For over 20 years, I relied on the services of a good Cocker Spaniel groomer to clip my dog’s coat every 8 to 12 weeks. It can be hard to find a pet groomer that meets all of your needs and can address the upkeep and maintenance of a Cocker Spaniel.
Whether you have a Cocker Spaniel, another breed, or an All-American Mutt, there’s something to be learned in this article on dog grooming. Everything changed for my dog, Dexter, when he came down with kennel cough twice within a week of visiting the groomer. His second bout of kennel cough was very severe and went on for months. Dexter was up-to-date on his kennel cough vaccination, and we blogged all about that.
I talked to other Cocker Spaniel parents about how and where to find a new groomer. I am the admin of one of the most popular Cocker Spaniel groups on Facebook, Club Cocker. There, I learned of different situations and mishaps that occurred at the grooming salon.
I know there are amazing dog groomers out there, and I will teach you how to find one in this article. However, I ultimately decided to take matters into my own hands, and I will fill you in on what I did and why. Plus look for the bonus printable with questions to help you find a Cocker Spaniel groomer.
Facts About Dog Grooming
Before you start looking for a reliable Cocker Spaniel groomer or are interested in finding someone new, here are a few facts about the dog grooming world.
No Degree Required
There is no degree, certification, or specific courses a person needs to take or pass in order to become a dog groomer. Some states require licensing, and you will need to check on your state’s grooming laws.
A person does not need specific qualifications to become a dog groomer. Re-read that sentence and remember it when you select the person who is in charge of your Cocker Spaniel’s grooming, bathing, and haircuts.
Many dog groomers take training courses or are required to have a set number of hours on the job before being hired. Many groomers learn on the job or through an apprenticeship with a professional dog groomer or salon. Others become certified through the National Dog Groomers Association of America but it is not required.
Your Dog Will Likely Not Be Groomed Immediately
Your dog may not be put right in the tub or on the grooming table on arrival. Most times, they will be placed in a kennel until it is their turn.
Your Cocker Spaniel will likely be bathed, groomed, and blown dry, so she will be moved around a lot and she should be comfortable in a kennel.
Not All Cocker Spaniels Are Good Grooming Candidates
I am the admin for a popular Facebook group called Club Cocker. Several members have shared stories about their Cocker Spaniels having a seizure or some sort of episode at the groomer.
Cocker Spaniels are a very sensitive breed who are overly represented in the seizure category. Grooming may trigger an emotional reaction, anxiety issue, or even a seizure. Margo Lieb’s Cocker Spaniel, Tikka, experienced a seizure at the groomer. She was summoned to come to get her dog.
“He (the vet) seems to think it was a very stressful experience for her,” Lieb shared. “I always groomed her until recently because of my arthritis, but I’ve invested in really good clippers and scissors so I am back on the job.”
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.
Mobile Groomers May Be An Option
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.
How To Find A Reputable Cocker Spaniel Groomer
This is what I did to find a good dog groomer when I was looking many years ago. These are the same things I would do today. However, there are more options these days because of Facebook, online social groups, etc.
- Talk to other people in your community. Ask neighbors, local family members and friends for recommendations to their groomer. Be sure to ask what they like about the groomer.
- Join a local/town Facebook group and ask for recommendations. Most towns have their own Facebook page where people ask for everything from dog groomers to painters for hire.
- Join Club Cocker, my Facebook group, where thousands of Cocker Spaniel lovers may be able to help you. We have members from all over the world.
- Look up local groomers in your area and then check their reviews on Facebook, Yelp, etc.
- Ask your dog’s veterinarian if they have any groomer recommendations.
Once you’ve come with a few dog groomers for your Cocker Spaniel, follow our advice below. You’ll start by making phone calls and visits to the groomers if you are considering taking your dog to a brick-and-mortar location (versus a mobile pet groomer).
Questions To Ask A Dog Groomer First
Amassing a list of pet groomers to consider is the first step in finding your Cocker Spaniel’s new second best friend.
Start with phone calls. You can learn a lot about a business by how they answer your questions and their willingness to do so. Keep in mind that most pet groomers are busier than ever these days, so be patient if you have to wait for a callback. Also, if they aren’t available to talk to you for 5 or 10 minutes, don’t get offended. Ask when would be a good time to call back or leave a message.
Be clear with your intent and tell the person you contact you are looking for a Cocker Spaniel groomer and do they have a few minutes to answer some questions.
Here is a list of questions to ask the groomer before you consider putting your dog’s life into their hands.
- Will my dog have the same groomer every time?
- How long have you been grooming dogs?
- What is your experience with grooming Cocker Spaniels. This one comes with a caveat: As a pet parent, you must decide if you want a puppy cut/sporting cut, a light trim, or a true Cocker Spaniel overall grooming akin to show standard.
- What is your policy on accidents should one occur with my dog while in your care?
- Do you have formal training/how did you learn to become a groomer?
- Do you have any special certifications, licensings, or awards?
- What happens if my dog gets scared or anxious in your care?
- How will you be sure my dog doesn’t get clipper rash or razor burn?
- Do you keep a first aid kit for dogs on hand in the event of any accidents?
- Does my dog get a potty break and access to water?
- Sometimes groomers will allow you to talk to other clients. Ask for any referrals and their contact info. Don’t be worried if the groomer does not have these. It’s just a nice extra touch.
- Can I visit the salon with my pet while I make my decision?
- What type of shampoo and other products will you use? Can I provide my own?
- Will you allow me to see the area where pets are groomed? This may not always be possible because groomers may not want people in the “back” so as not to distract the dogs.
- What steps do you have in place to ensure my dog is safe throughout the experience? (where are sharp instruments kept, what type of restraint will they use)
- Ask about any services you are interested in: bathing, grooming, nails, etc.
