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This is a guest post by Dean Cassady from NextGenDog.com.

Dog owners contemplating on the idea of becoming dog groomers must know that there’s more to professional pet grooming practice than most people think. It takes extensive training and even more patience to be able to groom dogs correctly. The process is more intricate and isn’t only about bathing and cutting coat; you’ll have to style dog’s hair, clip nails, clean ears, check their skin and coat, perform de-shedding treatments, and even get them doggy facials. And depending on the type of breed, the process can sometimes become very challenging.

If you are up for all of this, then the first thing you will need to decide is exactly which career path you would like to take in the dog grooming field. Your options are:

  • Working for yourself in your own pet grooming salon or mobile salon
  • Working for someone else in their pet grooming salon, mobile salon, doggy daycare, or boarding kennel
  • Working in a veterinarian’s office
  • Working in a retail pet store

Regardless of which route you choose to take, you will need a good amount of training before you can start working. Aspiring groomers thinking about providing services for somebody else or working for a large pet store can take a chance and inquire those places in case they would be willing to provide the necessary training, or possibly reimburse part or full amount of your schooling costs.

Business licensing and legal matters

Currently, no US state requires a vocational license in order to practice dog grooming professionally; however, depending on the state that you live in, you may be required to obtain a license to open your own dog grooming business. Make sure to check with your local authorities first to see what requirements they have and avoid any trouble in the future. Normally, just a business license is plenty enough.
Once you’ve got your legal matters sorted, it is time to decide where and how you will get your dog grooming training. There are some options: you can attend a vocational school or do a home study program if you have a dog on whom you can practice.

Dog grooming training

Vocational schools provide a hands-on learning experience and are usually more credible when you begin looking for employment or individual clients. Do your homework before you choose a school to attend, because you want to make sure if they are a licensed facility. Remember to also check some references and see their record on Better Business Bureau, read Yelp or other reviews to learn about any major complaints. Nobody wants to spend money on a scam program that offers low quality of training or whose training isn’t even recognized by the employers. Tuition costs are usually paid in advance, so don’t choose the first school you find – research and make sure that you’ll be receiving the most for your money. Reputable schools with great training can be worth the extra cash as long as you’re not paying for the name alone.

If you choose to go the home study route, keep in mind that it may not seem as credible to some future employers or clients as a vocational school education. This doesn’t mean you’ll be a worse dog groomer though (in fact, some of the best ones out there are self-taught!)

The same rule applies to home schooling programs: read reviews and assess what would be the best value for the money. Pushing for the recognizable name with self-studies won’t be possible, so your primary focus will be to become the best dog groomer you can be. Home study courses need to be licensed too, so whether you choose to do a program through mail order (not recommended) or online, check if they are accredited and have a license to provide this type of training. It goes without saying that taking your coaching seriously is the first dedicated step into a profitable career as a pet groomer.

Working for somebody else

After you’ve decided on which school or what online course you’re going to take, and you’ve verified those places to be reputable, start looking into future employment before you even attend the training program. Working for someone else means starting off with research of all local dog businesses to let them know you’re starting pet grooming program and when you expect to graduate. Some businesses may even let you come in and shadow employees while you are going to school, or work part time to learn the ropes before you graduate.

Strong time management and customer skills will be required, as well as good sense for business, even if you’re not launching your own venture. Dog grooming services are always in demand, and the popularity of this service has been increasing over the past decade. And where there’s popularity, there’s also competition. This is a rewarding practice, but before you become the next celebrity dog groomer, you’ll need to push yourself one step further to make that connection and think outside of the box in order to find more ways of how to break into this industry.

Starting your own dog grooming business

If your choice is to be your own boss, an initial investment is unavoidable and even more research will be required, all of which can be accomplished at the time of studying. First, do the math properly and account for all potential expenses, and then add an additional 20% on top of that (for unforeseen circumstances). Learn ins and outs of the dog grooming industry, and the basics of running a business in general. Good marketing skills, online presence, customer service and everything related can and should be learned, too. After that, start looking for a space to open your own dog grooming salon.

Alternatively, you can work outside of your home, but that’s not the most optimal choice: you will need to make sure you have the space for all the equipment and then confirm if you’re allowed to run the business outside of your residence. Normally, if the finances allow for that, it may be easier to rent a small office space or even invest in remodeling a large van to have your own mobile salon, which is very popular these days. Plus, if you work outside of your home, you won’t have to worry about all the smells and the mess.

Dog grooming supplies

At this point, you should be almost done with your training, but there are still a few more steps before going into the business. Next step on your to-do list is planning for and purchasing all the supplies that you will require to launch.

When planning to work for somebody else, ask them about what equipment will supplied and what you’ll need to purchase yourself. If you plan on running your own business, then you’ll obviously have to buy everything, and that’s quite a list of items to obtain. Start off small and only with the necessities; after the clients start pouring in, invest in additional supplies. Don’t be cheap but also avoid spending more than you have to in the first 6 to 12 months.

Depending on the services that you are going to offer, you may need more or less than this, but here’s a short list of things to consider:

  • A grooming table
  • A dog bath
  • A fur dryer
  • Dog nail clippers
  • Grooming shears
  • Brushes and combs
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Ear and eye cleaner
  • A dental kit
  • Towels

Whenever possible, get only the absolute best equipment. Skimping on this stuff can mean a lost client, even when you deliver the most amazing grooming service for their dog.

Getting to business

Once you graduate from your chosen educational path, found an establishment to work in or opened your own office/van space, and collected necessary tools and grooming supplies, it is finally time to start thinking about grooming some dogs!

Those of you working for somebody else will find everything quick, easy and simple because you’ll be trained on the spot, and the clients will usually be brought to you. All the prices and different service packages will already be set for your convenience and the establishment will do the necessary advertising on your behalf. In exchange, you’ll be paying a cut to the business owner for every one of your clients or have a fixed monthly fee. If you go ahead with opening your own salon, then you’ll keep all the profits, but there will be significantly more work still ahead, most of which will be hard and very exciting at the same time.

Start off with figuring out the services that you will offer and the prices that you’ll be charging your clients. Make sure you do some research so that you’re prices are in the accordance with your competition, meaning they’re not higher and not too low. You can either keep them a little lower to attract new clients, or have them the same as your competitor but offer better services and/or types of incentives to begin expanding your clientele.

Advertising, marketing and good online presence is key in running a profitable business nowadays. You should begin advertising a few weeks before your salon opens; make connections with other professionals, build relationships with local dog owners and develop interest in what you’re going to offer. The good news is that with the power of the Internet, getting your name out there and building your brand isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Open accounts on four major social media networks, create a website and start connecting actively. Good marketing followed by exceptional service will get you onto a profitable path in no time.

Becoming a dog groomer takes patience and running your own dog grooming business takes a lot more, but the career choice is undoubtedly exciting and very rewarding. Always keep your goals in mind and visualize your future of grooming dogs for a living as you go through the difficult parts of the process to motivate yourself.

Dean Cassady, a writer, entrepreneur and high priest of the scientific method. He comes from the background of fitness nutrition consultations and research, and being a colossal dog lover, Dean is now aiming all his efforts at providing veterinary cynology information for the benefit of a healthier dog population. He’s also working on something unknown that’ll come out sometime between now and infinity. 

About Author

This is an article that has been contributed to DOGthusiast.com from the dog community. It has been contributed by the author noted above, and reproduced here with their permission. If you are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please note that DOGthusiast.com now only accepts articles from other dog writers and subject matter experts.