From the time I was a small child, I always knew that I’d work with animals in some capacity. I remember when I was maybe eight or nine, as I played in the pool all summer, I would imagine I was a dolphin trainer like the ones I saw on our family vacation to Sea World. As I got a little older, my aspirations shifted to being a dog trainer, and I would spend countless hours teaching our family Labrador Retriever to do silly tricks and jump over makeshift hurdles constructed from lawn chairs and broom sticks. And as I reached my teens, I had my eye on a career in the veterinary field. The one snafu was that I have a really hard time seeing animals that are suffering. But never in any of my career fantasies did I imagine that I would become a pet groomer; yet, here I am!
I started pursuing grooming right out of high school, but the pet grooming field has newbies that start their journey anywhere from a first job as a teen or a second or third career for someone near retirement age. No matter when you start your career in pet grooming, the key to success is a diverse and well-rounded education.
But why is that so important?
The world of pet grooming is certainly a diverse field. There are many types of pet groomers, and many specialties. Some groomers declare themselves experts at handling the large, smooth-coated dogs, while others deem themselves more of a stylist, preferring to snip and fluff the curly locks of a Poodle. Some are breed specialists, focusing on terrier or sporting coats and the associated techniques, and others take a do-it-all approach. No matter what type of pet groomer you imagine yourself to be, the key to achieving that goal is through a solid education.
Whether you’ve attended a grooming school or you were an apprentice under a seasoned groomer, the learning should never stop there. If there is one industry that truly requires continuing education, it’s the pet grooming industry. I’ve been grooming for 33 years and I still learn new things. We are an industry that continues to grow, and as we grow as an industry, new products are developed to assist us, styles change and new ideas emerge.
If you look at some of the popular breeds we know today, such as the Poodle for example, their styles have changed through the years. If you look at how Poodles were styled 100 years ago compared to 50 years ago and then compared to the styles of today, the differences are apparent. The styles have evolved, and the same goes for many of our favorite breeds.
Another part of grooming that I have personally witnessed go through so many changes is the tools. When I started pet grooming, corded clippers were all we had—heavy, noisy, high-maintenance clippers. I remember during my first year in the industry, a company came out with a cordless clipper. I couldn’t wait to use it…until I did. The battery pack weighed nearly as much as a brick! Eventually, lighter and smaller batteries hit the market, and the new clippers that were developed with those batteries were a game changer.
The same can be said for the variety of scissors, thinning shears, brushes, combs and all the other amazing tools that have helped to make the groomer life go a little smoother. What I’m getting at here is that if you want to be part of an industry that goes through so much evolution, as a groomer, you need to evolve as well.
So, how can you do that?
The answer is education—and a diverse one at that. For today’s groomers hitting the industry with fresh eyes and an eager spirit to conquer the world one groom at a time, there are so many sources to develop and hone your grooming skills. Let’s start with in-person grooming shows. There are approximately a dozen or more grooming shows per year, put on by various organizations. Some are rather large, offering educational seminars, hands-on classes, lectures, competitions, vendors to shop from, and industry parties where you can mix and mingle with other dog fanatics. Others are smaller but still offer many of the things larger shows do. In-person shows are an excellent place to see new products, watch top stylists as they demonstrate and share their secrets, and see some examples of well-bred dogs in breed profile trims.
If in-person shows aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d like one of the many streaming platforms at your disposal. Online education is an amazing resource for groomers of any level to quench their thirst for knowledge. There are live webinars you can view right from your own personal device without ever leaving your sofa. Or there are membership platforms where you can view videos endlessly for a monthly fee. There are also grooming demonstrations, business seminars, technique videos, and inspirational discussions to help you keep your fire lit and your passion for grooming as strong as the day you started.
Another resource that was particularly beneficial for me when I was seeking further education was private and small group lessons. Training lessons are an excellent way to develop your grooming skills in an up-close and personal setting with more one-on-one interaction. Having a seasoned groomer give you hands-on training, either in a private lesson or small group, gives the student the ability to be immersed in the lesson and get specific help with areas where they lack skill or knowledge. Sometimes seeing something up close makes a greater impression on you and allows you to retain more of the information being relayed.
Some groomers will even apprentice under dog show handlers and accompany them to dog shows to learn specialized techniques used for a specific coat type or breed. This can be especially beneficial to those who may wish to enter the competition ring or groomers who have aspirations of making GroomTeam.
Now, you might be thinking that competitions and dog shows aren’t your thing; you just love dogs and want to make people’s pets look cute and feel their best. The education still doesn’t stop there—especially in today’s world of doodle this and doodle that. In some cases, nearly all the pets a groomer sees are mixed breeds. Having a well-rounded and diverse education about coat types and trim styles can assist you in your everyday salon grooming to create cute and manageable styles for those pets. By pulling from your treasure trove of knowledge, you can take elements of various breed styles and create a unique look that your customers will love.
The point that I’m driving home is that great grooming doesn’t just happen. Great grooming is a skill that is studied and developed and perfected over time. Learning and growing within your craft never really ends. With time and dedication, you can be the groomer you strive to be. And remember, everyone was a beginner when they started their career. ✂️