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What does a Dog Groomer do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A dog groomer is a animal caretaker who improves a dog's hygiene and appearance. He or she will typically wash, brush, trim, and style a dog's fur, as well as clip its nails and inspect its teeth for decay. A professional might use a number of different tools and techniques to groom dogs of all breeds and sizes. A groomer must have a careful eye for detail and be skilled at promoting a safe, comfortable environment for their canine clientele.

Many people rely on the skills of an experienced dog groomer to pamper their pets. A grooming professional usually asks a client how he would like his animal to be groomed, and relies on previous experience to care for each dog accordingly. Dogs can usually be bathed and trimmed in less than an hour, though certain breeds and client requests may extend a grooming session.

Groomers are employed in a number of different settings, such as kennels, dog daycare centers, and pet supply stores. A large number are self-employed, frequently offering door-to-door services with the aid of a mobile grooming station. Many different types of tools and products are necessary to groom a dog, including brushes, electric shears, hand-held scissors, shampoos, and nail clippers. Some professionals specialize in a single phase of dog grooming, such as bathing the animals, though most groomers manage the entire process.

A new dog groomer typically learns the trade firsthand through informal training sessions with experienced groomers. He or she may work as an assistant, helping to control animals, sanitizing equipment, cleaning the facility or mobile unit, and setting appointments. New groomers often choose to become certified or licensed by completing an accredited master grooming certification program. In the United States, the National Dog Groomers Association offers certification to individuals who complete a short program and pass a written examination. Becoming certified is not usually a requirement for employment, though it can help new groomers improve their credentials and provide more job opportunities.

When choosing a groomer, a client usually looks for a person with experience in the trade and a compassionate personality. It is essential that animals are made to feel as comfortable as possible during the stressful grooming process, to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the groomer. Therefore, he or she must be highly aware of the needs of each dog and be able to recognize warning signs that they are uncomfortable. The most successful groomers are the ones who truly care for each dog and cater to its needs throughout the process.

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Discussion Comments

By anon970739 — On Sep 20, 2014

Having been a dog groomer/stylist for 10 years, I can certainly say that it is not just a bath and dry. There are a lot of things you do to prep the dog before it even gets a bath. You have to clean the ears, trim the nails, comb out the dog or even shave out matting in the fur, and check for fleas or ticks.

Now, grooming a dog is a lot like giving a toddler their first hair cut. Some are great (ones that are socialized), and others just take some gentle loving because they are scared and not used to the processes.

There is a lot that you have to know about the skin and what to do with skin that is suffering from an allergy. My dog scratches all the time and has live fleas and ticks (what do you do), and I've even seen dogs that come in with stitches. There are conditions for everything, but having the knowledge is what we do. You just don't wake up one day and say I think I am going to be a groomer or a bather today.

Bathing is 90 percent of what makes a groomer a groomer. If you have a bad bath, you are going to have a bad haircut. A lot of people ask why groomers need bathers. The answer is time management. Since it takes the most amount of time to bathe and dry a dog properly, we have more than one dog in shop at a time. That gives us the resource of being able to continue to the next client while the other is getting their pampering in.

There is always the possibility of being bitten by your customer (fur baby), but the more experience you have handling the animals the less likely you are to be bitten. I do love my profession, but it is not for everyone.

There was someone who mentioned us having back issues. There are some yes, but for the most part, if you take care of yourself and lift correctly, you'll be fine. So if you have a problem paying someone for just giving your pet a bath, take into consideration what they really do.

By anon309360 — On Dec 16, 2012

I am a dog groomer. I started as a bather and dryer in a salon and got on the job training, so now I'm a clipper also.

Bathing and drying is a very physically demanding job, and so is clipping. If you think that someone charging you to just bathe and dry your dog is a ridiculous waste of money, then you have never owned a breed with long hair. It takes an hour and a half of hands-on bathing, brushing and blow-drying to get a Golden Retriever dry and knot free. And that's if it is well behaved. That means it walks up the steps and into the tub without having to be pushed, pulled or picked up. It doesn't attack the blow dryer or try to get away from it, or poo itself until it has no poop left.

