How to Become a Dog Groomer

Dog grooming is a relatively easy and rewarding profession to get into.  As of right now, there are no educational requirements to become a dog groomer.  A high school diploma, or GED will work be just fine. I always recommend to people thinking about entering the world of grooming that they try volunteering at an animal shelter.

how to become a dog groomer

Animal shelters such as the humane society are always looking for an extra set of hands.  They will be happy to let you groom and bathe they dogs.  They will be glad to have the help. You will be able to get to know the different dog breeds.  Having a knowledge of their eccentricities will be very beneficial to you when you take the next step.  You will run into older dogs than you normally would have.  They are often lacking attention, and you’ll be helping them as much as they help you!

Learn From an Experienced Groomer

Pet Groomer

Once you have decided to take the next step it’s time to seek out some training.  The best way to get employment is to find a someone in your already doing the job and see if you can gain employment with them.  Look for a small operation that would love an enthusiastic.  You are not looking for Petco or anything like that.  People love someone willing to learn.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!  This is the type of attitude small business owners love.  When you do start, you’ll be starting at the bottom.

The experienced groomer that hires you will have you doing the jobs that let them focus on grooming more dogs.  You’ll be mopping floors, washing the doggies, and sweeping up a lot when you first start.  As you get to learn the ropes you will be given a chance to work with easier breeds, and given easier tasks.  Although it is possible that you should expect a modest hourly pay increase as your value to your employer grows, the real gain will be an increase in tips!

Before accepting a job with an experienced grooming professional, ask this question to make sure that you are both on the same page:  Assuming that I progress as fast as you would like, how long until I am fully qualified to do every service you offer?  This sets proper expectations for both parties and keeps you from signing up to do a bunch of odd jobs without ever learning anything new.

As long as you are both clear on the expectations for progression, this type of training will get you well on the road to becoming a dog groomer.  Unlike learning from a chain operation, you’ll get a much better idea of how to run a small business.

Go to pet grooming school

Pet Grooming School

There are many schools out there offering training in pet grooming.  Nearly every employer out there is not going to require any formal training. While there are always exceptions to every rule, be very wary of trading your money for a certification in this field.   Try using YouTube. You’ll find not just videos of grooming instruction, but instruction for just about every breed and temperament.  The best part is it’s free!

Hybrid Grooming Program

Most of your larger chain stores go with this program.  The hybrid program involves both classroom learning and practical learning.  Be wary though, the larger pet stores often want a long employment contract or they are going to charge you retroactively for this training.

What does a pet groomer do?

Before you seek out employment, which can be very lucrative, make sure you understand the basics of what a groomer does.

When many people think of working with animals, they think of working with a beloved family pet.  This can be a mistake.  There are many breeds of dogs out there with many different temperaments.  You should expect to deal with muzzling dogs, lifting over fifty pounds on a regular basis, and coming home from work with the unshakable smell of dog on you (not to mention the hair).

A typical day for a groomer will involve many different things.  He or she will be expected to answer the phone and make appointments.  Most employers will have a cordless phone so that you can take calls while grooming a dog, so you’ll often have to do more than one thing at a time.  A pet groomer will also regularly wash, brush, and blow dry a wide range of dogs.  One thing that people often don’t think of is the clean up process.

Dogs shed a lot!  You can expect any free time that you may between “clients” to be used scrubbing the equipment down, sweeping up hair, and mopping up the floor (nervous dogs have more accidents).  A pet groomer should expect to be rewarded for their work with compensation beyond just a typical salary.  The majority of your clients will tip for a job well done.  Another service that you will be rendering often is the trimming of doggie nails.  Dogs (and owners) tend to be pretty skittish about this part of the grooming process.  It’s always a good idea to have someone else around to help comfort the K-9.

Groomers Are Healthcare Advocates for Their Animals

You’ll find that while you are on the job, you’ll discover potential problems with the animal.  It is not inappropriate for you to find and alert the pet owner of potential illness or injury.  Groomers are often the first line of discovery.  Dogs are very prone to all sorts of skin conditions and melanomas.

How much do dog groomers make?

