How do you recognize a good Doodle groomer?

02-11-2021

It seems to be getting harder and harder to find a good groomer for your Labradoodle. Everywhere I go I am told that the local groomers are not accepting new customers and that owners sometimes have to drive for miles to get their Labradoodle trimmed properly. That is the case in the Netherlands and in Belgium it seems to be a complete disaster. And have you finally found someone who is willing to groom your Doodle at all AND still has room, then there is the question: is the trimming going to be to your liking?

Not all dog groomers are good Doodle groomers and not all groomers that claim to be a specialized Doodle groomer are GOOD Labradoodle groomers. Why is that and if it is true, what should you pay attention to when looking for the right Doodle groomer for your Labradoodle or Oodle?

Anyone can become a groomer

Firstly, here in the Netherlands dog grooming is a liberal profession that does not require a diploma. It is wise though, because you are dealing with living beings for which you are responsible. But it is NOT REQUIRED. Weird, is not it?

For this reason, there are many groomers who usually just shave dogs without ever having learned to do this. A huge risk for owners.

Second, those who DO take accredited dog grooming training are not necessarily learning how to groom Labradoodles. You do not learn to groom yourself during the training, you learn the skills at an internship address (which is a grooming salon of your choosing) and if they do not groom any Labradoodles, you do not learn to groom them. The same goes for Water Dogs and Oodles, which are much rarer in the grooming business (Labradoodles and Water Dogs are much more common in groomers nowadays than they were 10 years ago, when I started my business).

There is no control over the internship providers from the degree programme. Any groomer can sign up as an internship address, regardless of how long you've been working and how good you are at grooming, so if you just work and check off the acquired hours at a local groomer, you can do your practical exam as soon as you are done. And if, for example, you learn to pluck ears the wrong way (because your internship provider learned to do it that way from her internship provider), you will NEVER be pointed out otherwise by someone who DOES know how to do that (maybe these things have improved by now, but in my time and the times of many groomers in the Netherlands there was no control over your skills. I was lucky that I did the internship with my mother, who was a really good groomer and very strict with me as a pupil).

Grooming exam is a snapshot

During the exam you never trim an entire dog, but you show all your grooming techniques (thinning, trimming, plucking) on the appropriate coats: coat meant for trimming (Poodle, Water Dog, Labradoodle), coat meant for thinning (Malthese, Cocker Spaniel), and one meant for plucking (wired haired dachshund and most Terriers) on only a small part of the exam dog that you or someone else brought along (it remains to be seen whether that includes a Labradoodle or Water Dog. For example, you trim 1 hind leg and part of the hip, while another student is assigned to trim the left shoulder plus front leg, so an examiner does not get to see how you trim a whole body including the head and if you still have trouble with certain body parts, but you do not have to trim them during the exam, then you are probably lucky, because you will just pass, when you are actually not yet a good groomer.

Thinning scissors or regular Poodle scissors?

When I took the grooming exam a long time ago, it was forbidden to trim a coat meant for trimming (in my case a Barbet) with thinning scissors. Trimming should be done with poodle scissors (straight or curved scissors) and using thinning scissors was out of the question. You were only allowed to use those on a coat meant for thinning). This is why many Labradoodles are still trimmed with poodle scissors, while thinning scissors give a much more beautiful, fluffy and more natural result.

So the first thing you should pay attention to when looking for a good Doodle groomer: is the person trained by accredited training and if so: does he/she have experience (preferably years as an all-round groomer with different breeds AND) with Labradoodles and/or similar coats? Here in the Netherlands lots of groomers own a certificate from a Labradoodle specialization course, which looks good, but means nothing: from 1 afternoon looking at a distance and noting how an experienced groomer trims a Labradoodle, you learn little, even if you get a nice certificate for your money afterwards with your name on it. This way of giving workshops is very lucrative for the initiator himself (who immediately sells the necessary grooming supplies on the spot and boosts her reputation), but not for the groomer who paid € 50.00 to attend. You only learn to groom Labradoodles the right way by DOING and PRACTISING A LOT on MANY DIFFERENT COAT TYPES and of course through instruction by the right specialized Doodle GROOMER who knows how it should be done and has been proving it for years.

HOW should a Labradoodle be groomed?

As a coat expert in Water Dogs and Labradoodles, I think the coat should look as natural as possible, completely tangle-free, beautifully fluffy, at a nice and practical intermediate length and with beautiful, full bear legs and a nice scruffy head. Leaving your Labradoodle still recognizable as itself and perfectly reflecting his special personality in stead of ruining it.

DO NOT shave, don't create a landing strip on the muzzle, don't leave the cheeks too long or trim the ears too short, no spindle legs, potbelly, too narrow waist, drooping butt, slipper feet or cat paws...there is so much that goes wrong with the trimming of many Labradoodles (not to mention Water Dogs). I believe a Labradoodle should not even look trimmed, just patched up to look its best self.

Enrichment of your dog

I think every grooming should be an enrichment. After the grooming, your dog should always look more beautiful, younger, more playful, happier, healthier than before. Even if he happened to have tangles. Shaving is almost never an excuse and really not always necessary if you know the right detangling and thinning techniques.

There are dog groomers who obviously disagree with me and who claim that detangling and de-felting is harmful for a dog. But they only have to stand still (with enough breaks in between) while I carefully cut through all tangles and felt and brush them loose. Not a shred of pain, because I don't pull the hair or damage the skin. 

Groomers who shave often don't understand how sensitive Labradoodles are and how intense the shaving is for them; mentally, but also physically, because they have such sensitive skin that shaving makes it extra vulnerable to harmful external influences. They literally lose their protective layer. That is not wise in the summer, not in the winter, but never really. And also not necessary if the owners learn how to easily keep the coat free of tangles themselves.

That and many more reasons that extend beyond just proper coat care and appearance, is why my mission is to make owners self-reliant. So that they can give their Labradoodle or Oodle the best care themselves.

Back to the requirements for a good Labradoodle groomer: now you have a picture in your head of what your dog can look like, don't you? You fell in love with your pup once because he was so cute, soft and cuddly. A living teddy bear, right?

A Doodle coat is a big responsibility

Then why compromise once the coat is mature when you can still keep it as a puppy? Because it's easier and takes less effort? Do you shave your dog because it suits you better? Then in my opinion (and that of every groomer, breeder and Labradoodle fanatic in the world) you should not have taken a Labradoodle in the first place, because coat care is THE problem with these breeds. A beautiful, thick, woolly, anti-allergenic coat comes with responsibilities.

That beautiful, sweet dog of yours needs grooming AND needs his coat, because the coat has an essential function. You cannot and should not just take it away. And you don't have to if you learn with a little effort how to optimally brush, thin, detangle and keep the coat healthy. That's all you need to know if you don't want to learn how to trim (shape) your Doodle and a groomer will be happy to work with you if you provide a tangle-free Labradoodle. This will make everyone happy. You, your Labradoodle or Oodle, the groomer and...your wallet!

But then the groomer in question must know how to groom a Labradoodle at its best. So get that picture in your head from just now and look for before and after pictures. Good Doodle groomers like to show their work (less good ones often do this too, because most groomers think they are good, but if you are able to compare you can quickly separate the good from the ugly).

I hope this will help you find the right groomer for you and your Labradoodle. OR that it inspires you to at least start doing the basic coat care yourself, because besides being important, it is great fun to do and you strengthen the bond with your dog with it.

Lots of Doodle love,
Wanda & Joy

Labradoodle online grooming course