How to Choose a Groomer

Learn how to find a groomer who will handle your pet gently, and what to look for in the grooming salon.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #150

How to Choose a Groomer

You might think that people would be legally obliged to get some training before they handle sharp instruments around your Dogalini (or Kittychai), but they’re not. Pet grooming salons are often subject to licensing requirements, but the groomers themselves aren’t – not anywhere in the United States, as far as I’ve been able to learn. This may help explain why a groomer in California shaved five nipples off a dog recently.

Of course, even the best groomer will sometimes nick an animal. However, an inept groomer can seriously injure your dog, and a heavy-handed groomer can scare him and elicit aggression, so it would be nice to find someone skillful and kind. Here’s what to look for:

#1 Training and Experience

You need to screen out the yahoo who picked up a pair of clippers and then put an ad on Craigslist, claiming to be an expert groomer. Ask how your prospective groomer got her training. She may have taken courses or learned her craft through an informal apprenticeship. Membership in a trade group such as the Dog Groomers Association of America may be a good sign; the DGAA offers classes and requires testing before it certifies a member. (Note, though, that the testing isn’t done by an independent body such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.)

An inept or heavy-handed groomer can seriously hurt or scare your dog, so find one who’s skillful and kind.

#2 Clean, Calm Shop

You can compare this with how you’d evaluate a vet’s office. In the nature of things, there will be occasional mess: hair on the floor around a dog being groomed, or a super-anxious or unhousetrained animal may have eliminated. Look for frequent sweeping and prompt cleanup. No dogs lingering in soiled cages, please. Yes, there will be some barking, but I would hesitate if I heard Megadeth blaring from the speakers – there’s a reason sustained, loud, jarring noise is used to torture prisoners, and it contributes to stress in animals too.

If the shop handles both cats and dogs, the species should be caged well away from each other, ideally in separate rooms. Barking dogs scare most cats; the groomer who takes that into consideration is a groomer mindful of the comfort of animals she’s responsible for.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).