Starting a career as a dog groomer is a great option for a dog lover who wants to work with pets. It gives an opportunity to express your creativity through your work and can be a very rewarding job. Although at times it can be challenging, it’s certainly a career path that allows plenty of opportunity for growth and development.
When planning a dog grooming career there are several factors to take into account. In this article we will address most of them to help you make an informed decision.
What Does the Dog Groomer Do?
Whatever part of the dog’s grooming a groomer performs (from bathing through to complete styling) you will be working hands-on to keep the dog looking and feeling good. In addition to the aesthetics of styling, a quality groomer will attend to the dog’s coat and skin to avoid occurrences such as matting or dry skin. Due to their hands-on work on the dog’s body often a groomer is the first person to notice any skin abrasions or growths on the dog’s body. The groomer’s job is as much about awareness of the dog’s health as it is about the dog’s appearance.
Groomers will also be responsible for the admin and sales from their salon. The groomer will be responsible for booking appointments, creating and updating records and maintaining accounts. Their responsibilities include client communication, salon product sales, cleaning, equipment maintenance and ensuring a safe environment for the dogs, visitors and the groomers themselves.
Lots of dog groomers fall into one of these two categories:
Basic Pet Groomer
The pet groomer is probably the most common groomer found in the UK. They take care of the cleanliness and hygiene of their dogs. They bathe them, brush them (removing knots and mats), clean their ears, trim their nails and do basic trimming as needed. It’s the necessary maintenance for groomed breeds and is all that many owners require for their dog. Charges for these types of grooms are generally less than what would be charged by a stylist. However, many groomers who are new to the industry use this experience to develop their skills and experience to become stylists as their abilities develop.
The dog stylist can do everything that a basic pet groomer can do, but with the added ability that they can groom and style the dog’s coats reflective of each breed standard, taking account of each owner’s personal preferences. The stylist has a wide range of knowledge and abilities with a skill set that makes them adaptable to differing requirements.
Some stylists will venture into creative grooming (eg. Asian Fusion Grooming) creating unique shapes and styles, often coloured with dyes. This level of creative ability uses the dog’s coat as a canvas to display their artistic abilities.
Requirements & Qualifications Needed
At this moment in time (2022) there are no licensing requirements to becoming a dog groomer. This is under government review and could change at relatively short notice. There will be local authority planning permissions needed for opening a new business in most cases and this is worth checking with your local council. You are responsible for the dogs in your care, so awareness and compliance with the Animal Welfare Act is necessary.
The groomer does not need any special license or qualifications to commence their trade. However, without the knowledge and ability to correctly bathe and trim dogs you will be doing both the clients and their dogs a disservice. As a wide variety of breeds are likely to be left in your care, it is in your interest to have competent knowledge of dog behaviour, care, anatomy and first aid from the day you start.
Dog Groomer Qualifications
In the UK, legally a dog groomer is not required to have formal qualifications. But qualifications give the professional groomer the foundation knowledge, skill set and experience needed to do the job correctly.
Hands-On Training Schools
A number of centres offer hands-on dog groomer training courses and qualifications. Standards and quality of course content can vary greatly, so do your homework before committing and ensure they align with your values. Courses leading to a formal qualification (certificated by an awarding body) must follow a pre-determined path for content and assessment and, generally, you are most likely to receive a structured education in dog grooming. The level of qualification is reflective of the depth of course content – eg. Level 2 courses have less styling content than Level 3 courses.
A hands-on salon-based course offers both the theory and practical experience of proper grooming, correct salon procedures and handling across a variety of breeds. Other training options don’t give the learner such a comprehensive combination of both theory and practical application.
The majority of centres offering high quality formal qualifications are also likely to be the higher end of the fees scale with some of the time extended on courses. You really are likely to get what you pay for – quality training is rarely cheap. However, groomers who have formal training and qualifications are more likely to secure the higher paying jobs and are most likely to succeed in a successful business which they start. Time and again it is proved that the value of your initial investment in training will pay dividends over your career.
There are other options open to you for training, but rarely will have the same quality or recognition as the formal courses. An experienced mentor will be able to guide you through salon procedures and show you the way they handle dog grooming, but will be restricted to their own level of knowledge and skills. Online courses are available, where you can train in your own free time and pace, but these -at best- only offer video demonstrations of grooming, without real-life, hands-on, practical or experience. There are books on dog grooming and you could follow one of these on a self-taught basis, this may be fine for hobbyists but to then act in a professional capacity you would be doing yourself, the dogs and your clients a disservice.
Dog Groomer Qualification
Neither national nor local authorities require certification, but lots of training centres offer both formal qualification from the Awarding Bodies and their own Diploma certification. These qualifications indicate that the groomer understands the different breed styles and coat types. Dog grooming qualifications improve your chances of gaining employment and reassure your customers of your abilities.
Dog Groomer’s Personal Skills
Lots of us turned to dog grooming so that we can work with the animals we love, have a skill that is portable across the world and to jump off the conveyor belt that is many people’s daily employment. But working with dogs also means working with dog owners, so your people skills need to be polished too. You’ll need to be able to communicate with clients to determine what they want for their dog and to advise what is possible. On occasions you may need to have conversations about the practicalities of dealing with a badly matted coat or about the level of coat maintenance at home. You will need the ability to show empathy and compassion when the dog is ill or injured or even when it dies.
As well as the essential people skills, a dog groomer will need:
- The strength to work on their feet most of the day
- The ability to handle both small and large breeds
- A calm and persistent composure to handle frustrating situations, such as uncooperative dogs
- Understand and react to the dog’s body language
- The skill to express your creativity through your work
If you want to work as a dog groomer but are unsure if it’s the right career for you, then try to have some experience before making training commitments. Many training centres are pleased to offer ‘taster days’ (some charge, some don’t) where you spend a day alongside their trainers and trainees. If you know a dog groomer they may be prepared to let you shadow them for the day in their salon (provided you’re not intending to set up in the area as a competitor later!).
Obtaining Employment as a Dog Groomer
After your training is complete your next phase will be to start to earn your living from dog grooming. There are several career opportunities for dog groomers, it’s just a question of what suits you and your finances.
Dog Groomer Employee
Many newly qualified groomers seek employment in a salon, either in an independent business or one of the larger chains. Often, they start by doing the simpler tasks (bathing, preparation, etc.) and work their way up to stylist – on other occasions they will utilise all of their knowledge and training from day one.
Starting Your Own Dog Grooming Business
Many dog groomers commence their training with the specific goal of self-employment. Most self- employed dog groomers either start off by grooming from home, or by operating a mobile dog grooming business or hit the ground running and open up their own High Street salon.
Whichever self-employed option you choose you will need some business skills in addition to your grooming knowledge. Business management, accounts, administration, advertising and marketing are all your responsibility now. Starting a stir-employed business venture can be a big commitment but it’s quite a common occurrence in the dog grooming industry – with a huge level of success.
So you still want to become a dog groomer?
There’s a range of training courses available to you, from practical hands-on training to the highest level awards in the industry. Take a look at the courses on the Grooming Academy web site, then why not pick up the phone and have a chat? You can discuss your plans for the future, course content, what you will need and make use of the knowledge and experience – all without charge or obligation.