Lisa Berkowitz is the first to admit that her dog is high maintenance.
Her name is Sheba, like the Queen of Sheba. And when it comes to decorating, they definitely live up to the name,” says Berkowitz.
Eight-year-old Sheba goes to a groomer for a haircut every four to six weeks. Until 2019, Berkowitz and Sheba lived in downtown Sydney, where getting a grooming appointment was easy enough. Then they moved to Perth and everything changed. After a lot of questions, Berkowitz finally found a nanny she wanted to book with — but she couldn’t get an appointment.
“I couldn’t even get her to agree to put me on the waiting list,” she says. It wasn’t until after the dog sitter, a longtime client of her breeder’s, that Sheba got her reservation.
“Once you’re in, you’re in…but I literally only had to book an appointment every month until July next year. She says she’s had clients booked through to Christmas next year.”
“It’s brutal… It’s really hard to get into a nanny.”
Berkowitz’s story is not unique. Australia has seen a 20% increase in dog ownership during the pandemic, but the number of pet industry professionals has not increased incrementally.
“One million additional dogs have been added to Australian homes due to Covid,” says veterinarian Dr Alex Haynes, citing a report from Animal Medicines Australia. “Every aspect of pet care, be it vets or groomers, is struggling to keep up with demand.”
The problem is greatly exacerbated by the type of dogs that Australians buy. Low-shedding dogs like bichons, poodles, and poodle crossbreeds have higher grooming needs than many other breeds.
Dogs with curly, low, or non-shedding fur—part of the appeal for potential owners wanting to avoid a home covered in dog hair—require grooming every six to eight weeks. Without regular sessions, their hair risks yellowing, which is a painful and dangerous scenario for a dog.
All over Australia there was Boom in oodle dogs The resulting shortage of personal care items is of concern to many in the industry.
“It’s been a problem since poodle crosses became more popular,” says Darrell Grinsell, an independent dog breeder based in Brisbane. “But that [really] It became an issue during Covid, because a lot of people got dogs. That puts a lot of pressure on us.”
Matte fur feels like “prison fur” or “wearing a cardigan all the time you can’t get off,” Greensell says. If left on for too long, the mat can cause painful blisters on the dog’s skin, and may require anesthesia and a shave at the vet. Greensill also believes that dogs are at risk of dying from heatstroke if they are trapped in the tangled fur during a hot Australian summer.
Greensill—who doesn’t want to include details of his business because, he says, “I find it difficult enough to deal with the clients I currently have”—believes that potential poodle-cross owners need to understand what they’re signing up for.
“Breeders don’t properly educate and vet poodle owners. They just want to get $5,000 for a puppy and go their merry way,” he says. “So they don’t tell them enough about the actual requirements for combing and brushing… They don’t tell them the frequency of grooming required, or the cost of shaving, which is usually $80 to $120.”
Greensill, who is more focused on providing a benefit to his furry clients than trying a grooming style, wants owners to understand that when it comes to a dog’s coat, aesthetics aren’t the most important consideration. Looking “fluffy” can be a “painful cost to the dog,” he says.
Janie and Martin Rose, national franchise owners of the Blue Wheelers dog washing and grooming services, agree that Australia is facing a dog groomer shortage. Between 2018 and 2022, our mobile dog wash service has grown from four units to 23.
Echoing Greensill, they say the increase in dog ownership in general, and Oddles specifically, are two factors. “I think the nature of the dog changed the nature of the request,” says Janie.
They say the problem is particularly evident in wealthier suburbs.
It’s not just cross-haired poodle owners that are in high demand. Low maintenance dogs are turning more to groomers, Janie says, “because there are still so many people working from home.”
“They see the dog more, they smell the dog more, they’re around the dog more and they realize that dog needs washing.”
A shortage of grooming kits has led to more dogs showing up in emergencies for anesthesia, says veterinarian Hines, so their entire coat can be removed.
“Unfortunately, it’s something we see on a fairly regular basis,” Heinz says. “The worst of them, unfortunately, is where people try and do [the grooming] at home and accidentally cut the dog. So what I actually see in an emergency situation is that a lot of times, people are either too embarrassed to take me to a groomer, or they’re like, “I’m going to do this myself.” And then they cut off the dog’s skin.
She says DIY jobs should never be attempted on your dog, because it’s “too easy” to accidentally cut them. “It can be really difficult to judge where the skin ends and where the coat begins. I would clip a dog that has been clipped by the owners a few times a month, probably.”
If you can’t get a groomer on time, Hines says the best temporary measure is regular combing, which prevents or limits the amount of matting. Routinely combing a dog can also alert owners when something is wrong.
To comb your dog, Greensell says, “Get a grooming comb, section the fur down to the skin and try combing through the fur. If you can’t do that, your dog has matted. If your dog gets tangled, he’s not comfortable dealing with.”
Greensell urges potential pet owners to “think very seriously about maintenance requirements” when deciding on a dog. Consider whether you should buy a puppy at all — there are dogs in shelters; there are a lot of dogs that need homes. But after they’ve been through that, if they’re determined to buy a Poodle, make appointments for the dogs. [in advance]. “
He also hopes that more people will enter the pet-sitting industries, so that all dogs can get the services they need.
“It’s really something that’s problematic,” Heinz says. “We don’t have enough groomers; we don’t have enough vets. And there are too many dogs out there.”
The cost of grooming dogs is low shedding
80-120 USD: Typical cost for an appointment with a dog groomer
6-8 weeks: Recommended interval between grooming appointments
3000 Dollars: Veterinarian Dr. Alex Hines says owners need to be prepared to spend on their dog in his first year, for initial appointments and vaccinations.
2000 dollars: Haynes annual estimate of maintenance expenses each year thereafter
“thousands of dollars”Cost of taking a matted dog to a vet for emergency anesthesia and grooming
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