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13 Things to Know Before Becoming a Dog Groomer

There’s more to it than having fun with adorable pups

 

Dogs are dogs are dogs, right? Not quite. 

Much like us humans, there’s a ton of diversity across breeds and from one dog to another. What's more, 

Understanding the differences and similarities will make you a well-informed, versatile, and capable groomer who will do right by your canine clients and owners alike. 

Ready to get started?

 

dog grooming professional with attention to detail

1. Understand the Breed

Even though most modern dogs are hanging out with owners indoors pretty often, every pedigree was bred for a distinct purpose. Many were originally found hunting or herding, or otherwise working outdoors. What might now be seen as funny-looking floofs of hair could in fact have originated as a way to protect a dog’s ancestral hunter from cold weather or water. Grooming isn't just an aesthetic exercise left to the groomer’s whim––there’s history behind it! Knowing this history and how it plays into your modern work is vital.

 

2. Expect to Give Pretty Luxe Dog Baths

Since the pups you work with will typically get a thorough once-over less often than we would give ourselves, bathtime is a key opportunity to really get in there and make some suds. The entire process could last an hour, give or take, so it’s important to leave enough time in your schedule for an in-depth cleaning. That might look like an ear cleaning, followed by facial treatments (especially for dirty pups or those with skin conditions), cleansing and conditioning that best suits the dog’s skin and coat type, and even an oil treatment to keep their skin and coat in top shape. It might sound like a lot, but understanding what informs all these steps will ensure that you deliver owners a clean and happy dog with a hydrated, detangled coat that will be easier to care for between visits.

 

3. Plan to Learn A Lot On the Job

Dog-grooming schools are out there, but you don’t necessarily need a certification to work as a groomer. Accredited institutions can certainly offer courses that teach grooming basics, and it’s always a good idea to have those skills down pat. International Professional Groomers and National Dog Groomers Association of America are two well-known organizations. Online courses are also available, but it’s pretty tricky to learn a very physical trade in a digital format. Oftentimes it’s possible to begin as a relatively unskilled worker and within a few years’ time gain enough know-how to be a full-fledged groomer. Some skills–like properly holding scissors–might take a good bit of practice, but they’ll come eventually.

 

4. Grooming Equipment Is Expensive

Any expert will tell you that having the right tools for a job will always yield the best results. ‘Making do’ often leads to less-than-great or unpredictable results. This is so very true when it comes to maintaining dogs’ coats. High-quality shears ensure a clean, precise cut that will maintain well between grooming visits. They can also run a few hundred dollars for a great pair. Shears also need to be sharpened after repeated use, and it’s always best to send those out to an expert for maintenance, so having a couple of extra pairs on hand for those times is key to ensure that your business can still function. But all that said, we’re talking about spending potentially thousands of dollars on shears alone. Not to mention a good clipper and replacement blades. This isn’t to say that you have to have everything upfront, but know that to do the best possible job, you’re going to invest a chunk of cash in equipment. Thankfully if they’re well cared for, these tools can last a long time.

 

5. Dog Grooming Isn’t Easy

Yeah, dog grooming can be fun, but it’s so much trickier than, say, human hairstyling. You’re grooming the entire body (including the not-so-cute parts) of a squirmy creature that can’t talk and often won’t sit still. Canine cuts can take almost twice as long as you’d imagine, so when you average out your pricing you could end up making low hourly wages. Factor that in when deciding your pricing.

 

groomed maltese puppy

6. Your Energy Affects Your Clients

It's true what they say about dogs picking up on your energy! If you work to implement intentional, calming practices in your personal and business life, that effort will translate to your clients and could be the difference between an easy-to-work-with pup or a real trial for both of you. The winning combination of things will vary by person and pets, but in general, a quiet, calm space and mindful handling will go far to build reciprocal trust and relaxation. If soft music and essential oils are your thing, just be sure that owners are cool with your setup. Offering to tour the space with an owner and pet on a down day could potentially help a particularly nervous dog to feel safe.

