What Does a Dog Groomer Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Dog grooming is one of the most popular careers for dog lovers, in large part because it involves a high level of interaction with dogs and has a flexible work schedule. Dog groomers provide grooming and bathing services for a wide variety of dog breeds.
Dog Groomer Duties & Responsibilities
A groomer’s daily duties may include:
- Bathing and clipping dogs to conform to a variety of breed-specific standard styles
- Detangling and removing matted hair
- Drying the coat
- Checking for parasites and other skin conditions
- Trimming nails
- Cleaning the ears
- Expressing anal sacs
- Brushing teeth
- Adding bows and nail polish for long or curly haired breeds such as poodles and shi tzus
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.
Dog Groomer Salary
Most groomers work on some kind of combination of salary, commission—usually 50% 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.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes this job under animal care and service workers. According to this category, nonfarm workers earn the following salary:
- Median Annual Salary: $23,760 ($11.42/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $37,250 ($17.91/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $18,160 ($8.73/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Payscale provides a salary for dog groomers as follows:
- Median Annual Salary: $30,079 ($14.46/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $50,000 ($24.04/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $17,000 ($8.17/hour)
Source: Payscale.com, 2019
Education, Training, & Certification
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.
- Training: A variety of grooming schools 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 may require 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.
- Certification: 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.
Dog Groomer Skills & Competencies
This profession requires the following skills:
- Grooming skills: The ability to groom different breeds of dogs according to their hair types
- Interpersonal skills: The ability to work well with others such as dog owners, pet store personnel, and grooming assistants
- Analytical skills: The ability to assess the behavior and condition of each dog
- Physical and mental stamina: The ability to groom large, overly excited, or frightened dogs without getting hurt or injuring the animals
- Familiarity with animal behavior: The ability to determine an animal's behavior and use techniques, such as a treat, to keep them calm and safe
- Health knowledge: The ability to recognize common illnesses, such as skin disorders, watery eyes and nose possibly due to allergies, or a sprain
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018, employment for animal care and service workers is projected to grow 22% through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
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.
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.
One of the benefits of this profession is the flexible hours, which may include weekends and holidays.
How to Get the Job
FIND A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY
Contact animal care facilities, such as veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and breeders to inquire about volunteer work as a groomer. Check out Free For All, which has a search feature for locating volunteer work in your area.
FIND AN APPRENTICESHIP
Get guidance by working as an assistant to an experienced dog groomer.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in a career as a dog groomer should also consider these similar careers, along with their median salary:
- Dog Trainer: $35,830
- Dog Walker: $29,782
- Dog Handler: $50,322
- Animal Breeder: $37,060
- Veterinarian Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker: $27,540
- Veterinary Technologist and Technician: $34,420