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Do You Tip Your Groomer, Dog Walker, or Pet Sitter?

Tipping in the pet-services industry is not a settled thing, so I asked around and got some pointers. What do you do?

 |  Dec 11th 2012  |   93 Contributions


A few months ago, Dogster community manager Lori Malm adopted a senior Pekingese named Beasley. (Actually, she fostered the special-needs pup first and just couldn’t let go, which you can read all about in her touching Doghouse Confessional.) 

Lori recently brought Beasley to The Pawber Shop in San Francisco and was so pleased with the results, she left a 20 percent tip, pleasantly surprising the groomer. Surprised herself to hear that 20 percent tips are not the norm for a grooming job well done, Lori turned to the Dogster community she manages and asked, what is the customary tip?

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Beasley before. So wet!

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Beasley after. So adorable!

Groomers explained that tipping tends to be all over the place, from nothing left at all to tips of even more than 20 percent. Pet parents who do tip weighed in, but didn't give percentages. They did say they keep the particular pet in mind when tipping: the more difficult or dirty the dog, the higher the tip.

I have zero experience tipping dog groomers -- my Boston Terriers jump right in the bathtub to get the ordeal over with ASAP. It sounds as if many pet parents are unsure about appropriate tipping within the pet services industry.

With that in mind, I went in search of further insight and direction on tipping groomers, walkers, and sitters, both year-round and during the holidays.

Tipping your dog groomer

Steve Strauss and his brother Rich own Wag N’ Wash, a self- and full-service grooming salon and store with locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Steve had this to say about the status quo at their salons:

"Generally, everyone tips, whether they're getting full-service grooming or washing their own dog and getting help from our people, who make sure they have the right brush or enough towels," he said. "It's typically 15 to 20 percent, but it's not unusual for someone to bring in two or three dogs and have such a great experience that they leave an even more substantial tip."

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A Wag 'N Wash groomer at work.

Steve said they do not have a tip jar, as he feels tipping should be a token of appreciation, not an expectation. Instead, they ask customers if they would like to leave a tip during checkout.

"It's completely up to the customer," he said. "A tip does not change the level of the groom. They are still going to get a great groom if they come back. I think it's great if people want to do it. If they don't want to, that's okay, too."

In terms of providing guidance on the percentage to tip if warranted, Steve said, “Look at it like service at a restaurant or a hair salon. If you're happy with the job, what percentage of tip do you leave?”

During the holidays, Steve said that regular customers often tip the cost of the grooming to give extra thanks for the level of service provided year-round. Emily Post would approve. The Emily Post website recommends exactly that or a gift of equal value.

Tipping your dog walker

One of the pet parents who responded to Lori’s query in the Dogster grooming forum offered a perspective about tipping dog walkers. Noah's human said:

"When I worked as a dog walker/pet sitter, I was tipped very frequently. I had one customer who would tip me $5 every single day, and many others who would leave me $5 to $10 at the end of every week. They were always very generous around the holidays, and most knew when my birthday was. But I suppose that that is a different sort of relationship than one has with a groomer, since I saw these dogs most every day of the week, knew the owners better, and was being trusted with access to their house.”

While Emily Post does not make a recommendation regarding year-round tipping of a dog walker, the website does suggest giving one week's pay or a gift of equal value during the holidays. DogWalker.com concurs, but also recommends tipping 10 to 20 percent throughout the year if your dog walker goes above and beyond agreed-upon duties.

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Dog walkers help pet parents through the puppy months.

Tipping your pet sitter

In this area, I do have a bit of personal experience. My parents now take Spot and Dolly whenever I travel, but before I lived nearby I left my pups with a pet sitter who kept them in her home. I always tipped at least 20 percent and was happy to do so, as knowing they were safe and sound and sleeping at the foot of her son’s bed each night allowed me to vacation without worry. Pet Sitters International states that 10 to 20 percent proves the norm among those who do tip.

As to whether to tip your pet sitter during the holidays, I would give a holiday gift of 20 percent of a typical bill if I used a pet sitter regularly throughout the year. PetSitUSA recommends a minimum of 15 percent of the total bill if your trip falls during the holiday season, more if you also use the pet sitter year-round.

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Spot doesn't mind at all when I leave him with the pet sitters: my parents. They have a pool!

So, it seems the customary tip in the pet services industry ranges from 10 to 20 percent year-round, with level of satisfaction determining where the tip falls in that range or even above it. During the holidays, the recommendations are a tip equaling the cost of one session for a groomer, one week for a walker, and 15 percent or higher for a pet sitter.

Again, I tend to tip on the high end because my pups are family, or as Lori put it so well in the Dogster grooming forum:

"Not only does the groomer make Beasley beautiful, comfortable, and healthier, but I am trusting Beasley in the groomer's care for a few hours. It’s a lot of responsibility! I am happy to tip when all of this is done well."

What are your thoughts, pet parents? Do you tip your dog groomer, walker, or sitter? How much? Groomers, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts as well. Let’s talk! 

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