In some European countries, dog self-wash is a thing (there is even a franchising with many branches in Italy), and we used it often with other family dogs when we lived on the continent. When we moved to London we thought a similar service would be easy to find, but our expectations were soon disappointed when a rapid search produced zero results, so we converted to home wash. Recently, I was excited to learn that City Paws Club had launched a self-wash service at their grooming salon and shop in Putney and very curious to try it when they invited us for a complimentary session, as the concept seemed quite different from the DYI dog wash we had used in Europe mainland. This is an independent review from our experience.
City Paws Club dog self-wash experience in West London
Why dog self wash
City Paws Club’s store on Lower Richmond Road, in Putney, has a grooming salon. For the last 12 months, apart from the traditional grooming appointments, they have also been running a self-wash service. Matt Boyce, Pack Leader at City Paws Club, explaines that they originally conceived the service thinking of dogs who may be nervous around new people: “It can be a bit too much to also have them washed at the same time as meeting new people,” notes Matt.
However, he says that this DYI dog wash experience has been mostly taken advantage of by people who want to “avoid their bathroom being destroyed after a Thames mud bath nightmare!” and he found that the self-wash experience has the perk of giving clients the chance to bond with their dog in a unique way, “Some owners genuinely enjoy grooming their own dogs, it’s not really a money saving reason dog self-wash experience,” he says.
Argo is very much a people dog, so nervousness around people has never been our DYI wash reason, while enjoying the experience is definitely one reason we have used it in the past when living on the continent.
A reason that all these years have made us shy away from trying professional grooming is that we noticed that it just takes small bad experiences to ruin Argo’s training and create fears or issues that are hard to overcome (like the time he stayed with friends of ours and learnt that instead of retrieving a ball it is much more fun to run away with it – years later we are still struggling and regret the days he would bring it back straight away). He is very well behaved for baths (despite not liking it, he is happy to jump into the bathtub and listen to you knowing that he will be rewarded for it) and many grooming salons don’t allow owners to be present during their dog’s grooming, so we have always been a bit worried about trying our luck. This has meant preferring home wash. But as I have always enjoyed washing him (and I think that he has been enjoying receiving a good massage) and much less so cleaning up the mess afterwards and having to bend and twist my back in uncomfortable positions to wash him properly, self-wash had been my preference in the past over the other home-wash and professional groomer options.
Our self-wash experience at City Paws Club
The day we went to City Paws Club, Argo was definitely overdue a bath. We had been on so many adventures in the last few months, including a trip to the New Forest, and he hadn’t had one in a while. When we arrived at City Paws Club store, on a Saturday morning, we were welcomed by Basia, one of the lovely groomers, who explained to me the procedure and gave me a disposable plastic apron. The grooming area is at the back of the store, dividied by a tranparent glass, so you can still see the small store and natural light comes from the large window at the front.
After the groomer lifted the bathtub door, Argo happily jumped into it and we removed his collar. The tub had a ring where one can attach the dog, using a special nylon collar with a snap-hook, but as he is calm and well-behaved during baths, I decided not to use it. The bathtub had two shower heads: one dispensing water mixed with shampoo, and one just for water. The former was great for lathering up Argo’s fur and more practical than classic shampoo. He was rather content to receive a good rub and the groomer also gave me a special product to wash his face and tear stains and a rubber brush to help getting rid of fur and massaging the shampoo on his coat.
When I finished the procedure, it was time for rinsing with the second shower head. After this the groomer sprayed some conditioner before giving me and showing me how to use a magic towel, which helps getting rid of a lot of water from the dog’s fur. Argo was such a good boy during the bath and it was time to come out of the bathtub. We didn’t have time to remove the bathtub’s door that he made a jump over it and onto the floor. Maybe tiying him up wouldn’t have been a too bad idea after all…
After a roaming around the grooming room – which at home would have become a roll on the nearest carpet -, he was convinced to jump onto the grooming table, after the groomer regulated the table’s height. This time, I secured him to the bar over the table with a special nylon collar with a carabiner, that I was given by the groomer. I must say he looked a bit big for the table, as the bar, regulated on its maximum height, was lower than his head and I was a bit worried he could fall from the table and hang himself as at first he tried going backwards on the short side of the table, but the groomer held him for a couple of minutes until he settled in the right position and everything worked well.
Time to get to the drying phase! I found the professional hairdryer amazing and great to be able to regulate both temperature and power. At home, with my own hairdryer, it takes forever to dry Argo and at the end his fur always keeps some moist. This means that after our home baths, he always has a little smell of wet dog (not much thankfully) and tries to rolls on the carpet, on his bed and anywhere else.
After a first hairdrying until he was almost dry, the groomer replaced the hairdryer’s head with a rigid one and gave me a brush with which opening the fur where the air jet was directed. She explained that this would help to dry him properly and completely. It me took a bit to coordinate directioning the air jet and brush movements, but I think I got the hang of it by the end of the procedure. Argo wasn’t too cooperative at this point as he didn’t enjoy having his “knickerbocker” – as we call the long and bushy fur he has on his back thighs – dried, so he kept sitting down and saw some other doggie friends had arrived at the store so sang a howling song for a bit while drying to manifest he found it profoundly injust that he had to dry up while the other dogs could sniff with each other and play.
During the drying procedure, I was also given different brushes, to comb Argo’s coat. One of them, in particular, that I was instructed to use towards the end of the drying phase, was incredibly effective. I didn’t know that undercoat brushes existed and I was stunned by the quantity of dead fur it removed from Argo’s coat. He had been moulding terribly in the last couple of weeks, and thought that with the bath the most of it would come off, the quantity that was removed later was really unexpected! In the photo below you can get an idea of it, but I assure you it was much more! At that point, with fur flating in the air and landing everywhere, I understood why the groomer had offered of a pair of protective glasses before the procedure!
