First-Time Pet Grooming for Dogs & Cats

Many new pet parents face anxiety when it comes to their pet’s first trip to the groomer. You might have heard some bad stories about pets being traumatized after a bad visit or have seen viral pictures of grooming experiences gone wrong. However, with the proper preparation, both you and your pet can have a positive experience. And while dog grooming is most common, it turns out that cats can benefit from regular grooming, too.

Let’s start with the dogs and then go to cats. Both have their own experiences, grooming goals, and possibly even have their separate salons.

 Here are some first-time grooming tips for dogs and cats.

Tips For Taking Your Dog To The Groomer For The First Time

When are puppies ready for their first visit to a groomer?

Many groomers recommend a first-time trip to the groomer at about 16-weeks of age, when they’ve completed their vaccinations. The reason to wait until this point is that not only will your puppy be protected from an environment other dogs have been in, but other dogs and groomers at the salon will also be protected

Some may tell you that the recommended age to bring a puppy to the groomer is when they are 1 year old.  One-year-old puppies retain their silky-smooth puppy coat. however, if you wait this long, your dog might have anxiety at a new experience that is entirely out of their routine. Plus, the groomer might have a 65-85 pound dog that is terrified!

Start grooming puppies at home

The first time at the groomers is a big step for puppy parents. In the meantime, you can get your puppy used to grooming habits with some DIY dog grooming. Be sure to start incorporating these routine grooming tips to prepare for the first visit to the groomers.

Light brushing

Start with light brushing, then try using a brush that goes deeper into the fur. This is a good first step to prepare your pup for the groomers.

At-home baths

Groomers also recommend a gentle bath. Remember that almost everything in your puppy’s life is new right now. If they are getting a bath by a trusted and loving pet parent, it must be ok!

Blow drying

Some pet parents go as far as trying to blow dry their puppy. However, keep in mind that human blow dryers are different from the ones used at the grooming salon. If you want to get your puppy familiar with the blow dryer, use it at a distance of five feet or more.

Find a good groomer for my puppy’s first trip

This is where networking and referrals pay off. Independent reviews on rating sites, recommendations from other pet parents, and numerous same groomer recommendations on social media are fantastic.

Look for recommendations where people mention return visits, their dog loving it there, or their dog not being anxious when they come back.

What to expect for a puppy’s first trip to the groomers

Explain that this is your puppy’s first experience with going to the groomers. This will help the groomer know how to approach with professional tools such as the harness, blow dryer, and nail trimmer. Groomers are trained and experienced in handling dogs of all ages and anxiety levels. They are looking to be your long-term groomer and want your puppy to be as happy and as well-groomed as possible.

We spoke to one groomer, Frani Conger, who owns a pet spa in Erin, TN. Here is what she said about how she starts first grooming sessions.

“My introductory groom begins with 10-minutes of play with my newbie, so they get a little energy out plus learn that I’m not trying to hurt them. The very first thing I do is shave out their pads and trim their nails. I also file them. The nail clippers and dremel can be scary at first, but usually, at this point they are still distracted by the “newness” that we can get it done, and they aren’t scared.”

Conger explains the whole process will include the standard sanitary cut, bath/condition/dry, blow-dry, cutting, trimming around the ears to prevent ear infections, and the finish.

“I save faces and heads for last. They are getting tired by then and are less wiggly. I trim to desired shape and length. Finish off with a final fluff and a bow or bandana and some smell goods if desired.”

Remember that communication with your groomer is vital, just like with your hairdresser. A groomer will go with the industry and salon standard groom and the standard breed style. If you are looking for a specific cut, make sure to tell the groomer. When you go to pick up your puppy, be sure to ask follow-up questions such as, “How often should I groom my dog?” or “should I make the next grooming appointment now?”

A person prepares to groom the fur of a gray cat lying on a table.

Tips for Taking Your Kitten to the Groomer for the First Time

Similar to dogs and puppies, cats and kittens need proper grooming. Here’s what to know for your first trip to the groomers.

What age are kittens ready for their first visit to a groomer?

A time frame of around four months, or after the first round of shots are done is a great time to start your cat on their grooming visits.

Many cat pet parents may be surprised at the thought of taking their kitten to the groomer. After all, doesn’t a cat bathe itself all day? But cats can still have ear problems, skin issues, mats, smells, and other matters best left to a professional. And while outdoor cats and long-hair cats may need more grooming than others, a great grooming can benefit and boost your cat’s happiness levels.

How can I find a good groomer for my kitten’s first trip?

Finding a groomer for a kitten may be more challenging than finding a dog groomer. Kittens may get scared by the noise at a dog groomer or simply by being near dogs. You can search for groomers that attend solely to cats, aptly called a cattery. Or, you can ask a groomer their practices for grooming cats, such as a particular time or special rooms.

Again, independent ratings and returning customers are key here. Try to get more than just one opinion. Some cats are naturally “chill,” and their pet parent might recommend a groomer that may not work for more anxious cats.

What can I expect on my kitten’s first trip to the groomers?

Many times the first trip to the groomer is about getting your kitten acclimated and taking care of the essentials. Mom’s not around anymore, so now your kitten is responsible for their own sanitary and ear cleaning. These are some of the areas that will be checked and cleaned if needed.

The groomer will also trim nails and do a complete brush out. Not all groomers will bathe kittens on a first trip, but it is important to ask what is expected on the first trip and the procedure for bathing. Most catteries are experienced at bathing even the most water-frightened kittens.

How much to tip a groomer?

While the cost of grooming visits varies, the universal tipping practice of 15-20% of the total bill is still appropriate. Of course, tipping is optional and-just like when you visit a restaurant or when you go for your own haircuts-consider the service provided. If you have a groomer who went above and beyond to make your pet comfortable, you can acknowledge that with a tip.

Getting the proper grooming for your puppy and kitten can be an important part of looking after their health and well-being. Be sure to check out our other tips on dog health and cat health. 

Pet Insurance for Your Beloved Pet

Not only do we want our pets to look good, but we want them to feel good, too. Another part of being a responsible pet parent is getting the right pet insurance for life-long care. 

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