How to Become a Dog Groomer: (Tips from a Certified Pro)

Dog at Groomer Before and After

How to Become a Dog or Pet Groomer

Dog grooming is an extremely high-demand, rewarding career.

As a professional dog and cat groomer, I’m always happy for those who decide to pursue it, but it can also be daunting to get started.

Here is my best advice on how to become a safe and profitable dog or pet groomer.

This is everything I wish I knew starting out.

I hope you find it helpful and I wish you amazing success as you begin your career as a dog or pet groomer!

In this Article We Cover:

The Dangers of Dog Grooming: (And How to Stay Safe)

The main difference between dog grooming and pet grooming is that with pet grooming, you provide services for additional types of pets.

Cats are a great example and I provide cat grooming in my own shop as well as dog grooming.

Deciding which services you wish to provide is part of your journey to becoming a dog or pet groomer.

Dog and Pet Grooming isn’t regulated. This means that pets, pet owners, and the groomers who go into their career with the best of intentions are not well protected from mishaps and safety concerns.

Working with Animals Can Be Dangerous

Working with animals is dangerous under the most controlled conditions. Going into a trade without proper experience and training can invite accidents that could have been prevented.

Dog Grooming Equipment and Supplies Can Be Dangerous

High velocity dryers can cause severe injuries to the animal you use them on and yourself.

Many people fear the idea of a nick or cut from the clippers or shears, but even brush bristles can scratch skin and eyes, and the high velocity dryer can actually pop eyes out.

Shampoos can cause allergic reactions and not cleaning mixing bottles properly can introduce bacterial infections.

Stay Safe with Training, Experience, and Continuous Learning

The answer to dealing with situations that might be dangerous is to obtain quality training up front.

Combine that with seeking out opportunities to gain experience gradually and you can greatly reduce the risks involved with grooming.

Finally, it’s important to never stop learning. I am constantly humbled by finding something new I didn’t know or was doing wrong for years. The “Aha!” moments are my favorite.

Tips on Learning How to be a Dog Groomer: (Tried and Tested)

Dog on Grooming Table

Dog Grooming Trade Shows are Very Helpful

You should definitely go to some dog grooming trade shows. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I wish someone had given me.

At dog grooming trade shows you can learn what kind of products and tools to use and why.

Take advantage of the classes while you are there and learn about handling and interacting with dogs and cats.

Learn about the equipment and its use before you buy your first dryer or pair of shears.

Learn about sanitation, animal handling, dryer, clipper, and scissor selection and maintenance.

Attend a Dog Grooming Trade School

Find a quality dog grooming trade school. At the very least, take an online course to get started.

The online course may only scratch the surface, but while you decide where to go next you can start absorbing information.

A trade school can provide you with ideas for what you’d like to do with your dog grooming career.

For example, you may discover that you like creative grooming more than show grooming.

Trade shows are a great place to find trade schools.

Seek Out Opportunities to Gain Valuable Experience

Become an apprentice. Attend dog and cat shows and ask the breeders and showers there if they offer any learning opportunities.

Offer to bathe dogs at the local shelter and brush cats. This is where I got my start as a kid.

I learned a lot about handling stressed animals safely while working with the homeless pets at my local shelter. After high school I became an employee and learned even more.

Learn how to bathe dogs and cats to get them clean but also to help them feel less stressed and how to help them acclimate to grooming. This can also help them be more adoptable.

Once you prove yourself to be capable, you can also offer to volunteer as a nail trimmer, ear cleaner, and other maintenance-type care that’s often neglected for shelter pets.

A day in the shelter’s cat room and you will be the fastest nail trim in the west. Be sure to observe proper sanitation to avoid spreading illness from animal to animal.

Be aware that shelter pets are often under extra stress so learning to handle them gently and respectfully will set you up well for handling pampered pets in your future grooming career.

Learn about Learning Theory

Learning theory is the universal way animals, including humans, change their behavior based on motivation.

If you can identify why an animal is doing something you will stay much safer and you can make animals happier.

Learn how to handle dogs quickly and efficiently and prevent collar slips, and any other common safety issue you may encounter as a groomer.

Pay attention to their body language and learn the art of giving space when a dog or cat asks for it (growls, postures, moves away).

Punishing a growling animal only disables their early warning system and makes them more wary of you.

If an animal learns that you’re listening to them when they’re uncomfortable, they’ll hopefully give you plenty of warning before they bite.

