How soon should I take my puppy to the groomers?

A pups first bath at the groomers

A question I am often asked is ‘how soon is a puppy ready to visit the dog-groomer?’. Like everything in life, there some owners who try to do this too soon and a majority who leave it too late; in both cases, the puppy will probably find the visit (at best) unsettling. It is important to build grooming into their routine early on. Based on my experiences, this is what seems to work best.

Start at home

We want grooming to be (ideally) an enjoyable experience for your pup’ so you can start with some activities at home to show them it’s fun. As soon as your puppy leaves their Mum, get them used to being touched from the beginning. Gently handle them regularly, making sure to touch their paws, under the chin, teeth, ears and inner thighs so they get used to this kind of behaviour and learn that it is not threatening. These are the sorts of places they won't be used to being touched, but are where I will need to touch or hold in order to groom them. Quite a few dogs are especially ‘foot shy’,  mostly on their front paws. Get them used to having their paws held onto for a few seconds, as if you were going to clip their nails.

Let’s face it, puppies get messy, so the chances are you'll have bathed yours several times before you even think about a groomer. This is great and helps to get them used to the experience. I would strongly recommend using a hair dryer to dry them afterwards. In my experience, few pups are bothered about the washing part but some are freaked out by the dryer – both the noise and the sensation. Doing this at home a few times before you come to the groomer will really help them.

While we’re talking about noisy experiences many puppies don’t like the noise or vibration of my clippers either. If you don’t have electric clippers at home, an electric toothbrush can be an effective substitute to help them get used to the sound and sensation.

It's also likely that you will have brushed your pup a few times before I see them. Again, it’s good to get them used to this but I find not all owners have a brush that suits their puppy’s coat, and very few have a comb. I use a long, pin-headed slicker brush for long coats, especially all the poodle-mixes that seem to be around at the moment. I use a comb to work through for knots, then revert to the brush to work that knot out. I often advise owners that a matt splitter is good if you’re struggling to remove knots but please use it carefully. I am always happy to offer advice on buying and using grooming tools to suit your puppy’s coat.

A home visit

I am unusual in insisting on a home visit before I will book a dog in. Most groomers seem happy to make appointments without even having met the dog first but I prefer to come to you to meet you and your pup at home. I will ask you some questions about your dog’s likes and temperament, and about how you want them to look after being groomed. I’m also likely to give a few treats during the groom, too, so I’ll ask about any dietary requirements.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early to book in for this assessment visit. Most new puppy owners leave it too late, but I can visit you as soon as you bring your pup home.

To the groomers!

After your puppy has had their second vaccinations (it varies but usually around 10 to 12 weeks), they are ready to come to the groomers. We would recommend visiting within the first three months – the socialisation period – if you can, but advice is usually to wait one week after the second set of vaccinations before venturing into the outside world.

Most groomers offer a short puppy groom for your first visit. They’ll perhaps offer a wash, blow dry, brush and face and bottom tidy, which might take up to 1 ½ hours. I do things a bit differently as I find puppies take to it much better, partly because I don’t take so much time. I will ask you to book in for three one-hour grooms, booked fairly close together at first.

These will consist of:

Visit 1: a wash, dry and brush. I might do a bit of a face tidy if the owner especially asks for it.

Visit 2: your puppy needs to arrive clean and brushed as I won't wash it this time. I will concentrate on any clipping work that needs to be done: body, bottom, armpits and under the feet.

Visit 3: again, pup needs to arrive clean and brushed for this one as I will do any scissor work. I’ll tidy around the foot, legs, head, face and ears, and I’ll clean their ears and clip nails as required.

By the end of the three appointments, your puppy will be fully groomed and familiar with how it all works. Usually, I’ll recommend that their next appointment is for a full adult groom, but I do sometimes have difficult or nervous pups who are happier with more shorter grooms. (I've got one at the moment: she's a Cockerpoo with very little ‘poo in her - she looks like a cocker spaniel! The poor thing is terrified of everything, especially the dryer and clippers.)

And that’s it! Hopefully their first official groom will be enjoyable as this will set the pattern for the rest of their life.