Getting a grip on grooming

Understanding a little about pet grooming and what a groomer can actually do (or not) can make a big difference in the experience — for pet parents, groomers, and even the furry ones.

Here we focus on pets with medium to long coats, and examine pet grooming as a formula.

Desired coat length

Some pets like to be brushed, some don’t.   If yours does not, a shorter cut is a good idea.  There are many cute short cuts that may work for your best friend.  

If you love the look of a long or fluffy coat, it’s important to keep your pet well groomed before the fur becomes matted.  When matting does happen, it usually requires cutting the fur very short.  And while your groomer loves sending pets home looking great, matting can make that impossible.  To avoid your friend’s coat reaching this point, start thinking groomer the minute you notice any matting.  At that point a groomer can likely work their magic with wonderful results.

TIP on matting

Mats are like cotton jeans — they shrink and tighten when washed.   It’s best to NOT bathe a pet with any matting until the tangles can be brushed out or a grooming session is possible.

Brushing — how often, how long

The more regularly and generously you brush, the better results your groomer can get and maintain. 

The average furry darlin’ needs a thorough brushing — meaning you can part the fur and see skin — about three times a week.  Of course those who indulge in rolling around in smells often need more frequent brushing.

Types of brushes

There are many types of brushes.  You need one that will get to the soft, fuzzy undercoat next to the skin, as that’s where most matting starts.  Pets with longer fur tend to get tangles in the longer, more permanent fur.  All dogs shed at least twice a year.  With most pets living in nice warm homes, they tend to shed more.


Not all shampoos work on all pets.  If you think your pet is matting faster or seems so dirty baths are needed more frequently, try either diluting your shampoo 50% with water or try a different shampoo.

When to groom

The average pet needs grooming about every six to eight weeks.  By then the fur is starting to grow thick around the eyes and under the tail, which are areas best left to a groomer.  As mentioned earlier, if you notice tangled spots, it’s time.

Groomers can help your pet experience grooming as a positive.  It’s challenging when pets repeatedly arrive in bad shape, as each session takes a fair amount of time, taxing a critter’s patience and making the experience more dreaded than enjoyed.

Nails matter

People are often surprised when they learn not every client comes for full grooming.  Some just need a nail trim, and yes:  it’s just as important as maintaining a healthy coat.  Many dogs need regular trims, as without them, nails grow long and curved, eventually creating discomfort and even pain. 

Some pets just need minor touch-ups, like trimming the fur under the eyes or tail.  Fur around the feet can need clipping too, to help with a pup’s traction on wood or tile flooring, and also reduce dirt tracked in from outside.

Groomers can and want to be a valuable member of the support team your family trusts.  Like the family doctor, the best groomers know (and love) their clients well, keep track of past and present care, and even keep an eye out for changes that might flag a concern.  The more pet parents understand grooming and what groomers are up against, the better they can facilitate the relationship and routines that provide the highest level of care and comfort for their pets.

Did you know?

Most groomers don’t take a pet from start to finish without giving the pet breaks.  This helps the pet stay relaxed, whether through a regular grooming, or a lengthier, more involved session.

Pets are creatures of habit, and most do better at the groomers if given a short walk before arriving.  Like with kids (and some grown-ups), a bit of activity and perhaps a last little emptying is a good thing.

Any pet going in for grooming should have current vaccinations.  An important fact to note:  most vaccinations become effective in protecting a pet three days AFTER they’re administered. 

Most veterinarians recommend puppies not go to a groomer or anyplace with groups of dogs until after their third set of vaccinations, at about three months of age.

Flea treatments administered on the neck should be applied either a week before or one to two days after a bath.

Janis Stange is owner/operator of Jackie’s Clip Joint in Portland and a longtime pet parent.