What exactly are you paying for when you go to the groomer?
I’m sure you’ve been there. Standing at the register to pick up your beloved dog from the groomer and, at checkout, you receive your total. We’ve seen the look - the wide eyes, the slightly taken aback expression. “Why does it cost SO MUCH?” you ask, a little breathlessly. After all, that’s the same, if not more than, your own haircut!
Glad you asked!
There are lots of jokes floating around the internet (see left) about why it costs more for a dog grooming than a human haircut and, funny as they may seem, it's actually quite true…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So what ARE you paying for when you bring your dog to a groomer? Yes, it starts with the bath and the manicure and pedicure. We clean ears and scrub crusty eye corners. We check and, if needed, externally express the dog’s anal glands. We use a blueberry vanilla facial scrub that is tear free to brighten their faces. The shampoos we use are high quality and properly mixed for maximum efficiency. We use a forced-air dryer to lift and separate the coat and blow out any impacted hair and dander. We fully brush the dog and deshed when necessary, then make sure the sanitary areas are clipped and tidy. With haircuts, we use a variety of blades, attachments, and vacs. Coats are once again fluffed and separated with a stand-dryer which makes a better finished product. The groomers check each other’s work, offering advice and constructive criticism and helping to catch things that might be missed.
However it doesn’t end there! Beyond the (not so) simple mechanics of the actual grooming, the cost of your dog’s grooming also includes:
#1 - Experience: Don’t be misled - being a groomer is very much a skill that must be acquired and maintained. It’s not as simple as picking up a pair of clippers and going to town. At least, it’s not that easy if you’re doing it properly. A well-trained groomer has extensive knowledge about breeds, proper patterns, blade safety, hand-stripping, blending, scissoring, proper structure and movement, proportion etc. Did you know that there is no licensing or governing body that regulates groomers? We are a self-regulated industry which means experience, education and knowledge varies from groomer to groomer and shop to shop. In our facilities, we choose to train our groomers in-house in an apprenticeship program. Our groomers must start from the bottom, learning the basics of bathing before they are ever invited to move forward in their training. We spend 6 months to 1 year training our groomers, on top of their 6 months to 1 year experience they have to have in bathing.
#2 - Education: The top experts of any field will tell you that there is always something more to learn. It is no different in grooming, which has evolved over the years and continues to evolve. New styles, techniques, breeds and equipment mean groomers can’t afford to ever stop their education. When the schedule permits, we send our groomers to continuing education seminars like the Super Styling Sessions by Sue Zecco and Jay Scruggs. We receive industry magazines almost daily that are filled with articles with tips, tricks, information about new products to keep us aware of what is going on in the grooming world. We periodically meet as a group and brush up on our skills with videos or literature and we are always trying out new products and innovations meant to make the experience a good one for you and your pet. We even interact with other groomers across the country in order to share information.
#3 - Equipment: Being a groomer is expensive. Each groomer needs to have access to good quality, SAFE, and clean equipment. We have tables that raise and lower to make it easier on our larger clients. Stainless steel tubs with stairs and proper restraints are a must. Much has been said about cage dryers and the risk they pose, which is why we have cage dryers that use NO HEATING ELEMENT, making them 100% safe for any breed of dog. We send our blades out regularly to be serviced, cleaned and sharpened to reduce the risk of cuts and snags. Even the best groomer is only as good as their equipment and how well it’s maintained.
#4 - Dedication: Being a groomer isn’t easy. It’s hard on the body and requires the groomer to take good care of themselves. It can also be as mentally exhausting as it is physically demanding. Dogs are often scared and uncomfortable when they come into a grooming shop and it’s the groomer’s job to get through the process efficiently while keeping the dog comfortable and ensuring the best finished product possible. Groomers must be patient, quick and very aware. An injury or a bad bite can mean loss of income for an extended period of time, if it’s not career-ending. So a groomer must be very careful not just with sharp objects around the dogs, but with sharp objects (and teeth and claws) around themselves. It takes a lot of dedication to return to your job day after day despite the fact that your clients try to bite you on the regular (not to mention the various bodily fluids they encounter...)! It is not easy to try to balance what is in the best interest of the dog with what the pet parents want or expect from their grooming.
Like finding a good veterinarian, finding a good groomer is a necessary part of dog ownership. You want a groomer you can trust, who does a nice job and who is trained and professional. You want a groomer who will put the health and well-being of your dog first, and who will do their very best to make your dog’s experience a good one.
When you find such a groomer make sure you hold on tight - they are a rare breed!