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"It's so important to have the right groomer" – grooming tips from a professional dog groomer

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie from Mutley’s Makeover mobile dog grooming. With restrictions being lifted on dog grooming services, you might find it’s proving a challenge to get booked with your groomer due to the backlog of clients that need to be seen. Because of this, I asked Katie how to find a good groomer and how to make sure they’re the right one for you, how to help your dog be less anxious about their groom, and how you can keep your dog as comfortable as possible until their next professional groom. Let’s go!

Laura, Tails & Trails: Tell us a little bit about you – what got you into dog grooming?

Katie, Mutley’s Makeover: I’ve always loved dogs and could never convince my parents to have one. So, when I bought my first home, I was in a position to have my own dog.

I also used to work in an office environment but I just didn’t get job satisfaction. My mum said one day, “Why don’t you look into becoming a dog groomer?” I thought it was a great idea. I got in touch with a London-based salon to train in and sit my City and Guilds qualifications, passing with distinction. I then started helping a salon owner to build up my experience, and actually progressed to running her salon while she was holiday.

Investing in my training and a mobile dog grooming van was the best decision I have ever made. Initially I set up my business in Basingstoke, and then moved to Bournemouth, starting my customer base from scratch again. Covering the Bournemouth and Poole area – It’s the best thing I ever did. For a few years I still returned to Basingstoke once a month to groom the dogs of those customers who had been with me from the start. I work hard, I reap the rewards and I absolutely love my job. Dogs are the best.

What tips would you give an owner whose dog is anxious about going to see the groomer?

The first groom is one of the most important. A salon or a mobile van can be intimidating, so if someone is looking for a groomer, I would always recommend the owner does their research. It’s so important to get the right groomer for you and your dog – grooming isn’t regulated and it should be because we are looking after your fur baby. In theory, anyone can pick up a pair of clippers and say they are a groomer, so make sure you research them.

Get your dog in a grooming environment as soon as possible. This will help them get used to the smells and noises of a salon or van. The dryer, especially, is powerful and noisy, so it can be scary to them at first. I do puppy introductions where the pup can have a sniff around the van, listen to the noises and start to get more comfortable with it. For a really anxious dog, I’ll sit on the floor with them to start gaining their trust and then introduce them to the tools so as to not overwhelm them.

Accidents can happen and dogs do remember, and will associate that environment with that trauma. If your dog has experienced an accident and they are now scared, you can introduce them to your own hair dryer first. Start off by having them in the room with you and then you can slowly introduce them to it as and when they are ready.

If there are certain parts of your dog’s body that they are anxious about having touched whilst being groomed, for example their paws, then start touching their paws at home. This will help them get used to it and they will start to understand that nothing bad is going to happen when their paws are touched. If it’s their face, you can start by stroking that area softly and, once they are comfortable with that, getting an object that’s safe to use close to their eyes and placing that safely on them so that they get used to that sensation, is key.

I would personally say that, for an anxious dog, going into a salon where there are more people, more dogs and more tools being used can be an intense environment, which could result in more stress for your dog. I would suggest going with a mobile groomer where there is less noise and your dog is one-on-one with the groomer.

How can owners find good groomers and what should they be looking for?

Recommendations are key because the groomer is being recommended for a reason. Most groomers have a Facebook and Instagram page: check out their pictures because you can quickly tell whether it’s a good or bad groom. Check out their reviews – however, don’t just check the top ones. Look at all of them, because that will give you a good idea of what they are like and the service they provide. I would recommend groomers with qualifications, however I do know groomers who are brilliant and give great cuts, but don’t have the qualification – that’s where the reviews and photos come in. I would also recommend going with an independent groomer because it’s more personal and your dog will be in a calmer environment. It also means the groomer can build a really strong relationship with you and your dog.

If you find a groomer you like the look of, give them a call and have a chat about what you want and what you are looking for. You will gain a good impression of what they’re like and if they’re the right groomer for you. If the groomer doesn’t have time to talk to you then go with somebody else because it’s important to have the right groomer and cultivate a good relationship with them.

What can owners do (who can’t get to a groomer due to COVID-19) at home in order to keep their dog as comfortable as possible?

Equipment choice is so important. You need to pick the right brush for your dog’s coat. I would recommend Their brushes are brilliant. There are four different coloured brushes and they’re based on different coat types: red for a coat similar to a Cockapoo, purple for de-shedding (perfect for a Husky or a Border Collie), blue that is especially for Poodles, and a green that is more gentle and perfect for a Shih Tzu or a dog with a similar coat. I wouldn’t recommend a Tangle Teaser because it can pull the knot out of the dog’s coat rather than detangling it.

If there is a knot that isn’t coming out, try and separate it with your fingers gently and then brush it out that way. If the owner makes sure they are brushing the coat every day and there is no matting, their dog’s fur will protect them.

In terms of clipping their dog’s coats, some owners go really short in the summer, which is fine, however they then have to be careful that the dog doesn’t get sun stroke. Their fur protects their skin: when the fur is cut too short, the sun is then directly on their skin, and causes sun stroke.

For warmer days, owners can wet an old t-shirt and you can either put it on the dog or lay it on the floor so that the dog can sit on it. This will help them to cool down. You can also get cooling mats from most good pet stores.

If your dog is in desperate need of a groom and you don’t have the tools to do it yourself, then I’d suggest finding a mobile groomer because they can do the groom with no contact with yourself and stick to the COVID-19 rules. Just make sure you check their policies and how they will operate to stick to social distancing rules.

Have you any other hints and tips you’d like to give the Tails and Trails Poole audience?

Ticks and fleas, especially in this heat, are everywhere. With restrictions being lifted, you can now collect flea treatment from your vets again so please make sure you are keeping up with their treatment. If you’ve been in a heath or wooded area, check your dog for ticks. They go in the smallest places, even under their armpits. Needless to say, your groomer won’t be too impressed if you take your dog to be groomed and they have fleas because we have to fumigate everything and you will be charged more because of the cost and time involved in decontaminating the workplace.

I would also suggest keeping your dog’s eyes clean – it’s so important. If any gunk builds up, it goes hard and sticks to their skin. Then once you pull it off, their skin is red raw underneath and is sore for them. Generally, it’s very important to give your own dog a health check regularly, for example feeling for any lumps and bumps, making sure their ears are clean and not smelly, making sure they’ve nothing stuck in between their pads etc.

Thank you so much for all this helpful information – it’s so useful! Where can people find you?

You can find me on Mutley’s Makeover on Facebook, and I update it regularly with other useful hints and tips as well as pictures of my grooms. If anyone has any questions then I’m happy to help.

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