When should I bring my puppy in for a groom?

Bringing puppy in for the first groom depends a lot on what kind of dog you have, the age you brought your dog home and your dogs background.

First, let’s talk about what a first puppy visit entails.

I prefer not to give a full haircut to a dog on their first visit to the groomer. The first visit to the groomer is very overwhelming for a puppy. For many dogs, this is their first time away from mom and dad for an extended period of time. Even if you have already given your puppy a bath at home, the tub at the grooming shop looks and smells different. The groomers are brand new people, and there are so many sights and sounds that your puppy has never experienced before. Plus, puppies are fluffy balls of wiggle. So on top of a puppy wanting to see everything they can see, meet all the new friends they can, and just generally being a wiggle butt, any haircut attempted is, at best, very choppy and uneven, and at worst, potentially dangerous. So for the first visit, we like to do a bath, blow dry, nail clip, ear cleaning, full brush out and light trimming around their face and feet if needed. We will also turn on the clippers and hold them near the dog all while praising them and rewarding their good behavior. This is a great way to get your dog used to the groomer without trying too much.

Now, when should I bring a puppy in?

In general, puppies should visit the groomer no earlier than 12 weeks to ensure that they have their first round of shots, and no later than 6 months. Ideally, we see a new puppy in between 12-16 weeks. The window for socialization starts to close for dogs at 4 months. This does not mean that you cannot acclimate your dog to grooming if they are outside of this window. It does mean that it can get harder to do the older they get. A one year old dog will most likely be much more stressed out by the grooming process than a 6 month old.

What if you just rescued a pup and they’re outside the age range mentioned above? Don’t worry! Give your new pup a few weeks to adjust to their new home and their new life before bringing them into the groomer. There is a lot of change happening in your new dogs life and we don’t want to give them more than they can handle.

What puppies need to visit the groomer?

All of them! “But I just have a lab puppy, why do I need a groomer?” Even for our customers whose dogs don’t need a haircut, we recommend bringing your puppy in young and often. So many times I get phone calls from people with senior dogs who have never been to a groomer. Their pups are now too old or delicate to be groomed at home and they are hoping for a professional's help. The problem here is, the groom will be more detrimental than beneficial. For our seniors, the grooming is just as overwhelming as it is for a puppy, but because they have never experienced the sights and sounds of a grooming salon, they can easily get hurt. Either from fighting against something they don’t want done, or from the stress of simply doing something new. If you can bring your lab puppy in every few months, even just for mainly nail trims, we can work to make them comfortable at the salon.

Think about it like the dentist. So many of us hate going to the dentist, so we put it off for years and years. When we finally cave and go in, we’re stressed out about what’s going to happen. Now imagine if you knew that you HAD to go to the dentist every 3 months. Would you like it? Probably not, but, you would hunker down and get it over with fairly pain free because you know what’s about to happen. By letting your dog get comfortable with their groomers and the grooming environment, you are setting your dog up for a lifetime of grooming success!

Of course, each dog is an individual, and we will treat them as such. So, reach out to your groomer and ask them any questions so you and your pup are both comfortable and ready for the first groom!

"Don't make him look like a poodle!"

There are a lot of things that we hear at a grooming shop that we laugh off. Once you’ve been working with dogs for a little while, you hear the same things over and over again. Most of them don’t get to me, except “don’t make him look like a poodle” or “the last groomer made him look like a poodle.” I want to take a few minutes to go into detail about why this is one of the worst things you can say to your groomer.

  1. When you say you don’t want your dog to look like something, you have an idea in your head of what that something is. The truth is, what you see, and what I see are two completely different things. I had a customer once tell me that I made his Schnauzer look like a Poodle. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what I could have possibly done to make a Schnauzer look like a Poodle.

    Imagine if I walked into my salon and asked my hairdresser not to make me look like Jennifer Aniston. The poor woman would need to figure out what exactly I didn’t want! Did I not want the length she has, the color, the “Rachel” look from her days on Friends? When I think of breed standard haircuts, especially on a Poodle, we think of them as form fitting for the specific breed. Each haircut is designed to accentuate certain parts of the breed needed for working. So don’t be surprised when you tell me not to make your dog look like a Poodle, I will ask you about a dozen questions trying to figure out what you actually mean.

  2. Asking me not to make your dog look like something is making an assumption that I will do a haircut that you are not requesting. You are assuming that after our in depth conversation about what haircut you do want for your dog, I’m going to ignore everything and give your dog a shaved face, big head and kidney patches. My job is to give your dog the haircut you want, even if it isn’t something I would prefer to do. I am here to please you and give you back a clean and healthy pet. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, tell me what you do want.

  3. We hear this phrase the most when it comes to dogs mixed with Poodle. A phrase repeated quite often in the early days of designer breeds was “Don’t Poodle my Doodle!” When it comes to Doodles, or any poodle mix, if they have that curly coat, they are going to look like a Poodle when I am done. The most common haircut I do on Doodles is a 3/4” body with a 1” round head, which is technically, wait for it, a Poodle cut! That cute round face that you love on your Doodle? That’s what we call a Teddy Bear face. We’re attempting for a round, donut shaped muzzle and a round head with ears up to the customers preference.

  4. Poodles are the most versatile dogs in the grooming industry. I can make a poodle look like anything. I can make them look like Bedlington Terriers. I could give them a Schnauzer cut. I can make them look like Doodles! Poodles have a coat designed to be cut and styled in many different ways, there are even entire books dedicated to just Poodle cuts!

My overall message here, is just to talk to your groomer. Tell him or her what you want your dog to look like. Use as descriptive of words as you possibly can. If you can say that you want half off, or 1” left on the body with a slightly longer, round head and long ears, I will know EXACTLY what to do!

And for reference, the picture at the top of this article is what I think of when I think of a Poodle. This is Sebastian, one of my favorite dogs on the entire planet, hanging out with my daughter Grace. So be warned, if you ever ask me to make your dog look LIKE a Poodle, they’re getting a colored mohawk. :)