Although this article talks mostly about clipping, it’s important not to overlook bathing, cleaning and shampoos. Not every dog needs clipping, but most dogs need regular cleaning. Read our guide to bathing dogs and pay special attention to our comments about dog shampoos.
Why Dogs Need Haircuts
All dogs with continuously growing hair and many with long coats (see the list below) need regular clipping or shaving. Here are six reasons:
- To prevent the coat getting matted
- For hygienic reasons
- For medical reasons
- Grass seed prevention
- For temperature control
- To look nice!
Many owners of dogs with complex double coats have been told that clipping the coat with ruin it, or that it won’t grow back properly. They have also often been told that a thick coat insulates their dog from the heat. These are both incorrect statements.
How To Get Dogs To Enjoy Grooming
To know how to get it right, it’s useful to see what can go wrong..
Oscar’s a good dog and his story is sadly all too familiar. Like many breeds, his coat needs regular clipping, and he’s been going to grooming salons since a puppy.
One time, he was accidentally cut during a groom. This seemed to start his fear of grooming, and the more he struggled, the worse each experience became. Eventually he reacted so much that his regular groomers said they couldn’t do it any longer.
His owners tried one groomer after another, but each time they would get a phone call: “sorry, but we just can’t clip him”. As his coat became more matted and full of grass seeds, it started being more than just a cosmetic problem. In desperation his owners called us.
Now, let’s make this clear. Although this is a job we often do, grooming salon we are not. More on this later, but it’s the last resort to need a vet to clip a dog under sedation. For Oscar, we’ll always be there to help, although we’d much rather see him happily groomed by a professional.
The pictures of Oscar show what you can expect from a ‘veterinary’ groom; an all-over short clip (no styling). He’s a lot more comfortable but a professional groomer would do a much nicer looking job.
To make problems like Oscar’s happen less often, your dog needs:
- early socialisation and habituation to the grooming process
- a highly proficient and caring professional groomer
How To Find A Good Dog Groomer
Use word of mouth.
When you get a dog, or move to a new area, use the experience of the locals.
- Ask owners of similar breeds during walks or at the dog park
- Ask your vet for recommendations (we’ve listed some below, but there are certainly good groomers in your area)
- Read genuine customer reviews
Meet your dog groomer.
You also can also just follow your gut instinct. If the person is caring and patient with you, they are also likely to be the same with your pet.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.
Experienced and confident groomers should handle these questions professionally and without taking them personally. Things you can ask include:
- Who does the actual dog clipping in the salon?
- How much experience do they have grooming dogs? Where have they worked before?
- Are they happy to do all breeds? Is there a standard clip, or do they do breed-specific cuts?
- Does the salon gets involved with training or outside activities?
- Can you view the salon at a pre-arranged time? (Generally it’s not advised for you to stay during the grooming though).
- Where are dogs kept when they are not being groomed?
- Do they ask for vaccination certificates?
Be prepared to travel.
If you are happy with your dog groomer, the safest thing is to keep going there. If you get many positive reports about a salon, consider driving past others to get there.
If your dog is happy to go to the grooming salon, it’s a good sign.
Is There A Difference Between Salons And Mobile Groomers?
This is a tricky question and it’s not fair to give a simple answer. There are definitely good mobile groomers in Adelaide, and if you hear of one, try them out. It can be easier and cheaper to run a mobile grooming service and you may find these groomers have lower prices.
The problem is that training and experience vary a lot. Unfortunately we see more grooming problems from mobile operations that salons with a physical location.
The advantage of shopfront salons is that they usually have a long, established history, and therefore a reputation to maintain. The groomers themselves are often trained by a senior staff member and have other staff around them to help when needed.
It’s a bit like us at Walkerville Vet; having four vets allows us to use each others’ experience and special skills when needed, and allows us to train junior vets in a supportive environment.
What Age Can My Puppy Be Clipped?
We advise you make an appointment as soon as your vet says your puppy is safe to go. Our vaccination program finishes at 10 weeks and puppies can go out from 11 weeks of age.
The critical period for early socialisation in puppies finishes at around 16 weeks of age. Positive activities experienced during this time are far less likely to cause fear, stress and anxiety for the rest of the dog’s life. On the other hand, new experiences that don’t begin until after 16 weeks may always be scary or unpleasant for your dog.