 

7. Coat Texture is Key

Just like a dog’s coat needs to be groomed in a way that’s breed appropriate, you’ll also want to take length and texture into consideration before making the first cut. Coats can be long, short, wiry, fine, and everything in between. And they aren’t just for show––a dog’s coat directly affects its wellbeing, helping to regulate temperature and protect the skin. Different coat textures are often easy to detect by feel alone, but definitely listen to the owners if there are any pain points they experience when caring for their pup’s coat. You’ll also want to customize the cut, tool selection, and products used to the dog’s coat type. Use your expertise here to provide added value for clients, and they’ll be able to recognize just how necessary you are to their dog’s health and their own peace of mind.

 

8. Things Can Go Awry

Sometimes dogs will get a little out of control. Oftentimes a lack of training or just a particularly anxious disposition are at the root. When this happens, it’s key to remain calm. Work through the situation if possible, and find ways to make the experience less difficult next time. One way could be to make sure that the dog is well-exercised and in a more restful state prior to the appointment. Educating owners on the best methods to calm down a riled pet is worth a try, but sometimes a different groomer might be the best option for everyone. It’s ok to make that call.

 

9. Accidents Happen

Especially when you’re first starting out, you just might accidentally clip a dog. Just remain calm, make sure the pet is ok, and call the owner to determine the best course of action. Some might want their pet to be seen by a vet, and that’s fine. Thankfully, accidents like a minor cut or scrape, getting water in a dog’s ear, or using a product that sparks an unknown allergy are relatively common when starting out. Taking your time early on is a great way to prevent mishaps, but if they do happen, the key is knowing how to react and definitely not panicking. Taking CPR and first aid classes before beginning your grooming business gives you a practical base knowledge that can kick into gear should an emergency happen. 

 

10. Prepare for Outlandish Requests

Owners could ask you to do some wild things to their pets’ coats, especially in the realm of color work and overall dyeing. These requests are up to you, as a professional, to either accept or reject––don’t be scared to stick to your guns. If you feel that a request could endanger or upset a pet, or it’s just not something that you feel comfortable with, that’s your prerogative. 

adorable dog with purple ears getting her fur dyed by the groomer

 

11. It’s Even More Fun Than You’d Expect

You’re obviously a dog lover, so even with an occasional less-than-great experience thrown in, working with pups all day will always be better than most any other job you could be doing. Let yourself have fun! And capitalize on that natural byproduct of doing what you love by building a social media presence that shows off your work and your enthusiasm. Once you’re an established groomer with a space of your own, a schedule that works for your life, and the ability to work your magic on your terms, you’ll be so happy you chose dog grooming. It’s a rewarding career choice that lets you pass on that happiness to both clients and owners alike.

 

12. Perfection Isn’t The Goal

The real goal when an owner drops off a dirty, smelly pup is to pick up a clean dog that’s healthy and happy. You can deliver that each and every time and still work efficiently. Focusing on a perfect trim is a sure way to drive yourself crazy, and it’s also something that owners often won’t notice or care about as much as you think they do. Get the basics down to a science and then work from there, but always keep the focus on the dogs themselves. As your business and clientele grow, you honestly won’t have time to groom as if these were show dogs anyway.

 

13. Risk Protection Means Peace of Mind

Clearly, there are lots of risks involved when handling dogs. You’re looking at possible grooming mishaps, hard-to-handle pups, and lots of expensive equipment. The best way to be sure that these variables don’t keep you up at night is to put petcare business insurance at the top of your list of must-haves when you’re building your business. Solid insurance protection will cover losses, shelter you from risks, and make sure that you can offer the very best services without being preoccupied with worry.

 

Count On ZINC for Modern Pet Care Insurance Options

Ready to be a dog groomer? We're rooting for you! We want your business to be a success, including your business' insurance plan. 

For an insurance policy to address all your risks, it needs to be built by someone who knows your industry. At ZINC Insurance for Pet Care, specialists in the grooming and pet care world apply their insurance expertise to your specific business risks. They’ll craft you a hand-cut policy that’s built for what worries you. Get in touch today to learn more about our team or to talk about our offerings. We’re ready to help you manage risk as your business grows!