By Khris Berry
What is fitness to a groomer, you may ask? If you are a working pet groomer, you will likely define your fitness level by how many 100-pound dogs you lifted today—or perhaps how many defensive maneuvers you deployed to escape the tossing terrier on your table.
Leg lifts for groomers are how many doodle legs you scissored, and sit–ups can be counted in the times you picked up a dropped comb (or heaven forbid, a blade).
But there are other fitness types that you should be paying attention to, beyond the physicality of your profession. Let’s examine what it means to be “fit to work” as a pet professional in today’s workplace.
As a caretaker of other living things, it is your job to have the emotional depth to provide for the wellbeing of the pets around you. If you are a salon owner or in a team–lead position, take that and multiply the number to include the people who rely on you in the workplace.
Being emotionally fit begins with simple steps such as feeding your mind. Fresh air, sunshine and a good book are enough for some people to feel energized and ready to engage in another round of caretaking. But let’s face it, the pets (and their owners) can take an emotional toll on even the most compassionate person.
Making time for regular emotional fitness assessments—whether you rely on a healthcare provider, a circle of friends or a stout companion to accomplish this task—will ensure that you are taking care of your emotional needs. Flight attendants tell us to put our masks on before assisting another passenger in case of emergency on an airplane. Pet groomers need to heed that warning and make sure that they are filling their emotional tanks regularly so that they can be properly prepared to extend the kindness and compassion they are enlisted to deliver in their workplace.
Paying attention to your mental state and the needs of your own mind is key to finding the delicate balance when you are working in a caregiving role. Hobbies outside of your profession are often a great source of mental stimulation as well as relaxation.
Pet grooming is a physically demanding and exhausting profession, although groomers often make their workload look easy. We all know that while the rest of the world assumes that we are playing with puppies, groomers are in fact lifting, bending, washing, cleaning, clipping, drying, brushing and in a constant state of movement for most of their workday. Those activities combine to ensure that a pet groomer expends a lot of energy and calories over the course of a day—not to mention the “difficult” dogs which take an extra effort to groom.
Groomers can ease the burden by attending to the needs of their bodies. This includes regular exercise to protect the muscles you use often, as well as strengthen those you use irregularly. Healthy meals at regular times also help feed the body you rely on to complete your work. If your body is the machine you use to groom a dog, maximize the potential of your own machine by providing clean fuel (and lots of water!).
Other helpful considerations are regular checkups with your family doctor—making sure that your health provider understands the physical nature of your job as well as the hazards you may encounter will help them keep you up and running. Many groomers find chiropractic care to be a mainstay in their physical care plan. And don’t forget about scheduling regular checkups with an eye doctor (you use your eyes for extremely detailed work) and have your hearing checked on occasion to ensure you are protecting all of your senses properly.
Pet groomers are in high demand in most areas of the United States, and this typically is reflected in the paycheck of the pet styling professional. While there are exceptions to every rule, many pet groomers are making well above the living wage for their chosen geographic areas, and in some cases, are the primary breadwinner in their family unit. In short, pet groomers make pretty decent wages. However, this is not always a guarantee that groomers will thrive when it comes to financial fitness.
Just like other areas of your life, pet groomers should undergo a financial fitness checkup on a regular basis to ensure that you are being wise with your finances. In an industry which rarely has supplemented retirement, and rarely sees pet groomers working until common retirement age, it is critical that pet groomers learn to be savvy with their finances. Learning to work within a budget, maintain emergency savings and provide for your future are just some of the skills that every pet professional should develop.
Learning to take care of yourself is a skill that seems to escape many pet professionals. Perhaps because we are passionate about our careers, or perhaps because we are willing to sacrifice so much for the pets we love; whatever the reason, many pet professionals simply are not skilled at self–care. This comes in many forms, from setting a good sleep schedule so that you are well rested and alert for your workday to taking a break for lunch.
Here are some common and easy self–care fitness steps you can enact right now:
- Wear ear protection when you are in a loud environment (barking) or using dryers.
- Wear eye protection when clipping nails.
- Wear suitable attire such as closed–toed shoes and material which will protect your body from hair splinters, scratches, water and common hazards.
- Eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times.
- Go to bed early and wake up at the same time each day.
- Make good social choices—whether that’s the friends you are spending time with or the activities you are engaging in.
- Stare at your phone less and nature more.
- Sit in the sunshine a few minutes each day.
Some of these suggestions seem as though they belong in a self–help book, and many probably do. Regardless, you are in the business of taking care of pets (and people who love them). That takes a toll on even the most seasoned professional.
By applying thoughtful attention to any and all of these fitness areas, you will notice instant improvement in your day–to–day approach to your workplace. And all of these things will allow you to take better care of the people and pets around you. ✂️