For best results, your puppy should have a fun, gentle and pain free grooming experience before this time. If they don’t you risk your puppy always being scared of grooming. Once a dog is scared, it doesn’t take much to make it worse.
Professional groomers understand this important step, and will usually suggest an introductory visit. This may just be a very quick trim, or bath, or maybe a nail clip. The aim isn’t to do a thorough groom; it’s to set your puppy up for a lifetime of positive experiences.
Before you go, you can prepare your puppy by:
- Getting your puppy accustomed to standing on a table
- Handling the tricky areas such as playing with feet, holding the face, looking in ears and under the tail
- Soft brushing and regular bathing
- Above all, remaining calm, patient and positive at all times. Like always when training puppies, you need to recognise that some times they just aren’t in the right frame of mind and you need to stop.
Can I Clip My Own Dog?
Many owners successfully do their own doggy haircuts at home. Here are some tips:
- Keep your expectations of an attractive result low, at least in the beginning
- Start by only doing a small area so that you dog does not get too stressed
- If necessary, do a small amount each day, especially on large breeds
- Use plenty of treats
- It’s a lot easier to go short all over than to try styling
- Buy good quality clippers and oil them after each use
- The best result is gained by long smooth flowing movements
- Do not use scissors
It’s still a good idea to get your dog familiar with a grooming salon so that you can use them when you need to.
Which Dog Breeds Need Regular Grooming?
We wish all dog owner knew this before choosing a puppy. Registered breeders should give good grooming advice before you adopt your puppy but it doesn’t always happen with other puppy sellers.
Breeds that do not shed or drop hair almost always need regular clipping. These include pure-breds and crosses such as:
- Poodle (cavoodle, spoodle, labradoodle)
- Maltese (moodle)
- Shi tzu
- Bichon frise
- Lhasa apso
- Wheaten and Kerry Blue Terrier
- plus many rarer breeds (Havanese, Lagotto, Water Dogs etc)
Breeds with long, thick coats often have the coat clipped in summer for comfort. Examples include:
- Siberian husky
- Alaskan malamute
Breeds like these with hairy feet and ears can be clipped to reduce matting and grass seed problems:
- Cocker spaniel
- Cavalier king charles spaniel
- Golden retriever
How Often Do Dogs Need Clipping?
Of course, it depends on the dog and your preferences, but anywhere from 1 to 12 weeks may be necessary.
In the beginning, grooming is done more frequently, but many adult dogs can be stretched out to 8-12 weeks. Always follow your groomer’s advice; if your dog’s coat gets matted it gets very hard to groom them well.
Grooming is required very frequently for large breeds with long coats, like Bearded Collies and Old English Sheepdogs.
My Dog Hates Grooming. What Can I Do?
If the coat is matted and your dog is already distressed by grooming, you may have no option but to ask a vet nurse to clip off the coat.
This will be done humanely, using a sedative sufficient to render the dog unconscious. It won’t be an attractive groom, but it will make your dog feel better. This page shows examples of a dog clip so you don’t get a nasty surprise.
If you can once again attend a groomer, the key is gentleness, patience and regularity. Talk to a groomer about the problem first, and make sure they are happy to help.
Do only as much as your dog can tolerate with each visit, even if for the first few visits all you are doing is getting your dog accustomed to the clippers again.
Supply plenty of treats and don’t be tempted to do too much too quickly. Progress is in slow steps but setbacks can take you right back to the start.
Some Local Adelaide Dog Groomers
Our experience tells us that these five local grooming salons provide a high quality service with few problems.
Cheeky Dog Salon
56A OG Road, Klemzig
Phone: 0415 079 494
The Spoilt Dog
312 Main North Rd, Prospect
Phone (08) 8344 7334
Shop 3/182 Prospect Road, Prospect 5082
Phone 08 8269 6622
Shop 4, 628 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown
Phone 0413 535 131
Tams Dog Wash
Mobile dog grooming: wash, brush, de-shed (not clipping)
Pet Universe Broadview
71 Hampstead Road, Manningham
Phone 08 8266 4666
Local vet clinic which also offers grooming (not affiliated with Walkerville Vet)