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26 Secrets Pet Groomers Wish They Could Tell You

Think all we do is sit around and play with cute puppies? Think again.

Woman groomer combs Young purebred Cocker Spaniel on grooming table for a a hairstyle in the room.O_Lypa/Shutterstock

Does your dog seem nervous? He’ll calm down

“When the pets arrive, they’re all nervous, but once they’re with me, they do pretty good. They become themselves again. When I take the dogs, they usually start shaking, and the [owners], they get worried about it. But eventually the dogs calm down a lot.” —Kim Crutsinger, owner of Kimberly’s Prancin’ PawsLearn the sure signs your dog completely trusts you.

Grooming West Highland White Terrier professional hairdresser. Hairdresser mows Yorkshire Terrier fur on the ear with a trimmerHelen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock

Not everyone is cut out to do it

“Throughout my career, I’ve trained a bunch of apprentices to be groomers, and I see as many people wash out as actually go through to be groomers. There’s a lot of hard work involved in it.” —Jamie White, groomer and sitter for Rover

Pomeranian dog with red hair like a fox in the bathroom in the beauty salon for dogs. The concept of popularizing haircuts and caring for dogs. Cute spitz dog in the washing processAnna Berdnik/Shutterstock

It’s possible to turn a hobby into a career

“Grooming pets for me was just a hobby as a teenager. I grew up loving dogs, pets, everything; it was just fun for me. It was in the back of my head, always, to do something with pets. I always liked being a graphic designer, but this is something I know that I really love. I earn money by doing it, but that’s not why I do it.” —Soudeh Alimashrab, senior supervisor of on-demand pet grooming service Groomit

Great Dane and Italian Greyhound best friendsKellymmiller73/Shutterstock

Different dogs present different challenges

“It’s more physically demanding than people might think. You’re working with pets of all sizes—from tiny ones all the way up to 200 pounds. The tiny ones are easier to lift, but they can be hard to groom because they’re the size of your slippers. The big ones, though, you can’t get them to do something they don’t want to do. Some of them are even too big for the grooming table; you might have to lie on the floor to work on them.” —White. Here’s how to pick the right dog breed for you.

brown dog scratching earSOMRERK WITTHAYANANT/Shutterstock

Bugs bug us

“No one realizes how difficult it is to be a groomer during a bad flea or tick season. The fleas, in particular, can lead to hours of cleanup after the dog has been washed and groomed and sent home. Battling fleas can be a real occupational hazard for groomers who live in warm climates, where fleas are a more serious problem. Groomers have a responsibility to make sure that fleas are not spread between dogs. Dogs can also be infested with ticks, and the removal and cleanup of a large number of ticks can be tedious and time-consuming, but is critical for the dog’s health.” —Sally A. Morgan, holistic physical therapist for pets and people and author of Dances of the Heart: Connecting with Animals

Sweet dreams. Close up of nice dog lying on the floor and sleeping with young woman brushing itDmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Brush your pup

“Brushing helps a lot. Not just before the appointment; try to do it every so often. Especially when the weather changes, like in spring and early summer, when they’re shedding their winter coat. Brushing them regularly helps decrease shedding.” —Crutsinger

“Make sure you’re brushing them at home; it keeps the dogs from getting those painful mats. Not only do they make the grooming take longer, they’re painful for your dog, too.” —White

Miniature Schnauzer trimmingbeeboys/Shutterstock

Some things you do (or don’t do) make our jobs harder

“The only thing that I wish all pet owners would do is take care of their dogs on a regular basis. The dogs can’t talk, so it’s up to you to figure out what’s the best schedule for your dog. Every dog needs to be groomed just a little bit every four to six weeks. If [owners] don’t do that, I have to deal with a lot of matted dogs. When they get to that point, it gets very painful. Imagine that someone’s grooming your tangled hair constantly. I have to pull through that knotted hair and pull it out, and that makes the whole grooming experience uncomfortable for them. If they seem like they hate being groomed, that’s most likely why, and many owners don’t get that. Do some grooming on your own frequently, and you’ll avoid that discomfort for them, or having to have them completely shaved down. That’s not fun for me or the dog.” —Alimashrab. These are the 14 things you do all the time that your dog secretly hates.

Portrait of miniature goldendoodle indoorshaeryung stock images/Shutterstock

Research your breed

“Surprisingly enough, most pet owners do not research how to care for the dogs’ coat prior to choosing the breed. As groomers, we have to educate the owners on how the dog should be styled to best protect their coats. We’ve had goldendoodle owners in tears when we’ve shaved their dog’s curly fur down—but that’s what’s best for this breed after a certain age.” —Katherine Davies, owner of Wag N’ Wash in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Watch out for the most common health problems that strike 14 popular dog breeds.

