You’ve decided that training to be a dog groomer is the right career path for you.  You’ve taken account of the physical requirements involved in grooming dogs, the character and patience you will need to safely groom them and the ability to communicate with their owners.  The next big decision will be where you choose to learn the skills required to do the job and the type of course that is most appropriate for you.   

Dog Groomer Qualifications

First of all, under UK law a dog groomer does not need to have any qualifications or licenses at all – although this remains under government review at present.  Someone may enter the grooming profession without an hour of training or experience and without having passed any exams or assessments – and that is a frightening thought for any responsible pet owner! 

As a result of the lack of licensing standards a wide range of diverse training course content has emerged, some of which is good, some of which is a waste of time and money.  Some potential dog groomers take the easy route into dog grooming, taking the shortest or cheapest course or by attending the nearest school to their home address.  Often this will result in poor levels of knowledge, skills or confidence and leave the trainee with less than they need to commence their new trade. 

In more recent years the dog grooming trade, especially through the trade bodies, has adopted standards that reflect the level of skills and training required by a dog groomer.  Practical courses now include hands-on training, equipment knowledge, salon management and in-depth theory relevant to the dog grooming trade.  The results of these formal qualifications having been introduced are that dog groomers have become far more professional in their craft and the public now differentiate between those most capable and those lacking styling skills reflective of each breed. 

A number of different qualifications are available, some via trade associations and overseas association qualifications or formal (OFQUAL regulated) formal qualifications.  Presently, the UK formal qualifications fall into two regulated categories; Level 2 which contains the basic information but not much styling requirement; Level 3 which is more detailed content and requires an assessed styling ability.  Learners who qualify at Level 3 have a more detailed training and skill set on completion of their course and more rounded capability to address client’s requirements. 

Training Location

Attending an on-site dog groomer training school is a huge advantage to the start of your career. You will benefit from detailed training under qualified supervision and, ideally, will have hands-on experience with many breeds.  Even with the best teaching, students cannot expect to learn everything that the experienced and practiced groomer will know.

It is very difficult for a home-study student to locate a suitable range of dogs for training, even more difficult to find the spectrum of coat types and breed styles that a well-managed training centre will be able to assign. The time saved from having to locate suitable dogs and convincing their owners to allow you to train on them is repaid in the school by the time to groom, groom and groom more. This additional experience, along with readily available guidance, makes the school’s graduates a more employable commodity.

A key piece of advice to anyone joining the dog grooming business is to continue your education throughout the years that you groom dogs. No one ever knows everything and your continued development can only enhance your skills and knowledge. Attend seminars, trade shows, workshops, new equipment demonstrations or return to an on-site school to refresh your skills or improve your qualification level. 

Tuition at some public colleges who offer dog grooming qualifications can often take a period of time unavailable to many students with course time scheduled as just once or twice a week and courses lasting over a period of years. The overall cost of such courses can total quite a high sum. Compared to several years attending a college course, students from grooming schools can be completed in a few weeks.  Of course they still need to gain experience and their knowledge will still need to expand, but they will join the working groomers (or commence setting up their own business) so much earlier than those following an extended course.

Some forums have comments claiming that dog grooming schools are ‘expensive’. However, when one considers the facilities provided, the teaching qualifications in addition to grooming qualifications and experience, the (short) length of the intense course it is simply untrue. The qualified student leaving the professional dog grooming school is able to gain employment faster.  Looking at this from a different perspective, if your grooming career extends over 30 years the training costs that enabled it will be less than 0.001% of your earnings.

Don’t view the cost of training as expensive, it isn’t.  It may be beyond your budget, but that does not make it expensive. Some schools may be able to advise sources of funding under some circumstances. Some may offer terms or may be able to offer advice on funding – it’s a question worth asking if you’re prepared to put the effort into pursuing funding routes and conditions.

Selecting a Training Centre

Selecting the right training centre can be as difficult as walking through fog. The majority of training schools are reputable and hold good standards – but not all of them!  Those with poorer training provision, less qualified staff, poorer outcomes, are often good at disguising those facts. Select a training courses that suits your personal needs and ambitions, here’s a few thoughts to help with the decision:

Don’t assume you get the same education or experience regardless of the school you attend.  Schools present their courses uniquely to them, although you may be offered exactly the same final qualification it’s most unlikely it will be offered identically to the presentation from other schools.  Some will provide only the content required to achieve the award, whilst others will offer wider skills and knowledge than just that which is required.  