Golden Retrievers are notorious for pooing when they get blow dried. I didn't realize one I was doing the other day had pooped because it was sitting on it until I hit it with the dryer, and the crap really did hit the fan.

Fun, little unpredictable things like that are why I tell you it will take three hours to bathe and dry your Goldie -- not because I'm going to sip coffee with one hand while massaging shampoo into your dog's coat with the other. Hell, I reckon some customers think I do exactly that while also listening to opera music and chatting to the other staff.

I am currently sitting with my back on ice after stripping out two border collies today that have never had a proper groom. They look fantastic and the owner loves me for it, so it's worth it. That's as long as my back doesn't go into spasms and I end up in the ER at 1 a.m. again, needing super strong pain killers.

I love my job but it is very hard work. So the next time a groomer tells you your dog will be ready when they call you and tell you it is, don't try to negotiate a time, just say OK and thank you. Don't keep calling and asking how long Molly will be.

I had a customer about eight weeks ago who expected me to bathe, dry and give her Shih Tzu a full clip in an hour! I told her on drop off that it would be at least two hours, and that I would call when her dog was ready, but she was back in an hour to check and then every 20minutes thereafter. It took me four hours thanks to her. I had to put the dog away and work on another dog every time she came in because he just got overly excited, wanting to get back to her. Other customers were happy, since they got their dogs back earlier than usual, but she was ticked. Not my fault honey; I told you to stop coming in. OK, now I'm just ranting -- bad day. But I really do love my job.

By JaneAir — On Sep 02, 2012

I think it's interesting that there are people who specialize in just giving the dogs a bath! My local dog groomers do everything described in the article: they bath the dog, clip its nails, and cut its hair. I can't imagine paying some to just give the dog a bath.

The only reason I can see hiring someone to just give the dog a bath is if your dog had special needs, like a chronic illness. Or if the dog was so difficult to bath that the regular groomers won't do it!

By betterment — On Sep 01, 2012

@ceilingcat - There isn't much upward mobility in the field of dog grooming if you work for someone else. However, you could always learn the trade and them open up your own mobile dog grooming business. Being a business owner is definitely an improvement over working for someone else.

By ceilingcat — On Sep 01, 2012

@strawCake - It's nice that your friend enjoys her job. I was looking into becoming a dog groomer a few years ago, and I opted not to do it. I read that a lot of groomers develop back problems from the physical nature of the job, and that doesn't sound very good to me. Also, there isn't a lot of upward mobility in the field of dog grooming!

By strawCake — On Aug 31, 2012

@Bakersdozen - A friend of mine is a full-fledged dog groomer (she worked as an assistant to a local dog groomer years ago) and she's told me some crazy stories too! She's also been bitten by dogs several times over the years, although not severely.

That being said, she really loves her job. She makes really good money for the area we live in, and she likes being around animals all day. Most animals aren't very problematic, and she works at a fairly upscale grooming salon, so the customers are usually pretty pleasant.

By Valencia — On May 11, 2011

Pet ownership is said to be on the rise, and dogs are the most popular choice. I am thinking of setting up a dog groomer supplies store, possibly online until I get established enough to rent premises.

This article has given me several leads on where I might advertise my new business. Thanks for the tips and information.

By Bakersdozen — On May 08, 2011

@Acracadabra - Well I think you identified the number one pitfall! Dealing with the owners may be the most challenging part of this job. My friend works as a mobile dog groomers assistant and I love hearing her wild stories!

The second biggest problem you'll come across is sick animals. Be prepared to find sores that have gone undiscovered, or be bitten by bugs that the dog is playing host too. Of course animals that have some pain as a result may not appreciate being groomed. Some do bite - make sure you have insurance!

I'm sure the good outweighs the bad though. If you have the chance to get an apprenticeship of any sort I'd take it. You'll learn more on the job than in a dog groomer school.

By Acracadabra — On May 07, 2011

I'd love to become a dog groomer but I am sure there are down sides to the job too. I did see a TV show featuring a guy trying to get celebrity dog owners as clients. They seemed to be harder work than the animals!

Rather than rush into something I'd like to get some more information on the perils of dog groomer jobs.

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