The final touch was applying a deodorant. We were given 3 options and went for a fresh Hownd fragrance. And voila’, Argo was ready.
After the wash we sticked around a bit longer to watch the groomer starting to wash a little black dog, Darcy. Argo seemed wanting to learn the art, as he perched on the bathtub. The nice thing is that for small dogs, there is a raised platform in the bathtub.
What I learnt (and liked) from our self-wash experience
Self-wash at City paws Club vs. home bath
I had good fun during the self-wash experience at City Paws Club and realised that I had been doing it wrong for all these years! Comparing the outcome when washing Argo at home vs. the outcome of the self-wash experience, I noticed a massive difference, in particular:
- after a home groom Argo’s coat is never completely dry, always keeping a bit of moist (luckily his coat seems not to get a pronounced wet dog smell, but it’s not violets-scented either). After the self-wash experience, on the contrary, it was completely dry, with no sign of wet-dog-odour at all.
- after a home-bath, Argo’s coat would look quite opaque and a bit brushy/shaggy until the day after the bath. I can safely say that Argo’s fur had never been so soft and looking so good after a bath like after the self-wash. It reminded me of the difference between washing and blow drying my hair at home (and I am quite a disaster with it) and going to the hairdresser to have my hair done: massive difference.
Thinking about this, I concluded that the right tools, products and tecniques really matter. But the outcome is not the only thing I liked from the experience and found some other perks of City Paws Club self-wash experience:
- The bathtub’s height is perfect. Not quite like uncomfortably kneeling down and bending on the home bathtub. For Argo it was the right height, and they also had a support for small dogs, so they stand on a higher surface and they are easy to wash.
- The shower hose(s). If at home you have a fixed shower head like I do, you’ll hate (like I do) the inconvenience of having to fill up a bucket to rinse your dog. The shower hose makes life so much easier on this point. Even for showers with a shower hose, something I found quite convenient was having one with water and shampoo already mixed, for an easier lathering.
- Water temperature. The pre-regulated water temperature was a nice perk, as it can be sometimes tricky to find the right one, not hot but not cold either.
- Being able to secure your dog during the washing and drying phases. Quite convenient if you have a dog who likes to wonder around.
- Hairdryer. Being able to use a powerful professional hairdryer, where one can regulate temperature and power, was really a great benefit and made the drying phase so much easier.
- Drying on a grooming table. I found that having Argo on a raised surface was quite convenient for my back’s sake.
- Being able to use a number of different brushes, appropriate for the various phases of the self-wash and using professional products. I think a part of the “magic” was in this one.
- Sparing my bathrooom from waves of dirt and clouds of fur. We may have travelled from the other side of London to reach City Paws Club in Putney, but I’d rather spend time on the tube reading than cleaning the whole bathroom after one of those powerful dog shakes and the house after the hairdryer disperses fur everywhere.
- All the great tips from the groomer. Last but not least, everyone can wash their dog, but some tips from qualified people can really make an impact.
Self-wash at City Paws Club vs. DYI wash at automated stations in Europe
As mentioned above, we have never tried professional dog grooming, so I can’t make a comparison between our self-wash experience and a professional groom. However, as we had tried (not with Argo but with our family dog) a Wash Dog station in Italy, which is a 24/7 self-service pay-as-you-go dog wash, accessible with a special pre-paid card, I can draw a comparision with that one.
The Wash Dog we used had stainless steel tubs with ramps for dogs (which are automatically sanitised after each dog wash), a shower head which could dispense water and water mixed with shampoo, a “hair-hoover” and a hairdryer. Of the Wash Dog we liked it being a 24/7 service without the need for booking, so it worked very well around busy schedules and was great for dropping by after unexpected mud disasters; another feature which was rather good was the hair-hoover, which helped removing hair and work as a pre-dry treatment.
An extended hours opening (to include some evening and Sunday slots, along with additional Saturday times) is something that would be great to see City Paws Club introducing for their self-wash too. However, on all other aspects, I found the City Paws Club experience more enjoyable than the Wash Dog’s one and producing a better result. A nicer and more curated grooming area, being provided with professional products and powerful equipment, as well as the experienced tips and explanations from the groomer, made City Paws Club self-wash experience something much more unique, while still being a good value for money experience.
City Paws Club self-wash service: essential information
City Paws Club store and grooming salon is located on Lower Richmond Road, in Putney, very close to Putney Bridge, which is ideal for West Londoners. Opening hours are 9 am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, however we were advised that, as Saturdays are the busiest days, there is limited availability for self-wash sessions on that day. A bit of a pity if you have an office job with regular working hours, unfortunately.
Slots for the self-wash last 45 minutes and must be booked in advance over the phone or online. The price of the self-wash experience is £20, which I found a good price if you consider that you are going to save time and effort to clean your bathroom, all the products (shampoo, conditioner, scent) are included and you’ll be using professional equipment for a much better result than at home.
City Paws Club grooming area is at their store, specialised in items for “outdoor dogs”, so you can also take the chance for some shopping. As an adventure dog as is Argo, I love that they stock Ruffwear gear, healthy treats, Beco and more.
Also, if you don’t live in the neighbourhood and want to combine the self-wash with a visit of the area, it is a rather lovely idea – but maybe do it before the wash, especially if you want to head to the park! -. We were told that almost any place in the area is dog-friendly, and we had breakfast at Social Brew, a dog-friendly cafe next door City Paws Club. Just across the brige you can find is Bishop Park, which we love and even has an enclosed dog area in Moat Gardens (near Fulham Palace Road). Alternatively you can head to the peaceful Barnes area: we visited it a while back and hope to tell you more about it later on the blog.