If you’ve been thinking about starting your dog grooming career, then you must be curious as to what your career options are!

QC Pet Studies’ key instructor, Lisa Day, grew up in the industry and has over 40 years of experience. She is extremely accomplished with several awards for her work grooming show dogs. This week, we sat down with Lisa to gain some insight on her long and extremely successful career as a dog groomer.

Keep reading for exclusive insights on the different career paths available to you as a groomer and what each entails.

Junior Dog Groomers

Junior pet groomers, or what Lisa creatively referred to as “strip joints”, focus only on taking hair off the dogs. For them, there isn’t much more than that! These pet groomers shave dogs while paying little attention to styling or aesthetic, due to their limited knowledge in breeds. Essentially it can be summarized as this: bring hairy beast and pick up hairless dog!

There are also some junior groomers that are more comfortable with leaving more hair on the dog. These groomers have more experience in scissoring and shaping work, but are still considered to be your basic groomer.

Professional Dog Groomers

The essential difference between a junior dog groomer and a professional dog groomer (sometimes referred to as a Dog Stylist) is that a professional groomer knows breeds. Not only that, but a professional groomer is also familiar with all the different coat types and standards. These standards, or what experts refer to as ‘profiles’, outline the specific look that each dog requires, according to their breed and coat. This grooming includes more complicated scissoring and clipping patterns.

Every pure bred dog has a specific look. So, the more familiar you are with these looks and how to obtain them, the more options you have! A professional dog groomer can be as skilled and accomplished as Lisa, working exclusively with show dogs! But, professional groomers may also cater to everyday pet dogs, giving the owners a shortened version of this high-end pure bred look. This means giving pet owners a cut that helps them easily maintain their dog without sacrificing the breed look they paid for.

The other difference between junior pet groomers and professional dog groomers is that professional groomers are familiar with dog anatomy and structure, and they understand what makes a properly built dog. Professional groomers can create the illusion of a properly built dog even if the dog doesn’t actually have perfect build. A good groomer, if given enough hair, can create anything! For example, you can take a dog with a wide front end and make it look very narrow. This is especially important for show grooming where the goal is to create a perfect specimen!

The point is that if you know and understand how to cut a certain breed across the board, say a poodle for example, then you can do a poodle whether it be for show or for pet owners. First and foremost, it’s key that you understand exactly what a breed is supposed to look like and how to achieve this look! Without this, you won’t be able to adapt the look to meet the needs of different clients!

Show Grooming

If you have your sights set on becoming a show groomer, then you’re in for the long haul. Mastering your professional dog grooming skills and bringing them to this high level can take time.

Everything in the show ring is about coat: “coat is maintained, coat is sacred, coat is in profuse!” So, if you want to be a successful show groomer then you have to know your stuff! And we mean really know your stuff!

Understanding dog grooming terminology is also extremely important for show groomers. It’s almost like reading a recipe! Not only do you have to understand the breed profile, but you also have to be able to identify how each individual dog varies from this profile. It is the show groomer’s job to enhance the dog’s strengths and hide their weaknesses.

A highly skilled groomer will apply these principles for all their clients. The key difference is that most pet owners don’t want as much coat. Regardless, a groomer with this level of skill will have the owner exclaiming that their pet has never looked so good!

Owning Your Own Dog Grooming Business

Grooming salons vary in the services and quality they offer, and they also vary when it comes to how they operate. There’s a difference between working by yourself as a freelance groomer and owning your own salon.

As a salon owner you may hire multiple assistants. For the most part, your assistants are likely to be bathers. This makes the job a bit simpler and allows you to groom more dogs in a day. While you’re grooming, your assistant is bathing and drying, creating a sort of assembly line process.

One of the pitfalls of working with others is the difficulty in maintaining standards. Since the dog grooming industry isn’t government regulated, there isn’t one established way of teaching. This means you and your employees may have learned grooming very differently.

A lack of shared knowledge can make it hard to maintain a certain level of quality. It can also be frustrating if your bathers don’t wash and prepare the hair the way you want it before bringing them to you to groom. As the owner of a salon, it is your responsibility to ensure that your shop maintains a uniform standard. Otherwise, you risk ruining your reputation.

There are other responsibilities when it comes to owning your own dog grooming salon. This includes scheduling employee shifts and client appointments, ordering and keeping track of supplies, deciding whether or not to sell retail, keeping track of the finances, and other business related activities.

How to Grow Your Dog Grooming Career

It is important to note that these career paths are rarely ever dichotomous. In fact, they should, and for most people do, intersect! Once you’ve gotten the proper education, gaining experience as a groomer at a pet grooming salon is a great place to start. In a career like dog grooming, learning by watching is important in the early stages of your career. If you’re considering enrolling in a more flexible online dog grooming course that fits better with your busy schedule, then make sure the course comes with video content!

For Lisa Day, her career as a dog groomer is a bit more exceptional. With her mom working as a dog groomer, Lisa grew up in the industry. When she finally decided that she also wanted to become a dog groomer, she knew exactly what she was looking for in a mentor.

Lisa didn’t go out on her own until she was comfortable doing anything that was put in front of her. She decided to open her own salon when she knew that she no longer needed constant assistance from her mentor. And for emergencies, her mentor was only a phone call away!

Lisa worked with many bathers during her career in a salon environment, but as a bit of a perfectionist, she became frustrated with the inconsistent quality of their work. In her hay day, she groomed up to 8 to 10 dogs per day. But now that her career has settled down, she works freelance and grooms 2 to 3 dogs a day.

Lisa is also a recognized Master Groomer with several show grooming awards. Needless to say, she gets to pick and choose her clients! Lisa Day is inspiring to aspiring dog groomers everywhere!

Stay tuned for the next article in this 3-piece series, where Lisa Day brings us more exclusive insights in the life of a dog groomer!

Excited to kickstart your career as a dog groomer? Check out QC’s Dog Grooming Course!

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