know their names and greet them by their names at the door, both the humans and the dogs. I take before and after pics to see if I am making improvement. I charge less than otehr groomers becasue I am still learning, and it makes sense.
                            Because of this some of the better groomers clients are coming to me, not only because I am cheaper, but because I only take their dog for the duration of the stay and they appreciate that all my time is devoted to their dog, not 4 or 5 others all at once.

                            So, I guess all I can say is that my clients seem happy and return to me, they are happy with the price, and I am not hearing any complaints about the styles, or cuts, or this or that is uneven. I listen to exactly what the client would like, and I tell them I will do my best, but if they want perfection, I can give them the names and numbers of other groomers in town. I have never had someone leave, unhappy, and to top it off, the few dogs I have had problems with, the owners have been understanding and stil make arrangements to come back.
                            So, I may not pass the test of a groomer, but the pet owners seem to like me, the service I provide and the prices I charge, they also comment on my progress after their dog comes back a few times, and say I am getting better, so I am happy.
                            I don't stress over the perfect breed standard styles, and I don't guarantee perfection, I tell them I will care for their dog the same way I care for my own, and they will have 100% of my attention while they are with me, and that seems to be good enough for them.

                            It is a nice, stress free way to groom, and in time I will get better, but I will still keep trying to learn something new on each dog I work on, or learn something from their owners.
                            I am happy there are great groomers out there with nice shops and great educations, but at the same time, I am glad there are also groomers getting into this career even though they can't for one reason or another go to a traditional school, it opens the doors for the next generation of groomers and it also allows people eho can;t afford higher priced salons to still provide grooming services for their pet. I am proud of what I do and what I accomplish, and I love my job.
                            My way may not work in New York or California, but for PEI, it is working, people are out of work, taking pay cuts, and wage freezes and are looking for way to cut back. I even do a few dog for no charge due to illness in the family, or a job loss or a death in the family and I feel good doing this, I won't get rich, but I am very happy, and excited about the possibilities I can achieve, and the service I can offer those who are going through a rough time. If that makes me not pass, I am ok with that, I still believe in what I do, and I will continue to try to get better and I will be grooming for the rest of my life, either full time or part time, but I will do it! Not being perfect won't stop me
                            AKA Gluergirl / Little_Critters on e-groomer


                            • #15
                              Sounds like my shop wouldn't be good enough.

                              We are not on a busy street... but being on a busy street just means more exposure. I almost rented a location on a very busy street.

                              In the summer on really hot days, we HAVE to keep the doors open, otherwise we'd all roast. We do have half doors keeping the dogs in, and if we have any questionable dogs, we close the door, before we move the dog from the crate to the table/tub, just in case it decides to clear the half door.

                              I walk dogs in on the owner's own leash... you put a choke (even a nylon kennel lead) around a dog's neck in front of the owner, and the owner is Anti-choke, you'd hear about it... plus I would think the odd person would be insulted, that you don't think their collar is good enough, or something. I can see if the collar is too loose and usually pick up the dog, or if it is a big dog, I will hold the back of the collar, and then you can use your hand to help prevent the collar from slipping. And the dog is always lead ahead of me, so if it doesn't the back up thing... I can stop it with my legs. Occasionally the dog slips out of the collar, but usually when the owner is at the other end of the leash... then I just wait until they catch their own dog, because I'm not chasing their dog around, when THEY left the collar too loose.

                              I don't have to ask for full information on my regulars... so if someone was scouting my shop and they saw me take in a regular and say, I'll see you at noon... I would lose the client?

                              I leave dogs on my table, or in the tub... They are never very far away from me or another groomer in case of a mishap... and I never walk away from a dog who isn't calm. I never leave old dogs, or dogs that are blind, deaf, or have hip/neck problems... for obvious reasons. I could get 4 or 5 interuptions during a large dog bath... and i'm not about to take some huge, soapy dog in and out of the tub.

                              We groom a significant amount of large dogs... and we have to lift them... Now there are always at least 2 of us, and we don't put giant breeds on the schedule unless there are 3 of us... We have stairs, but the dogs rarely use them... and we do have one electric table, but it doesn't go down very far. We do a lot of work on the floor, or in the tub, and the electric table is against a wall for the finishing.

                              My tools always have hair on them, if i'm using them... and i'll be honest... i am not a very tidy person, so my station looks very chaotic. If someone judged my grooming abilities on my station lay out... I wouldn't have any clients.

                              I think you just get a feeling about a person. How's their attitude? Do you seem more like an inconvenience, than a valued client? Do they sound knowledgeable? If they do, do they sound like know-it alls? (that would be a red flag for me) And the main thing I tell my clients is... " Your dog can be nervous coming in. But they should always leave happy." Most "bad" places... the dog is still nervous AFTER leaving.

                              But even people who treat your dog wonderfully, may be bad at grooming, and visa versa. The dog may look flawless, but they really weren't very nice.