Keeping nails on point, coat shiny, skin soft - being a beautiful pup is work! And your pets are expecting you to deliver. How do you know when it’s time for some upkeep? Should you do the work yourself or bring your pet to a groomer? We spoke with the kin+kind master groomer and other professional groomers around the country to get the answers.
Why is grooming necessary?
It’s good for your pup’s health! Without brushing and washing, your dog’s fur can get mats, or dense tangles, which cut off blood circulation and are generally uncomfortable. Even if your dog doesn’t have mats, grooming prevents your dog’s skin and coat from getting dry or dirty. It’s important to brush your dog often. Other elements of grooming help keep your pup in tip-top shape, like trimming nails and cleaning ears to prevent discomfort and even infection.
Who should go to a professional groomer?
kin+kind’s master groomer, Jasmine Mercadante, explains she knows more about dogs now due to her training and schooling as a groomer than she’d never known previously, despite having grown up with dogs!
Professional groomers have expertise to keep your pet safe and comfortable - for example, trimming nails without hitting sensitive veins, plucking ears safely, cleaning eyes properly, and spotting abnormalities like warts or abrasions that a vet might need to address.
They can perform services you may not know how to do or may not be comfortable doing yourself. For instance, if your dog is scooting around the carpet, it may be a sign of impacted anal glands that a groomer or vet can express.
All dogs should be groomed regularly. Cindy Reilly, professional groomer at Especially for Pets in Acton, MA, recommends that long-haired or curly-haired dogs get groomed every five to eight weeks; short-haired dogs can go up to ten weeks without a grooming sesh. Even dogs with short hair, like labs, should get groomed three to four times a year. Regular grooming sessions help accustom your pup to the process. The longer you go without, the more nervous your dog will be.
What’s the process?
After you drop your pooch off at the groomer’s, you can expect him or her to check them in, feel them over to get a sense of the state of their skin and coat, find and eliminate any mats in their fur, cut their nails, shave around the pads of their feet, and get them ready for the tub. Alec Western, professional groomer in Venice, CA at Kriser’s Natural Pet, says that he will keep a treat in hand and lavish the dog with praise during this process to get them comfortable.
During bathtime, a groomer will wash and blow dry a dog’s fur before cutting it. They will then clean up their eyes and ears if needed. If the dog is nervous or hard to handle, the groomer may put them in a cage or kennel dryer to finish cleaning them up with minimal stress for everyone involved. “The final and fun step is to congratulate the dog and give them a nice bandanna,” Mr. Western adds.
What makes a good groomer?
The best groomer loves the job. He or she is caring and compassionate, and avoids being rough with the dog. Good groomers are honest with their (human) clients about potential (dog) behavioral problems so they can address it with a trainer if needed. They will also give dogs a thorough brushing and don’t leave behind mats in the fur.
In the words of Mr. Western, “Let the dog know you love them!” Being attentive to dogs’ needs is critical. “Not all dogs have the same conditions, and not all dogs can handle certain products,” he says.
On that note - do the products groomers use make a difference?
Absolutely. Ms. Reilly effectively gives dogs two baths, so that’s a lot of product involved! The first is with oatmeal shampoo to loosen up dirt and grime, and the second is with a high-quality shampoo to protect dogs’ skin and fur. For certain dogs - usually those with long or curly hair - she will finish with a conditioner to keep fur smooth and soft.
Ms. Reilly emphasized that the quality of shampoo makes a huge difference: “you don’t want to use cheap shampoo,” she says, highlighting the importance of using quality dog shampoo that won’t strip oils from the dog’s skin and dry out the coat.
Mr. Western reiterates that dogs may have different skin conditions, and that “some shampoos have heavy chemicals and a dog’s coat cannot handle these.” He prefers shampoos that are natural and sulfate-free, with organic ingredients.
If you groom at home, what should you do?
Be sure to have the proper knowledge and equipment before grooming a dog at home. Ms. Reilly recommends that home groomers seek out training or at least watch YouTube tutorials beforehand. “Vets become busy when people try to cut their dog’s own hair,” she says. If you do feel confident about giving a haircut at home, make sure you use a sharp blade. While a dull blade might seem safer, it will pull the hair, slip, and be more likely to injure your pet.
It’s important to make sure the soap is rinsed out well from your dog’s coat: leftover soap can lead to hot spots, which are irritated lesions on the skin. Organic shampoos can help here - kin+kind’s low sud shampoo absorbs into the skin and coat to moisturize and protect without chemical soaps that can linger and damage.
Remember to use high-quality products, and natural is better. Want to learn more about how natural grooming can help your pups? Check out our blogs: