Health | Nutrition

10 Myths of Dog Grooming

Dog grooming is a noble, needed, and respected profession. Like all careers, there are some myths and dog grooming is no exception. Having raised two Cocker Spaniels, I can attest to spending more on their grooming than my own haircuts. This is not a complaint, but rather, an observation.

There are at least 10 myths that exist in the dog grooming world, and my years of experience talking to groomers, visiting groomers, and extensively researching and writing about the topic allows me to share these myths with Fidose of Reality readers.

Not all shampoos are created equally: Dog food, dog treats, flea and tick prevention: These product categories have all been given a closer than usual scrutiny in recent years, and with valid reason. We know that certain ingredients can cause our canine family members to get sick or worse. Dog shampoo is no different. Ask your groomer what shampoo is being used on your dog. Get the inside scoop and tips in my feature article for Dogster magazine: Dog Shampoo Can Be More Hazardous Than You Thinkdirty dog

Not all groomers are created equally: Do a background check before you drop your dog off and leave the premises. When I was researching dog groomers, I went to the shop without my dog to see how things were going and what the appearance of the facility was, how the groomers handled the dog, and to ask questions. Things to ask include: how long they have been grooming, will your dog always have the same groomer, where they received training, costs, additional fees, and if you can talk to other clients. 

Licensing is not required in most states: Although dog groomers can choose to become certified through the National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc., it is not required for licensing. For example, in Pennsylvania and Michigan, a license is not required, but in New York and Connecticut, a license is required. I found our dog’s groomer through references, talking to him first, and I actually bathe my dog ahead of time and then wait for him at the shop. I have been doing this for 20 years of dog grooming visits. I trust my groomer but I prefer to wait and get some work done in the lobby. I also don’t want Dexter to sit in a cage while an automatic dryer blows on him.

Dog groomers are not magicians: I have seen so many “yikes” cases walk through the doors of a dog groomer, that I lost count. Brush your dog regularly, bathe your dog as needed, and make the dog’s comfort level and groomer’s job that much easier in doing so. Matts are not a dog’s best friend, nor a groomer’s.

Dog groomers are not mind readers: If your dog is not happy about having his or her paws touched or snaps because a certain “sweet spot” on their skin is sensitive, let the groomer know ahead of time. Let the groomer know what you expect along with a background of your dog and the grooming services he will require. Share any health and behavioral issues ahead of time.

dog bath

Dogs may not be put on the table to be groomed immediately: Groomers are busy, as we all are, so upon arrival, most dogs don’t go from dog parent arms to grooming table. If your dog is not accustomed to being in a kennel, this could be an upsetting event for him.

Groomers are not dog trainers: To help get your dog ready for a lifetime of grooming, be certain he’s accustomed to having his paws touched, to getting a bath and to allowing strangers to touch him. You can easily assess this and train your dog to be accepting of such processes by learning from the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test.  Even if you never plan to test your dog for this title, it helps for dogs to know these basic skills.  Visit my Dogster link about Canine Good Citizen and tips on passing for more information and helpful advice.

dog bathDog groomers are not dog sitters: In defense of the dog groomer, be timely when dropping your dog off and picking them up. Though most groomers will work with you on pick up and drop off times, be sure you are as timely as you want them to be for your pooch. You know that parent who is late picking their child up from daycare? Don’t be that person.  

Not all pet groomers are brick and mortar stationary businesses:  Mobile pet grooming can be a viable option for some folks. I have a friend who uses the services of a mobile pet groomer for her blind dog. She feels comfortable having him outside getting primped and groomed while she waits in her home.

Sedating a dog is not the groomer’s responsibility: Dogs should be acclimated to grooming. If you have a puppy, start touching his or her feet and brushing them from an early age. Personally I frown upon sedating a dog for grooming. Working with a positive reinforcement based animal behaviorist is much more favorable in addressing your dog’s issues versus medicating them for a grooming session.  If a sedative is absolutely needed, discuss this with your veterinarian in terms of safety, dosage, and individual dog requirements. For the safety of the groomer and the dog, this should be a last resort.

fidose of realityDo you have a groomer on which you rely and depend and would recommend? How did you discover his or her services? Bark at me in the comments below.

