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Four Steps to Finding the Right Groomer for You and Your Pet

By Stephen Mart, Webmaster for PetGroomer.com

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.

Commercial Locations

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 and Intuition.

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 require.

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 patronage difficult.

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!
 

Salon & Shop Groomers · Mobile & House Call Groomers · Home Based Groomers · Pet Owner Help · List Your Grooming Business