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Dog groomers

It is important to choose someone who you trust will groom and care for your dog to the highest standard. Grooming will remove excess hair, as well as dirt from your pet's coat. Keeping your dog’s coat in good condition is important for his health and his welfare. A Dog Groomer is responsible for meeting your pet's needs and welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However it is an unregulated industry and some recent cases have highlighted the need for owners to choose carefully when selecting a Dog Groomer.

FINDING AND CHOOSING A DOG GROOMER

Your vet may be able to recommend a reputable Groomer. Ask friends, family and fellow dog owners for recommendations.

Do not choose a Groomer because they are cheap. A bad experience with a Groomer can permanently affect your dog. Do not choose someone who wishes to make as much money as they can in the shortest time possible. Choose someone who will take care.

WHAT TO CHECK FOR

Ask to meet with the Groomer before using them. Do not be afraid to ask questions. The grooming experience should be a positive one for your dog, so make sure you chose wisely.

Groomers are not required to hold any qualifications, however it is an unregulated industry so it is recommended that you use someone who has a recognised qualification. In the UK this includes a City and Guilds qualification. Ask to see certificates.

It is also recommended that you find a Groomer that belongs to a trade organisation. Groomers in the UK for example can join the British Dog Groomers Association (BDGA), through which they can keep up with health and safety issues and requirements along with any other issues relating to grooming through to continued education, training and support. In the UK the BDGA (part of the Pet Care Trade Association) has a list of Groomers accredited to a set standard. This will provide some quality assurance to dog owners.

A professional Groomer should have a good understanding of safety procedures, health and hygiene practices, pesticides, the anatomy of the dog, handling techniques and first aid.

Check your Groomer’s references. Ask to see a copy of their police check or CRB certificate to check that they do not have a criminal background.

Check your Groomer has insurance to cover your dog in the case of an emergency.

Some Groomers can visit you at your house, some will operate from their own premises. Depending on their set-up you will be able to stay and watch or they will be taken off. Some Groomers prefer for owners not to watch as it can be distracting for the dog - the dog may play up or become excitable with their owner in sight but not within reach. Choose a Groomer you feel comfortable with.

Check what training methods the Groomer uses. A Groomer should not use force, they should use reward-based training including praise and treats.

Ask to have a look around the premises. Check the premises are clean and hygenic as well as safe and secure. If there are dogs present check they seem happy and have access to clean water. Make sure you would feel comfortable leaving your dog there.

WHAT TO EXPECT

A professional Groomer will ask for proof of vaccination before accepting your dog. This is important to stop the spread of contagious diseases between dogs. Check that they request this from you.

If the Groomer is not operating on an individual basis, check how many staff are on duty per dog. Ensure there are enough staff on duty to manage the dogs on site. Consider your dog’s nature, and if he/she would find it stressful to be groomed while surrounded by other dogs - if so consider an Groomer who would groom him/her alone.

Consider how many dogs there are to staff. It is important that there are enough people to look after the needs of the animals in their care. A Groomer that runs on an appointment-only basis may also indicate that each dog is given the correct amount of time so that the job is done properly. Working in this way also means that fewer dogs will be groomed at any one time so the dog does not have to be groomed surrounded by other dogs he/she doesn’t know.

A good Groomer will be able to demonstrate the ability to groom your dog in a professional manner and determine your needs. They will know the appropriate style for the breed and how best to groom your dog.

A professional Groomer will understand how to approach your dog in the most appropriate manner. They will assess how to meet the behavioural needs of your dog. Make sure you tell them if your dog is sensitive about having any particular parts of his body touched.

Some dogs can find the grooming process stressful, your Dog Groomer should be understanding of this and try to reduce unnecessary stress. Do not force your dog to be groomed if it causes undue stress. If you have concerns ask your vet to refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist (see animal behaviourists). Also ask your vet to check your dog over to check their are no underlying injuries or illnesses.

Your Groomer should never inflict undue stress, pain or discomfort in order to achieve a particular style.

Your dog’s welfare must be the Groomer’s top priority. They must ensure your dog’s safety at all times and never leave them unsupervised. They should also attend to basic needs, providing fresh drinking water and regular breaks.

A good Groomer will ask about your dog’s special requirement e.g. if your dog has sensitive skin. They will use quality products on your dog. They will not use cheap products to save money. Ask about the products they use and ensure they are not going to cause health problems for your dog.

A good Groomer will attempt to identify and inform you of any physical or behavioral changes that might indicate a health problem. Early detection can ensure your dog is treated quickly and effectively.

Puppies should visit the Groomer as soon as they have had their first inoculations so they can get used to the environment and process - a puppy’s first visit should be gentle and fun so the puppy will associate the Groomer with a positive experience.

N.B. EQUIPMENT

There are concerns about the safety of drying equipment used by Groomers for dogs. In particular the safety of drying boxes - in these boxes the dog is unable to control his own body temperature or remove himself even if supervised. There is also the danger staff could set it at the incorrect temperature and/or that the equipment can become faulty. A small number of dogs have suffered severe burns and even fatalities when left unsupervised under these dryers. If you have any concerns request your Groomer does not use a dying box or look elsewhere. A skilled professional Groomer should also not cause any cuts with scissors. Any clipper blades used should be clean and hygenic. Ask about the equipment being used and have a look around the premises. Ensure if your Groomer is cutting your dog’s nails, that they have experience doing this (a professional Groomer would) - if cut too far, the nerve endings and blood vessels could be hit and will bleed. If you have any concerns, your vet will also be able to cut your dog’s nails.

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