How Much Should You Tip Your Dog Groomer?
Taking your dog to the groomer soon? The fur may fly if you don't tip! Here's why, when and how much to tip a dog groomer.
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There’s nothing like the snugly, fresh-smelling, pristine fur of your dog after a grooming appointment. But knowing how much to tip a dog groomer is a little less heartwarming and a little more confounding. Still, the groomer deserves a gratuity. After all, it’s an important service—and not just because it beats any shampoo job you can do at home.
Having your pet professionally groomed is actually important for its overall health, says veterinarian Ann Brudvik, DVM, of Woodhaven Veterinary Clinic in Edmonds, Washington. “Grooming the dog breeds that have a lot of fur is so important to their health in many ways. Most important, keeping excess hair away from their eyes, ears and bottom can help prevent infection, discomfort and matting, and keep skin healthy,” she explains. “Even trimming around paws can decrease the chance of foreign material getting stuck between the toes.”
Besides knowing how to bathe a dog and give a standard haircut, groomers usually bring plenty of detailed knowledge to the service. They’re skilled in hand-scissoring for longer coats, de-matting tangled fur and nail trimming. They’re even experts at cleaning a dog’s teeth and cleaning a dog’s ears. “While some pet owners are able to learn to do this themselves, most of us are so busy and do not have the experience to perform these tasks thoroughly, safely and without causing stress to your pet,” says Dr. Brudvik.
And not surprisingly, all that work deserves acknowledgment, says Diane Gottsman, a tipping etiquette expert at the Protocol School of Texas. But deciding how much to tip a dog groomer can be as confusing as knowing how much to tip a hairdresser. What’s the right amount? Whom do you tip? And what do you do if—yikes!—you hate Fido’s haircut? Get ready for a treat, because we’ve doggedly researched all the etiquette rules so you’ll know before you go. Fetch them all below.
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How much do dog grooming services cost?
“When it comes to the cost of dog grooming, it really depends on the size of the dog, the amount of work being done and where you go to get your dog groomed,” says Los Angeles–based groomer Cat Herrera, known to her one million TikTok followers as Cat the Dog Groomer. “Big-chain corporate salons, like PetSmart or Petco, are where you’ll find the least-expensive grooms, whereas private locations will be more costly, as they typically have more experience and do more in-depth haircuts.”
The average price is anywhere from $30 to $90, but that can range wildly depending on where in the country you live, the services requested, the length of your dog’s fur and the size of your dog. “As the dogs get bigger, the coats get thicker and the price goes up accordingly,” explains Herrera.
Interestingly, a major haircut (which involves shaving) might be less expensive than a “trim.” That’s because longer coats require more hand-scissoring. “Also, if a dog is matted, that can be costly, as it’s time-consuming to get the tangles out, depending on the severity,” she says, noting that’s often the case with doodle breeds.
What’s included in the cost of dog grooming?
Herrera acknowledges that many pet owners are surprised by the cost of a bath or grooming appointment. She handles sticker shock by explaining the steps that go into the service.
“In addition to working on the dog’s entire body—which includes bath, shampoo, conditioner, blow dry, brushing, nail trim, teeth brushing, ear cleaning and the actual haircut—there’s also the temperament issue,” she says. “Not all dogs sit patiently on the table while being worked on. There can be anxiety, biting, drooling, poop, pee and throw up while the groomer is trying to get the job done.”
You can sidestep stress on your pet’s part, but even that will take time, effort and/or expertise on the part of your groomer—another reason you should tip. “It’s helpful for your pet and the groomer to get acquainted early in life so the dog can learn to accept the handling involved,” says Dr. Brudvik. “Ask your groomer for advice to help you train your dog to minimize stress with the process, and ask what you should be doing at home between grooming sessions.”
Do you have to tip a dog groomer?
