How to create a proactive grooming plan

How to create a proactive grooming plan

This 11 step grooming plan will help you to maintain your companions coat at home in between visits to the groomers.

When I welcome a new client at my grooming salon, the first thing I ask is “Do you have a grooming plan?” Most people usually do a double take. “A grooming what?” they ask.

The undeniable truth of the matter is that in between visits to the grooming salon, you and your family are responsible for maintaining your dog’s coat. But how do you manage that coat? That’s where a customized Proactive Grooming Plan comes in.

Here’s the Plan

1. You have a vision of the way you want your dog to look.

Do you like a breed-specific trim? Long, flowing hair? Do you want your dog to “dog”…meaning play in the off-leash park, swim in the river? Hike? This lifestyle generally isn’t conducive to long hair.

2. You have consulted with a groomer in advance of the appointment.

Have you selected a groomer yet? It’s a good idea to interview several, check credentials and experience, and get references. Also, make sure your pet stylist is familiar with your breed.grooming

3. You know how frequently you must come in for maintenance.

Again, your pet stylist can help you with this. For example, a wire-haired breed (Scottish Terrier, for example) must have his coat “rolled” at specific intervals in order to develop the proper look and coat texture. Other coats, like a poodle’s, require professional sculpting every four to six weeks, with brushing and combined sessions at home to maintain the coat condition.

4. You know how much and how often to brush between visits.

Your stylist can design a customized schedule for your needs. For example, the average Shih Tzu in a 1” scissor cut requires 20 minutes of brushing and combing three times each week.

5. You have had a brushing/combing lesson so you know the proper techniques.

Many dog owners brush the “top coat” and don’t get to the problematic mats at skin level. Your stylist can show you how to reach these problem areas.

6. You have the proper tools for your dog’s coat.

Single and double coats require different tools. Your stylist can recommend the tools you specifically need.

7. You have a designated area in your home for coat maintenance.

It’s a good idea to keep your grooming tools here so you always know where they are. Using the same space reinforces the “routine” aspect for your dog.

8. You have pre-booked appointments at a salon up to a year in advance.

That’s not to say you can’t reschedule, but having set appointments takes away the stress of remembering to book an appointment.

9. You see the same stylist every time.

This allows for a more open dialogue and reduces anxiety for your dog.

10. You are not stressed bringing your dog to a salon.

If you are calm and relaxed coming in, your dog will be too!

11. You’ve thought about any seasonal changes you might want, and know what will be required to get there.

If you are growing out your dog’s coat for the winter, visit your stylist frequently so she/he can help you train it. Waiting until it is long enough, and then coming in, is a recipe for disaster.

Dogs with a proactive grooming plan can expect a:grooming

  • Beautiful, healthy coat with no mats. Matted, dirty coats often create and camouflage skin problems.
  • More comfortable experience without painful de-matting. De-matting, if it can be done, involves lots of pulling and can cause discomfort and complications, including brush burn.
  • Grooming experience that feels like pampering instead of punishment.
  • Good relationship with the stylist, who gets to know your dog (and who your dog gets to know) rather than visiting a stranger every time.
  • Regular routine, which reduces stress for everyone.

What a Reactive Grooming Plan looks like:

  • You wait until the hair gets out of control to visit a salon.
  • You assume that while the coat is growing out, you don’t need to brush.
  • You call several salons to see who can squeeze you in rather than pre-booking.
  • You don’t have the same stylist.
  • You don’t understand why your groomer keeps shaving your dog.
  • You are often angry/unsatisfied with the appearance of your dog after a groom.
  • You find it stressful to bring your dog to a salon.

Grooming factoids

  • A Standard Poodle in Show Coat can take up to 19 hours/week of maintenance. If you can’t make this kind of commitment, you may need to adjust your expectations.
  • A good breeder can teach you how to maintain your pet’s coat.
  • Most salons offer their regular clientele complimentary brushing and combing lessons.
  • Regular grooming at home can be a fun bonding experience for you and your dog.
  • Training your dog to accept grooming and handling is an important part of his social and behavioural development.
  • If your dog doesn’t enjoy grooming, don’t give up! Consistent, regular reinforcement is key.


Jeanette Embree is an award-winning pet stylist and owner of A Royal Tuuch Pooch Parlour in Calgary, AB. She has over two decades of experience as a pet stylist, and obtained her National Certified Master Groomer Designation from the National Dog Groomers Association of America in 1997. Jeanette is owned by a posse of Parti-Pomeranians.