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How to Become a Dog Groomer

A woman grooming a black dog.
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If you’ve found your way here, we can guess a few things about you:

1.) You love animals.

2.) You’re looking for a new career.

3.) You want to pursue a job involving your love of animals.

Did we guess right?

We love our pets and the pros who help us care for them, which is why we’re thrilled that you’re thinking about pursuing a career in dog grooming. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you decide if pet grooming is the right path for you, how to make it happen, and how to run a successful business.

What Does a Dog Groomer Do?

Dog grooming is more than just bathing poodles and trimming toenails. Don’t get us wrong, groomers do plenty of both, but a trained professional manages so much more.

Day-to-Day Duties

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a typical grooming appointment can include all of the following:

 

  • Brushing
  • Bathing and drying
  • Trimming and shaping fur, including around sensitive areas
  • Clipping nails
  • Cleaning ears
  • Brushing teeth

 

Each of these steps requires careful attention and consideration for the pet. Some animals require a specific style of trim or technique to meet the client’s needs. Plus, pets come in a wide range of sizes, so the groomer must know how to manage everything from a Chihuahua to a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Pet Health and Wellness

In addition to technical skills, dog groomers must consider the animals’ needs. Some pets have medical conditions that require special care or accommodations. Groomers need to consider issues like:

 

  • Arthritis
  • Skin conditions
  • Respiratory problems

 

On top of their existing health concerns, dogs may come in with issues that owners aren’t even aware of. While providing grooming services, pros will watch out for problems, like:

 

  • Hot spots
  • Ear infections
  • Nail bed infections
  • Cysts
  • Dental complications

 

A responsible groomer knows the signs of these and other common health problems so they can keep the pets in their care as comfortable as possible and pass on the information to their owners.

Pets’ mental wellness is just as important as their physical health. While humans might enjoy a day at the spa, dogs aren’t typically as excited about their grooming appointments. A visit to the groomer can be stressful and cause anxiety-related behaviors, like pacing, licking, and even aggression. Dog groomers need to know how to soothe and control scared pets.

Safety

Safety is another factor that dog groomers need to account for. Between slippery bathing areas tall grooming tables, and multiple pets in one facility, there are plenty of risk factors for the animals in their care. Professional groomers must stick to the best practices to keep their furry clients safe and sound.

What Do You Need to Do to Become a Pet Groomer?

Becoming a dog groomer comes down to the right mindset, some training, and a whole lot of practical experience. Like many careers, pet grooming can be simple to learn, but it takes years to achieve mastery.

Core Skills and Personality

It’s one thing to love dogs, but working with them is a different animal. You can always learn the job, but being a successful pet groomer starts with the right mindset. If you’re exploring your options, consider to help you determine whether you’d be happy working as a pet care professional.

You’ll need a few key traits to run a successful dog grooming business:

 

  • People skills and communication. Pet groomers work closely with clients, sometimes navigating sensitive topics like payment, pet health, and problems with service. You must be able to do all of this with tact and clarity.
  • Detail orientation. You need a keen eye for detail in dog grooming. Pet owners may request specific styles or precision cuts, requiring finesse and symmetry. You’ll also need to do standard procedures—like nail trims and ear cleaning—that require a steady hand to avoid hurting the animal.
  • Problem-solving. A cool head is a must when working with animals. Pets can be unpredictable, and you’ll have to adapt and overcome any challenges they throw at you. This may involve a creative solution for soothing an anxious poodle or using specialized restraints for an over-active rottweiler.
  • Physical stamina and dexterity. As a groomer, you’ll be on your feet for several hours at a time. Additionally, you must be able to physically manage the pets in your care, including lifting them into a tub or onto a table and safely restraining them during grooming.

 

If you have these qualities, you have the core skills necessary to be a successful dog groomer.

If you hope to become a pet groomer in the future, you may want to explore a few entry-level positions that involve working with pets. Not only do you get to hang out with cats and dogs all day, but you’ll also get hands-on experience that will help you develop a better understanding of a career in grooming.

Consider these roles as you work toward becoming a groomer:

 

  • Volunteer at an animal shelter
  • Office assistant at a veterinary clinic
  • Pet store clerk
  • Dog walker
  • Pet sitter
  • Internship with a professional groomer

 

Positions like these can help you develop on-the-job experience and skills that will transfer well into your dog grooming career. In fact, many professional groomers look for this experience before taking on a new apprentice.