Grooming Yorkshire Terrier professional hairdresser. Hairdresser mows Yorkshire Terrier fur on the ear with a trimmerHelen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock

We get hurt

“Carpal tunnel is common for groomers. So is back pain. And yes, bites are common. They’re usually minor, just warning nips, but some can be pretty big. It’s very rare, but I have seen groomers who have had to quit, because a bad bite to your hand could mean the end of your career.” —White

Owner takes care of dog's clawsMargarita Mindebaeva/Shutterstock

Dogs don’t like it when we touch their paws

“If there are certain dogs that are really particular about their feet, you might want to think about massaging their feet from time to time so they’ll get used to it. It prevents them from potentially attacking the groomer. Some dogs do. Most are the smaller dogs, like Scotties; they’re really particular with their feet.” —Crutsinger. These are the 50 secrets your pet wishes you knew.

The little puppy winking at sitting by the fence in the yardAndrienko Semen/Shutterstock

Some groomers are safer for your pet than others

“I do know of a few dogs that have escaped from the groomer’s salon and been hit by cars. So if I were choosing a groomer, I would want to find one with a fenced-in yard surrounding the salon so that if the dog escaped, he could easily be caught before injury. And as a pet owner, an ID chip and a collar with clear ID information on it are important to have for your pet when he goes out to the groomer.” —Morgan

Jack Russell Terrier getting his hair cut at the groomerLyudvig Aristarhovich/Shutterstock

We never stop learning

“People think you can just pick up clippers and do it, but it takes a lot more training than you might think. Even after years of grooming school, there’s so much we don’t know, because we learn so much on the job. A lot of groomers don’t feel fully confident until they’ve groomed hundreds and hundreds of dogs and figured out what works for different breeds and things. So yes, people can just pick up clippers and cut a little bit of hair, but if you really want to make the pets look good, you need years and years of training.” —White

Small terrier mixed breed dog with damp fur being dried by a professional groomer at a salon with room for textSusan Schmitz/Shutterstock

We do (a lot) more than just play with puppies

“A lot of people think you’re there to just play with the dogs and stuff. But it can be challenging, especially when dogs have anxiety. We need to calm them down; they’re just like children in that way. I had a man once who handed me his poodle, and it just went berserk. It was barking and screaming, and I had to tell the man, ‘Just let her have her little fit.’ Eventually she calmed down, but I had to take it really slowly with her. It’s not just grabbing a dog and starting to work on it. It’s dogs like that, you have to take your time with.” —Crutsinger. These are the secrets dog trainers won’t tell you (at least not for free).

A happy Yorkshire Terrier dog is hanging is tongue out of his mouth and ears blowing in the wind as he sticks his head out a moving and driving car window.anon_tae/Shutterstock

Driving your dog around will help ease her nerves

“It’s good to take your dog for car rides if you can. You should take them to some places other than the vet or groomer so they don’t associate the car with those stressful places. That’ll make it so that they don’t expect those things whenever they go out.” —White. Learn the 19 surprising things your precious pooch actually wants from you.

Close up of female handler cutting Samoyed dogs nails using a sharp dog nail clipper.Imfoto/Shutterstock

Please, please trim your dog’s nails

“Toenails can be a big issue for groomers. Pet owners don’t keep up with maintenance and nail trimming between visits, which leaves it up to the groomer, often working on her own to trim back very long nails, which is difficult. Many groomers would prefer to have pet owners not only brush and clean their dogs regularly (or bring them in on a regular basis to be done professionally), but trim the nails regularly as well. It makes it harder for both the dog and the groomer if owners don’t keep up with care between visits.” —Morgan

“Most dog owners also don’t know how often they should trim their dog’s nails. It all depends on the breed, but especially when dealing with puppies, we recommend once a month.” —Davies

Portrait a catmedveda/Shutterstock

Cats and dogs are completely different

“I take care of cats too. There are some [groomers] that will and some that won’t. Before I started my business, I used to work for a vet. So I’ve had a lot of experience with cats, learning to hold them and stuff. That can be very challenging, especially when you get a groomer that’s never had a cat. You need to know how to hold them and handle them.” —Crutsinger. These are 17 secrets your cat would tell you if she could.

