When I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of taking my Labrador Retriever to the groomer, she suggested I shouldn’t do it, out of concern that the COVID-19 virus could pass through her fur if the groomer was infected, or get on the leash, or pass from the groomer to me when I dropped the dog off.
My friend’s concerns are likely common, but experts say it is safe to get your dog groomed.
“We have no evidence to suggest that it’s possible for the virus to spread on fur,” says William E. Sander, assistant professor in the department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a member of The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Public Health.
“Right now, what we’re saying is that there is minimal risk in passing the leash back to you,” Sander says. “They are showing more and more that the risk increases the longer you are in close contact with a person. They’re talking 10 to 15 minutes of close contact.”
If you’re concerned, though, you and your groomer can take steps to reduce risk.
Jeff Reynolds, spokesperson for the National Dog Groomers Association of America, says “Each groomer must follow their, state, county, and city laws.” The association’s guidelines for opening up say that while face masks are not mandatory “it would be beneficial for groomers to wear them and to request their clients do the same.”
When contacting a groomer, ask if they follow these guidelines:
- Spray or wipe clothing/aprons with a disinfectant immediately after taking a pet from the owner.
- Use no-touch payment system or ask to have cash placed on the counter instead of directly handed over.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after dealing with a client.
- Allow enough time between appointments to thoroughly clean and disinfect between pets and clients.
- If the client has a collar and lead, place it in a zip-lock bag and return it to the client upon retrieval of the pet. Use kennel leads and disinfect them between pets.
- Meet the groomer outside the mobile unit and hand off the pet there, practicing good protocol with leads and collars.
Petco says it has restructured grooming schedules to help groomers maintain a safe distance from each other, leaving 15- to 20-minute intervals between grooming appointments so work spaces can be cleaned and disinfected. According to the company’s website, pet parents are asked to maintain a safe distance between themselves and others by waiting outside the salon if another pet is being checked in and, when possible, scheduling pick-up times to limit the number of people waiting for dogs.
At Bark-N-Bubbles Dog Grooming Salon in Suffield, Connecticut, owner Leidy Diaz said the groomers – just herself and her mother – are wearing face masks and gloves, washing their hands between clients, and spraying Lysol on the leash and on all surfaces.
“We go outside to get the dog. They can pay over the phone or give a check or cash if they want,” she says.
One of her clients, Karen Doran, of South Hadley, Massachusetts, who takes her 14-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Harley, there, says she likes that they are currently taking only one dog at a time.
In Gallatin, Tennessee, Stephanie Ferris Berry says she felt comfortable in March and April when she used a mobile groomer, The Dog Spa, for her 11-year-old spaniel mix, Shelby. She prefers it to going to a groomer.
“There was no sitting in cage, no dropping her off and getting her. She comes to the door and you hand her the leash. We did all of our chatting in advance,” she says.
On Facebook, Stephanie Barry, a reporter for The Republican and Masslive.com in Springfield, Massachusetts, posted a photo of an aggrieved-looking Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on a bed. Her cutline: Resentful look after at-home grooming. Times are tough.
“Jeff (her husband) and I did it. Him — clippers, me — combing and scissors. Watched a couple YouTube videos on the breed first, which were helpful.”
They have two 3-year-olds, William and Louie.
“I made the decision not to go back to Petco because there are just too many people streaming in and out of there,” she wrote. “Very nice people who were kind to my dogs. But why not avoid the crowds in this climate?”
However you do it, Sander says grooming is good for a dog’s health, though during this crisis you could cut back somewhat.
By the way, I made that appointment to take Maddie to the groomer, figuring that a clean dog is a happy dog.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.