How to Become a Dog Groomer

Three Parts:Learning the JobTraining for the JobStarting the Job

If you love dogs, and don’t mind some hard work, lots of dirt, and the occasional nip from a wet canine, becoming a dog groomer may be the career choice for you. No, it’s not as simple as buying a washtub, brush, scissors, and “open for business” sign. However, becoming a dog groomer is achievable for most anyone with the physical abilities, calm demeanor, patience, and passion for “man’s best friend” that are keys to success in the field.

Part 1
Learning the Job

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    Familiarize yourself with the job details. Dog groomers don't just blissfully brush the fur of contented dogs and add pretty little bows; it is a physical, dirty, challenging, but often rewarding job. For a typical canine client, the job is likely to approximate the following steps:[1]
    • Determine the styling plan with the owner.
    • Place the dog on a table and examine it generally for skin problems or other health issues (see more on this in a later step, below).
    • Brush the dog's fur, clean its ears and perhaps eyes, and trim its nails.
    • Bathe the dog, and be prepared to deal with animals that may not enjoy the process.
    • Dry the dog's fur and brush it again.
    • Give the dog its haircut and style, with special care around the face, paws, and tail area.
    • Repeat with the next dog, and so on, all day. Expect to work evenings and weekends in order to meet clients' needs.
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    Groom a dog. Yes, it seems unlikely that someone who has never bathed and groomed a dog before would choose to enter this field, but getting your hands dirty (literally) is a vital step in deciding whether this is the job for you.
    • As a prospective dog groomer, you probably own a dog or at least know someone who does. Try your hand at grooming. Visit How to Groom a Dog for more step-by-step instructions.
    • Don’t give up just because you end up soaking wet and your dog has an unintended half-mohawk, but do consider whether you have the patience and passion to do this task over and again with new dogs every day.
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    Volunteer at an animal shelter. If you want experience dealing with a wide variety of dogs, an animal shelter is an ideal choice. And most if not all shelters are in need of volunteers.
    • You may have the opportunity to bathe and groom dogs, which of course will be a good experience that can help you determine if you want to pursue this line of work.
    • Even without bathing and grooming, however, dealing with a diversity of dog breeds, from a wide variety of backgrounds, will give you a better sense of the day-to-day challenges and rewards of being a dog groomer.
    • Soak up advice and techniques on how to deal with aggressive, large, or sick dogs, or dogs with other unique challenges.
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    Work as a grooming assistant. This is when you can start getting some hands-on experience with the daily work life of a professional groomer.
    • Larger pet supply chains usually offer grooming services and regularly hire grooming assistants / bathers. In this job, you would do the general bathing work, while the trained groomer does the fine cleaning, trimming, and cutting.
    • Being a grooming assistant is far from glamorous and not particularly lucrative, but chain stores often choose promising assistants for training programs to become groomers.
    • Another alternative is to find a local groomer to serve as a mentor.[2] You might start by volunteering or just observing in his/her shop, and perhaps move into a paid position. This may be the way to go if your ultimate goal is to open your own grooming business.

Part 2
Training for the Job

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    Find a pet grooming school. Generally speaking, there are no schooling or licensing requirements to become a dog groomer, but having some formal training can only help when it is time to look for a job or open your own shop.
    • There are plenty of online programs available if there are no grooming schools in your area, but you may want to consider whether ones that advertise themselves as two-month programs with no hands-on requirements are worth your time and money.
    • You may want to seek a program with somewhere in the range of 400-650 program hours, including “hands-on” time; at least one teacher certified by a nationally-recognized body; and good hands-on / hands-off, student / instructor, and student / dog (practice groomings per day) ratios.[3]
    • Look for schools that provide clear breakdowns of their training programs, which include areas such as tool selection and usage, health and safety procedures, clipping techniques, and styling profiles for different breeds, among others.[4][5]
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    Learn typical cuts and styles for standard and unique dog breeds. This should be part of your training program.
    • In the U.S., the American Kennel Club[6] is the primary organization that establishes standards for dog breeds and normal grooming profiles for each. Grooming profiles can change, so take it upon yourself to keep up-to-date.
    • Recently, hybrid or “designer dogs” (a cross of two purebred dogs, such as a Labradoodle), have become more popular.[7] Owners of such dogs may have more interest in creative styling, but study accepted grooming profiles for common hybrids as well.
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    Learn to recognize signs of problems. No, dog groomers aren't veterinarians, but regular grooming is beneficial to canine health, so a good groomer should show concern for overall well-being. Practice checking for problems such as:[8]
    • Signs of injury or illness like swelling, cuts, thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth or other orifice), and parasites such as ticks.
    • Changes in temperament or activity level among regular canine customers, which can be a sign of injury or illness.
    • Indications of mistreatment or abuse. The owner may be paying the bill, but don't use that as an excuse to ignore the dog's well-being.
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    Consider the benefits of certification. While certification, like licensing or specialized training, is not generally required to become a dog groomer, you may want to look into your options and the possible advantages of completing a certification program.
    • For example, one the major certification groups, the National Dog Groomers Association of America, offers a variety of workshops and certification tests throughout the U.S.[9] Certification from this organization permits you to call yourself a National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG), which may be beneficial in building a client base and making connections with others in the industry.
    • Whether you decide to become certified or not, going to grooming workshops is a good way to network with other groomers and keep up with new trends in the business.