You should tip your groomer at petsmart

If you are seriously considering becoming a dog groomer, than it is important to really know how much you can expect to make.  A dog groomer can be compensated relatively well for what they do.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median income for somebody in the animal care and service profession is $35,540.  According to the median pay for a groomer at Petsmart is $10 an hour and can fluctuate anywhere between $8 and $15 an hour depending on region and experience.  While people are a little less apt to tip at a chain pet store than they would at a local mom and pop shop, tips are still very much a part of the income you should expect to generate there as well.  A groomer that runs their own business successfully can expect to earn much more than that.  Here is a write up with some hypothetical pay.

Becoming a Pet Trainer

How to be a pet trainerYou may have decided that you do like working with dogs, but pet grooming isn’t for you.  If that is the case pet training may be for you.   A pet trainer is going to be focused on two areas of discipline; obedience training and teaching commands.   The job itself has similar requirements to dog grooming.  A formal education is certainly not going to be a necessary, but a lot of on the job training and self education certainly will be.

Pet training takes a lot of consistent effort on your part.  The one thing you need to have in abundance is patience!  You’ll not just be working with dogs; in fact you’ll be teaching people how to train their dogs much more than you’ll be doing any actual trainer on dog work.  People skills are the most important part of this job, whereas with grooming you’ll have significantly less human interaction.

Here are the steps to becoming a trainer:

  1. Get a practical understand of most dog tricks, and how they are taught. A good dog trainer is a whole lot like a good bartender.  They should know how to make any cocktail without looking it up.  But, they spend 90% of their efforts pouring beer, wine, and making the simplest of cocktails.  Your beer and wine will be sit, stay, come, heel, fetch, and paw.  There are many creative tricks out there that you may not have even considered.
  2. After getting a practical knowledge of the best practices for teaching tricks, it is time for practical application. At this point I like to advise people to begin practicing on the dogs in your life.  There aren’t any dog owners out there that wouldn’t love for there dog to learn some new tricks.  You’ll find that your friends and family aren’t going to be intolerant if it takes you a bit to understand what you are doing.
  3. After you’ve practiced on your friend’s dogs, it is time to take it to the next level. From here you can choose a few different paths.  You can choose to volunteer to work at a shelter to acquire more skill on your own.  Or, you can look for someone who makes their living teaching tricks and undergo an apprenticeship.
  4. Seek out certification from a professional grooming society. Although it is nice that there are no educational barriers to entry into the training profession, it does make it difficult for the potential client to find someone who is reputable.  There are many organizations out there that offer certification.  Make sure that you vet whatever organization that you choose to pursue study with.  Your local AKC Society chapter will have great resources, and will be able to get you to a great local resource to certify you.  Be wary of anyone who offers certification online, but doesn’t have any brick and mortar facility.
  5. Start your business. You will have to work diligently to build up a client list.  It should not be to difficult to get by on offering one on one services.  Eventually you can open up your own facility and start obedience classes.  You’ll be on your way before you know it!  If you don’t want to start your own business, you’ll easily be able to find work at a store like Petco

Should You Become a Dog Groomer?

You should really consider how you feel about an inconsistent pay check.  It really is like a job where you work primarily for commission.  If you aren’t there, than you don’t get paid.  This means that if you decided to go on vacation, you aren’t grooming dogs, which means that you aren’t getting paid.  This is certainly something that you really need to weigh in your head.   A lot of people can’t handle that kind of life.

You are also going to get bitten.  It’s just going to happen.  No amount of muzzles and careful handling is going to save you from that, so keep that in mind.  I’ve been bitten before, and it really isn’t that bad.  It’s kind of surprising when it actually happens.  It doesn’t really hurt until after you’ve taken care of getting the dog off of you.  Your adrenaline will set in.  The good news is you won’t have to get a rabies shot, since you’ve only accepted dogs from owners who can prove that they rabies/distemper treatment done every year.

You’ll probably find that the good outweighs the bad in this profession. There’s a lot of money to be made, and it can be very rewarding.  If you are willing to put in the hard work, and love working with animals, there is no reason that you can’t become a dog groomer!