Hairwise, Frankie is pretty low maintenance. I tend to take him to a groomer only for nail clipping and anal sac expressing (I’ll discuss the former soon but have spent way too much time this past month writing an article about the latter, so am on a dog butt break).
Recently, however, I decided to get him gussied up for a trip to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, with less than pleasant results. I can’t swear that his corneal ulcer was caused by careless grooming, but the timing of getting a hair in his eye that he rubbed at and which in turn led to the ulcer seems rather suspicious.
I trust the owner of the dog boutique/groomer I took Frankie to. Mistakes happen, and — an expensive vet visit later — Frankie is fine. Sadly, some dogs don’t survive a visit to the groomer.
Anyone with a water source and a pair of clippers can put out a dog-grooming shingle in many states, no license required. And these seemingly benign professionals — after all, groomers aren’t practicing medicine, right? — can pose grave dangers to your dog.
Among the things that you should look out for:
Similar to clothes dryers without the rotation, cage dryers are enclosures into which your dog is placed and blasted with air in order to dry his hair. Some units (see below) offer separate cages for more than one dog. These devices are good for groomers, who can increase the volume of their business by working on other dogs while yours is drying, but not so good for the dogs, who can’t escape (and who can’t sweat; they can only pant to try to cool themselves off). If the temperature is turned up too high and your dog is left in too long, she can dehydrate and die.
As a result of several canine fatalities, a few states are trying to outlaw cage dryers.
Some reputable groomers contend that they use only the unheated fan option, even going so far as to remove the heat coil. Others say they never set the temperature above 80 degrees and never leave the room. Maybe so, but why tempt fate? At the least, these enclosures are likely to frighten the bejeezus out of your dog.
If a groomer is sufficiently gentle –- and doesn’t use scary equipment — your dog shouldn’t need to be tranquilized. Some clients allow their dogs to be sedated, which is their prerogative (I guess), albeit one that should be used very sparingly. Some groomers, however, don’t ask –- and don’t tell. That constitutes practicing medicine without a license and without permission from the patient’s guardian. If your dog is allergic to them, tranquilizers can be as dangerous as cage dryers.
Imagine waiting in a doctor’s office all day with other equally stressed out patients, many of whom are yelling at each other and at the receptionist. Loud, frightening noises are coming from places that you can’t see. You can’t stretch your legs or get up to go to the bathroom. And you can’t read magazines, make phone calls, play video poker (party bets), or otherwise distract yourself.
Why would you want to subject your dog to that?
A good groomer should stagger appointments so that your dog is worked on and available to be picked up as quickly as possible. Two hours, total, is ideal; up to half a day is reasonable. A full day – fuggedaboudit. Taking your dog to a groomer isn’t, as some owners seem to regard it, a way to get free dog sitting.
If you’re just getting your dog’s nails clipped and/or anal sacs expressed, it’s reasonable to ask if you can wait; it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, total. I almost never (aforementioned corneal ulcer-causing appointment excepted) leave Frankie at a groomer; it would make us both unhappy.