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Ask the Groomer: How To Get The Style You Want (And What To Do If You Don’t)

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greenqI recently tried out a new groomer for my Poodle mix Hannah, and when I got her back I was horrified to see the results. Even though I had explicitly asked for a trim, her fur was totally shaved. I know her fur will grow back, but I was shocked and furious and let it be known to the groomer. Obviously I will not be returning to the same place, but how do I make sure I communicate correctly with the next groomer so that the same mistake doesn’t happen again? And if I do see that the style is not what I requested, what is the best way to go about discussing it with the groomer, and what kind of remedy should I expect?

Your question speaks to the heart of one of the biggest concerns we see. Sadly, too many dogs like Hannah are victims of poor communication between pet parents and groomers. Your shock at seeing your beloved Hannah shaved is quite understandable.

Every appointment should begin with a discussion between you and the groomer. Especially the first time you visit, the groomer (not the receptionist) should conduct a nose-to-tail, hands-on assessment of your dog, followed by a detailed discussion before you leave.

It is the groomer’s job is to let you know what is possible given the condition of your dog’s fur. You didn’t say whether or not Hannah was matted when you dropped her off. Sometimes, if a dog’s coat is extremely matted—beyond minor normal tangles—the only humane option is a very short cut that some groomers call “a smoothie.” De-matting can be very painful to the pet and expensive for the client. To your point, the groomer should explain all the options and issues up front before the groom starts, including costs. Make sure you agree with the plan, and you feel comfortable that all of your questions and concerns have been addressed before you leave.

The groomer should have a system in place to record your specific grooming instructions. To avoid situations like yours, be sure there is a written note of what you agreed upon with the groomer. Be very specific about your desired length. groomers have special clippers with specific settings measured in inches to be sure they don’t cut too much.

Specific styles are achieved with hand-scissoring. Ask your groomer if they are accomplished at this skill, as it can take years to master. It is completely appropriate to ask to see photos of their work or of other customers they have groomed. Most good groomers have websites and social media pages with images and testimonials from clients.

Many people are surprised to learn that the grooming profession in our nation is almost completely unregulated. While many of us support responsible groomer licensing, our industry currently only offers voluntary professional credentials called “groomer Certification.” Look for these certified groomers—they will proudly display this accomplishment. There are additional titles one can earn such as “Master groomer” through the International Professional groomers Association, as well as the National Dog groomers Association and the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. groomers with these credentials are the best in the nation and have worked very hard to pass rigorous testing.

grooming is a service industry filled with loving, hard-working professionals. You should expect either a free repeat service or some other compensation for shoddy service. Don’t be afraid to fully express your concerns before you leave the shop—some corrective measures may be available immediately. The groomer has a professional responsibility to work for results that make their clients happy. And for future appointments, remember that clear communication is always the key.

jenniferbishopjenkinsJennifer Bishop-Jenkins—one of the first groomers to attain the coveted title of International Certified Master groomer—is the owner and master groomer at Love Fur Dogs in Glencoe and runs a vocational Train To groom program at the Bishop grooming Academy.

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