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  1. Good tips Carol! Under the not being a mind reader category, I would add when taking your dog to a new groomer explain exactly how you want their hair cut. You could take a Cocker Spaniel to 3 different groomers and have 1 leave the legs and skirting long like a show dog, another shorten the legs and skirt to 2 inches and another who shaves the dog completely. There are great variations in grooming. You don’t want to take your show groomed dog in and have it come out naked. A good groomer will take the time to discuss this thoroughly with you.

    1. That is spot on true. The groomer we go to gives our dog the “hunt” cut, but I know some folks want the dog kept with a skirt. Very good point, Dawn!

  2. You made some fabulous points! We absolutely adore our groomer who happens to work for our Vet! I love it (and so does Dakota) because he happens to LOVE being groomed (he could be brushed forever!) and when he goes to the vet he doesn’t have anxiety because he never knows if he is seeing the doctor or being groomed.
    Dakota is primarily my husband’s “boy” his “golden child” and even though we have been bringing Dakota to the same groomer for 6 yrs my husband ALWAYS brings a photo of a Sheltie so that they know exactly how he should look (I hate that he does this because the vet kept the photo on file but that doesn’t deter my husband, thankfully they know us and are not insulted lol)
    Our groomer is named Maria and she is the kindest woman on the planet. I ALWAYS over tip her which is another important point. I am wondering how many people tip the groomer? They have a HARD job!
    I love having our groomer at the vet (and yes they are ALL licensed) because God forbid if there should be some sort of emergency Dakota is at the best and most trusted place that I feel he could be.

    1. Smart idea there, Caren, with the photo. I never thought of that. But if I were starting over, that is a great way to do it. I bring a photo with me to the hair salon so why not for Dex?

      Smart about the emergency stuff, too — the vet is right there.

  3. So many very good things to know. I really hated taking Sephi to the groomers because they would put her in a cage for hours before they got to her. Her grooming appointment was for practically all day even though they only spend about 30 minutes on her. Now I use a self-wash place like Pawsh Wash here in Lawrence, KS. I have to do the work myself, but my dogs are much more comfortable.

      1. I own a grooming salon and while a few points you’ve made are good a couple others are not so much. Few people can properly bathe a dog without training, especially a cocker. I’ve hired groomers that have been grooming for 15+ years and still need to be shown how to degrease and get all the soap out of a dog. Also drying a dog properly is an important step to obtaining a smooth cut. We won’t do a parent bathed dog without being able to wash them again ourselves.

        Still our salon is run differently too. We are mostly kennel free(only markers and the rare aggressive dog needs to be separated). Out appointments are staggered so the amount of time we keep an animal is four hours max with 3 being the average. We also offer a zoom groom service for the nervous dog/client were we do them from start to finish from the moment they arrive as this appointment can take from 1-2 hours depending on the kind of dog and intensity of cut. Anyway I have plenty more to add but it’s really hard to type on my phone lol


        1. I totally respect your expertise. Personally I will never allow a groomer to bathe my dog. Too many horror stories for me and I have the skills. I took training and have had professionals teach me, so my Cocker has been bathed by me pre-groomer for 18 yeas now and going strong.

  4. I’ve had a quite a few experiences with Groomers, the first was really great at her job, but she was quite grumpy, and hollered at me in front of my Mom, that was a big no no…. The next groomer cut my poof off, and didn’t do half of what was suppose to be done, everyone knows, poodles can’t be poofless, so now we have a house at the beach, 2 hours away, found a great Groomer who goes over and beyond her job , Mom says when I need grooming we have the perfect excuse to go to the beach. It is a win , win situation. If you are in the Southport, NC area and need a Groomer, check out National petland. Mrs Kathy is the very best!!

  5. Nice representation of thoughts. Being a dog groomer, I know the role and responsibility as a professional. But one thing I must say to add to your post is that without understanding dogs, without feeling their pain, no one can become a good dog groomer.