Training Hours Count

All formal qualifications have a stipulated number of guided learning hours (GLH) that the school must provide. These are likely to be split between practical learning and theory. As a general rule, take as many training hours as are offered, you simply can’t have too much training or experience. However, long hours in itself is not a guarantee of better training and the ideal is sufficient hours of quality training.  Practical hands-on teaching should be the times that interest you most. What facilities are available, at what cost, should you wish to extend your practical training?

Not all practical course time will be the same.  Will you be watching demonstrations and not practicing the skill yourself?  Will you have your own dog to groom or will you be sharing with another student(s)?  Are there a variety of breeds, coat types and styling techniques to work on throughout your course?  How much individual tuition, guidance, supervision and reinforcement will be provided throughout your course?  What are the normal, and maximum, student-teacher ratios experienced throughout the course?

Train on a Variety of Dog Breeds

Pause for a minute and consider how many breeds of dog there are, then consider how many cross-breeds there are – then consider that someone could walk into your salon and ask you to groom any one of them!  Primarily, they will be categorised by coat type, then approached with a set of standard grooming routines, but some will required a bespoke approach. Personally, I recommend every dog groomer to retain a copy of ‘Notes From The Grooming Table’ (Melissa Verplank, ISBN 978-0692658079) which details the grooms for hundreds of breeds and cross-breeds. In the early stages of your training this publication will appear technical, possibly confusing, but will make sense and be a huge asset by the end of your training.

This wide variety of breeds and their various required grooming techniques is why your trainer needs to provide a wide variety of dogs to learn with.  What happens if your school doesn’t offer variety or give hands-on training?  Your skills are lacking, your confidence depleted and your abilities will be less attractive to employers.

Location Priority or Quality Priority

The convenience of a training location can be over-rated when compared to the quality of training available.  In many instances the location of a training facility in proximity to their home is the first priority which is considered when deciding on training.  Often, location will be the main priority and then cost the next. 

We have indicated that not all training is the same, indeed, some is exceptional while others are terrible.  Your main priority should be a good quality dog grooming training course, then cost, then location.  Of course there will always be some influence on where you choose to train – but try to resist all but quality of training as your future income will depend on the quality of your results.  Secure the best dog grooming education that you can, one that will meet your immediate and future career expectations.

With utter regret, we see students joining our courses with remorse from their initial decisions.  Those who have paid a great deal of money only to find that they are not taught styling techniques, are not taught how to use dog grooming equipment, have no supporting knowledge and are not ready to perform the tasks of a competent dog groomer. 

Contact the training centres you have under consideration and don’t be afraid to ask the delving questions, if they are good trainers they will appreciate your thorough approach.  Narrow down your list of options to just two or three possibilities and arrange to visit the centre for your own evaluation.  Whilst there take the opportunity to chat with tutors and students already on courses – if there’s any attempt to restrict you from doing so, treat that as a caution that there may be something to hide. Ensure that the staff are correctly qualified and experienced and that they are as qualified to teach as they are to groom!

Where centres offer more than one course consider the longest possible for your training.  The more teaching, guidance and experience you can get on course, the better results you can expect to achieve.  Your learning will continue well into your dog grooming career, but with the right foundations you will be able to build on your knowledge and enhance your skill set for many years to come.

Here’s a list of suggested questions that you may wish to include when discussing a potential dog grooming training course:

  • How long have they been training dog groomers?
  • How many instructors teach on how many different courses?
  • What is the maximum student-teach ratio?  Average class size?
  • Are they accredited with a formal Awarding Body? (Which?)
  • Can they provide references from previous students (or access to students on courses)?
  • Do they provide all course materials within the course fees so there’s no additional costs?
  • Do they train on a wide variety of breeds and coat types of dogs?
  • How many dogs can you expect to groom each day / whilst on the course?
  • Will training dogs be exclusive to you or will you be expected to ‘share’ dogs?
  • Where are the model training dogs sourced from and, if commercial clients, are they aware that dogs are used for training?
  • Is separate theory instruction provided?  What is the split between practical dog grooming training and course theory content?
  • Does the course provide information of business set up and business management to those intending to set up their own business?
  • Can they offer assistance with accommodation for those who need it?
  • Are you expected to purchase a ‘toolkit’ from them, or will they assist with advice for you to source your own choices of equipment?
  • What arrangements are in place to cover any illness or unexpected absence from the course?
  • Do they provide optional additional skills or qualifications?  (eg. Canine First Aid)
  • Can you add additional training hours after your course?  If so, at what cost?

Best wishes with your choice of course and qualification.  With the right start you will have the best opportunity of a long, successful and rewarding future career. 

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