The dog days of summer may be rapidly upon us, but shaggy-coated pups hoping a cool cut are in luck. Bradenton’s newest dog grooming salon, Dirty Dog Grooming, opened just in time to provide summer makeovers that help our furry friends stay cool and fashionable.
The salon features affordable cuts for dogs of all breeds and sizes, starting at $35. In addition to full grooming, fanciful pups can even have their toenails painted as part of a pampering treatment.
Salon owner Sandy LaDuke, is a Terra Ceia Island native and Palmetto High School graduate who spent several years in commercial painting before the struggling construction industry prompted her to pursue a new career.
LaDuke, an animal lover, recognized a need for a dog groomer in northwest Bradenton, so she opened the 5306 Manatee Ave. grooming salon in April with longtime friend, fellow Manatee County native and Palmetto High School alumna, Cathy Poynter.
“Our mission is pretty simple," LaDuke said. "We do what we say we’re going to do, give our customers great service for their money, and we handle their dogs with love and care.”
Poynter, the salon’s official groomer, brings more than 30 years of experience to the business, having worked in pet salons throughout Manatee County and in Georgia since she was 18 years old.
In addition to extensive experience in grooming salons, Poynter said she learned a great deal about the trade by providing private grooming services for AKC show dogs such as Papillions, Salukis and Afghan Hounds. In the 1990s, Poynter finished a Champion Afghan Hound, “Cypress Sly Fox.”
Poynter’s expertise is evident when she interacts with her furry customers, putting even the most skittish and behaviorally challenging dogs at ease while she gives them the haircut of a lifetime. After spending time working in large and busy salons, Poynter says she prefers the intimate feeling at Dirty Dog Grooming, where all of her clients are kenneled in the room where she does the grooming.
“The last shop I worked at in Georgia was huge, and I’ve found that I really prefer having the dogs in the room with us,” Poynter explained.
“If they make a noise, it’s nice to be able to turn around and look to see if there’s something they’re hollering about or if they’re just plain hollering, rather than having to run to the back to make sure everything is okay," she said. "It just puts both the dogs and me more at ease.”
Dirty Dogs Grooming is small, well lit and most importantly, LaDuke and Poynter put heavy emphasis on keeping the environment impeccably clean. They also make a point to schedule the grooming sessions in a way that will reunite happy dogs with their owners in a timely manner to keep stress levels at a minimum.
“We try to work on a rotation,” said LaDuke. “We know the dogs are happier when they’re at home with their moms or dads, so we try to get them in an out as efficiently as possible without rushing.”
In addition to full grooming services, each dog who gets a makeover at Dirty Dog Grooming goes home with a report card including pictures of the services provided, information about any abnormalities (such as skin lesions) Poynter discovers during the process and behavior reports.
“Sometimes we get puppies who are having their first grooming experience and they can be a little shy, or sometimes we get dogs who have been to shops where they were treated a little rougher," LaDuke said. "We try to be extra sensitive with them, and it’s nice to see their progress report reflect them becoming at ease with us.”
Although their doors have only been open for seven weeks, Dirty Dog Grooming is already looking for ways to be involved with the community. LaDuke said she recently began to reach out to local animal shelters like and the .
“We’re looking to getting into doing some freebies for local shelters,” she said. “I think it’s important to get out there and give back to the community wherever possible.”
Dirty Dog Grooming is also working with local veterinary clinics and other pet-related businesses to stage a customer appreciation day for Manatee County pet owners this fall.
“We opened our doors right when all the snowbirds were heading back home for the summer, so we’re hoping to organize something in fall to make sure that once they’re coming back, they know who we are,” LaDuke said.
In the meantime, Dirty Dog Grooming has already built a satisfied customer base in just seven weeks.
Since the business opened, Bradenton resident Wendy Bohnenkamper has already been in three times for each of her dogs— a Poodle, a Pappillion-Yorkie mix, and a Cairn Terrier.
“Not many people know how to cut a Cairn Terrier properly, and when I brought mine to Cathy, hers was perfect,” Bohnenkamper recalled. “It’s the best cut she’s ever had.”
She added that she appreciates the report cards Dirty Dog Grooming gives to each of its clients, the cleanliness of the shop, and the quality treatment her dogs receive in LaDuke’s and Poynter’s care.
“I’m one of those pet owners who can be a little nuts. I’m very careful about where I bring my animals,” Bohnenkamper said.
“I walked in here without making an appointment because I wanted to see them in action without expecting me. I was sold when I came in because it was spotless. My dogs have consistently received the best care, and I’ve been telling all my friends. My dogs are happy and Cathy is very careful with them. I can’t say enough what a great place this is.”
Dirty Dog Grooming is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To make an appointment, call 941-243-3883.