  6. Just saying too….it’s a rare groomer that will allow you to pre bathe!

    As a groomer, I research and choose my products with great care. Everything is hypoallergenic and mixed fresh for each client and everyone is bathed twice, then thoroughly hydro massaged and hand dried. The bath and blow dry is 75% of a good groom. I can’t get a good haircut without it. Period! And I can’t trust someone who is not a pro know how to correctly bathe and blow dry, so I don’t prefer that option for my clients at all. These are the times i discover fleas, skin problems, lumps, lesions, flaky skin, etc. Its also where I palpate and express the anal glands if needed, and flush ears and freshen their breath. By taking those steps out, the groom actually just got harder. In fact, I’m surprised your groomer allows it!

    Just a note in case someone is reading this thinking it’s a good idea-it’s a rare groomer indeed that will allow it without a very special reason. (Like a medical problem.)

    1. I would never go to a groomer that let me pre-bathe. I’ve been going to our groomer for over a dozen years and we love him.

  7. I’m a dog groomer in California. Our state doesn’t require a license and I’ve never had anyone ask to see one. I would recommend just looking for a shop that displays their grooming so there’s nothing to hide. For example I currently work in a business with huge open windows and no back rooms. I used to work for Petsmart the “mcdonalds of grooming” and they have bo cameras in their back room where dogs are kept, bathed and dried. I left that company after seeibg a groomer throw a dog by its neck into a kennel because it scratched her. I reported it but nothing was done because it was one witness and no cameras. This complaint went all the way up to our DM and still nothing. Another piece of info for you…washing your dog at home will not give you a proper haircut. Professional groomers use a hand dryer on almost all haircut dogs to blow out kinks/curls in the coat to make a more professional and even cut. Also we are trained to wash your dog better than you, that’s what we’re here for.

    1. While I am sure you are an awesome groomer, I no longer trust any groomer to bathe my dog. Ear infections from water in the ears is the first reason I stopped allowing a groomer to bathe my dog. Meeting people at Cornell University in the waiting room of their small animal hospital whose dog had water in its lungs because the groomer held it underwater is reason two. Meeting more people like this set me over. I talked to my groomer and he loves that I bathe my dog first, as I have done so for the 15 years I have been going to him. I have a grooming tub, special shampoos and conditioners, and a special hair dryer for dogs. I have special tools and instruments. It saves me $5 on the bill but I do not do it for that reason. I have learned from the pros how to bathe my dog. So I do feel comfortable doing this. I also NEVER leave my dog unattended at a groomer and never will. I sit in the front and wait. It’s that or I find a new groomer. To date, I’ve never had a problem.

  8. Hi! I wish every client would read this prior to calling a groomer. I would just ad that some groomers are trainers 😉 I have been training much longer than grooming. Ask the groomers you talk to what their involvement in dogs is. Not all dog groomers are “dog people” I would prefer someone with well rounded dog knowledge.

  9. Great tips! My dog groomer was recommended by my friend. He was introduced to me when I was looking for a groomer. My friend assured me that he’s a good groomer and received a training. That’s why I’m confident to leave my dog to a groomer.

  10. I have been grooming dogs for 12 years in Western New York State, there is no license required to groom dogs in New York State. Do you “check up” on everyone you buy a service from? That is rude and if someone came to my shop without calling first I would not be their groomer. If you really trusted your groomer your would not have a problem leaving him alone with her/him.

    1. I check up on anyone who will be touching or caring for my dog, Teri. As such, that includes groomers. I do trust my groomer but I feel better staying and waiting. It’s who I am and will never change.

      1. And if you had children, would you sit in the class next to them watching just to make sure?
        Overprotective owners usually have the worse behaved dogs. I would not take a client like that. I take one dog at the time and call the customer when they are finished. I hate people that show up before I have finished and then the previously well behaved dog starts whinning and moving because they want to say hello. Would you walk in the middle of a class to distract your kid? Also, it takes time to relax the dog and make them comfortable. With a nervous owner by you cringing at every move the dog and groomer do not achieve total relaxation.

        1. That’s an extreme example, lovedogs. I can’t respond to you by name because you didn’t say. The room for people to wait is in a totally separate part of the salon, so my dog never sees me nor do I see him. But I can hear things and I know what happens there. I will never change. This isn’t a fish bowl atmosphere.

