Groomers, The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Wendy Steele, Keys & KODA CEO and Founder

We travel all over North America for our businesses.  We choose to travel in a motor coach for a number of reasons.  Probably the most important are named Jasper and Isabel.  Jasper is our two year old Bichon pup and Isabel our Abyssinian-Tabby cat.  Besides, airports and hotels are no fun.  BTW, That is Japer on the masthead running on the Oregon coast with his favor pink ball.

One of the toughest things is to find a groomer we can trust.  Not just to give Jasper a good cut, but to find a groomer that is a natural practitioner and will safeguard Jasper during his visit.  We learned a few tricks along the way that simply involves using your senses.

We always ask Bichon owners where they have their pup groomed when their dog looks well cared for, cleanly groomed and happy go lucky.  This is a happenstance that we consider first when we find someone through a referral.  This is way too much luck for us, so we developed a few little tricks that involve using your eyes, ears and sense of smell.

Here is our secret to finding a good groomer for Jasper.

First, make sure you read the story of our Bichon, Disney, and his near death experience with a groomer.  The Link is Here.

So, the first thing to do is to find a chemical-free pet shampoo…like ours!  Why, because you are going to ask the groomer to use it instead of the stuff they buy cheap by the gallon.  You are also going to use it as an interview tool.

Walk into a grooming salon with shampoo bottle in hand.   When you go in, walk around first looking at any products, pictures and the decorations.  Yes, I said decorations because how a groomer’s salon is laid out and decorated with furnishings is a good indication of how the dog will be treated.  For example, we have a favorite groomer in San Diego called Satin Scissors.  The groomer is Sal.  When you walk in, there is a living room setting with all sorts of soft chairs, dog figurines and dog magazines.  It is a waiting room if you want, but is a great indication off the care your dog will get.  Therefore, the assessment at this phase is simple.  Answer this question.  Would you feel good getting a haircut in this salon?  If yes, then you can continue to assess.  If no, just ask them if they groom pet coyote’s.  Usually they say no and you can leave.

So, let’s say the place looks good.  What does it smell like?   Are there a bunch of chemical smells or heavy perfume aroma’s.  This is usually an indication that the shop is a mill cranking out lots of dogs as quickly as they can.  This is usually a good time to ask how long they will need to keep your pup.  The longer they are exposed to the chemicals, the more damage the pet can sustain.  The heavy chemical smell should also trigger the next bit of sleuthing.

Ask to meet the groomer.  First things first, look at their hands and when you shake hands notice how they feel.  Red, cracked, rough, old looking and dry irritated hands are a good indication of the chemicals they are using on the pets.  You dog is only exposed once every 6 weeks of so.  The groomer is exposed to the shampoos, conditioners and fragrances every day.  Okay looking hands that feel rough and dry is a good indication that they use gloves to wash the dog or have an assistant do it.   That is why you bring your own shampoo.   That haircut does not affect the dogs skin, but the shampooing, whitening (if applicable) and conditioners can do a number on the dogs skin.  The best way to be sure, is to bring all your own stuff.  It is probably not going to get you a discount, but bringing your own assures that what goes on your dog’s skin is a known product.  That is not why you brought your bottle for the interview.   After assessing the groomer’s hands, hand them the bottle and tell them that this is the shampoo, conditioner et al that you want them to use.  Normally, the really good ones do not care and will often ask why or inquire about the products.  The automated regimented “car wash” groomer will bock or even refuse saying that there is no difference in shampoos.  This is another good time to ask if they groom coyote’s…and leave!

Lastly, we always look to see how clean the place is looking at the corners of the floor and around table legs to see if the floor is regularly washed.  Cleanliness is all about pet safety while in their care.

As strange as it may sound, your intuition is your best tool.  If it feels right using the above tests, schedule an appointment.  If it does not feel right, either drill deeper asking more questions and ask for references.

If you live in one place like normal people,   use the above assessment to test your own groomer.  If you are looking for a groomer, it is a five minute test to begin the trust process.   Don’t worry if it takes five or six attempts to find a groomer that you are happy with.  We feel there is a low percentage of really great groomers and that is why California is attempting to create a licensing process…Oh, you did not know that most states do not require groomers to be licensed.  Yep, that is true!

When you bring in your pup, bring your shampoo and any other products with you.  Write down the instructions to use the products and don’t forget to say, “NO PERFUME!”  The phthalates in cheap dog grooming perfumes irritate the dogs noses and even worse can cause their musk glands to over products.   Ever wonder why your dog smells sooner and worse after coming back from the groomers?

Pet shampoos that are natural are pH balanced for dog skin and contain no artificial or man-made chemicals.  The oils and botanicals are there to help and condition the dogs skin as well as not causing reactions.   The rule is simple, use a tested product that works.  Don’t buy a shampoo for your dog that smells good to you!

Wendy

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Keys Founder & Chief Technologist. Author: Chemical-Free Skin Health® , Defining Moments