Tips for Choosing a Dog Groomer

Choosing a dog groomer is crucial if you're not planning to take on the daunting grooming tasks yourself.  This is particularly true for owners of long-haired breeds like the Coton de Tulear.

Choosing a dog groomer you dog will love

Professional grooming can significantly improve your dog’s health and well-being. So, it’s not just about looking cute. Grooming the Coton is time-consuming and requires proper training that can take a long time to learn. 

A non-scientific poll on this website indicates that almost half of our visitors opt for having their Cotons groomed by a professional. 

DIY vs professional dog groomer

My Personal Dog Grooming Journey

Choosing a dog groomer should be done with at least as much care as you take for choosing your own hair stylist and it's even more important to choose wisely since you won’t be there to make sure your dog is cared for properly.

I take my own dog to a groomer once a month for bathing, hair clipping, nail trimming, & ear cleaning. I take care of the maintenance at home, such as brushing and bathing in between grooming visits. I’ve been going to the same groomer for many years, and I trust that my dog is getting the best care.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Over 15 years ago, when I had my first Coton de Tulear, Luc,  it wasn’t easy to find a professional who knew how to groom a Coton. There was a lot of trial and error and even a couple of tears in the beginning (mine).  Luc was a trooper!

A reputable dog groomer will have all the proper equipment needed to do the job right - all kinds of combs, brushes, scissors, clippers, dryers, bathtubs, and grooming tables. They have the right shampoos, conditioners, and detanglers for your dog’s unique needs.

But when I got Luc, even trained groomers with the right tools didn’t have the knowledge or experience with this rare breed. So, Luc would often come home looking nothing like a Coton. I had to bring photos to let the groomer know what the Coton de Tulear should look like.

Even now, finding a dog groomer familiar with the Coton de Tulear can be challenging, especially if you don't live in a big city.

coton de tulear getting a bath

10 Common Grooming Pitfalls

I've heard countless tales of grooming nightmares from my readers, often resulting in Cotons that are unrecognizable or even mistaken for another breed.

Unfortunately, having at least one bad professional grooming experience is a rite of passage for many pet owners. Having said that, having a good grooming experience is more likely if you have a partnership relationship with your groomer. You agree on some ground rules and you agree to take care of grooming in between salon visits. 

When you take a severely matted dog to a professional groomer, there's a strong likelihood that you will be picking up a shaved dog.

You can find suggestions to prevent and treat matting from our visitors here.

10 Common Professional Grooming Pitfalls to Watch for When Choosing a Dog Groomer:

  1. Matted hair: Matting is one of the most common issues and can lead to skin infections if not addressed. A groomer unfamiliar with long-haired breeds or who doesn't have the time for de-matting might opt for shaving the coat, which is generally not recommended for Cotons. Groomers will also shave the dog if they feel it's more humane for the dog since removing severe matting can be very stressful and painful for dogs. But please don't despair if your dog is shaved. While it's jarring, their hair WILL grow back in time.
  2. Over-Trimming: Some groomers may go scissor-happy, leaving your Coton looking less like its breed standard and more like a completely different dog.
  3. Skin Irritation: Using the wrong type of shampoo or conditioner can result in skin irritation or allergies. Always ensure your groomer uses products suitable for sensitive skin. I used to bring my own shampoo and conditioner for the groomer to use for Luc since he had allergies and sensitive skin.
  4. Nail Troubles: Incorrect nail trimming can lead to bleeding and discomfort. A skilled groomer should know how to trim just enough without hitting the quick.
  5. Ear Infections: Inadequate or overly aggressive ear cleaning can result in infections. The ears of long-haired breeds need to be dried completely after bathing. 
  6. Stress and Anxiety: An inexperienced groomer may not know how to handle a nervous dog, which can make the grooming experience stressful for your pet.
  7. Hidden Charges: Some groomers may add on extra costs for de-matting or special shampoos without prior discussion. Always clarify the services included in the grooming package.
  8. Inconsistent Cuts: Lack of experience with the breed can result in uneven haircuts, affecting not just the appearance but also the comfort of your dog.
  9. Overlooking Parasites: A thorough groomer should also check for signs of fleas, ticks, or other parasites and treat them accordingly.
  10. Lack of Breed-Specific Knowledge: Many groomers are not familiar with the specific needs and characteristics of the Coton de Tulear, leading to less-than-ideal grooming outcomes.

Choosing a dog groomer should be done with at least as much care as you take for choosing your own hair stylist. It's even more important to choose wisely since you won’t be there to ensure the care of your dog is up to par.

