Four Steps to
Finding the Right Groomer for You and Your Pet
By Stephen Mart, Webmaster for
Referrals, Interviews, Tours and Intuition
From the time I was a child through college and beyond I observed my mother create one
of the most dynamic pet grooming businesses in history. She started Madeline's Pet Grooming
Salon in less than 300 square feet in 1961, and quickly had to relocate to meet constant
increases in demand for services. Eventually she owned one of the world's largest salons
and its management system became the subject of her renowned book, From Problems to
Profits in pet grooming. At the core of her success was a firm commitment to fill the
needs of her clientele and their pets. Over a period of 25 years she developed a regular
clientele of 6,000 pet owners and groomed more than 500,000 pets. So we speak here from
experience and hope that you will find the information here useful in locating a professional
groomer that can meet you and your pet's particular needs.
My first advice for pet owners choosing a pet groomer is, "This is a wonderful industry,
but be forewarned it is a very diverse industry. Unlike hairstylists for people, our
profession is not vocationally licensed in even one U.S. state, and certification programs
are optional. Today there are 3 states moving forward toward vocational licensing, but
none have yet adopted such legislation.
As a result pet owners should never expect the same client and pet grooming services
from one business to the other. It's simply open territory for how each owner manages
their one person business, salon or shop with employees or grooming departments in corporate
stores or privately owned pet care centers.
The Find A Groomer Directory divides grooming services into 3 categories.
Mobile & House Call Groomers
Home Based Groomers
Commercial Locations is a broad category. In nearly every community you can will find
independently owned grooming salons or shops in commercial locations. But there are
also many grooming businesses that are departments within veterinarian clinics, kennels,
pet daycares and pet retail stores also located in commercial locations. Some of them
have pickup and delivery services, but typically you will deliver your pets to their
location for services.
Mobile Groomers and House Call Groomers has seen the greatest growth in the last 5 years.
The major difference is in services is that groomers come to YOUR home. The Mobile Groomer
comes to your home with a specially equipped mobile vehicle or trailer with many of
the same features found in a modern pet salon. The House Call Groomer comes to your
home too, but they don't bring a "salon on wheels" and instead bring some equipment
in hand and groom your pets inside your home. House Call Groomers are more common in
large cities where it is not always practical for a mobile groomer to park at a large
high rise building, yet the House Call Groomer could groom in your residence.
Home-Based Groomers simply means that the groomer has converted a portion of their home
and property into a pet care facility. Rural areas commonly have groomers operating
from such facilities and some can be just as well-equipped as commercial location businesses.
BE READY TO INVEST TIME IN SELECTING YOUR PROFESSIONAL GROOMER
You must invest some time to find a groomer right for you and your pet. It is to the
advantage of your pet to find a regular groomer for your pets. They remember their groomers
and it is less stressful on them when they recognize their groomers and the surroundings.
To have faith and confidence in your decision you are going to need to gather information
that will support your making an informed decision.
We promote 4 steps to making your pet groomer decision; Referrals, Interviews, Tours
Step 1 - Referrals: Experienced grooming business owners know that referrals are "the
lifeblood" of the grooming industry. Most pet owners ask for pet groomer referrals from
friends and family, or pet professionals other than groomers such as veterinarians,
breeders and trainers. If you see a well-groomed pet ask its owner where they have their
pet groomed. Most pet owners are flattered by your asking, so take a chance and ask
for their referral.
If your veterinarian or retail pet store has an in-house groomer their referral is almost
certainly going to be their groomers. It's likely that their groomers are responsible
and dependable, but that alone does not mean they provide the grooming services you
There are types of grooming services that require more extensive training and experience
beyond traditional pet groomer training. For example, if you require "hand stripping"
or "show grooming" on a purebred pet your search is going to be more complex. The majority
of groomers do not provide hand stripping or show grooming specialty services. We have
found professional breeders to be a reliable source of groomer referrals for these services,
and our Find A Groomer Directory does include information options for grooming businesses
to list their specialty services.
Step 2 - Interviews: The wise pet owner will interview prospective pet grooming business
owners, or hired groomers or managers working in a pet care facility or retail location.
Start with the owner or manager whenever possible because they have the actual liability
for a business unlike hired groomers.
Hopefully the business you interview will provide you with a brochure explaining the
services offered, operational information and historical background of the owner and
business. You cannot rely on a brochure being available. Too many groomers overlook
providing brochures, and few available brochures are well written from the perspective
of pet owner information needs helping them to make an informed decision. We wrote what
we believe is the industry's best example of a brochure with this perspective and published
it in our book, From Problems to Profits in pet grooming. Having a well written brochure
will reduce your interview time, but not entirely eliminate the need to interview prospective
grooming business owners.
Your interview should glean the following information:
Related experience of the owner and their grooming staff.
Where did they learn to groom? Apprenticeship? School?
How many years of grooming experience?
When was the business established?
Are they veterinarian recommended?
Description of the grooming operations.
Do they keep permanent written client and pet service histories?
Do they offer convenient days and hours of operation? Are they open weekends?
If you don't have a scheduled appointment, how long is the average wait for one?
Do they keep your veterinarian's name on file?
Do they offer special appointment programs and appointment reminders?
What is their pricing system? Do they offer a printed price list?
Do they offer special care appointments for aged or disabled pets (if needed)?
Do they offer day long appointments for working pet owners (morning drop-off, late afternoon
pick-up appropriate for some pets if cared for properly)?
Do they offer short appointments (usually 2 to 4 hour stays)?
