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

For dog lovers, dog grooming is one of the most popular canine career paths for many reasons, in large part because of the high level of interaction with dogs and flexible work schedule.  A groomer’s daily duties include bathing and clipping dogs to conform to a variety of breed-specific standard styles. During this process groomers 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 owners of any health problems discovered during the grooming process.

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

Career Options

Dog groomers 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, many grooming salons collaborate with a vet clinic or doggie day care for the convenience of pet owners.

There may even be opportunities to travel while working as a dog groomer. Some individuals provide a mobile grooming service fashioned out of a customized van and travel to their client’s homes. Other groomers travel the dog show circuit, providing services for competitors at major events and trade shows across the country.

Education and Training

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

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. However, certification or licensing is not required for those interested in going into business as a professional dog groomer.

Completing the National Dog Groomer’s Association of America (NDGAA) exam entitles the graduate to be recognized as a National Certified Master Groomer. The exam consists of extensive written and practical skills questions and essays. The certification process 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 designed to educate groomers.

Salary

Most groomers work on some kind of combination of salary, commission (usually 50 percent of the total price of the grooming), and tips. The amount a groomer charges per dog depend on the breed, type of cut, and time it takes to complete the grooming process. Salary varies widely based on how many dogs a groomer can finish per day but a good median average for groomers is $37,400 a year.

Career Outlook

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