The most dangerous pets I groom are those who are punished for speaking their minds.

The Art of Dog and Cat Calming

We have two articles dedicated to the art of dog and cat calming. Please check these out for valuable insights on how to calm dogs and cats and keep your grooming sessions as low stress as possible.

Dog Trying to Stay Calm

As a professional dog groomer, I am often asked how to calm a dog down. Here are the best products and tips I’ve found over the years.

Calm Cat Relaxing

As a professional cat groomer, I am often asked how to calm a cat down. Here are the best products and tips I’ve found over the years.

How Much Do Dog Groomers Make?

Dog and Pet Grooming is a growing industry with lots of opportunities. Answering the question “How Much Do Dog Groomers Make?” is a challenge because each grooming shop is as unique as the groomers who operate them and the collection of pets that they service.

However, there are a few key factors that can influence how much you make as a groomer.

Dog Groomers Who Work for Someone Else

There are some advantages to working for another groomer. For example, liability insurance should be provided by the grooming shop, and your taxes will be simpler because they should be automatically deducted. Some grooming shops may also cover your health care.

The policies on equipment and tools varies from place to place. You shouldn’t let another groomer share your shears as this can throw off their balance, and you’ll want to make sure to discuss fair terms with your employer.

Many bathers are paid hourly, and groomers often make commission, but make sure you discuss how many pets you will be expected to work with each day. You don’t want to burn your body out in order to make a living wage.

The amount of money you make will depend on the payment terms you negotiate with your employer. If you are paid hourly, then it is easier to calculate your take home pay.

However, you won’t make more money on a busy day at the shop. On the other hand, you won’t make less money if the shop has a quieter day.

If you are paid by the number of services you provide, then your payment will depend on the amount you are paid for each service, the types of services you performed that day, and the number of animals you worked with.

With the paid by service model, you will typically make more on a busier day and less on a quieter day, so your final amount of take home pay is more difficult to determine.

If you’re just starting out, you may prefer to work for another dog groomer for a while to gain experience and see what grooming is all about.

Dog Grooming in Action

Dog Groomers Who Work for Themselves

If you work for yourself, then all of the income from the grooming services you provide will go to you. However, you will also have additional expenses to manage.

If you own a dog grooming business you’ll have to pay for the following:

  • Taxes
  • Liability Insurance
  • Rent or Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Maintenance, Repair, and Sharpening of Equipment
  • Grooming Smocks and Protective Clothing (to prevent hair splinters and lung issues)
  • Professional Services (Legal, Accounting)
  • Health Insurance
  • Vacation Time

If you want to form your own dog grooming business and you aren’t business savvy, hire an accountant and lawyer to help you. You’ll save money in the long run. An LLC offers better legal protection than a DBA. Trade shows are a great place to find insurance providers.

To determine how much you would make as a dog groomer:

  1. Make a list of expenses. (you can use the list above as a starting point)
  2. Estimate how much each expense item will cost you each month.
  3. Determine how much income you would ideally like to make each month.
  4. Determine how many services you would like to provide each month.
  5. Add the monthly expenses and monthly income together.
  6. Divide that total by the number of services you wish to provide. (This is your service price).

Your goal here is to come up with some ballpark numbers, and determine if the amount you wish to make as a dog groomer is viable for your situation. The truth is that you won’t know the actual numbers until you get established and even then, they will continue to change over time.

Pricing depends on your area and your individual skill level and expertise. If you don’t have an interest in becoming a show dog or cat groomer, who can groom a pet to a specified standard, it’s important to at least have a basic idea why and how these grooms are done.

Most Dog Groomers Start Out with Baths

Almost all dog groomers will start out as a bather, which I consider the most important part. A nice haircut doesn’t matter if the pet isn’t clean or conditioned properly. In fact, clippers and shears can’t even cut a coat properly if it isn’t bathed and prepped correctly.

A certified master groomer can demand a much higher price than someone who can only offer a simple shave of all one length. There are also speciality areas in the grooming industry.

Creative groomers offer wild and wonderful hairstyles as well as pet-safe coloring. Estheticians offer grooming geared toward restoring and improving skin and coat health. Groomers who provide specialized services will be able to charge more per pet.

Large Dogs are a Special Case

The larger the dog the more wear and tear you’ll have on yourself, equipment, and the more product and time you’ll use to get the job done. Because of this, many groomers limit the size of the dogs that they will groom.

