“How can I find an Expert Scottie groomer?”

By Carole Fry Owen (© 2003)

     Finding someone to groom a Scottie well is formidable. Hula skirts, flags on tails,rat tails, gloppy ear tufts, Schnauzer eyebrows, Westie ears, Poodle feet, chopped furnishings and skinned off topcoat are common groomer mistakes.

     When Barney Bush’s puppy coat grew–and grew, the Scottie world worried he’d be another unkempt Fala. The day Barney bounded across the White House lawn in a neat trim, there was a collective sigh of relief.

     How did Laura and George Bush discover Barney’s groomer?  The story includes a Congressman, the President’s sister, a lobbyist and Laura Bush’s Chief of Staff.  Strictly word-of-mouth.

     “I’m honored to groom the “First Dogs,” says Scottie breeder Helen Krisko.  “The President and Mrs. Bush seem pleased with what I do.  They are so thrilled when they can talk about their dogs, and particularly Barney.”

     Krisko is a successful dog show exhibitor.  She grooms, trains and shows her own Scotties.  She also has a grooming shop that seems more like a beauty parlor in her Bethesda, MD, home.  “I book by appointment time. Each dog has my undivided attention,” explains Krisko.  “When Barney comes I make sure nobody is scheduled before his arrival, and that nobody will arrive near the time I finish.  The atmosphere is relaxing.”

     “I am the only one who has ever groomed Barney, and he’s been a pure delight.  When he was a young puppy, I played with him while on the table, and he has never had to fear anything here.  Lots of dog smells, lots of toys to play with!  Before he leaves he has an acre to explore–and, of course, leave his mark.”

     The same word-of-mouth technique the Bushes used can help you find an experienced Scottie groomer.  Breeders of noted dogs including Ch. Sandgreg’s Editorial and Ch. Sandgreg’s Second Edition (Barbara DeSaye) and Ch. Caevnes Devil’s Due (Jane Phelan) groom a few companion Scotties.  That’s like Rembrandt painting your dog’s portrait. It’s worth locating experts and meeting their expectations.  Some specialists require clients to bring dogs bathed, brushed and ready to trim. Others don’t do nails.  Some may trim only one dog a day.

     Few Scottie breeders and exhibitors groom for a living. They do it because they like the owners and the dogs–and a little extra money.  Sharon May, Wichita, KS, is an example. She’s in an office weekdays, but every Saturday she grooms three or four Scotties.  Word-of-mouth once more: from vets, Scottie Rescue, breeders, other clients.  “They just find me,” marvels May.  “It’s the strangest thing. It’s been going on for 20 years.”

     “Whenever possible, have a breeder groom your companion Scottie,” urges 40-year veteran Jeannie Passmore, Maple Valley, WA.  “A breeder knows how to handle a Scottie.  Your Scottie will look a Scottie instead of a Poodle. A breeder knows what is normal for a Scottie, so can recognize a physical or mental problem that may need to be addressed.  It is worth it to drive a little further to use a breeder.”

     “If you do go to a grooming shop, stay with your dog,” urges Passmore. There is no reason for the dog to stay all day long.  Most grooming takes no more than an hour, particularly if you bathe your dog yourself.  A groomer is less apt to mistreat the dog with you there!”

     After a breeder, best bet is an all-breed groomer who knows and enjoys terriers.  “Ask if groomers have a specialized interest in terriers or if they have show experience,” suggests breeder Sonya Neve.  “Call vets and ask who does a good job on terriers.”

     Neve lives in rural Colorado.  She is proof good Scottie groomers work in unlikely places. The best way to describe Swink, CO, is “no street lights.”  Yet terrier owners find her.  Her clientele is one-third terriers. Some owners drive 120 to 150 miles, many others one hour from Pueblo.

No “Terrier Clips”

     “Avoid anybody who volunteers to give your dog a terrier clip,” specifies Scottie/Westie specialist Daphne Branzell, San Antonio, TX. Those groomers think all terriers look alike. Ask for references.  Say ‘May I call someone whose Scottie you do?’ Then go look.”

     To judge the quality of a groomer, you first must know what a properly groomed Scottie looks like. Study pictures. Decide how closely your Scottie’s trim measures up. Take photos to your groomer and point out possible changes.

     As for pictures, Maverick, cover dog on the latest STCA Bagpiper (V2002: #4) provides a perfect side view.  My favorite recent head studies for grooming are Dr. Watson and Eliot Ness on Bagpiper covers V2001: #1 and #4. Barney’s picture on Good Housekeeping’s February cover is excellent, too.

