During the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, professional pet groomers had to limit hours and set up private appointments, and many pet owners turned to home grooming. Now that much of the country is reopened, groomers report that pre-pandemic trends—shampoos, conditioners and treatments made with natural ingredients, plus those that deliver problem-solving solutions—are still strong. Pet owners also want to pamper their pets with luxurious scents and spa treatments.

“Pet parents have become more value-conscious and health-conscious,” said James Brandly, trade and marketing communications specialist for Wentzville, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., manufacturer of TropiClean pet grooming products. “They are demanding brands they can trust and support, seeking quality products that are safe and effective.”

TropiClean offers products made with naturally derived ingredients that are infused with long-lasting fragrances that gently clean the pet and leave them smelling great, Brandly added.

Trust is important between grooming product manufacturers and professional groomers, and it’s built by companies with proven track records that stand behind their products and manufacturing practices, said industry insiders.

“Groomers want companies that have been around and aren’t just a cute label with a good smell,” said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based Glo-Marr Products, which offers products to both professional and at-home groomers.

The pros want products that are safe and effective and leave a long-lasting fragrance, but they appreciate a little help from manufacturers, too.

“Groomers look for manufacturers and brands that help educate the groomers on the products they use so they, in turn, can let their clients know the reasoning behind their products of choice,” Brandly said.

Certified master groomer Lisa Correia, director of grooming services for Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies, which has pet stores in New Jersey, has witnessed the growing trend toward anthropomorphizing pets in her 30-plus years in the industry. Pet owners “want their pets to smell like humans,” Correia said. “Our customers tend to prefer more complex scents, those that smell like what you or I would wear.”

There has also been a steady increase in products that allow groomers to offer more to their clients.

“In the last few years, we’ve definitely seen our options grow,” said Liz Illg, owner of Puff and Fluff Grooming and Pet Sitting, which has locations in Arizona. “More companies are creating specialty shampoo lines to really target specific grooming needs. We’ve also noticed a huge change in what customers expect from pet products. Hypo shampoo has been something we really rely on as it’s very safe for all skin types.”

Illg seeks out products that smooth the fur and don’t irritate the skin.

“We choose shampoos that create a nice lather to allow us to cleanse fur and not leave the coat feeling dry,” Illg said. “Our customers trust us to leave their fur babies’ hair soft and smelling good, so we avoid products that leave behind oily residues.”

Elizabeth McNeilly, owner of Paws and Pamper, a grooming salon in Missoula, Mont., takes a similar approach.

“When I look for shampoos and conditioners, I am looking for a product that, for lack of a better term, feels light in my hands,” McNeilly said. “Normally, when it’s heavy in your hands or leaves a residue, the shampoo has extra additives inside.”

Cherrybrook pet stores recognize the specific needs of cats as well as dogs.

“The grooming line that we currently use does not contain any essential oils, which cats cannot metabolize,” Correia said. “The gentle formulations of this line and its lack of essential oils for its scents make it a perfect line for cat grooming.”

Cats can feel the love at Puff and Fluff, too.

“Our pet shampoos are specially made for dogs, cats, and small pets like rabbits,” Illg said. “The products are safe on fur and skin, so our cat customers love treating their kitties to a spa day too.”

Puff and Fluff also offers a waterless spa day option for cats, who can get their fur cleaned and trimmed while still feeling safe.

As more pet owners become familiar with the benefits of different ingredients and properties, they are becoming more selective. They even request specialty fragrances for certain times of the year.

“Holiday fragrances and services are very popular at our shops,” Illg said. “Especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas, our customers especially enjoy pumpkin and oatmeal products.”

To meet this demand for specialty fragrances, TropiClean initiated a Scent of the Month program to let professional groomers order unique fragrances such as pumpkin spice, gingerbread cookie and other seasonal fragrances, Brandly said, and the company makes its high-concentrate shampoos available to groomers at a dilution rate of 42:1.

Demand for natural products continues, but what that means is up for interpretation.

“The term ‘natural product’ is a marketing buzzword,” McNeilly said, warning that an ingredient can be both natural and harmful to pets and humans. Her clients trust her store to use only the highest-quality products specifically chosen for their pet’s skin and coat needs, she added.

Illg’s stores have earned client loyalty by listening to requests for certain hypoallergenic-focused shampoos and conditioning treatments.

“We take customer requests to heart, so if there’s ever a request to use natural products or a specific line of products for their pets, we’ll give it thoughtful consideration,” Illg said. “We also have some customers that bring in their own shampoo for their own preferences, which we will always use as directed.”

A Day at the Spa

As for special spa-type treatments, McNeilly said massage is becoming a high-demand service as well as laser therapy to reduce pain.

“People will add this to their groom and blueberry facials and a sea mineral scrub from Espree that helps get rid of dead skin,” she said. “I have a handful of poodle [clients] that love their toenail polish and get a new color every time they get clean feet.”

Blueberry facials are also popular at Puff and Fluff.

“Our customers love the blueberry facial,” said Illg, who offers four types of pet products in the salon’s spa services: hypoallergenic shampoos, a flea and tick shampoo and the blueberry facial shampoo and conditioner. “It makes puppy snuggles absolutely irresistible, and the smell lasts for days.”

Spa treatments are a focus for Ashley Craig Pet Products and Ashley Craig International, a manufacturer in Corona, Calif. The company makes hair masks, mud treatment products, and hypoallergenic fragrances, and uses premium ingredients such as clays, proteins and advanced conditioner copolymers.

“Ashley Craig is synonymous with premium,” said president Ruthi Ashley. “We are all about offering premium treatments and upgrades.”