Dog Groomer Career Profile

Small dog being groomed in dog grooming salon
David Joel/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Dog groomers provide grooming and bathing services for a variety of breeds.
 

Duties

Dog grooming has become one of the most popular canine career paths for many reasons (especially the high level of interaction with dogs and work schedule flexibility).  A groomer’s daily duties include bathing and clipping dogs to conform to a variety of breed specific standard styles. During this process they will also detangle hair, remove mats, dry the coat, and check for parasites or other skin irritations.

Additional duties generally include trimming nails, cleaning ears, expressing anal sacs, and brushing teeth.

The groomer is also responsible for accommodating any special requests from the owner and informing them if any health problems are discovered during the grooming process.

Grooming salons generally require pet owners to provide proof of vaccinations before accepting a dog for an appointment, but anyone working with animals in a hands-on capacity should be careful to take proper safety precautions to minimize the risk of bites and scratches.

Career Options

Groomers can work in a variety of environments, either as a solo practitioner or as part of a group salon. Large pet stores also offer grooming services and hire a number of staff members. Many grooming salons are joined with a vet clinic or doggie day care for the convenience of pet owners.

Grooming schools usually offer client appointments with students and instructors.

This provides a great opportunity for students to watch the professionals in action working on a variety of dogs and ensures a steady stream of dogs for student practice.

There may even be opportunities to travel while working as a dog groomer. Some individuals provide a mobile grooming service out of a customized van and travel to their client’s homes for appointments.

Other groomers may travel the dog show circuit, providing services for the competitors at major events and trade shows.

Education and Training

Experience with a variety of breeds is a huge plus for the new groomer. Individuals involved in dog showing have an advantage as they are very familiar with the various cuts and styles. The American Kennel Club (AKC) sets the official standards for breeds and their cuts.

While some groomers begin as a grooming assistant or apprentice and learn entirely on the job, many attend a professional grooming school or certification program. Certification or licensing is not required, however, to go into business as a dog groomer.

Completing the National Dog Groomer’s Association of America exam entitles the graduate to be recognized as a “National Certified Master Groomer.” The exam features extensive written and practical skills tests. NDGAA is billed as the largest pet groomer association and has been around since 1969. Certification costs a few hundred dollars and takes a few days.

A variety of grooming schools also provide training and certification through their programs. Some well known schools include the New York School of Dog Grooming, the American Academy of Pet Grooming, and the Nash Academy. Most states have several grooming school options. Courses can require from 150 to more than 600 hours of practical experience and generally cost several thousand dollars. Completing the courses can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. There are also a variety of manuals and online courses available that were designed to educate groomers.

Salary

Most groomers work on some combination of salary, commission (usually 50% of total price of the grooming), and tips. The amount a groomer charges per dog depends on the breed, type of cut, and time it takes. Salary varies widely based on how many dogs a groomer can finish per day.

Career Outlook

The dog grooming industry has shown strong growth in recent years.  Spending on pet care services has continued to surge over the past decade, and dog groomers should benefit from this trend for the forseeable future.

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