“Hi Michell. I am considering asking my boss to add a teeth brushing service so that I can improve my income. I would like to feel confident that the service I am providing is healthy for the dogs and worth charging for. Do you have any suggestions?” – Elizabeth M.

There are many add-on services that can improve the dog’s oral health and your income!  Some salons offer a service as basic as a minty mouth spray and a dental chew sold as a “breath freshening treatment”.

Others have a business arrangement with an anesthesia-free teeth cleaning company to see patients periodically at the salon and some offer tooth scaling. These are just a few examples. There are many options.

Know your laws. Some states and countries do not allow tooth scaling. Do not use human tooth paste because dogs do not spit, and human toothpaste is not edible.

Remember that you are not providing a service that replaces veterinary care. With even the best tools, products and skills, issues with the dog’s enamel, tarter build-up under the gum line, periodontal disease, broken teeth and abscessed teeth, to name a few, must betreated by a veterinarian. The owner needs to be especially diligent about having the dog’s mouth examined thoroughly at all veterinary visits. Your oral hygiene services may actually help to mask a problem.

Educate yourself on canine oral anatomy. Learn how to recognize loose teeth, abscessed teeth, mouth tumors and periodontal disease. Please know how many teeth there are and what they are called. If you search the internet for “chart of dog teeth” there are many to print out and study. Consider offering a dental report card with a chart of the teeth. Barkleigh offers Pet Dental Kards complete with a dental chart and space for the pet’s dental history and comments. This way you can circle the effected tooth, teeth, or area. The owner might use that to inform the veterinarian of potential problems. Try to foster a good working relationship with the local veterinarians. We all want to have healthy companions.

Know that there are viruses that can be transmitted orally from dog to dog. Be sure to disinfect all tools and your hands between dogs. Canine Oral Papilloma Virus, more commonly referred to as dog warts, is one that can be transmitted orally. These warts often have a fleshy, cauliflower-like appearance and can be transmitted on your hands and tools as well as bowls and dog toys. If the dog has an obvious case you can reject it in the lobby. If you do not discover the virus until you are already working in the mouth, be sure to disinfect everything and inform the owner. In this case you may only find one or two warts. Dog Flu and Bordetella are transmitted through the air but also from infected objects, such as tooth brushes.

There are a wide variety of tools and products to choose from. You can choose anything from liver flavored toothpaste and a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger to ultrasonic teeth cleaning machines. An internet search for “dog dental care products” finds over fifty options.

Choosing a product or product line to start your service is important. The client needs to understand what they are paying for. Product lines that offer pamphlets add legitimacy to your service and can be informative. Try to choose a product line that offers follow-up home care and sell it to the client for added revenue! Examples of follow-up home care might be a daily anti-bacterial spray to freshen breath and help periodontal disease and/or dental chews.

Developing the skills to work in a dog’s mouth takes time and practice just like every other aspect of grooming that you have conquered so far. Brushing the outsides of the teeth is not so hard with the exception of the bottom molars. The inside takes a bit more practice and dog training. The good news is that the insides of the teeth tend to stay cleaner naturally. But this does not mean they can be ignored; just that they are typically less work to maintain. Try rolling up a wash-rag or hand towel, and let them bite on one side while you work on the other.

When deciding what to charge, consider what you currently charge per hour for grooming. Make sure that you are making more or at least the same amount as you do for any other aspect of grooming. You will regret undercharging for the service. No one gains from an add-on service that actually pays less than simply grooming the dog. Choose the time you are willing and able to spend on the service and charge accordingly. Also remember to account for supplies and education when choosing your price.

The good news is Elizabeth, no matter what service you choose, the oral exam alone, is worth charging for! Any information about oral health is valuable to the owners of our clients! ✂

Michell is a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer.  She is the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards.  She is a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA.  She is the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year.  She is an educator for Andis Clipper Company.  She has been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000.

And she grooms to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]