Tuesday Tips: Saving Money at the Dog Groomer

It happens every few months in our house. A smell resembling the Potomac River on a 90 degree summer day starts penetrating every inch of our breathing space. That's when we know it's time for our 30-pound mutt to get bathed. I can't help but chuckle when I take him to my local pet groomer. I have a hard time actually taking it seriously when I see that he can have his nails "manicured" and his fur "styled." They'll even brush his teeth!

I talked to some local vets and dog groomers to get tips on what I should be shelling out money for and what I can just ignore or even do at home:

Tip #1: Professional pet grooming is not a medical necessity. Please don't be mad at me, pet groomers. It's what the vets say. "Grooming is not a necessary trade for health," says Ivanov Castellanos, a veterinarian with Norbeck Animal Clinic in Silver Spring. "It's more cosmetic." He quickly added that groomers do sometimes notice issues like skin problems that need to be examined by a vet.

Tip #2: The most important grooming that a dog needs is a bath, a nail clipping and a cleaning of the anal glands every eight weeks. Long-haired dogs need a regular haircut. Although most vets will say it's not medically necessary for a dog's fur to be clipped, it does prevent some skin irritations.

Tip #3: Save some money by giving your dog a bath at home. Just make sure you use shampoo for dogs. (Pert Plus is a tad too harsh for dogs' skin.) The nail clipping can even be done at home as long as you've had a good lesson in how to do it. Tracey Fisher, a grooming expert with PetSmart, says its groomers are willing to give people a quick lesson.

Tip #4: Save some money on dog shampoo (although it's not something that's overly expensive) by diluting it with a little water. It not only allows you to use less of the shampoo but also makes it easier to get on the dog, Fisher says.

Tip #5: Avoid having to take Fido in for a bath sooner than every eight weeks by brushing his locks every day. This not only stimulates the hair follicles but it also keeps fur from getting matted and tangled.

Tip #6: Don't even think about giving your dog a haircut at home. That actually is a service worth spending money on, say vets and groomers. "The risk of doing your own haircut is you can damage the skin," says Castellanos. Plus, the cost of the proper tools to cut a dog's hair aren't cheap. "If you're on a budget and you can't get them groomed every four to six weeks, you could go with shorter hair trims," says Fisher. "It buys you more time."

Tip #7: Some groomers offer to brush the dog's teeth. Vets say don't bother. Dogs' teeth should be brushed a few times a week at home, not once every eight weeks at the groomer. "Teeth will still gather tartar," says Tripti Paranjpe, a veterinarian with Montgomery Village Animal Hospital in Gaithersburg. "The best way to clean the teeth is once a year at the vet's and everyday at home."

Tip #8: Another thing to do at home to keep your dog from having to go to the vet or groomer is cleaning out their ears. A cotton ball with a little ear wash designed for dogs is enough to wipe out the grease and dirt that builds up just inside the ear. This helps prevent ear infections.

So, what are your tips for saving money on pet grooming and pet care? Post a comment and tell me about it.

By Tania Anderson |  February 5, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Pets , Tuesday Tips
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Comments

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Re tip #8: you don't need buy an ear wash just for dogs. Mix two parts water with one part white vinegar, and you've got exactly what you need to clean out your canine baby's ears.

Posted by: sooz115 | February 5, 2008 11:24 AM

Tania,

Maybe if you bathed your dog every other week, he would not smell like a sewer. No matter the dog, the animal's nails need to clipped every six to eight weeks by someone who knows what they are doing. If the dog does not need to be groomed, then a nail clipping only costs b/t five and ten dollars. For dogs with double coats it is paramount that they be groomed regularly for their own comfort. Save money where it matters, not where an animal's quality of life is diminished.

Posted by: ATL | February 5, 2008 11:28 AM

I agree with ATL, my dog doesn't shed, but hates to be brushed. We keep him clipped very short, and use a groomer.

One other thing that wasn't mentioned is that some breeds need to have their ears plucked. Literally, the hair grows inside their ears, collects dirt, and can lead to infections. The groomer does this with a practised hand, that is less painful for my dog then if I did it.

Posted by: Aus mom | February 5, 2008 1:31 PM

Does anyone know if chain groomers, like Petco and Petsmart are cheaper than smaller operations?

Posted by: hype2new | February 5, 2008 1:40 PM

Petsmart is definitely more expensive than my groomer and the people who do it are not as experienced.

Posted by: Maureen Gordon | February 6, 2008 9:54 AM

I think chain groomers' quality depends on the area - the Petsmart in Charlottesville does an excellent job on my dog and is significantly cheaper than private groomers in my area. I took my border collie mix (who needs a regular haircut, esp. in the summer) to a number of different private groomers before I settled on Petsmart as his "regular" spot. I evaluated all the groomers based on price, quality of the cut, and groomers' interaction with my dog - and for me, Petsmart was the best.

Posted by: c'ville | February 6, 2008 10:26 AM

To be honest...

A pet owner would be much better off using their money to get their pet groomed than they would buying the Washington Post and reading all of the 'gloom and doom' articles that newspapers love to print.

It makes financial sense too.

I've worked out the numbers to prove it...

Cost of Washington Post: 75 cents/day.

Cost of Grooming: 71 cents/day.

Example: $40 average grooming / 56 days (8 week intervals) = 71 cents per day.

Doesn't getting your dog groomed make you feel happier than reading negative news everyday?

Posted by: Wes Murph | February 6, 2008 12:02 PM

My herding dogs rarely get baths. Only if they have some intestinal problems. They dont smell. And after a tough day working and herding sheep and coming home covered in a combination of mud, sheep poop and sheep pee after they dry and the mud falls out they just dont smell. Bathing your dog strips out the necessary oils from their coat.

I gromm my two collies myself. I trim the the hair between their pads and keep the dead ends trimmed They get brushed a couple to several times a week depending on if they are blowing coat.

Real dogs dont go to the groomer. Foo Foo dogs who wear Juicy couture and get carried around in a bag do.

Cats and small dogs make excellent entertainment for wrking dogs.

And remember fight the PETA and HSUS terrorists. Dogs are your proeprty fight mandatory spay/neuter laws!

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