If you love dogs and the idea of becoming a dog groomer appeals to you, you probably can’t wait to get trained and start working in the field. But there are many different steps to complete before reaching a point where you’re comfortable enough to call yourself a professional dog groomer.
You have to complete your training, gain experience through practice, decide the direction of your business, and then put everything into motion! It sounds like a lengthy process, but your hard work will pay off and lead to a highly rewarding career.
Keep reading to find out how long it will take to start your dog grooming career!
In most jurisdictions, formal education for dog groomers is not required. Theoretically, someone can just wake up one morning, decide they’re a dog groomer, and that’s completely legal and possible! But would they know how to brush, bathe, and trim the coats of different dog breeds? Do they know how to clean ears without causing a serious infection? Likely not! There are two main ways that aspiring groomers gain training and experience: a dog grooming course and an apprenticeship under an experienced groomer. Let’s examine them both!
Dog Grooming Course
Duration: 1 year
Your course should teach you the basics behind grooming, techniques to identify problems and issues, and the ability to pinpoint the type of grooming needed by examining bodies or knowing breed standards. It’s also incredibly important to have a training program that is attentive to safety, sanitation, and health. These are real animals and small mistakes with a pair of scissors can have major consequences! Even if you choose not to take a grooming course, you’ll want to take a first aid course anyway—you don’t want to be helpless if something were to happen to a dog in your care!
Look for a course with internship opportunities or a practicum component. You can’t charge for your services if all you’ve done is read about how to clip a dog’s nails instead of actually doing it! Theoretical knowledge is super important, but being able to expertly maneuver your hands and physically calm a dog during their appointment is something that takes hands-on practice.
Obtaining a certificate in dog grooming looks great on your resume and eases the minds of pet owners who might find it difficult to leave their dogs for a stranger to groom! Especially if you’re a new groomer, it will help to have physical proof to show that you know what you’re doing, even if you haven’t spent many years in the field yet.
Duration: 1 year
Of the two basic types of training a groomer will undergo, completing an apprenticeship is the more common of the two. You’ll be working under a highly experienced groomer who can patiently walk you through everything you do step-by-step. You’ll receive valuable insights, information about clients and business best-practices in your area, and get help in real-time!
The only downside is that you can’t just pick it up whenever you want. Whereas some dog grooming courses, especially the online ones, allow you to get self-paced training whenever you decide to start, for apprenticeships you have to actively go out and find a place to apprentice yourself. If all the grooming salons in your area have too much on their plate or already have too many apprentices, you may be out of luck until a spot frees up!
There is one major advantage to completing an apprenticeship, though. The grooming salon who oversaw your grooming development may hire your year of training. You’ve already got your foot in the door and they have seen first-hand what you do and don’t know about grooming. Plus, they already know you!
Practice and volunteering
Duration: 5 months – 1 year
Take every opportunity to do this, and don’t rush! If you’re going to be pursuing a full-fledged career, you probably want to know what you’re doing. Pair this with a certification and you’ll increase the value of your services when you eventually start charging clients!
You may be able to get a head start on practice if you complete a practicum or apprenticeship, but the more practice you get with a variety of breeds, the better. For reference, companies such as PetSmart employ groomers who have had 800 hours of hands-on experience with over 200 dogs of all breeds and sizes. They want to ensure that all dogs of different breeds, coat types, and skin and health conditions that walk in through the door are accommodated.
Make sure that above all, you’re always using the safest methods and treating all dogs who sit on your grooming table with compassion and respect. Safety is incredibly important! Just because you have more experience doesn’t mean you should be cutting corners in order to speed up the grooming process. Keeping a grooming manual on hand even when you’ve mastered all the techniques means that you have no excuse to guess best-practices—the correct information is always within reach!
Starting your business
Duration: 1-5 months
As with training, most jurisdictions don’t require you to obtain a license in dog grooming in order to work in the field. You will, however, likely need to apply for a business license whether you’re opening up your own salon or working from home. The license allows you to operate a business, and can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months to be approved.
As for the actual business aspect of the job, you’ll need administrative and accounting skills with some legal knowledge on top of your actual grooming skills. If you completed a grooming course with business units, hurray! You probably know the ins and outs of starting your business. If you don’t, here’s a quick guide!
You may want to voluntarily take certification courses with major grooming associations in order to stay on top of your grooming skills and prove that you know what you’re doing. Depending on the association, you may also receive heaps of resources and perks such as grooming insurance!
It’s important to always evaluate yourself, your services, and your prices. At what point are you a full-fledged groomer and not a mere hobbyist? You don’t have to wait to become a regular columnist for a pet-centered magazine or attend lavish grooming conventions to know that you’ve found success in the business. You can tell whether you’ve become successful by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you enjoy what you do?
- Are your clients happy with you?
- Do you have a stable client list of regulars who keep coming back?
- Have you noticed that dogs that come in for their first appointments are generally more relaxed with you?
- Are you earning a high enough salary to work as a groomer full time?
If you can answer “yes” to any or all of those answers, you can call yourself a successful groomer! Remember that a grooming career isn’t built in a day. It requires a life-long penchant for learning, so always keep working on your skills and be patient!
Feeling mopey today and need a pup talk? Find out how pet grooming courses can make your life happier!
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Casey Bechard of Off The Leash Pet Grooming is a QC Pet Studies graduate. Read all about her favorite breeds and pet haircuts as a certified groomer!