A fast growing industry as more pet parents are finding they just don’t have time to do their own grooming, getting a job as a dog groomer is competitive. In order to make a true career out of this job, you need to be dedicated, willing to put time and effort into practicing your craft, and be good at client relations. Many groomers get a dog that requires a high level of grooming, such as a poodle, to practice on. Really good professional groomers have a lot of job options, however, and many make a good living wage.
The First Step
There are several paths you can travel on to become a dog groomer. Each them will take dedication and time, and depending on what your career goals are, one might be better suited than the other. So, your first step is to decide what your career goals are: do you want to groom at a grooming salon (or own your own), work for a mobile dog groomer (or own your own), groom show dogs, work at a pet retail store that offers grooming (like Petsmart or Petco), work as a groomer at a vet’s office, and/or be a competitive dog groomer. There is going to be a large range in pay for all these jobs, which is something to consider.
There are a few ways you can learn how to be a groomer professionally. One choice is to go to a trade school and get certified. There are a few dog grooming schools, these three are particularly well known.
You can find a larger list at Wag N Tails.
While schools can be helpful to teach you about grooming tools, basic animals handling, and some business tools such as how to start your own business, accounting, and tax prep, be sure the school has a hands-on portion. You cannot learn to groom dogs without actually grooming dogs.
Another option, and probably the most popular, is to apprentice under a professional groomer. The knowledge you can gain from someone who has been in the business for years is priceless. You may even be able to go into business with them if they like your ability and you have common goals. Novice groomers usually apprentice for a 1-2 years before going out on their own.
Finally, you can try and get a job at a big box store, mentioned above, where they will put you through their training program. Taking this route means you will get paid right away, but you will only learn basic grooming, nothing fancy and you will not learn about starting your own business. They will also make you sign a “non-compete” contract, meaning if you ever do decide you want to leave and start your own business, you will have a timeframe you have to wait after you quit and there might even be stipulations about service area.
Regardless of your career goals and the way you get there, start networking immediately. If you plan on starting your own business, start by offering to groom your friends’ dogs for an inexpensive rate or even for free, just to get your talents known. There are plenty of free or relatively cheap ways to get your name out into the pet community.
- Start a Facebook Page where you post pictures of your latest grooms – even if you are just practicing on your own dog
- Go to dog events and talk to the owners, and hand out business cards.
- Create a linkedIn Profile and start connecting with dog owners and people in the industry.
- Attend trade shows and get to know the supplies and the costs of starting your own business. At the bare minimum, you will most likely need your own grooming kit, regardless of where you work.
- Subscribe to trade magazines such as Groomer to Groomer and Grooming Business
- Attend dog shows and talk to the owners about grooming tips. You can learn a lot from these pros
So will I make Money as a Dog Groomer?
Like dog training, your location will have a lot to do with how much you can charge. Beverly Hills dog groomers charge more than the groom ‘n’ go received at Petsmart. In these cases, your wages will depend on how much your boss is charging.
If you are working for yourself, the type of grooms you do (show dogs vs. the family pet) will also factor in how much you can charge. Having add-ons such as ribbons, nail polish, hair dye, etc., can add to your bottom line.
The United Stated Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012 lumps groomers with animal care and service workers, giving the median annual wags as $19,970 a year. This is fairly low, probably representing what you might make if you are employed as a groomer at a business like a retail pet supply chain. Indeed.com lists the average salary at around $32,000, which is more likely. And, if you live in an upscale area, own your own business and/or groom for the show dog circuit, you can expect to make more.
Tips From the Pros
“Know the job you are applying for. Too many people think because they bathe ‘Fluffy’ at home, they can groom professionally” – Serena Marshall, owner Shantel Mobile Salon and Spaw
“As a 20 year veteran of the pet care industry who has hired dozens of people, too often those seeking pet care industry jobs only talk about how much you they love animals; that’s great, but unless you mention your BUSINESS skills and experience that are specifically tailored to the job you want, you’ll be placed in the circular file.” Anthony Bennie Founder and Chief Nutrition Officer, Clear Conscious Pet.
“A great way to build a resume for a pet related job is to volunteer at your local shelter or some other animal related charity such as the Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Not only can you make important connections with pet related professionals, but it shows that you are a “pet person” not just in it for the money.” – Gary Castelle, Pet Product Des
About the Author
Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs.
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