Tipping Your Dog’s Groomer: Appreciating those who do what you can’t (or won’t!) Do yourself
This page was written after I did a search on groomer tipping and found pages and pages of people who had googled the same question… and had no idea what the etiquette was for getting their dog groomed.
I will not only address why your dog’s stylist deserves a tip on top of the amount you pay for the services provided, it will also break clients into separate “tipping brackets”. I will also cover holiday tipping and special circumstances toward the end.
I spend $40+ on my dog’s groom, why should I tip the groomer too?
- Your stylist most likely makes 40-50% commission on every dog s/he grooms, not the full price you pay.
- Paying for your grooming bill is standard and is part of responsible pet ownership. Tossing $5+ your groomer’s way says that you appreciate the work they do, you value their commitment to do something you cant/wont/ don’t do yourself.
- Your stylist does hard, physical labor every day out of a certain love for pets like yours. She clips/grinds nails, squeezes anal glands, dodges bites, gets soaking wet, has infected bumps on her arms from embedded dog hair particles, and gets pink eye several times a year from the 4 inch dog hairs that embed themselves around her eyeball. After all of that, a good stylist will still greet you with a smile, and send your dog home with a detailed verbal or written report of how the groom went and a “see you next time!”.
- A good stylist is personable and she cares. If trusting your stylist and appreciating her skill isn’t reason to tip I don’t know what is!
So how much do I tip?
The following basic requirements must be met:
- Your dog smells clean
- Your dog looks like what your groomer discussed with you at drop off. Please note the wording here! If you brought your Bichon to a salon after 6-12+ mo. without professional grooming and he is a solid mat, your stylist SHOULD inform you at check in that your dog WILL be shaved. If you DECLINE shaving, a good groomer will suggest for you to take your dog home and attempt to demat it yourself. The Golden Rule of Grooming is Humanity before Vanity! An experienced professional will refuse to injure, frighten, or traumatize a matted pet simply to please the owner (who wants the dog left fluffy). If the owner refuses to believe the opinion of a professional, they should be given the option to demat the pet themselves, so they can See The Light.
- Your pet was completed in a reasonably timely manner. This means roughly around the estimate given at drop off. If your pet requires extra time, attention etc, a good stylist should call to give you a status update. All good groomers should call when your dog is ready and leave a message if necessary.
So, your dog looks and smells good, your stylist was professional and personable, and now is the point where you look at the $10 and $5 in your hand and wonder which to give, or both. I will break this down into two groups: the Appreciation tip ($5+) and the Extra Mile/Special Circumstances tip ($15+).
Appreciation Tip ($5-$10 / 15-20% )
Please note: if you ask for the same groomer every time, come every 4-6 weeks, and your dog is an angel, WE DON’T MIND IF YOU DON’T TIP EVERY TIME! Unless it’s christmas, cause seriously, tipping once a year is courtesy. “Regulars”/”requests” are our bread and butter during slow seasons, so we appreciate your loyalty and your dog’s good behavior (meaning he doesn’t bite or crap himself constantly) so much that a tip isn’t expected or required.
An appreciation tip is exactly what it sounds like. A token of gratitude. It’s whatever you can afford. Maybe your stylist threw in a service for free, like nail grinding or toothbrushing, just to show you the benefits. Maybe she always does a good job. Maybe she just genuinely loves your dog and it shows. Maybe it’s close to a holiday or it’s a weekend and she squeezes your dog in even though she’s booked. Whatever the reason, this is the feel-good tip, the one we don’t expect, the kindness that makes it all worth it.
When we genuinely love your dog, like you, and want to see you again, we show it. Bows, bandanas, cute notes, reminder calls… it means we like you. You don’t have to tip us every time, we don’t grumble when you don’t, but just knowing you value our work enough to ask for us and tip occasionally will result in free upgrades, even if we don’t tell you about them.
But in general. You should tip your Pet Stylist the same amount that you’d tip your personal Hair Stylist, which is 15%-20%.
Extra Mile/Special Circumstances ($15+ / 30%+) (or more than you would usually tip)
It’s a known fact in the industry that the people with the sweet, easy-going dogs tip and the once-a-year clients with aggressive, matted dogs don’t. Here are some examples of when you should tip big or tip more than usual (meaning your usual is a curt “thanks.” As you walk out the door).
