- What is dog grooming?
- Where to get trained
- What will I learn?
- Where can I work?
- Preparing for your career
Does a squeaky-clean pooch brighten your day? Is your Instagram a shrine to doggy before-and-after photos? Does brushing your pup bring you joy? Then a career in dog grooming may be just right for you! But how does one become a dog groomer?
What is dog grooming?
There is more to dog grooming than just making Fido look fabulous. Dog grooming at its core is the practice of caring for canine skin and coat and the styling of their coats for cosmetic reasons. Dog grooming can be as simple as a bath and nails on Chihuahua or as complicated as a full-body cut and style on Bouvier des Flanders.
Unlike human cosmetology, there is no set standard for training or certification when it comes to becoming a groomer. But good grooming requires training, both for safety and style reasons. There are three basic options available to those that wish to be trained as a dog groomer: Online Grooming Programs, In-Person Grooming Schools, and On the Job Training. Below each program is briefly described along with the pros and cons of each option.
Where to get trained
1. Online Grooming Programs
There are many online grooming programs available on the market today. These vary from short informative videos to full-on programs that include video, textbook, and pairings with groomers in the real world.
Online programs are suited to would-be groomers that cannot attend grooming schools or are unable to work a consistent hour at a shop as an employee or apprentice. Many of those that live in more rural areas with limited options for schooling or employment may find online grooming programs to be beneficial. Online programs are also a good option for those that cannot quit their present job but want to begin training.
Grooming is a physical job. Your subjects are real live dogs and you must understand how to work with and on your canine clients, a crucial skill that is difficult if not impossible to hone from behind a computer. While many online programs may insist that you find real-world subjects and mentors it is often easier said than done with both potential clients and groomers hesitant to train with students whose experiences have been predominantly digital.
2. In-Person Grooming Schools
Though in-person grooming education is not certified and regulated in the way that other technical certificates and degrees are, studying at a recognized grooming school is a preferable way to enter the industry. Grooming schools usually offer different degrees of training based on the number of hours the student studies with most in-depth grooming programs requiring 600-hours of student work. Much like a traditional degree, in-person grooming schools usually provide students with textbooks, a curriculum, classwork, homework and testing as well as the all-important hands-on work.
In-Person Grooming Schools provide potential dog groomers with the most in-depth path to their dream careers. Insuring students have a firm-grasp on the many facets of dog grooming in addition to providing professional guidance, most grooming schools successfully prepare their students for their intended careers.
Much like traditional schooling, grooming schools can be costly. Most 600-hour coursework programs cost upwards of $6000 dollars for around 12-15 weeks of school. Additionally, these programs can be prohibitory for students that cannot afford to take time away from families and careers. Lastly, respected and well-equipped schools are often located out-of-state further limiting their accessibility.
3. On the Job Training
Most cities have at least one dog groomer available, and where better to learn the trade than on the job? Whether working as an employee or as an apprentice, getting your hands dirty at a real grooming shop is a great way to learn the trade.
Receiving on the job training can be a wonderful way to explore what a real career in dog grooming is like. You will learn day in and day out the real-world business of dog grooming, from the art of the groom, to the best way to schedule clients. Another great benefit is the possibility of earning a wage as you learn, or at a minimum not having to pay a fee.
When learning at a business, the business comes first, and your education second. Odds are that your training will be done when time permits and it will take much longer to receive a complete education in the basics of dog grooming. Also, depending on your place of employment, techniques, methods, and equipment may be out of date and put you at an educational disadvantage.
Regardless of which route you choose to take it is advisable that you shadow a professional groomer at least once before taking the plunge. Though dog grooming is endlessly rewarding, it can also be dirty and difficult. Spend as much time as possible getting to know the real ins-and outs before you take the time or make the financial commitment to learning the trade!
What will I learn?
Regardless of where you choose to learn the trade, all dog groomers will learn the following in some capacity: dog breeds, how you use your tools, first aid, and patterns and styles. Familiarizing yourself with these topics will put you a step ahead in pursuing your career in dog grooming.
All grooms are influenced by the anatomy, coat, and individual look of each dog. In order to best groom the dog on your table, you will need to be familiar with what breed or breeds he may be. But why? Knowledge of dog breeds is essential to the practice of grooming because each breed’s individual looks impacts the overall groom. Coat texture, length, and even color impacts how it is groomed and certain breeds have certain haircuts that many owners prefer. Being familiar with as many dog breeds as possible builds your knowledge of cuts and styles which will serve you in grooming many different dogs.