Absolutely, says Gottsman. “When it comes to etiquette rules, deciding how much to tip the dog groomer is similar to the tipping etiquette with a hairstylist for your child or yourself. It’s a service industry, and unless there is a no-tip policy in place at a particular store, a gratuity is very much appreciated,” she says. “After all, you’re putting trust into the hands of a pet-grooming stylist to care for someone you love.”
Herrera agrees. “Groomers provide a service to your pet that could even lead to a lifelong relationship,” she says. “And the tip shows your groomer that everything they do for your pet doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Is your groomer the owner of the salon or a sole proprietor? Tipping is still encouraged. Yes, these groomers get all the proceeds, but they likely also have significant expenses, like rent, dog-grooming supplies and maybe even support staff. “Ultimately, the choice is up to you,” says Gottsman. “You may not want to leave the usual 20%, but a small gesture of kindness certainly would not hurt.” Handing over a $5 or $10 bill works well in this situation.
How much should you tip your dog groomer?
Knowing how much to tip the dog groomer can be confusing, but Herrera urges pet owners to handle it exactly as they would when tipping a server at a restaurant: Start at 15% to 20% of the cost of your grooming services.
Let’s say your bill came to $80. You’ll want to leave a $12 to $16 tip. Consider increasing that amount if there are extenuating circumstances that complicate the appointment. Behavioral issues, really bad tangles or matting, and a dog’s double coat (characteristic of breeds like golden retrievers and huskies) may justify a heftier gratuity.
“With a larger dog or a pet with difficult needs, your groomer might spend an extra hour with them, and you would want to adjust your tip accordingly,” Gottsman says. She recommends increasing that tip to at least 25%—even up to 40% if the dog comes in with, say, prickly burrs or extreme matting.
Come holiday time, you might also consider a more generous tip—especially if you’ve been frequenting the same groomer for a while. “Often, owners and groomers develop a close relationship, as we both care and want the best for your pet,” says Herrera. “Because of this special relationship, clients sometimes leave an extra-large tip, gift cards, a snack, goodie bags, etc., during the holidays, and it’s truly heartwarming. I can remember almost every special gift I’ve ever received from old and new clients throughout my years of being a groomer.”
She suggests increasing the tip percentage to 40% during the holidays or handing your groomer a $100 gift card in addition to the normal gratuity.
Should you tip if you aren’t happy with the service?
Understandably, the tipping conundrum gets more complicated when a grooming appointment goes sideways. “Ideally, when an owner picks up their pet, the first thing I ask them is if they’re happy with how their dog looks,” says Herrera, who urges owners to speak up if they’re displeased. “Make sure to communicate your unhappiness to see if there’s anything that can be done to resolve the issue. Sometimes, it can be as simple as taking the ears a little shorter.”
In other cases, there’s no easy fix, she admits. That makes it difficult to know how much to tip the dog groomer. But here’s a pet groomer secret: You really should acknowledge the labor regardless. “If a dog groomer truly put in their best effort and couldn’t achieve what you were hoping for, you should still leave at least a small tip,” Herrera says. “They likely provided all their services to the best of their abilities.”
A tip of 10% (or more) is reasonable. She also suggests using the experience as a launchpad for constructive conversation. “Your groomer can make notes of how to achieve the look you’re going for in a future appointment or might even be able to suggest someone who suits you better.”
Other tips for tipping your groomer
Before your pup’s next appointment, make sure you’re aware of these tipping best practices:
- Consider tipping even when there’s no charge for a service. Just as you can pop into the salon for a bang trim, you can bring your dog for a between-appointment nail clipping or whisker trim. “You should leave something as a courtesy—at least $5,” says Gottsman.
- Don’t forget the compliments. As important as it is to speak up when you’re unhappy, it’s equally important to give positive strokes for a job well done.
- Use social media to sing their praises. Free publicity is super valuable and a perfect move if you can’t afford to leave a generous cash tip for your dog groomer. Tell your friends and spread the word, especially with a tagged photo of your freshly groomed dog on social. It’s one of the best ways to show appreciation for a job well done.