- Your dog is aggressive. If your groomer gets bit by your unsocialized dog, YOU NEED TO TIP! Especially if your stylist doesn’t charge extra despite being bitten. If your dog is half groomed and your groomer had to stop because your dog drew blood or caused serious injury, YOU SHOULD TIP. Chances are you won’t be charged for an incomplete groom, or if you are it will be a minimal charge. If your dog injures someone, for god’s sake, tip them.
- Your dog is a “rehab” dog. This is a nice way of saying you’ve been kicked out of other salons or passed from groomer to groomer until someone was able to successfully groom him. Appreciate this brave soul and give her $5-10+ for not giving up.
- Your dog is a bucket of yuck. This means that your dog:
- has a fecal pack (matted poo glob) stuck to his rear
- is infested with fleas or ticks (more than 10 is an infestation, in my book)
- is so badly matted that your groomer saves the sheet of fur and shows you a matted-fur sweater when you pick up
- is so heavily undercoated and dirty that your groomer looks like she’s been rolling around in a vacuum bag when she brings him out to you, all shiny and new. This applies to shepherds, huskies, malamutes, chows, any thick-coated dog whose hair falls out in clumps every time he moves.
- your dog is a submission pooper/pisser/vomiter/anal gland secreter. If your groomer tells you your dog poo’d itself after the bath, or several times throughout the groom… for god’s sake, throw her a buck or ten. I had a wheaten terrier once who, I kid you not, peed gallons of strong-smelling urine at least 6 times throughout the groom. I bathed and dried him over and over and finally gave up, telling the owner I just couldn’t continue rebathing and drying her full-coated dog. She came in, a bustle of blonde hair and fake boobs, pressed a towel to his winkie and talked to him while I finished. She had three wheatons, and tipped the two of us who groomed them $20 each. the husband brought them after that and only rarely tipped $5 for all three, but still, the extravagance of $40 left us feeling like it was worth 6 baths and 2 1/2 hours behind on our other dogs.
- Just anytime you KNOW you have a difficult dog. Difficult doesn’t always mean aggressive, it can mean a super-jumpy, jittery toy (teeny yorkies are the worst!) Or any dog that requires extra time or special attention.
- YOUR DOG IS OLDER THAN MOSES/HEAVIER THAN JONAH’S WHALE AND REFUSES TO STAND! This is extremely stressful for a busy groomer! Sometimes overweight, sometimes badly bred, sometimes arthiritic, sometimes just senile and old. If you have a big old dog and your groomer calls to say it’ll be awhile, she needs someone to help hold your 85lb australian shepherd up so she can groom her, TIP THIS GROOMER! A dog that cant/won’t stand is next to impossible to groom successfully, and if it is a large/giant breed that makes it even worse.
The moral of the story is, tip your groomer, at least occasionally, and at the very least, at christmas. If you have a good dog that you bring in every 4-8 weeks that your stylist loves, it’s okay not to tip if you can’t afford it. However, if you have a jerk dog, or one so badly matted/dirty because you only get it groomed once or twice a year… you should tip. Even if you’re paying $100 for a complete shavedown twice a year that leaves your Doodle looking like a rat. If you didn’t consider grooming into your impulse buy of a cute puppy on a street corner, you have NO ONE to blame but yourself. If you can’t afford regular grooming (every 4-8 weeks), get a low-maintenance, short-hair dog.
Treat your salon nicely and your groomer with respect. If you don’t feel comfortable with a salon, don’t get your dog groomed there. Feel free to ask questions and even interview a groomer… but do this on weekdays or call ahead and ask when would be a good time to drop in and talk to someone. Read reviews online. And learn about the grooming requirements of your breed of choice before purchasing one. A shih tzu is adorable when it’s small, but neglect grooming and you’ll have a terror on your hands by 5 months that may just need to be shaved to an ugly rat-like state.
A well-groomed pet requires the cooperation of the pet parent, the dog, and the stylist. Look around til you find the one for you.
© Charity Rael 2011. This article may be posted on other grooming websites, printed for customers, and edited for language. All I ask is author recognition and a link to this blog: Charity Rael http://funkypuppy.wordpress.com