Gone are the days of grooming consisting of a handheld dryer and some shears. New and updated grooming equipment is always entering the market and correct use of equipment can make all the difference in a groom. From force dryers to clipper-vacs, trying the tools of the trade is key to learning what tools to use and when. When learning be sure to learn as much as you can about what tools are out there and how best to use them to achieve the results you want.
First Aid and Basic Canine Health
In any career with dogs it is best to know some basic health and first aid tips. Though grooming is a cosmetic practice, good groomers also know how to identify health issues that may impact their canine customers. While treatment of most doggy health problems is best left to the vet, some problems such as topical and ear irritations can be identified and treatment begun at the groomers. Knowing what to look for and how to help alleviate problems will make for a happy dog and owner!
Patterns and Styles
Of course, when learning to groom you will learn how to cut and style your four-legged customers! The possibilities are limitless when it comes to style options, but a good education in grooming will prepare you by teaching you both technique and patterns. Patterns are guidelines used to create certain breed looks like the fierce eyebrows on the Schnauzer or the loveable skirt on the American Cocker Spaniel. Learning breed patterns not only help you style those particular breeds but will help you create your own unique looks in other dogs.
Where can I work?
Dog groomers can find themselves at home just about anywhere and there are many options to suit groomers of all personality types. Like working on your own? Then start a home or mobile business Love a fast-paced environment? Then maybe a corporate groom shop is you best option. Continue reading below to explore the pros and cons of some of places you may find yourself grooming.
Many groomers start their careers by beginning out of their homes or garages. Depending on your personal preference and available space you can create a business as large or small as you like. Starting a home grooming business is generally a very accessible option and a has lower overhead then opening a brick and mortar or mobile business. However, you will still need the tools of the trade–such as a table, crates, and stand dryers—that can be pricey depending on your preference. Additionally, individual home groomers will need to explore licensing and insurance options to ensure their business is legal and protected.
Many vet offices provide grooming in some capacity. Often vet groomers cater to clients whose dogs require sedation or medical monitoring during the grooming process due to age or medical conditions. If a vet office offers grooming, they usually only have one groomer who supplies their own tools. Because vet groomers can work with special case animals the work can be difficult and at times stressful, but groomers like this can charge a premium for their services.
For those that prefer a smaller, quieter environment to pamper pooches, boutique grooming offers groomers a chance. Boutique grooming salons may be one or a few groomers sometimes with bathers to assist groomers in their jobs.
Some boutique groomers operate much like a hair salon, with pet stylists renting their space in the store. Others pay groomers hourly, or by commission. Groomers should explore their options and thoroughly vet prospective boutiques prior to employment. Usually groomers provide their own equipment such as clippers, scissors, and hair bows with the shops providing table space, shampoos, and kennels though this may vary from salon to salon.
Most of us with pets are familiar with at least one of the many large corporate pet store chains that exist nowadays. And these stores are for many our first interactions with grooming. Corporate grooming tends to be faster paced than the other options listed here. But for many the benefits such as vacation and heath care make up for the busy schedule. Corporate grooming is also a great option for those that want to enter the field but cannot afford to attend a grooming school. Most corporate stores have options for training their groomers. Usually groomers start as bathers and later attend an in-house grooming program which will teach them the basics of grooming and often supply them with tools of the trade.
For those that like to work on their own, mobile grooming offers a solo artist’s dream workspace. Mobile grooming units are usually built into vans, box trucks, or buses and offer one-on-one grooming services at their customer’s doorstep. If you like the idea of taking your skills on the road and working on your own then mobile grooming may be just for you. Mobile groomers are on the rise, with many pet parents preferring the one-on-one care mobile units offer as well as the convenience of having the groomer come to their doorstep.
Mobile grooming is a great option for groomers that can work with strict deadlines but also want to provide individual care to their clients. Would-be mobile groomers have many options for employment from building their own custom rig, purchasing a decked-out model from one of the many mobile unit providers, or becoming employed by a mobile grooming franchise.
Preparing for your career
No matter what path you choose in pursuing your grooming career it is a good idea to explore the career as much as possible before taking the plunge. Ask local groomers if you can shadow them for a day and get your hands dirty. Grooming is hard but rewarding work and the best way to learn if it is right for you is to give it a shot! If grooming isn’t in your career future, you can find the best groomer near you to get the scoop on the grooming scene in your neighborhood.