Pet grooming is a fun and rewarding job that allows you to work with animals and even make them feel better.
It’s also a tough job and not for the faint of heart.
But fear not — here’s an overview of what you’ll need to become a great pet groomer.
This is not usually a 9-to-5 job. You’ll find yourself going in early and working late when you have animals who need your help, especially if you choose to work in a shelter or kennel.
Some animals who’ve been badly neglected may end up on your table, and those animals will need a great deal of time and attention — even if it puts you behind schedule.
Going to the groomer can be an intimidating experience for pets and their humans.
“To be a successful pet groomer you need to be able to work with both animals and people,” advises Jane Hurwitz in Choosing a Career in Animal Care. “Remember, many people think of their pets as children, so they might feel anxious leaving them with you. Also, keep in mind that dogs and cats can be very noisy, especially if they are frightened.”
Some animals will need a lot of calming down before they are settled enough for their spa day. You may also have to spend time reassuring people that you won’t harm their pet during their time with you.
3. Attention to Detail
Like humans, pets can have all manner of health issues that affect their coat, skin, eyes and other areas of the body. As a groomer, you’ll need to be able to accommodate skin eruptions, sensitivities and other medical issues while taking care to give the best groom possible.
A good rule of thumb when dealing with a pet you haven’t seen before is to give them the “once over” with your hands to search for any abnormalities. “It is advisable to check thick and matted coats for warts and cysts — a groomer’s worst headache,” say Eileen Geeson, Barbara Vetter, and Lia Whitmore in Ultimate Dog Grooming.
Once you’ve detected any issues, you’ll need to be careful to clip, shave or clean around those areas.
4. Physical Fitness
You certainly don’t need to be a marathon runner to be a groomer, but you do need to be reasonably fit. You will need to lift and assist pets of all sizes on and off the tables as well as in and out of crates, and you’ll have to carry a bunch of tools on your person. You may also need to restrain out-of-control animals.
Know that you’ll spend a great deal of time on your feet and bent over tables and tubs, so you want to make sure your body can handle the demand.
5. Strong Stomach
Animals who are overexcited or frightened sometimes lose a little bit of that house-training, if you catch my drift. Many dogs suffer from submissive urination, where they urinate when they’re stressed or afraid. Some will (unfortunately) not have had their needs attended to by their parents before being dropped off and defecate.
Other animals react strongly to stress and can vomit or have diarrhea. In The Dog Aggression Workbook, 3rd Edition, author James O’Heare warns that, “Stress wreaks havoc on the body, and the digestive system is usually the first system to react poorly.”
Get a dog’s-eye view of a day in the life of a groomer:
6. Love of Animals
This one seems obvious, but you really do need to love animals and understand them. Because animals can’t talk, it’s our responsibility to read their body language and listen to what they’re saying. Dogs, cats and other animals who require grooming will let you know when they’re overstimulated. If you’re not “listening,” it makes it much tougher on them.
If there are some animals you simply cannot handle, speak to other groomers in your building to see if they mind taking those on. If you work solo, have other groomers’ names on hand to refer these people to. It helps to establish a great network between groomers for you and makes you look much more professional.
7. A Firm Backbone
Sometimes people need help understanding what the limits of a groomer are. It will be your responsibility to say no when needed for the sake of the animal.
Some reasons you may need to politely but firmly stand up for yourself include:
- Pets who are overly aggressive and cannot be safely groomed.
- Pets whose humans have a history of leaving them at the groomer’s long past the agreed-upon pickup time.
- People who are no-shows on multiple occasions.
- People who have been rude, abusive or disrespectful to you or your staff.
Confrontation is difficult, but you have to consider your safety, the safety of your staff and, above all, the safety and well-being of the animals.
Pet grooming is an amazing career and offers you the opportunity to work with animals and help make a difference in their lives. But it sure isn’t a job just anyone can do. If you’ve got the dedication, patience, attention to detail, physical capability and backbone — plus the iron stomach and a love for animals — you’re well on your way to success.