Do they have a safety and supervision program for people and pets?
How do they handle pet emergencies?
A grooming business owner that can answer all or most of these questions in a positive
manner is a likely candidate. We can't imagine operating a pet grooming business without
this level of operation and much more. Don't expect all pet groomers to have positive
answers. Grooming business owners are not required to have formal education in grooming
operations and there are not formally adopted standards of operation. As a result having
the above information ready for you is entirely voluntary. Thousands of grooming business
owners are volunteering to learn more about professional management of grooming operations
and during your interviews you may fortunate to discover some of them. At this point,
just keep gathering information.
Do they have a dedicated hired manager?
Less than 2% of all grooming businesses in the U.S. have a hired manager, one that only
manages and does not groom regularly. To afford a full-time hired manager the business
must have a large clientele, so it is not necessarily a bad mark against a business
not to have one. If someone can build a large business and hire a manager, it is a positive
mark and you should learn more about the business.
Will they groom your pet to your desired styling preferences?
If you have a purebred pet but don't desire breed standard grooming and styling that's
okay with most groomers. They will accommodate your desires. However some groomers are
resistant. You should let them explain why. It's one thing not to accommodate a pet
owner desiring services that are not healthful or comfortable for their pet, but if
the resistance is purely aesthetic, we believe groomers should accommodate the pet owner.
The key is to listen to the professional groomer at this point.
If you have a purebred pet and desire breed standard grooming you have an extra task
to ensure that they are skilled in breed standard grooming of your particular breed.
Again, not all groomers are qualified to offer hand stripping or show grooming on purebred
pets where appropriate. Ask them for their qualifications in such a case. Some pet groomers
have little or no experience grooming rare breeds such as the Portuguese Water Dog.
Are they a member of pet grooming industry associations? Are they certified?
Approximately 10% to 15% of U.S. pet grooming businesses belong to national grooming
organizations, or regional grooming associations. For a list of organizations see the
PetGroomer.com World Directory of the Pet Industry.
If they have taken an interest to join a grooming association is a good sign. Keep in
mind though that membership is not "certification." Major organizations such as the
National Dog Groomers Association of America (N.D.G.A.A.), International Pet Groomers
(I.P.G.) and International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (I.S.C.C.) do offer voluntary
workshop training leading to testing and certification, which may vary from certification
for a breed, breed group or overall certification. Groomers successfully certified by
an organization may be licensed to place initials indicating their certification after
their names, and the logo of the organization in their advertising. For example, the
N.D.G.A.A. offers certification testing to become:
Jill Groomer, N.C.M.G.
The N.C.M.G. stands for National Certified Master Groomer. It is very favorable to discover
a well-certified pet groomer. In fairness, there remains thousands of groomers who are
reputable but never sought certification. However, we acknowledge the effort and dedication
it takes to become certified and favor it.
Do they have a presentation photo album with pictures of their work?
Not many groomers offer a photo album, but they should. It would make their work easier.
It can be very difficult to explain what a style looks like without photos. If a grooming
business shows you an album of their work, well done! It should be easier for you to
determine if you see the type and quality of the grooming services you desire.
What do they offer as client services as well as pet care services?
Perhaps the weakest area of the pet grooming industry is its services for pet owners,
not pets. Most groomers provide above average to excellent grooming services, but their
client services may seem secondary. It's a welcome surprise when you find an owner that
knows you, the pet owner, are just as important to serve as your pets. You may find
that you must have your pet groomed only on Saturday's because they are not open extended
hours to accommodate commuter pet owners, nor do they keep dogs all day or comfort dogs
left all day with potty breaks, water and larger accommodations. Do they offer alternatives
such as mobile pet grooming at your home, or pickup and delivery? Do they provide appointment
reminder calls? Do they require their employees to dress neat, perhaps in groomer uniforms,
and maintain a hygienic ambient environment? We consider these points client services,
and there are many more. Here your interviews are likely to find very diverse results.
You will have to ask yourself how their client services serve your needs, or make your
Did they provide your with adequate time for your interview?
Don't be surprised if very small grooming businesses have little time to answer so many
questions. The smaller the business the less likely you will find hired receptionists
or managers that give the owner more time to talk with you. In fact, grooming business
owners that are also the groomer, with no or few employees, may be stressed to spend
more than a few moments with you as they have a tight schedule to keep each day performing
all or most of the grooming and client services. Perhaps you can ask them beforehand
to schedule a time to meet with you when they have adequate time to invest in you.
Step 3 - Tours: Don't forgo taking a tour of the facility! Ask the business owner if
you can tour their grooming business? No? Why not? What are they hiding? Even if it
is a mobile grooming van or a grooming area in a home, tour it. Mobile groomers typically
love to show their vehicles. From the moment you drive up to prospective commercial
or home-based businesses, use your senses. Listen! Smell! Look! Is the property clean
both inside and out? Do you detect foul odors? Is the facility well-maintained? Is noise
controlled? Do you hear groomers or staff saying objectionable words? Yes, some frustrated
groomers do use harsh language or slang with pets not comfortable with being groomed,
even if they don't physically abuse pets. Does that bother you? Take it all in. We would
never use the services of a grooming business that would not accommodate our request
for a tour of their facility of any size.
Step 4 - Intuition: Now is the time to consider all of the information gained from your
referrals, interviews and tours. What are you going to fall back upon to make the decision?
Intuition, just as you would with finding care for your children. It probably won't
be too hard if you've invested time in the first three steps. Good hunting!