Education

While you need a high school diploma or a GED to become a dog groomer, experience is the real key to breaking into the grooming industry. You can earn this in two ways: attending a trade school or through an apprenticeship.

Trade School

Attending a trade school isn’t strictly necessary to become a pet groomer, however, it does lay the foundation for necessary skills. Find local trade school options near you. Programs last anywhere from two weeks to several months and provide essential training to get you started.

There are also several online courses in pet grooming, such as The American Kennel Club (AKC) S.A.F.E. Grooming Program or Paragon’s Online Pet Grooming Program. Remember, these courses offer instruction and information, but you’ll still need hands-on training to become a full-fledged grooming professional.

Apprenticeship

Whether or not you attend pet grooming school, you’ll need to gain practical experience before becoming a professional dog groomer. Apprenticeships allow you to gain first-hand experience while learning the ins and outs of the industry. You can find both paid and unpaid positions in a few different places:

 

  • Large pet retailers: Pet stores that offer grooming services, such as PetSmart or Petco, often have in-house training programs.
  • Local grooming businesses: If you have an existing relationship with a local groomer, you may be able to apprentice in a smaller grooming business with a seasoned pro.
  • Veterinary offices: Many veterinarians offer grooming services and may welcome the help in exchange for on-the-job training.

 

When you begin an apprenticeship, it’s important to remember that you won’t be styling and trimming pets right away. Most aspiring groomers start as bathers or assistants. Don’t be discouraged by this! The hands-on experience will help you build a valuable skillset that transfers to grooming.

Business Tip: In addition to skill-based training, take a few classes on business accounting and operations so you’re prepared to run your dog grooming business.

How to Become a Certified Dog Groomer

No state currently requires a license or certification to operate as a dog groomer, so most businesses focus on your experience and demonstrated skill. But even though it’s not mandatory, you might want to elevate your credibility by earning official certification.

The National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) is the industry authority for dog groomer certification. This nationally recognized organization has high standards and rigorous written and practical testing that applicants must complete to earn the title of National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG).

There are many benefits to becoming a certified pet groomer, including:

 

  • Proof of your skill. Those in the industry know how much work and skill go into earning your certification, instilling confidence in your abilities as an expert groomer.
  • Credibility with clients. Featuring your certified status on customer-facing materials like your website, business cards, marketing, and emails positions you as a trustworthy pet pro.
  • Stand out when job hunting. Including your certification on your resume gives you a competitive edge over applicants who aren’t certified.
  • Higher priced services. With your proven experience and abilities, you could charge a higher premium for your services.

 

While earning your pet groomer certification may be a long-term goal, it’s worth pursuing if you want to build your career, operate independently, or serve high-level clientele like breeders or dog show participants.

Pomeranian getting a haircut

How to Get Started

Now that you know how to become a dog groomer, it’s time to think about what you need, where to work, and who your clients will be.

Stock Up With Essential Tools and Equipment

Dog groomers need the right equipment for the job. Though brands and styles can vary, you should have these essentials for your dog grooming business:

 

  • Hair clippers (corded or cordless)
  • Grooming sheers
  • Brushes (slicker brush, pin brush, bristle brush, shedding blade, and undercoat rake)
  • Nail clippers (traditional clippers and an electric grinder)
  • Shampoo (all-purpose, medicated, hypoallergenic, flea and tick, whitening, color-enhancing, and degreasing)
  • Pet toothbrushes

 

Depending on how you operate your business and the pets you serve, you may need additional equipment or supplies, but these will be the main staples in your grooming toolkit.

Choose Where You Want to Work

You have a few options when deciding where you want to work as a dog groomer. Most pros choose one of the following for their base of operations:

 

  • Brick-and-mortar location. When first starting, the easiest and most cost-effective option may be to work for a larger company or to rent a space in a pet salon.
  • Mobile grooming. Bring your services to the customer with a utility van or RV equipped with grooming essentials like a tub and table.
  • Home visits. Work from your clients’ homes, arranging to use their tub or sink and a space for trimming.
  • Out of your home. If you have the space and accommodations, you can operate from your home.

 

Wherever you choose to work, the goal is to create a safe and welcoming environment for your furry clients. A permanent location may offer the most consistency from day to day, but a mobile or in-home arrangement can help reduce the stress on the pets you care for.

