Mutt and Blow Dry

We sent Vicky Taylor to find out more about dog grooming in W4

With appointments as hard to come by as with the Duchess of Cambridge’s hairdresser, the industry built up around keeping your dog coiffed and groomed is big business these days.

It depends on your dog, of course, how often and how sophisticated the cut-and-blow wave is, or how much it can cost you. But talking to lots of dog owners in Chiswick, you can generally expect to hand over around £50 for the standard service. For some that is more than their own trip to the hairdressers.

But despite the costs and the need to plan weeks in advance for the appointment, dog grooming is booming. As one local dog-groomer explained, “There are so many more people now wanting to learn how to groom. There was a time when it was an apprenticeship trade, but now with all the designer breeds, many more people are wanting to learn how to groom as a great business opportunity too.” Those wanting to train to be groomers undergo an intensive course on health and safety, handling, health-checking and, finally, styling for their canine customers. Hand-stripping is the most complicated of the techniques they will learn for wire-haired or silky-haired dogs. The other thing all students have to learn to cope with is the ‘uncooperative’ dog (especially the aggressive ones!).

Each grooming service may see about 50 dogs a week. With many local salons and dog groomers offering the same service, this amounts to a couple of hundred local dogs getting their hair done in Chiswick each week!  

My own dog Lula, a cross Jack Russell Bisson Frise, visits her hairdresser about every seven weeks. I would describe her as midway between needing drugs and trotting happily into the groomers. Without mentioning names, she visits a large pet department store, though has been to several of the Chiswick groomers in the past.  At the pet store, she expects the ritual sniff around the dog food and the oh so appetising marrow-bones and pigs’ ears at small dog height, so expectations are raised as we pull into the car park.

Then inside the automatic doors and a turn to the right. Suddenly Lula realises this was one of those outings, not the other. From then on, she becomes the clingy child on their first day at school. Staying close to mum’s legs, then eventually when it becomes clear she really is going through that dog gate, the full body-to-the-floor routine. For Lula the start of every hair-cut is being pulled tummy first into the salon. Not something they will witness very often in those Mayfair salons. The next two hours are then a mystery to us dog owners, again a bit like the child at nursery school.

Lula’s groomer explains: “If they are nervous we try to talk to them all the time. We even try singing with some and they get to know where the treat bowl is pretty quickly. Usually they are absolutely fine as soon as the owner goes out of the door.   We try to give them a few breaks if they find being on the table too stressful.“

As we dog owners know, memory retention is not always highly developed in our canine friends, so the initial foreboding is forgotten, with the huge excitement on being reunited with their owner when it’s all over. Another trait our pooches have not developed is the ability to recognise themselves in the mirror.
There are no front-and-back viewings of self-admiration before leaving the salon for them. All they know is they are heading home, cleaner, cooler and a lot lighter. However, there is always the chance to roll in something unmentionable to change all that…

Hair-cuts - dog and human versions can of course go wrong. Too much taken off, skin exposed, that quarter of an inch only, which becomes several inches. Humans can always wear a hat, for a dog it’s not that easy. One Chiswick owner of a labradoodle was so upset by her dog’s cut that she didn’t want him to be seen outdoors till he had grown a few more hairs of the dog.  There are plenty of other horror stories too, like the handsome Irish terrier left with a pelmet-like underbelly, the excessive shaving of fine-haired dogs and unwanted eyebrow removal, are just some other obstacles on the way to achieving that perfect canine cut-and-blow wave.

But, given the hundreds of dogs here at the Chiswick Dog Show, who go regularly to see their groomers - and may have been just this week for a smart shampoo and set - dog grooming is most definitely here to stay.