Throughout the year calls are constantly coming in asking about pricing for just bath and nails. Depending on the breed, type of coat, condition of coat, time since last groom, number of grooms in the pets life, and behavior all play a part in how much “just a bath” will cost.
When estimating these prices (and we do not quote EVER) we can only assume the pet is up to AKC standards, which means normal sized for the breed, coat regularly maintained, and professional grooming having been done on a regular bases.
So why does it cost so much to have a dog smelling good?
For this instance I’m going to use large shedding breeds as an example. If these dogs are professionally groomed and/or brushed on a daily basis at home then any undercoat (thats all the shedding hairs) is removed from the pet by the time the dog does in for its next grooming appointment. That makes it easier on the groomer and on the dog, thus it not costing as much.
Now, take a dog that hasnt been touched with a brush at home, and hasnt been to the groomer in over 4 months. That undercoat is heavy, possibly already impacted (matted). Because the owner waited so long in between grooms, and didnt offer any assistance by brushing the dog at home, they now have to pay the groomer to do the work for them. See where this is going?
Undercoat removal is a tiring process, and uses double the amount of product and time to groom the animal then if it had been on a regular schedule. The clean up of all the hair after its been removed is a huge and dirty task. The constant brushing of the coat is wear and tear on our body to the point where we are sore at the end of the day.
When the coat is impacted, a process dubbed “the furminator” (a term used long before the FURMinator brand was ever developed) has to be used. This requires the dog have all its coat washed, including those mats. I know, I know. Your groomer told you to never wash a dog that had mats right? Thats still true- for the owner. We have the equipment needed to avoid further matting even when we wash those mats. So now that the coat and matted undercoat are washed and rinsed, a deep conditioner is applied to the coat and saturated down to the skin. It has to be rubbed into the matted areas to make the matted areas absorb the conditioner to soften the hair shafts. Conditioner also makes the coat a bit slippery. We’re going to need that.
Now we wait. Depending on the brand each groomer uses and how bad the matting is, soaking time is typically between 3-10 minutes. Thats time wasted standing next to the tub, making sure the dog doesnt jump out and hang itself. Thats time wasted that we could be working on other dogs. And as the old saying goes “Time is Money”.
After the soak “the furminator” process begins. Using our high powered velocity dryer (about 100 times stronger then your hair dryer at home), we use it on the dog while the conditioner is still in the coat. This is a mess, let me tell you! Conditioner starts being sprayed throughout the room along with the slippery, conditioner filled hair. The tub is full of all this impacted mess and product. And so is the groomer. By the time all the hair and the majority of the conditioner are blown out, ythe groomer is covered in “slime”, loose hair, and is soaking wet. And by the way, this doesnt include the dog having previously shook water all over during the wash.
Now its time for the first stage of clean up. The tub walls have to be sprayed down to remove the blown out coat and conditioner,a towel has to be laid down on the floor to avoid slipping, and the hair drain needs to be cleaned of all the excess hair so the tub will drain properly.
Now, time to rinse. There will still be conditioner left in the coat, so a final rinse, and a second dry is needed to complete “the furminator” process.
For an Akita sized dog, this whole bathing process takes roughly 45 minutes. After the final blow dry, the dog may or may not go into a kennel to finish drying or wait for its turn on the table.
When the dog IS ready to be put on the table, we must select a brush among the many variety in which to brush any remaining hair from the skin. Coat types vary from breed to breed, and each will work differently for each groom. Once we have picked the brush that will do the most work, we get to work brushing. Stoke. Stoke. Stoke. Its a repeated process. After a while, our arm muscles start to tighten. This really is a work out!
Cut the nails. Clean the ears.
PHEW! And we’re done!
Ah, but I forgot to mention- the above instance was based on a GOOD dog.
A bad dog? Oh boy. Double the amount of work. And time.
What makes for a bad dog? First off, bad is a very loose term. Dogs arent bad. They are just untrained. A dog spinning in the tub or pulling away when you reach to work on a certain area of the animal may cause extra time to be wasted. We have to pull the dog back to the position we need it in. If the pet wants to sit and not stand, we now have to use our arm muscles to hold the dog up via the belly, straining the muscles while we do the best we can washing with one hand. All this is applied for the bath and dry. Dogs may want to nip. They might jump around, knock the hose from your hand, bite at the dryer, bite at the groomer, poo and pee, and just act wild. These are all behavioral issues associated with never having the dog groomed, or waiting every 6 months to have it done. Issues like these cause the grooming to take longer then normal, thus the price of the dog must be increased. The owner has no one to blame but themselves. But hey! The dog might cost them $100, but they saved $400 in grooming in the last 6 months by not bringing the pet in!
What if the owner doesnt want to pay for a shedding treatment, and doesnt care if the hair is still falling out around the house? This is a toughy and can be ran differently at different salons. I believe a pet should get what it needs, for its health, regardless of what the owner wants. But it really is determined by each individual case. A pug for instance has short hair. It sheds, yes, but doesnt get impacted coat (usually). If the owner doesnt want a shed treatment, I wont force them to get one. If a chow comes in, and they just want a bath and it has visible undercoat peeking out I wont give them a choice. I let them know it will cost X amount to get rid of the coat and that a shedding treatment is included in that price. if they still continue to argue with me (most dont), then I explain it will take longer to properly groom the pet without a shedding treatments, costing them more money.
In a groomers point of view, every dog we do is an advertisement of our work. If we let a dog leave the salon not done to the best of our ability, what are the chances of it attracting unwanted attention? We WANT customers to come back and recommend their friends and family.
A cheap customer that just doesnt care… well… thats a whole different story that I will save for a future blog post.