Build Your Client Base

Finding and keeping clients can be one of the trickiest parts of operating any business. As a dog groomer, you have the benefit of building a network and client relationships during your apprenticeship. If that’s the case, you may be lucky enough to transition into your career with a healthy customer base already in place.

As you work on growing your client list, consider applying these tried and true tactics:

 

  • Create a website. A business site creates a resource for information, an opportunity to book more appointments, and free or inexpensive advertising.
  • Establish a social media presence. Who can say no to cute dog pics? Sharing your work and business on social media can attract an audience (and clients) you may not reach otherwise.
  • Ask for referrals. You already have clients who love what you do, so ask them to send their friends and family your way, too. Word of mouth is a powerful way to drum up business.
  • Share business cards. Business cards are an affordable way to spread the word about your business whenever you get the chance.
  • Partner with pet care businesses. Ask local vet offices if you can leave your cards, ask pet store managers if you can post a flier, and buddy up with an animal rescue or shelter to increase your visibility and build connections.
  • Get involved. Attend charity events, fairs, and any other community events where you can network and share what you do.

 

A career in dog grooming requires you to build relationships with your clients to create a pool of repeat customers. Of course, once you convince them to give you a try, providing optimal service is the best way to keep them coming back.

Taking Care of Business

Being a pet groomer isn’t all kisses and ear scratches. No matter what industry you’re in, there are some essential business matters you’ll need to manage. 

To help you get started, we created this handy checklist of steps and documents you’ll need!

Register Your Business

If you choose to operate independently, you’ll need to register your business with the appropriate state and local governments. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the various business types to help you choose the right fit. 

Once you register your business, you’ll need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is like a social security number for your business. Once you have your EIN, you can open a business bank account and register with any required tax agencies.

The laws vary depending on where you live, so take some time to research and understand the local requirements and regulations for business owners.

Get Pet Care Insurance

While grooming is an essential part of keeping pets healthy, accidents can and do happen. A few of the most common grooming-related injuries to animals include: 

 

  • Razor burns
  • Bruising
  • Nicks and scrapes
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Quicked nails (aka, cutting nails too short, causing bleeding.

 

Working with pets may be a dream job, but it also comes with risks like these. Even with all that training and preparation under your belt, accidents can still happen. A liability claim could be detrimental to a small business like yours, but pet groomer insurance can protect you from big out-of-pocket payouts.

In some ways, dog groomers take on double the risk because they work with both people and animals. Between the risk of pets getting injured while in your care and the potential for damaging a client’s property, there are plenty of reasons why pet groomers need insurance.

Your furry clients may not want to go to the groomer, but they’re better off for it.

You may not want to deal with buying pet groomer insurance, but you’ll be better off for it, too.

Getting your new business insured might feel overwhelming, but Pet Care Insurance (PCI) makes it as simple and painless as possible. We offer comprehensive coverage at affordable rates so you can worry less and get back to caring for the pets we all love.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To become a dog groomer, a one-year on-the-job apprenticeship under an established dog groomer is the industry standard for training. Additional courses can take anywhere from two weeks to several months to complete.

The cost to become a dog groomer includes education and equipment. ! Grooming courses cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, while your initial equipment costs will range from $400 to $1,000 depending on the services you plan to offer.

Get to Grooming!

The world needs dedicated pet people like you, so what are you waiting for? Now that you have the information to get the ball rolling, it’s time to unleash your potential and fetch the opportunities in front of you! Those with a passion for pets and a willingness to work hard will enjoy a long and rewarding career in dog grooming.

Annual Dog Groomer Insurance Policy

This policy is for professionals who work in the pet care industry.

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About the Author

Comparing Employee Dishonesty Coverage & Bonding

PCI’s employee dishonesty coverage is similar to a bond, but there may be some key differences to consider.

Employee dishonesty coverage:

  • Can be purchased in the same transaction
  • Doesn’t run credit checks
  • Provides $10,000 per occurrence and $25,000 aggregate coverage

Bonds may differ from our dishonesty coverage by:

  • Checking your credit during the application process
  • Having a “Conviction Claus;” Often bonds won’t pay on claims unless there is a conviction
  • Many require you to reimbursement the bonding company after a claim is paid