- If you are interested in having your Cocker Spaniel’s anal sacs expressed if needed and ears flushed, ask if this service is offered.
- What would be the average cost to bathe and groom my Cocker Spaniel in the cut of my choice? (the cost will depend on your area, the services you request, and the type of cut)
- How do you dry the dogs? Many groomers will place a dog in a kennel with a crate dryer. A lot of dogs don’t like this. As an aside, I used to bathe my dog first and blow him dry by hand before grooming visits.
- How long will my dog be in a kennel while in your care?
- Once I drop my dog off, what is an average length of time she will stay with you? Note: Some groomers keep the dog for the day, others call the pet parent after a few hours for pickup.
- Can I stay and watch my dog? Since the pandemic, many facilities will not allow this. Some places, like pet supply superstores, have their own grooming salon on site where pet parents can watch through a window.
- If you have a Cocker Spaniel with any sort of health issues or aging changes, i.e. arthritis, ask how they would handle and move your dog considering those health issues.
- Is anyone on staff certified or training in canine CPR?
- Can I book my appointments in advance? If so, how far out? I used to book a year’s worth of appointments for my dog so he always got the time slot I needed.
That may seem like a lot of questions, but your dog is being placed in the hands of someone new. This new potential dog groomer doesn’t know you or your dog. It’s up to you to be your dog’s eyes and ears and put her best interests first.
If you aren’t comfortable asking all of these questions on the phone, ask the ones you want and save the rest for your in-person pre-grooming decision visit.
There have been many stories of dogs dying in a groomer’s care. The pet grooming industry needs better oversight. You are within your rights to ask if any pets died at the shop. You can also Google the business and see if any complaints were filed with the Better Business Bureau.
I’ll post a printable abbreviated version of the questions below so you can have a new list handy with each phone call or visit. There’s space to add your own questions, too.
Visiting Your Cocker Spaniel Groomer Before Making A Decision
Prior to making a decision about your dog’s new groomer, it’s always a good idea to visit the shop. Sometimes a drive-by can be deceiving, as some of the best shops and most awesome groomers have unassuming shops without a lot of bells and whistles.
Ask in advance if you can visit or simply show up to ask a few more questions in person. You may or may not be allowed inside depending on COVID-19 policies. There may also be a limit as to how many people can be in the facility.
Look around, get a feel for the place, and see how the dogs in their care are behaving. You may not be able to see the dogs, but you can certainly hear things. My dog’s previous groomer had a back room where the animals were bathed and clipped.
After being with this groomer for 10 years, I showed up one day to purchase dog shampoo. They had no idea I was standing in the front area waiting to be helped. I heard two girls shouting loudly at dogs who were in kennels barking. One of the girls went over to the kennel and kept slapping the side of it yelling “knock it off, stupid.”
We all have bad days and bad moments, but this went on and on and made me both uneasy and uncomfortable. I trust that my dog is being cared for when I am not around. I no longer felt that way.
Insider Tips Before Taking Your Dog To A Groomer
These are things I’ve learned in 30 years of being a Cocker mom that will help you the next time your dog needs a grooming visit:
- Ask if you can wait for your dog. I used to bring my dog pre-bathed and dried and wait in the lobby area. If this is an option and doable, go for it.
- Take a photo of your dog after your favorite grooming session. Take photos of the feet, legs, body, chest, head, ears, tush, paws, etc. If you ever need to switch groomers or decide to groom your Cocker at home, you’ve got a baseline.
- Go over everything your dog is having done that day before leaving the shop. Mistakes can happen, don’t let it be to your dog.
- Provide the salon with any shampoos or conditioners you want used on your dog. Also tell your groomer what products not to use on your dog.
- If anal sacs, ear flushes, and any other additional services are to be performed, decide if you do or don’t want them done. Remind your groomer what you don’t want done.
- Ask what time you can call to check on your dog. Groomers are busy and would much rather be grooming dogs than answering calls. However, part of owning a grooming business is fielding client calls. You can ask what time they think your dog will be ready.
How To Clip a Cocker Spaniel At Home
I learned how to groom my Cocker Spaniel at home and perhaps you are considering this. Maybe you want to keep up with your Cocker in between regular grooming appointments. You can always leave the nails and other details up to a groomer or a veterinary nurse.
In order to learn to groom my Cocker at home, I visited a professional dog breeder a few times to watch how she groomed Cocker Spaniels in her own private grooming salon. I also watched as my dog was professionally groomed in a shop. I then watched many videos and enrolled in a home study grooming program.
Step by step, I focused on learning and mastering one area of my dog’s body. Once mastering the face, then came the head, then the paws, then the legs, and so on. It’s a marathon and not a sprint, plus you’ll need to invest in some tools of the trade.
Pet parents often ask me how to learn to clip their Cocker Spaniel at home, so I wrote an entire article with a video to share.
Bottom Line On Dog Groomers
I have many friends who are dog groomers, and I know how incredibly hard they work. I cannot even imagine becoming a dog groomer and doing that day in and day out. The physical toll it takes on the body is one thing, but I hear the horror stories from their perspective, too.
Dogs come in who are unkempt, full of mats, haven’t been bathed in ages, and the pet parent expects a miracle.
Finally, when you are researching dog groomers online, pay attention to their digital thumbprint. What are they saying about their clients? Are they kind and respectful or bad-mouthing their clients online? I cringe when I read comments about “fat dogs” or see photos of dogs that I am certain their parents would not want to be posted online.
Be your dog’s best friend and put the work into finding a groomer that can satisfy your Cocker Spaniel’s requirements along with your needs. Most of all, be kind and tip your groomer when you find that magical one that you hire.
Download A Free Printable Dog Groomer Checklist
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