The first and most obvious thing to find out from a potential groomer is if there are any restrictions to the dogs they groom. Some groomers only take certain breeds or sizes of dogs. Some only take certain temperments. Yet still, some groomers do not take badly matted pets. So, before you move on to finding out more information it is good to ask these things. If the groomer does accept the size, breed, temperment, and condition of your dog, then move on to step 2.
Find out how long the groomer has been grooming and what kind of education he or she has. There are many excellent groomers who have no formal education and some very good groomers that are just starting out. What you are looking for is someone who has gone the extra mile to have some knowledge. There are correspondence grooming schools, videos, books, apprenticeships, online learning and associations. If the groomer you are talking to truly cares about what they are doing, then chances are they will have taken part in at least two of these learning opportunities.
Another important question to ask your potential groomer is if you can have a few references. If they have some customers that are happy with the way their pets are groomed and treated by the groomer, then the groomer should be happy to supply one or two phone numbers. Ask the references if their pet appears to be treated well and if the pet has ever had any signs of abuse.
Some grooming customers may be tempted to ask to stay for the first grooming, but I would suggest to stay in the next room if you would like to stay for the first grooming. The reason for this is that pets often misbehave in the presense of their owners, whereas oftentimes they will be very nonchalant if the owner is not there. You will still be able to hear any abuse that may take place in the next room. Dogs can and will bark and whine, and that should have no ill effect on the groomer. You just want to make sure the groomer doesn’t yell or hit the dog. Often, praise to the dog only takes place after grooming, as lots of exitement during grooming can lead to misbehaviour.
Also, understand that a good experience for you dog is better than perfection in grooming. If your dog is a squirmer, it is better for your dog to be safe (the groomer does have scissors and clippers!), than to have an absolutely perfect haircut. Once your dog gets used to grooming, the grooms will likely improve. Also, if a dog has mats it is much more beneficial to clip the hair completely off, as dematting is very painful, and living with mats are very painful as well.
If you follow these steps, you are sure to find the perfect groomer for you. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to try a few different ones until you and your dog find a good match. Don’t focus too much on pricing. If you can afford it, a more expensive groomer is worth a bad grooming experience.