Japan seems enthusiastic when it comes to spending on pets. Specifically, the dog grooming culture, with breeds such as the Miniature Poodle. Canine fashion events can be seen advertised to be hosted all the way in April 2023. And in 2020, Japanese dog owners in general claimed to have spent over ￥3,000 JPY ($21 USD) every month on grooming fees for their dogs.
Mako Wade is the owner of a Toy Poodle named Gali. She claims to spend anywhere between “¥9,000 to ¥18,000 JPY (between $65 and $130 USD) on monthly grooming, depending on the salon,” . She even remembers buying a fashionable coat for the winter from Green Dog “costing around ¥10,000” ($72 USD).
Gali has even been to a “training school that also offers a dog hotel service for ¥7,000-9,000 ($50 - $65 USD) a night.”
Japan has a large abundance for smaller and purebred dogs, so it’s not surprising that services are so popular and expensive, but what makes these treatments so special?
What Do Grooming Visits Entail?
This month, Gali was taken to Doggie-Do in Azabu for his grooming session.
He received a basic package which included a shampoo session, a haircut, and a final shampoo session, coming to a total of ¥16,500 JPY ($119 USD).
So what makes a package more expensive? “There are grooming packages, and the number of treatments in the package will increase if it’s an expensive package”, says Gali’s groomer, Miss A.
Miss A elaborates. “For example, take shampooing. We can use carbonated water to shampoo the dog. There are conditioning treatments, face masks, and massages. When the package becomes bigger, the price goes up because of the time and treatment that's put into it”.
For his basic package, Gali was groomed for about 3 hours. Wade was even given a card with his photograph after the final session, along with service details such as the date, treatment type, and her dog’s weight.
The breeds of dogs coming to the Doggie-Do store for grooming “depends on the shop's location,” says Miss A. “For this location, I see a majority of poodles and mixed breeds such as the Maltese Poodle mix, and the Chihuahua Poodle mix.”
Miss A qualifies her response, however. “It will be different depending on the location of the store in Japan, or even other shops within Minato Ward. The breed that is becoming popular is Poodle and Bichon,” she explains.
Safe and Enjoyable Grooming
Aside from the sense of relief for the owner and dog after a grooming session, what pushes groomers to enjoy working on dogs such as Gali and others?
“When a dog comes in every month and the fur is long, by the time it’s groomed and trimmed there is a transformation, and I enjoy seeing that transformation,” says Miss A, adding: “Also, I get to see the different characters of every dog and get to know them.”
Every now and then there is a cause for concern if a certain style of grooming is necessary, or even harmful to the dog. However Miss A states that a groomer will “look at the condition and state of the dog's scalp when it comes in. When an owner comes in and wants to do something that doesn’t agree with the coat and condition of the dog, we will refuse it.” She adds, however, “On the other hand, if there is something that we want to encourage because of the condition of the dog, we will recommend it”.
In the case of Gali, he received extra shaving on his face and paws to keep him more clean at the request of Wade. The cost: an extra ¥800 JPY ($5 USD).
How Does One Become a Groomer Anyway?
Saya Shimai attended Aoyama Kennel School on weekends starting in 2018 and graduated in 2020.
She recalls the selection process as easy, with “no difficulty in being selected to enter the school. I had to say why I was interested in becoming a groomer and going to school.” Shimai says she wanted to attend the school because of a love for dogs.
Currently, she grooms her own dog, a miniature dachshund, “as well as Gali and another miniature dachshund,” she says.
Shimai explained the main teachings of the grooming school. “At every session I needed to take care of at least one dog, starting with a shampooing and brushing, followed by another shampoo session, nail clipping, and ear cleaning, and finally, a full body cut. And sometimes decorations with ribbons.”
The required course content included “48 different subjects to learn and each subject was about 60 to 90 minutes long”.
During training, Shimai recalls spending “four to five hours” in each session with a dog, during which “a teacher would come in periodically to intervene and teach me skills.”
She continues to explain the different certificate awards you can achieve at the school. “The lowest license is a ‘C,’ where people are able to shampoo dogs, after training for 47 hours and 12 dogs logged.”
A ‘B’ license, she tells us, “means you can shampoo and cut a dog's hair, [after training for] 155 hours and 33 dogs logged.”
Very specifically, “A license ‘A’ means you can cut and dry a Toy Poodle's hair, which is the most difficult because it's curly, with 132 hours [of training] and 32 dogs logged.”
Taking your Dog for Grooming
Of course, there are countless dog groomers in Japan, with a variety of price tags. The takeaway is to be prepared to spend money on your dog's cleanliness, and choose a hairstyle that will benefit your dog.
If you have a Poodle of any kind, Shimai points to current trends. “A style that's trending today is the round head shape where the hair on the head is left poofy. But the fur gets tangled and painful because it's long, so I don't recommend that.”
She continues, however, saying: “If they are brushed at home and taken care of, (the round head shape) is okay”, reminding owners that care for your dogs outside the salon is just as important as professional grooming.
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AUTHOR: Audrey Vanessa Yoko Dumas