Dog grooming classes are wonderful at teaching you the theoretical knowledge and practical skills you need to be a successful dog groomer. A good dog grooming course (whether it’s online or classroom-based) will teach you all about canine anatomy, grooming tools, safety concerns, standard cuts, first aid, and more. Graduating from a course should allow you to start your dog grooming career with the confidence to groom dogs safely and effectively.
But a grooming class can’t teach you everything. Here are a few realities to dog grooming that most courses just won’t prepare you for.
1: You can’t satisfy every client
A good dog grooming course will teach you how to interact with your (human) clients.
That said, no matter how well you’re prepared, every business owner is bound to encounter a few “Choosing Beggars” or “Karens” in their careers. These customers just can NOT be pleased no matter what you do. Though these clients are rare, you can usually tell by these typical behaviors:
- They ask for discounts or for free services because “you charge too much” / “Suzy down the street offers the same services for cheaper” / “they’re doing you a favor by allowing you to practice on their dog” / “other reasons”.
- They have unrealistic expectations and don’t take kindly to being told that what they want Just. Isn’t. Possible.
- They expect you to fall over yourself and do everything humanely impossible to please them because “you work for them” (whether they intend on paying you for your work or not).
- They lose their mind if you dare to ask for a deposit.
- They resort to insulting you personally or leaving horrible (and exaggerated/untrue) reviews of your business if they’re displeased in any way.
A lot of professionals will go way above and beyond for this type of client because they can’t bear the thought of displeasing a paying client or seeing a bad review of their business. But the truth of the matter is, you’ll never be able to please this type of client and doing so can hurt your business more than their bad review ever will. Instead, focus on setting healthy boundaries with terrible clients and learn how to respond to bad reviews in a professional manner.
The good news is, people are becoming savvier at identifying and calling out these impossible clients. If your business reputation is solid and your reviews are otherwise positive, most potential clients won’t be put off by one or two bad experiences with a nightmare client.
2: Dogs are really unpredictable (but like, really)
Your dog grooming course should teach you all about dog behavior and how to work with different types of dogs including difficult-to-groom ones. But reading about working with dogs and actually doing it is a very different experience.
Most groomers are surprised the first time they work on a “difficult” dog. It’s more challenging than you think it’ll be! Some scenarios you’re likely to encounter:
- The terrified dog who wants to bite your face when you get within 3 feet of her
- The overly-friendly dog who wants to tackle you to the ground and lick your face when you get within 3 feet of him (i.e. my puppy)
- The dog who hates all other dogs and becomes Cujo when another dog is in her field of vision
- The dog who loves all other dogs and screams until he’s allowed to play with them (i.e. my puppy)
- The water-lover who refuses to get out of the tub
- The water-hater who refuses to get into the tub
- The dog who’s perfectly fine until you dare to touch her feet
- The pup who’s perfectly fine until you dare to touch his ears
- The explosive diarrhea
You get the idea.
Dogs have so many personalities and quirks. And fact is, for a groomer, an overly-friendly Labrador can be just as much of a pain to groom as a reactive Golden Retriever.
The good news is, when you’re just starting out, you can usually find enough clients who have well-behaved dogs that are used to being groomed. Don’t be afraid of being selective with your first few clients and screening out the difficult cases! Starting out on “easier” dogs can allow you to master your craft before you start working on more challenging pooches.
And when you do find yourself working with a difficult canine, remember this: Dogs are living beings with feelings. You’re not doing a dog (or yourself) any favor by “powering through it”. If they’re scared, nervous, overwhelmed or otherwise being difficult, your best option is to stay completely calm and slow down or take a break. If that means you can’t fully groom a dog during a scheduled appointment, so be it. Most dog owners (except for the ones in point #1 above) will be thankful that you have their best friend’s interest at heart.
3: Business “best practices” won’t always work for your business
Your dog grooming course should teach you how to launch a grooming business. This training is based on business best practices that have been tried and tested. But once you run your own business, you start to learn that some “best practices” might just not work for your own business.
Now I have yet to see a business who doesn’t benefit from, say, having a website. But when it comes to setting your prices, for example, or actually marketing your business, it’s very likely that not every strategy that’s recommended in your course will be a hit with your particular business.
Maybe your business is located in a very conservative area and you have to be extremely careful about your social media use. Maybe your target audience skews much older and you actually do benefit from advertising in newspapers even though we’d never advise it as a viable marketing strategy in QC’s online dog grooming course. Who knows?
So while you definitely should pay very close attention to your dog groomer business training and adopt most, if not all, of the advice presented within the course, you also shouldn’t blindly follow business advice if you start to see evidence that it doesn’t work for your business. Use your intuition and common sense, and go with what works!
Dog grooming classes are great. A comprehensive dog grooming course will help you succeed in your future career as a dog groomer. But just as with every profession, taking a grooming class won’t teach you everything about being a dog groomer. Sometimes you just have to get into the weeds and experience the profession for yourself!