Helping Dogs Look Their Best.
Furry clients out for a walk like to stop in and say hello to their human friends at Sweet Paws Dog Grooming Services. Sweet Paws owner Noriko Ikuta says with a smile, “I know the dogs by name.”
Noriko and her husband, Reverend Grant Ikuta (Steveston Buddhist Temple), moved to Toronto from their native Japan in 1992. During their 16 years in eastern Canada they had four children. They also had a golden retriever named Rusty who Noriko learned to groom. Realizing she had a hidden talent, she was inspired to attend Toronto’s Pet Grooming Studio Academy where she turned her hobby into a career. After graduating she was hired by the Academy. It was a natural fit; Noriko has always loved animals and as a child dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.
The Ikuta family moved to Steveston in 2008. Reverend Ikuta has relatives here and the couple were excited to find a strong Japanese community. Noriko says it is lovely to hear Japanese being spoken on the street which was not prevalent in Toronto. “I quickly discovered Steveston is a special close-knit community where people support each other,” she says.
In June 2015 Noriko decided it was time to open her own business. She chose to locate Sweet Paws close to home. She appreciates the beautiful location, the village’s history and as a dog owner (the family now has a Coton de Tulear named Lucky who occasionally pops in to visit Noriko at work), she was aware a grooming service was needed.
Her clean and neat as a pin grooming studio is located on Third Avenue, across the street from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site. Noriko mentions that some customers take advantage of two free hours to go to their own spa appointment or shop or dine in the village. Her client base is growing steadily in dog friendly Steveston village where it is a common sight to see dog owners stopping to chat.
Much like a human spa, Sweet Paws strives to offer a soothing atmosphere where dogs are pampered.
Owners can be nervous when they say goodbye to their pets. Noriko mentions if an owner is not calm their dog will pick up that energy; she says it is helpful to exercise the pet before it comes in to relax and tire it out. Some dogs react better than others to the idea of being groomed. Being parted from their owner is the most difficult part and barking nervously is common.
All sizes and breeds pass through the door, from pint size Yorkies to large Labradoodles.
Long-haired dogs and those with busy, active lifestyles will need to be groomed more frequently than shorter-haired dogs or those with inactive lifestyles. Waiting too long between grooming appointments can cause matting, which may result in a shorter cut. Tip: Brush and comb your dog at home between grooming sessions.
Summer and Christmas are the busiest times of the year and Noriko advises booking two weeks in advance. How often your dog needs grooming depends on how quickly her/his fur grows, however, Noriko mentions six to seven weeks is standard. Gentle organic shampoos are used. Noriko can easily assess skin types and for canines with extremely sensitive skin she uses hypoallergenic products.
When asked what she finds most rewarding about operating her business Noriko replies, “I feel very calm working around dogs all day. It is very healing.”
She says, “At our studio, we provide a calm atmosphere to lessen the stress felt by the dog. Our staff is trained to treat each dog with care, being mindful of the stress it may be feeling. To ensure the best treatment, we do not overbook our appointments. Every session is by reservation only and we contact the owners as soon as the appointment is finished so their pet does not have to wait for prolonged periods. Our reward is to see the happy faces of both the dogs and their owners when they come to pick up their loving pets.”
Canines were likely very grateful for their warm fur coats during the chilly winter we experienced, but now that summer’s here it’s time to book a grooming appointment. Check out Sweet Paws’ Facebook page for some adorable before and after shots to get an idea of how Noriko and her staff can make your dog look and feel his or her best.
Sweet Paws Dog Grooming Services
105-3531 Bayview Street
Richmond BC V7E 5W3