How do you find the best professional dog groomer?

  • Word of mouth is always a good idea when you want to find a reputable groomer. Ask your friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers who own pets.
  • Online reviews can also provide valuable insights into potential groomers.
  • Many veterinarians now offer grooming as part of their services, and it can be the best option if you don’t know where to start. If your veterinarian doesn’t offer grooming services, they may have contact information for local reputable groomers.
  • You may also find valuable recommendations from dog kennels, pet supply stores, shelters, and purebred breeders.

After getting recommendations, ask the prospective groomer specific questions about services and costs, pick-up and delivery, and what methods they use to calm the dog. It's also a good idea to inquire about liability insurance in the case of an emergency. A good groomer will be happy to answer any questions you have and welcome a grooming visit to meet and check the salon out.

Tour of the Facility

Visit the grooming facility without the dog first to check out the environment. 

  • Is the shop clean and bright? 
  • Do the groomer and assistants treat the dogs with loving care? 
  • How do the dogs respond to them? 
  • Are the dogs happy and eager or frightened?

Some groomers will give you a specific appointment time, while others may keep your dog in a cage all day while they wait their turn. If that is an important factor for you, be sure to ask about their policy in advance.

If you have an anxious dog or a senior dog with joint issues, being confined to a small cage for hours, you probably want to choose a dog groomer who grooms by appointment or even a mobile groomer who comes to your home.

poodle cut

When choosing a dog groomer, you must communicate your expectations clearly, or you may be surprised when your Coton de Tulear comes home looking like a poodle. (I know I've had that experience at least once).

I know we'd all love to find a dog groomer like the one in the below video, who absolutely loves the Coton dog she's working on. For me, nothing is more important than my dog being treated with love and kindness. Hair can grow back, after all.

The video is long and may be helpful for those who self-groom their dogs, but you only have to watch a few minutes to tell that this dog is in good hands with someone gentle and kind in addition to being knowledgeable.  

I hope you find a professional groomer like the woman in this video. Her love for the Coton is evident, and she is precisely the kind of person you want to have since many dogs are anxious at the groomer. 

Choosing a Dog Groomer for Your Anxious Dog 

Cotons are sensitive little creatures, and the combination of noises, strangers, other dogs, and being away from home can be a lot to ask of them. Choosing a dog groomer who will make your dog feel safe is essential.

Finding the right pet groomer for an anxious dog can be challenging, depending on where you live. However, most professional groomers are trained to handle anxious dogs and use a variety of techniques to help calm and soothe the dog during their grooming session.

If your dog gets stressed out going to the groomer, there are a few things you can do to help ensure that you find someone who can provide the care of your pet and the attention your dog needs. 

Here are some great tips on choosing a groomer for an anxious dog:

  • Look for a groomer who specializes in working with anxious dogs. Many groomers have experience and training in working with dogs who are nervous or fearful, and they may be better equipped to handle your dog's special needs.
  • Ask for referrals from other dog owners. If you know other dog owners who have anxious dogs, ask them if they have a local dog groomer they would recommend. 
  • Visit the grooming salon before making an appointment. Take your dog with you and see how they react to the environment and the staff. A good pet groomer should be willing to let you do this, and they should be patient and understanding with your dog's anxiety.
  • Most groomers will have “get to know you” introduction visits. This is especially helpful for puppies getting groomed for the first time. Usually, these first visits are like a training visit, where you’re socializing your dog to get used to the groomer, the salon, the other dogs, and being handled. 
  • Ask the groomer about their experience with anxious dogs. Find out how they handle dogs who are nervous or fearful and ask about any specific techniques they use to help calm and soothe anxious dogs. I once walked into a dog grooming salon and heard the groomer yelling at dog to stop barking. Of course, I walked right out. Yelling at an anxious dog is certainly not how to calm them.
  • Try natural calming aids such as CBD oil, chamomile tea, Rescue Remedy, lavender oil, or valerian root. These aids can be hit or miss and may work well for one dog but not another. You can find an extensive list of calming aids for anxiety here. Always check with our vet to ensure supplements are safe for your pet's health. 
  • Find a groomer close to home if your dog gets stressed from car rides or has motion sickness to minimize your dog’s anxiety before he even gets to the salon.
  • Consider mobile groomers since dogs are usually more comfortable being groomed in their own homes, and a mobile grooming service can come to you and work with your dog in a familiar environment.
mobile dog grooming

You can learn more about how to groom an anxious dog here.

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