Cat grooming in pet beauty salon. The wizard uses the scissors for trimming paws.Lyudvig Aristarhovich/Shutterstock

Grooming cats can be more dangerous

“Grooming a cat is a lot riskier for both the pet and the groomer. Cats have skin that is very elastic, so you have to really know what you’re doing and be very careful with the groom. Cats are also a lot more distressed than dogs are by the grooming process, as well as just more anxious in general. Cats are a lot more likely to react with aggression than dogs are. Dogs might do a warning snap at the air first, but cats are more likely to go for the more painful bite—not because they’re bad but because they’re scared.” –White

Cat bath. Wet kitten. Cat washed in the showerOlleg/Shutterstock

Sometimes cats run the show

“It can be tough when you’re giving [cats] a bath, especially if they have claws. You turn the water on really slowly to see how they react; running the water slowly will help get them used to it. Same with the blowdryer. Cats get sort of an attitude where when they’ve had enough, they’ve had enough. You have to know when to say, ‘Okay, we’ll stop.’” —Crutsinger

Long-haired cat lying on a pink blanketDi Soccio Massimo/Shutterstock

Think twice before bringing your cat to us

“A lot of dogs are anxious about grooming, but most dogs can learn to tolerate it or even like it. I’ve done hundreds of cats over my career, and I can’t remember a single cat that enjoyed it. I tell owners to think very hard before getting their cats groomed, unless there’s a medical reason for it to be done, like gnats. A lot of people just want it done because of shedding, but for most cats, the stress and anxiety is probably not worth getting it done. I love cats, but I hate making them unhappy.” —White. Here are the 12 biggest mistakes cat owners make.

Happy Smiling DogCrystal Alba/Shutterstock

Tell us what to expect

“It’s extremely important for owners to communicate their dog’s temperament when it comes to grooming. While groomers will have familiarity on the breeds they’re handling, each dog has its own personality. If your dog has a tendency to bite when you touch his paws, let your groomer know to ensure the pet and groomer are safe.” —Davies

woman holds a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy in the hands and pets himChristian Mueller/Shutterstock

Our own pets get jealous

“I have to go home and make it up to my two dogs because they notice that I smell like other dogs!” —Crutsinger. Learn the 15 signs your dog is secretly mad at you.

Groomer giving a dog a bath at a pet salonSusan Schmitz/Shutterstock

There’s a reason our services are pricey

“I think people think it’s a lot cheaper than it is because of how much it costs to get their own hair cut. But what we do takes a lot longer than a perm, or a color, or a haircut for people. Most groomings consist of bathing the entire dog, cutting the nails, combing the hair, etc. Sometimes we have to ‘de-mat,’ which, if a dog is very matted, can take hours. A lot of people are surprised by how long it can take. A very easy groom can be done in an hour, hour and a half, but longer grooms can take about five or six hours. It depends on the dog.” —White

Female groomer brushing standard grey poodle at grooming salon. hedgehog94/Shutterstock

Feel free to chat with us about what’s best for your pet

“The products pet guardians use at home can make a groomer’s job harder or easier, so it is best to consult with your groomer to use products they prefer. Some groomers have ‘green’ salons with only organic, non-toxic products and will be happy to recommend similar products for pet parents to use at home as well.” —Morgan

Old happy dog wearing yellow bandana outdoor Augustcindy/Shutterstock

The pets make it worth it … and so do the humans

“I love getting compliments after I’m done with the day. I have people text me, telling me they appreciate how their animal looks. After you groom the dog and the dog’s all happy, going back to its owner—it’s little things like that that make the job worth it.” —Crutsinger. Check out some of the amazing health benefits of having a pet.

Cute small terrier mixed breed dog getting a haircut by a professional groomer at a pet salonSusan Schmitz/Shutterstock

It’s an art form

“The best part about my job is the whole transformation that happens. I come from a background of art, and this, to me, is the same thing. Even the sound of the scissors is so soothing to me. It’s so exciting because I get to create something. Every dog, even if it’s the same breed, is totally different. It’s just like styling a human’s hair—I need to pick the haircut that goes with their face and what will make them look cute. The fact that the dogs are happy, and give me kisses … makes it such a rewarding job.” —Alimashrab

Female groomer brushing Shih Tzu at grooming salon. hedgehog94/Shutterstock

We experience pure joy seeing happy, healthy pets

“I think the moment for me that makes even the stressful parts worthwhile is when I’ve had a little dog come in and they look like they’re feeling bad. They may be matted or dirty or seem kind of unhappy, and I groom them and they look great and they feel great. You put them on the leash and bring them back to their owner and they just dance and prance around. I can’t read their minds, of course, but they look so happy, like they feel so much better. The owners, too, feel good when they get their pet back looking healthy and happy like that. It’s that moment when you see the dog and the owner connect again.” —White. Next, learn 50 secrets your veterinarian won’t tell you.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.