Communication is crucial to make sure that you and your dog have the best possible experience with the groomer.

Communicating effectively with your dog groomer isn’t just a matter of aesthetics, points out groomer Marian Ward; your pet’s health and well-being may be at stake.

At the Paw Place in Grandville, Michigan, Ward specializes in working with dogs who have suffered grooming-related injuries and trauma. She provides tips about what to discuss with your groomer – and what questions he or she should be asking you.

Discuss Your Dog’s Health with the Groomer

Groomers should be informed about your dog’s medical history.

“They should be checking that your dog is up to date with rabies, distemper, and bordetella shots,” Ward explains. “If it’s a dog daycare, they should be checking to make sure your dog has a negative fecal and heartworm test, too.” Not asking for shot records is a major red flag, she says

The groomer also “should be asking if your dogs have any allergies if they’ve been sick recently,” says Ward. “Especially with senior dogs, I ask if anything has happened recently. And make sure as an owner you’re telling the groomer that.”

For example, “If I know a dog has had a stroke recently, I’ll dim the lights, because that helps,” she explains.

Discuss Your Dog’s Health with the Groomer

Discuss Your Dog’s Health with the Groomer

Discuss Your Dog’s Hair with the Groomer

The groomer should also communicate with you about your dog’s cut and style before starting work.

“The groomer should ask you what kind of haircut you want,” Ward says. “You want to be specific with length.”

She advises making sure you’re clear with your description. “I always tell customers, ‘Don’t go into a grooming facility asking for a puppy cut or a lion cut or a lamb cut or a teddy bear cut,’ because to every single groomer that means something different. Never use trendy names unless they’re breed-specific.”

She advises that before you select a high-maintenance style, consider whether you’re willing and able to devote energy to it between visits to the groomer. “It’s about being realistic about your lifestyle, too, and how much time you have to put into grooming your dog,” she explains.

A good groomer will come out to meet and touch the dog, she says. “If the dog is severely matted to the point where it does have to be shaved, the groomer will want to let you know right away. If they do have to shave your dog, they should be calling and letting you know, so it’s not a surprise.”

The groomer’s role, explains Ward, isn’t just to cut and style the dog’s hair but to help you make informed decisions about how to care for your dog’s coat.

“They should also be helping you find the right grooming tool,” she says. “If you’re at a loss for what to choose, just get a plain metal comb. If you’ve got a short-haired dog like a lab or a beagle, get a rubber curry brush. Your groomer should be talking to you about this.”

She adds, “Your groomer should have standards, too. We get people calling with labs and golden retrievers and chow mixes and huskies, and they ask, ‘Can you shave my dog?’ We won’t do it unless the dog is terribly matted or has some skin condition where its vet requires the dog to be shaved. We don’t do it because the hair won’t grow back in that same soft, silky texture. Groomers should be warning you about this.”

Discuss Your Dog’s Hair with the Groomer

Discuss Your Dog’s Hair with the Groomer

Communicating About Problems with Your Dog Groomer

While some dogs dislike being groomed, there’s a difference between reluctance and trauma – and groomers should know how to deal with both.

“Make sure you’re going to a place where, if the dog is too stressed out to handle it, the groomer is going to be talking to you,” Ward recommends. She suggests homeopathic treatment, such as Rescue Remedy, which the Paw Place uses.

Minor mishaps may occur on the grooming table – although severe injuries never should. “Occasionally your dog might get a nick, and you want to make sure the groomer is honest and is telling you about that,” explains Ward.

If the groomer does injure your dog, be firm about what you expect.

“If my dog is hurt and has to go to the vet, I’m not paying you a red cent,” Ward says. “Sometimes you’ll sign an agreement not to hold the groomer liable, but if the dog is severely hurt, they should be offering something. Use your common sense.”

A good groomer is a valuable resource who can provide insight into your dog’s health as well as its appearance. “Any question you have, your groomer should be open to talking about it,” says Ward. “Even if they don’t have the answer, they should be able to refer you to someone who does.”

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