If you have too many large dogs to contend with each day you can find yourself with repetitive motion injuries, higher sharpening and equipment repair costs, and a higher water and electricity bill.

The cost to make these very large dogs truly worthwhile is prohibitive for most dog owners… in the hundreds of dollars per appointment.

So, keep this in mind as you set your prices. If it takes you twice as long or three times as long to groom a large dog over several small dogs, then you should charge two or three times as much.

Starting Up Your Dog Groomer Shop: (Products and Tips)

Grooming Dog's Face

People will often ask me for product recommendations. I signed up for the Amazon Associate Program so that I can include Amazon product links in this article.

If you click on a link below and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I truly appreciate this as it helps me to continue my mission to provide pet wellness education. Thank you so much!

Dog Groomer Shops are Usually One of the Following:

  • Brick and Mortar Store Front
  • In Home (you go to the person’s house or they come to your home)
  • Mobile (van or truck that has a self-contained water supply, tub, power, and equipment)

All of these have advantages and disadvantages and it’s best to talk to owners of each before deciding which is best for your situation.

Starting up Your Dog Groomer Shop

The following is a list of basics to start up your dog grooming shop. You’ll want to be proficient in the safe use, technique, and sanitation of any and all equipment and tools to be sure to avoid serious injury and even death to the dog or yourself.

Some of My Favorite Dog Grooming Books

The New Complete Dog Book, 22nd Edition” contains breed standards and profiles for over 200 breeds from the American Kennel Club. This book will help you stay on top of the recognized breeds and how they are meant to be groomed.

Notes From The Grooming Table” and “Theory of 5 2019” by Melissa Verplank are two books which are second-to-none as grooming instruction manuals.

The “Dog Groomer Client Data Log Book” is great for keeping track of your clients and their grooming history.

Dog Grooming Clippers and Scissors (Great for Starting Out)

The Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed Detachable Blade Clipper comes with a #10 blade which is the safest blade to start out with while learning.

The Wahl Professional Animal Stainless Steel Attachment Guide Comb is for use after the dog is properly dried and prepped.

The Fenice Peak 7.5″ Professional Dog Grooming Scissors is a good starter set of shears, but you’ll want to try out various styles and weights to find what’s most comfortable.

Dog Groomer Bath Tub and Grooming Table

The PawBest Stainless Steel Dog Grooming Bath Tub comes with a ramp which makes it easier to move dogs in and out of the bath tub.

The PAMPELLYA Dog Grooming Table is a great way to keep grooming as comfortably as possible for the length of your career.

The Jelly Pet Grooming Loop helps you keep the dog in place and it is easy to clean and sanitize between pets.

Dog Groomer Shampoo, Conditioner, and Disinfectant

The Quadruped Pet Care Hypo-Allergenic Tearless Concentrate Shampoo is a very good catch-all shampoo.

The Quadruped Scent Free Hypo-Allergenic Conditioner is a nice general conditioner.

The Bio-groom Ear Care Non-Oily Non-Sticky Ear Cleaner is for use in cleaning non-symptomatic pet ears.

The Best Shot 256 is a tried-and-true disinfectant.

Dog Grooming Dryers

The Shernbao Dog Dryer is meant for smaller pets.

The K-9 III Variable Speed Dog Grooming Dryer works well for large dogs and thick coats.

The Free Paws Pet Dryer Stand Set is good for nervous pets and the fluff drying process.

Dog Groomer Dog and Cat Nail Clippers

All About Dog and Cat Brushes

We have two article dedicated to the best dog and cat brushes we’ve found. As a dog or cat groomer, you will need different brushes depending on the breed and coat type of the animal you are grooming. Please check out these articles for all the details!

Dog Bowing

We are often asked what the best dog brush is. In this article, we discuss our recommendations for the best dog brushes and brushing techniques for your particular dog.

Cat Ready for Brushing

We are often asked what the best cat brush is. In this article, we discuss our recommendations for the best cat brushes and brushing techniques for your particular cat.

Conclusion: (Be Safe, Never Stop Learning, and Have Fun!)

Dog grooming is an extremely high-demand, rewarding career.

I hope this article has helped answer some of your questions on how to become a dog groomer.

Remember that safety always comes first. It’s important to obtain as much quality training and experience as you can and you should never stop learning.

The single best piece of advice I can give you is to attend dog grooming trade shows.

The experience and connections you will gain there will be a huge boost to your skillset and open up new opportunities for you.

I wish you great success in your dog grooming career!

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