  11. I am a professional dog groomer and am registered with the NDGAA in Michigan where a licensed is not required. There is also no way to obtain a license in my state. But I strongly feel groomers should licesned. At a minimum there should be more regulations on handling, safety and sanitation. There are too many horror stories and bad experiences that give all groomers a bad reputation. But I would like to mention there are other excellent organizations you can be certified through as a Dog Groomer. Such as IPG. Also a certified master groomer is not easy to find and only means a groomer can accurately groom a dog to breed standard without faults with all the prep work already done and on a well behaved and experienced dog. And that they can do this for one dog of each required group (long-legged, short legged terrier, etc). Not every breed in the AkC and so on is tested and the groomer may choose which breeds they would like to groom. It does not make them a master of grooming in general. Or at mixed breeds or pets. It does require a lot of skill and kowledge to pass the certification process. I know from personal experience. 😀 Jay Scruggs is very influential in the grooming world and an amazingly talented groomer who has won many many grooming competitions and he is NOT certified. He refuses to. There are many wonderful kind groomers who are not certified but would be perfect for anyone’s pet. There are also Master Groomers who don’t know how to properly trim a Golden Retriever. It all just depends. You sound like a dream client! And it’s outstanding the amount of research you put into this article. On behalf of all groomers thank you! But I would like to mention one more thing. It honestly makes us feel really bad when clients stay because it makes us feel as though you don’t trust us even if you do. And a lot of us have at least some kind of awkwardness around people. It’s why we work with dogs! They GET us. So a client who stays with their dog makes us feel kind of weird about it. But we never get too upset because we’d all feel the same if we dropped ours off! 🙂

    1. Your comments are very valuable, and I respect so much that you came in and took the time to share this, Myndi. Having been a Cocker Mom my entire adult life, I have been to three groomers before we landed on the one we have, and we adore him. As a journalist and blogger, however, I have interviewed many folks over the years who have had tragedies at the groomer. I have also been to university pet hospitals with my dogs over the years. While in the waiting room, I have met folks who were there due to:

      A) Dog severe cuts from groomer
      B) Yorkie held underwater for barking at groomer
      C) Dogs with severe anxiety after being abused at the groomer

      And I know most groomers love what they do and genuinely care about pets, but I will not take that chance. I am friends with our groomer and he does not mind that I wait out front while he grooms my dog. I do work, get things done and it works out famously for us.

      So while I respect your intents, I will always stay with my dog: It’s a part of who I am. In fact, if we had a quality mobile groomer in the area, I’d opt for that. In any case, we can agree that we love our dogs and only want what is best for them.

  12. Ok so I have been grooming for over ten years and worked at three different places one boarding and grooming facility and two grooming shops all in Dayton oh. And all groomers will agree with me…. when we hear that the client wants to wait with there dog and that they don’t want it bathed….. Well that’s just inconvenience and annoying and I will explain why. most dogs act worse for grooming when the owners there waiting because they are constantly trying to get to them and look at them. And I tell my clients if someone wants to bathe there dog at home it’s still the same price there is no discount because I’d anything it’s more scissor work because the dog is not properly washed and dried like we say…good bathing and drying is 75% of grooming! Even if u bathe your dog and hand fluff him at home by the time u get to the shop more than likely your dog has laid on his coat used the poddy a few times and it’s gotten uneven or kinked up. This is why we do it one step after another at our shops it’s hard to get a smooth even groom unless the dog is freshly washed and blowed out to our standards. I will however groom a dog that someone has prewashed at home but they will still be charged full price and it has to be for a good reason as to why the dog cannot be bathed like I have one customer who there dog will literally try to attack me in the tub over the water hose…so to avoid sedation I allow them to pre-bathe. Also in response to ear infections we always pack ears with cotton balls to prevent any water from getting in and then clean ears with a drying ear cleaner after so eisk of ear infection is zero. Don’t know what shop u went to where they held a dog under water? But I speak for most groomers when I say we don’t do that. Looks like u had a bad experience with a stupid individual who needs reported for animal abuse. Also us groomers do like detailed information on how u would like your dog cut and we don’t mind pictures of what u want. Just make sure if u are bringing in a picture of a hair cut u want that it’s plausible. Like the dog in the pic is the same breed and coat type as your if u have hair like Jimmy Hendrix u would not typically go into a salon with a pic of Mikey Cyrus and be like um…I want my hair to look like this. We can only do so much with whatbur dag has there. And one more thing while bringing a pic might be a good idea at first if u continue to bring the same pic every time especially after we have it on file it insults us. Ur groomeray be nice but guaranteed when u leave she will say I can’t believe that lady bring that stupid pic every time she should trust me to know I will dobitbthe same as last time. I know I would think that. And last but not least don’t forget to tip us please! It really is a rard job.

