CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a dog groomer.
Is becoming a dog groomer right for me?
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While in high school:
Start researching and practising
Spend some time reading articles, watching videos, and talking with people working in the dog grooming business. This will provide you with some insight into the industry, its requirements, and expectations. Practise bathing, drying, and brushing your own or a friend’s dog. Find out if you have the patience and passion to do this kind of work with new dogs every day.
Volunteer at a veterinarian’s office, animal shelter, boarding kennel, animal hospital, or dog grooming salon. This real-world experience will introduce you to working with different breeds of dogs and different dog personalities.
Training & Experience
There are three possible ways to learn how to become a dog groomer:
• Train and gain experience on-the-job as a grooming assistant under the supervision of a veteran groomer. Some chain pet stores that offer grooming services may operate independent training programs for staff.
• Complete a formal training program at a dog grooming school
• Combine on-the-job training with some formal training
Regardless of the learning path chosen, training typically covers the following:
• Animal behavior and control
• Animal first aid and CPR
• Best safety practices
• Characteristics of different breeds
• Recognizing breeds and coat types
• Recognizing health conditions that a dog’s vet should be alerted to
• How to recognize dog skin disorders
• Specifics on parasites such as ticks and fleas
• Bathing procedures
• Hair cutting
• Nail clipping
• Ear cleaning
• Grooming matted fur
• How to use and where to get the right grooming products and supplies
Licensing (for specific treatments)
Some states require that dog groomers obtain a license to administer flea and tick treatments. A grooming business owner or grooming school administrator can tell you if you need this, and how to go about becoming licensed.
Certification (optional) & Continuing Education
The National Dog Grooming Association of America (NDGAA) grants the National Certified Master Groomer credential to groomers whose knowledge, techniques, abilities, and skills have been tested and certified by the Association. The NDGAA also sells breed profiles study kits and hosts various grooming workshops which provide opportunities to network and keep up with new business trends, tools, and techniques.
Open your own business (optional)
If you plan to run your own dog grooming business, your options include:
Operating your business from home
If you have a large enough space at home, the benefit of this option is low start-up and reduced overhead costs. Obstacles may include limited clientele and keeping your neighbors happy.
Setting up a mobile grooming business
This option generally incurs lower operating costs than opening a brick-and-mortar salon. The customer convenience factor can open up the potential for a large client base. Working as a mobile groomer, however, involves long hours and a lot of travel and increases vehicle insurance costs.
Opening a grooming salon
This option generally provides the greatest exposure and clearly separates work from home. However, renting or leasing a location will incur significant cost.
Each of the above business plans necessitates that you fulfill a number of legal requirements. Among these are local business registration, permits, licenses, small business insurance, and commercial/general/special liability insurance.
In addition to setting up and protecting your business, you will have to develop a marketing plan. You might consider joint marketing campaigns with veterinarians or pet stores and offering opening, customer loyalty, or new customer specials and discounts. You will have to determine a pricing strategy, considering the competition and evaluating your potential client base.
How to become a Dog Groomer
While there are no strict formal education requirements for becoming a dog groomer, employers usually prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent. Many individuals learn on the job by working in an assistant role with experienced groomers. In these junior positions, employees typically clean the facility, sanitize equipment, make appointments, and interact with and help to calm the dogs on site. Over time, they are trained in the grooming techniques of shampooing, cleaning matted fur and fluff drying, nail trimming, ear cleaning, cutting, and styling.
Some aspiring dog groomers opt to acquire training at a state-approved grooming school. Curricula generally include comprehensive instruction in grooming, breed and coat type recognition, nutrition, health and safety, pet CPR and first aid, and salon management.
In the United States, the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) administers a multi-phase testing and certification process. The Association’s National Certified Master Groomer credential is not a prerequisite for employment, but it may increase professional credibility and expand career opportunities.