How to Have a Career as a Dog Groomer

Jess Rona Grooming
Jun 30, 2018 · 6 min read

“How can I become a dog groomer?” is one of the most common questions I get asked, followed closely by “How are you so awesome?” and lastly “ How did you get into my car?”

Here is my list of recommendations and advice on what you can do to learn to communicate with dogs through your energy, make money doing something you love, and give any dog a hot side bang.

Become a bather

I started off as a bather when I was 19 and I feel that it is the most important step to becoming a great groomer. If a dog isn’t properly bathed, dried, prepped, floofed and deliciously clean from nose to tail, you gotta start over. In my tiny, modest, most humble opinion, it takes at about a year of full time bathing to get good at it. After all, bathing is 50% of what we do as groomers.

There is so much that goes into bathing a dog: different shampoos, conditioners, masks, sprays and products for all skin and coat types. My bathing and drying technique for a Pomeranian is different than my technique for a Maltese. The great sushi chefs have to make rice for three years before they can handle the snapper. To be a groomer, you need to learn handling techniques that start in the bath. And you need to learn how to get outta dodge when a Newfoundland is about to shake and get water all over your freshly mascara’d eyes. By the way, the key to not getting wet is to stand in front of or behind a dog when they’re about to shake.

I find that groomers who are thrown into grooming without taking time for proper training find themselves overwhelmed, stressed and not doing awesome work. If this is you, DON’T FREAK OUT! CALM DOWN! You got this. It takes a long time to get good. Keep practicing, breathing and learning as much as you can. Be aware and notice if you have negative or defeating thoughts as you’re working, and get in the habit of positive self-encouraging thinking. And when you find yourself up to your knees in the undercoat of a Husky in mid July, remember — dogs are moving breathing beings who have personalities and opinions, and they’re really good at avoiding everything we do. Practice patience with yourself and your fluffy clients (and listen to a lot of Mariah Carey).

Find a Grooming Mentor

When I decided I wanted to get really good at grooming (after years of bathing part time, grooming part time and waiting tables…part time) I would email Jay Scruggs before-and-after photos for critiques. Poor Jay. If there is a groomer you look up to, see if they’ll guide you as you learn and give you feedback on your grooming.

If you don’t know any groomers who can help you:

  • Go to trade shows and watch the competitions. Learn who the top competitors are and study them. Watch the way they hold their shears, the way they position themselves while grooming, what tools and products they use…etc.
  • Join one of the very few grooming related groups on Facebook like:
    Pro Groomer Network
    Contest Groomers Uncensored
    Grooming seminars and workshop around the World
    Creative Groomers Association
    OPAWZ Global Group
    Holistic Pet Professionals
    Grooming Smarter
    Grooming Uncensored
    Asian Fusion Grooming
    Dog Grooming Reference Photos
    Groomers Mentoring Groomers
    Open Competition Dog Grooming Critque
  • Get a subscription to Learn2GroomDogs.com
    I mention this website in so many of my articles and interviews. It wasn’t around when I was coming up, and it’s so valuable. I love anything Irina Pinkusevich does and Lindsay Dicken’s Bichon video changed the way I approach my pet trims.
  • Get one of Olga Zabelinskaya’s Modern Styles magazines.
  • Get the DVD Series “Super Styling Sessions” by Sue Zecco and Jay Scruggs.
  • Get “Notes From The Grooming Table” by Melissa Verplank.
  • Take the Science of Skin seminars by Iv San Bernard.

Get decent equipment:

This one is tough. Not only cause there’s a lot out there on the market, but it’s essssspensive. I know what I like, but I’m always trying new tools. You make it harder on yourself if you don’t have good shears and equipment. Don’t buy a shear over 8" if you have small hands, and take a scissor technique/maintenance seminar at one of the trade shows. If you’re poor and can’t afford a $400 pair of shears, put them on a credit card, get a loan, sell your guitar, or ask your aunt Doris. Then get really good at grooming, make tons of money, and pay it off.

Equipment/tools I love — 2018:

Andis Pulse cordless clippers
Andis 5-speed clippers
Wahl Bravura 5 in 1 cordless (for detailed work)
Wahl fine cut 5 in 1 blade (I change these every 3 months or so)
Mini Bravura (for tiny details)
Utsumi half moon comb (it’s pricey but worth it)
Utsumi Speedy thinning shears (great for curly coats and creating lines, not as blendy)
Geib Avanti Thinning Shears (I think mine are the 46 tooth)
Geib Katana Chunkers
Geib 7" Cobalt Click

These are what I use and love. Jonathan David will kill me if I don’t mention Kenchii shears, so try some of theirs out as well and see what works best for you. (Also take any of his classes).

Learn to let your friends down

“You’re so lucky you get to play with dogs all day!”

Sorry to all my friends and every non-groomer reading this. Groomers don’t get to play with dogs all day. Don’t get me wrong, after a dog has been groomed and they are all done, I tell them they’re pretty and give them a kiss and a high five, but most of my day is dealing with dogs who avoid me at every turn.

I think it’s safe to say no dog likes getting his nails trimmed, or ears cleaned. I don’t blame them, I don’t like it either. And that’s the approach I take when grooming pups, I communicate to them that I know they don’t like it, and I’m grateful to them for putting up with me. But that’s a different article. This article is about the cold hard truth. It’s spikey baby dog hairs caught in your bra or your elbow crease, it’s Pomeranian fluff in your eye, but it’s also all over your wet hands so you can’t get it out of your eye, it’s racing against the clock because Sophie’s mom is on her way, and it doesn’t matter that you haven’t eaten all day, you can’t stop working, but you’re 100% gonna go home and feast on pad thai and egg rolls and crash from exhaustion. It’s clients who tell you they want their bald 16 year old Maltese to look like a full-coated champion Shih Tzu, it’s the client who wants their Doodle to have 3 inches of hair but hasn’t been brushed since 2012.

We spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours of time on furthering our education at trade shows, we spend thousands on equipment, shears, and products. We learn how to repair our mobile vans, we spend months prepping dogs for grooming competitions. We make an average of $40k a year, and we still get shit for wanting to charge more than hairdressers do (which we don’t), yet our clients don’t speak human and we are getting sprayed by anal glands and scarred from dog bites.

We are ballsy risk-taking small business owners who rely on support and appreciation from our communities. I think we should all unite and raise our prices and change this industry like Vidal Sasoon so we don’t have to squirm in that awkward moment when our client nickel and dimes us for asking for what we are worth.

Can you move over and let me step off of this soap box? Thanks.

So, my little baby grasshoppers. If this doesn’t deter you, and you accept this challenge, welcome to the club baby. Us groomers are feisty, artistic, opinionated, sensitive, creative, big hearted animal lovers and we welcome you.

xx
Jess

Jess Rona Grooming

Written by

Dog Groomer • Director • Comedian

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