It is all too common that I encounter pet owners calling me to book an appointment but at the last minute say, "This is my dog's first groom". I hesitate to reply with, "and how old is your dog?". Most commonly the answers I receive are, "oh, she just turned a year" or; "my dog is 5". I can already picture each and every groom by the way the conversation unravels. Having your dog groomed early is equally as important as having them visit the vet for their first shots.
Quite a number of the dogs I have groomed have NEVER been groomed and are older. Their first experience is not only terrifying but they have never been exposed to the tools and skills necessary to complete the job needed. Nevermind the fact that these dogs are terrified of the grooming process, they are usually matted, dirty, flea infested and so on. So when is the right time to introduce your puppy to a groomer?
Of course shots are necessary for a dog's health and upbringing and are recommended to not be in high traffic areas until at least their second round of shots at 11 weeks. This recommendation is put in place in order to avoid diseases like Parvo, Giardia and other contractable diseases that can just as well be tracked on our very shoes. The best time to introduce your puppy to a groomer is 14 weeks. This visit does not have to be a full out groom. A puppy's first visit can easily be just a nail trim but the whole point of a slow introduction is to allow the dog to realize grooming is a routine and not a punishment.
Dogs being introduced to a groomer too late commonly show signs of fear aggression, bladder incontinence and anxiety related skin issues. It is not fair to wait with your puppy, even if you think your short coated lab does not need grooming or you yourself can groom your malamute. There will come a day when you won't want to groom your dog yourself and visiting a groomer will be done out of convenience for you, however your dog will not understand what is happening. If cost is a worry and the reason you're avoiding the groomer, talk to your groomer and see if they will be willing to work something out with you. Most groomers would rather see the dog in good condition than be scared to take a bath.