    1. Autumn, I can respect that you are a groomer and know your stuff. I have worked in pet care behind the scenes for years. My dog’s groomer has many clients who bathe first and he is thrilled. He even asks me to do it now but if I don’t want to, that he is happy to oblige.

      I don’t take photos in of a haircut, I just want my spaniel groomed appropriately.

      We tip anywhere between $10 and $15 for a basic grooming that costs $40, so we are super generous.

      Us dog moms and dads have to keep the best interests of our dogs first and foremost. And there are horror stories galore from poorly trained groomers out there. I am glad you are not one of them, but please know that is not always the case.

      A friend of mine just took her dog to the groomer and the dog was muzzled. The dog is not a biter, never snapped at the groomer, and the groomer said, she put the muzzle on “because it made the dog stand still?” What kind of terrible thing is that to do to an innocent dog?

      Not all groomers are created equal and not all pet parents are. Please do respect that some of us know what we are doing when we bathe our dog in advance and choose to wait.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  13. I like that you mention that you should research and compare different pet groomers before deciding on which one to go to. My husband and I just adopted a rescue dog and we’re now looking for a good pet groomer. It’s important to us that we find someone who is experience, but is also friendly and cares about every animal that they groom.

  14. I like your tip to visit the groomers without our dog first so we can observe the facility and ask questions. My husband and I finally found a pet friendly apartment, so we’re really excited about getting a dog soon. I’ve heard that clipping dog’s nails can be a huge pain though, so I think we should find a professional pet groomer to handle that. I’m glad I read your article because I didn’t know how to choose a groomer, but following your tips should make the process really easy!

  15. Great article Carol! I am starting a mobile pet grooming service and appreciate when my new customers come in with knowledge like this. Finding the right groomer is definitely more complex than just dropping your pet off and letting anyone take them on from there. Getting to know who your pet is going to be interacting with and knowing they’ll be in one person’s hands or several is valuable to know ahead of time. It’s seriously beneficial to have a working relationship with the person or group you choose to be your groomers! As I am starting my new business I am definitely keeping in mind the idea of an initial meeting with just the pet owner to answer any questions they may have and to do an introduction with their pet before we do any grooming. Your tips are much appreciated and I’ll be sure to pass them on,

  16. My dog is in need of some grooming. It would be wise to take him to a professional groomer. I’ll find one that is licensed since that means they should do a better job than those who aren’t.

  17. Love your website you always have great tips for dog owners. Mobile grooming is a great idea! Most groomers are very knowledgeable and pet lovers.

  18. This is a great article and I wish more dog owners would read articles like this. I am always amazed at how un-responsible these dog owners are. Then I see their children running around and I’m not so surprised. haha I’m am a strong advocate for an initial consultation with the owner, pet, and groomer. With the dog there, it is easy to point out any sensitive areas, and describe how they wish to have their pet groomed. never forget a picture is worth a thousand words!. If you are working with a new groomer it’s always nice to show them a picture of what you have had done in the past.

  19. Love the blog post! Coming into this business we thought it was going to be trims, baths and watch the money flow but it has turned out to be a real challenge! Our eyes are open, glad youre opening the eyes of others as well.

  20. We have a small dog grooming service and love reading up on articles about the industry.

    Dog groomers are not mind readers – The point was our favourite as sometimes we have not been aware of a sensitive spot a dog may have and when we touched it they have not liked it which makes it hard to keep the dog happy so they don’t mind when we come back in a few weeks time to do it again.

    This was a really enjoyable read so thanks a bunch for writing it.

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