Part 3
Starting the Job

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    Decide where you want to work. Dog groomers work in locations as small as a van and as large as a pet mega-store. They can be their own bosses and only employees or be one small cog in a large corporation.
    • Working in a pet superstore will reduce your business costs but likely offer less flexibility in setting your schedule and choosing your clients.
    • Working in a smaller pet grooming business, as proprietor, partner, or employee, may offer more flexibility but also the challenges of operating a business location.
    • Operating out of your home can reduce overhead costs, but might also limit your clientele. You’ll need to consider local local business regulations and permitting as well.
    • A mobile dog grooming service, run out of a van or trailer, offers mobility, flexibility, and lower operation costs, but has its own disadvantages (and possibly local business regulations) to deal with as well.
    • Income potential varies widely by hours worked, business type, and client base, but a general range is roughly $15,000 to $50,000 per year.[10]
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    Spread the word. Especially if you are opening your own dog grooming business, but even if you are working in a large pet center, building a loyal clientele will be essential to your success.
    • If interested in opening your own business, you may want to visit How to Start a Small Business and How to Open a Small Business for guidance and advice.
    • Get your name out there to potential clients any way you can, perhaps by handing out business cards at the dog park, putting up flyers (with permission) at local pet stores and vet offices, or decorating your grooming van with an eye-catching design.
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    Be careful and conscientious. You already know how much most owners love their dogs, so do right by the canine and you’ll have the best chance of securing the loyalty of its human companion.
    • A good dog groomer needs to be firm but gentle in dealing with frightened or uncooperative animals; calming in demeanor to keep nervous dogs happy and compliant; patient and detail-oriented to do the job right every time; and have good communication skills with both canines and people.[11]
    • Be careful never to harm an animal, no matter how squirmy or uncooperative they are being. This is the quickest way to lose a client and perhaps your job.
    • Check generally for signs of injury or illness in a dog and recommend a vet visit if you suspect something is amiss. Most owners will appreciate your efforts and concern.
    • You also have to be strong enough to tell people that their dog is too matted to save the coat and you will have to shave it down, or that it's unsafe to groom their dog and they need to take it to a vet or be sedated to be groomed. Some people just won't want to accept it, will get angry with you, and sometimes won't do future business with you, but that is the nature of the business.
    • Have the courage to report suspected animal abuse as well. Put your compassion for the animal first.
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    Build a career. Quality work and care for human and dog client alike is the best avenue for lasting success as a dog groomer. Establish customer loyalty and good word-of-mouth as a groomer in the big pet center, and perhaps you can open your own shop someday.
    • Consider creative ways to build your business as well, for instance by offering specials and discounts (new customer, loyalty, 2-for-1, etc.); offering extras like spa treatments, accessorizing (bows, etc.), nail painting, or even teeth-cleaning; or selling canine health and beauty products.[12]
    • It's the same as with most businesses: make the customer feel very special, and you give yourself the best chance for building your business.


  • You should have a lot of patience as you will be dealing with difficult animals (and their owners) that sometimes don't want to work with you.
  • It's important to have good people skills and patience as you will be dealing with demanding people.
  • You should be willing to work hard and on weekends. Weekends and major holidays are often the busiest times for a groom shop.


  • Never ever harm an animal as you will probably lose your job. People also hear things and you may lose business if people learn that you harm the animals.
  • You may have to report animal abuse. Hopefully you won't ever have to.
  • Follow safety procedures.
  • You will get bitten and scratched but it comes with the job.
  • If a dog acts like it's going to bite you go ahead and muzzle the dog. It's better to be safe than sorry.

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Categories: Dog Grooming