     “I love it when people want their dogs to look like the breed,” says Alicia Bismore who grooms Zaron Van Meter’s Sigmund and Mackenzie in Ohio.  Bismore is a professional who welcomes a photo if there are fine points she could improve.

     “Ask if groomers are certified,” suggests Van Meter.  They’ve learned “not only proper grooming techniques and breed cuts, but how to handle all temperaments. Grooming should be pleasant, not abusive.”  Her groomer Bismore trained at a grooming school, worked with show groomers, is certified by International Professional Groomers, attends dog shows and enters grooming competitions.

     Form follows function, even in grooming.  Example: Scottie’s with backs slicked off with a #10 blade are not correct.  Heavy coats protected them in the Highlands!  Size 4 or 5 blades or clip-on attachments produce longer, natural topcoats.

     Hand stripping?  It’s expensive and takes lots of time.  It’s too much for most pets.  Lucky you though if your groomer cares enough to pull tail hair to maintain a thick, sturdy carrot tail.

Life or Death

     The groomer you choose is a matter of life or death.  Betty and John Gauntt’s nine-year-old Scottie Maggie died last summer after falling off a groomer’s table in Houston.  Shop insurance eventually covered $4,253.40 in veterinary bills, but was small consolation.  Betty is grooming the Gauntt’s new puppy herself.

     “Grooming is not a regulated business.  Normally no local, state or federal laws apply,” points out Georgia Harris, AKC terrier judge, retired professional handler and longtime Oklahoma groomer. “Check out a grooming shop’s reputation.  Easiest way is to call vet clinics that do not have their own groomers.”  Better Business Bureau is another checkpoint.

     “Are cages/pens clean, table tops wiped between dogs, and blades in cleaning solutions?” asks breeder Pam Wilson, Austin.  “What you expect in your own salon, expect in a grooming shop.”

     Watch when you can. “If a groomer goes off and leaves a dog on the table, that’s a serious problem,” cautions Daphne Branzell.  Does the groomer manage your Scottie carefully around other dogs? We all know Scotties.

     “Ask if the groomer uses tranquilizers,” adds Sonya Neve.  “Otherwise, your dog could be tranquilized without your permission.”  Also, ask if cage dryers are used.  They can be dangerous.

     Norma and Louis Mitchell, Lubbock, TX, win my prize for the length they go for expert grooming.  They developed high expectations when their Hallelujah was Scottish Terrier Club of America’s #1 Scottie.  Norma prefers a Brillo Pad Scottie, and that kind of grooming is hard to come by in West Texas.

    The Mitchells finally bought a bus conversion because of their dogs. Now Halle and eight Scotties head for Bonnie Briar Kennel in Sun Valley, CA, and Bergit Coady Kabel, the famous Scottish Terrier handler.  It’s 2,250 miles round trip!  Sometimes the Mitchells fly one of Bergit’s groomers to Lubbock.

     “I know many people think it is frivolous,” admits Norma, “but our Scotties are our family, and we just think of it as a vacation without going to Disneyland. The dogs all love the bus.  There is nothing better than having all of our dogs groomed!”

     I’ll second that.  A correctly groomed Scottie will be ready for a day’s work anywhere–your home or the Highlands.

How to Find Scottie Experts

  1. Ask your dog’s breeder.
  2. Check with Scottie friends.
  3. Query area veterinarians.
  4. Meet exhibitors at dog shows.
  5. Call area all-breed kennel clubs.
  6. Check with the nearest regional Scottie Club.
  7. Ask STCA which members are near you.




–  STCA information chairman Marilyn Lindsay, 3815 West National Rd., Springfield, OH 45504-3518; ph. (937) 323-6537; e-mail wildwind@prodigy.net .
Ask Marilyn Lindsay for STCA members near you.
–  STCA website: http://clubs.akc.org/stca/regionalclubs.htm
–  STCA Grooming Manual:  Cost, $8; order from  Tina Sadovsky, 2885 Monroe St., Riverside, CA 92504
–  The Bagpiper: Single issue, $10;  Charles Stevens, Circulation Manager, 53 White Rock Road, Yarmouthport, MA 02675


© Copyright 2003, Carole Fry Owen

Article first published in the MacAnswers Column of Great Scots Magazine, March, April, 2003 issue.