When you think of the tools of your trade, what comes to mind? For most groomers, one quick look around your work area will tell the true story of your tools, your trade and your business.
From scissors to clippers, brushes to combs and beyond, the tool needs of a working groomer can seem endless.
Many groomers get a reputation for having a lot of gear. After all, this career requires a wide scope of knowledge and having the proper tools to execute those skills is the mark of a true professional. Let’s take a quick look at the necessities and luxuries of the working pet groomer. (Psst, that’s code for: Do you really need another pair of shears?)
What are the basic necessities in the average pet groomer’s tool cart? What are the tools which you must have to complete the basic scope of services offered to the majority of pets you will work on daily?
The clipper will be your go–to for shave–downs and bladed trims. Regardless of your preference on brand, having a powerful workhorse clipper in your tool arsenal is a must. Corded or cordless is personal choice—and factors such as running time, access to electric, convenience and even availability may determine which option you favor. Know every aspect of your clipper, how to service it and keep it in good running shape at all times—it is a staple.
PRO TIP: Keep a back–up clipper in case of accident or mechanical failure. One easy way to achieve this is to “retire” a favored clipper before it reaches its end of tool life and save for emergency use.
LUXURY ITEM: Cordless clippers which offer adjustable and disposable blades and mini clippers for specialty areas.
Quality clipper blades in various sizes are a necessity. Although we all look forward to that client who desires a weekly hand–scissored trim with an unlimited budget, the reality is that most of the grooming services we complete are going to be bladed trims, shave–downs and short styles. Maintaining a full range of popular lengths in good–quality brands is critical for the pet groomer. The suggested blades you should have in your tool bag are ⅝, 3 ¾, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 30. While there are other sizes, these are the needed blades for the widest variety of styles and coat types. Clean, sanitize, sharpen and maintain your blades on recommended schedules.
PRO TIP: To ensure the safety of the pets you groom, maintain a minimum of two of each size blade in good working order (broken teeth? throw them away!) at all times while you are working. If you must send blades out for sharpening, you will need to increase your blade stable.
LUXURY ITEM: Wide blades; these turn time into money for the busy groomer.
Combs (Yes, plural)
Every groomer should have a durable, heavy–gauge greyhound–style comb with coarse and medium options for their daily work. Additionally, as the demand for high–quality finishes increases, you should also source a finish comb to achieve the fine detail work your clients appreciate.
PRO TIP: Like all tools, combs must stay in good working order. If you are bending teeth or your comb looks as if it were run over by a truck, you are not using the tool correctly. Use the correct comb for the correct job you need it to do. Finish combs are for fine work. Heavy combs are for heavy work. Broken teeth and/or bent combs are for no work.
LUXURY ITEM: Rather than a specific item, splurge on more—more finish combs and more combs in different lengths—you won’t regret it!
Snap–On Attachment Combs
These handy time–savers are a must have. Whatever your clipper choice, simply match their preferred attachment comb and groom on. Like the regular combs above, there is no place for bent or broken attachment combs.
PRO TIP: This is a tool too—be sure to sanitize!
LUXURY ITEM: My splurge here is a tool sterilizer which makes cleaning these so much easier.
Slickers, pin brushes, rakes, oh my! While it’s easy to get lost in the plethora of options available, a working groomer basically needs a flexible slicker and a good stiff slicker. While there is no replacement for a comb, the slicker provides invaluable tension and stretch to curly coat types prior to finishing the groom. For deshedding treatments and undercoat removal, a standard rake with stationary teeth and a good deshedding rake should do the trick. For double and rough coats, a sturdy pin brush is the must–have tool for line brushing, and a bristle brush is the go–to for finishing a terrier coat.
PRO TIP: One size does not fit all…and neither does one price. From value–priced to high–end, don’t let price guide your choice. Ergonomics and how the tool holds up over time are great parameters to use when choosing your hand tools.
LUXURY ITEM: Splurge on high–quality brushes (such as Boar Bristle) to distribute natural oils and promote a beautiful shine on many coat types.
Shears are the Holy Grail of the professional groomer. Better shears do not make better groomers; however, better groomers need better shears to create better grooms. Simply buying shears to “up your game” is not the route to improving your grooms. Each groomer should have a set of straights, a curved shear and a thinner. You should match them to your hand for balance and control, and maintain them. And, of course, never scissor a dirty coat. As you add shears to your arsenal, have a plan for the specific use, coat type and work the new shear will achieve for you.
PRO TIP: Blenders/chunkers are almost a necessity with the increase of Poodle–mix coats seen by groomers, but make sure you acquire education with this handy hybrid shear to maximize your results.
LUXURY ITEM: Let your spark shine here—whatever your specialty, there is a shear geared toward you!
Odds & Ends
Nail trimmers/grinder, hemostats, slip lead, grooming loop, bathing loop and styptic powder. These are often afterthoughts for many groomers, but each is important in its own way. All are vital to the groomer so make sure you have back–up for every item on this list. It’s important to note, all of these items need proper sanitation too.
There are also many specialty grooming items for specialty services. From hand–stripped coats and beyond, there are items which groomers need to achieve the results their clients depend on. This reference list is for regular pet groomers and not inclusive of those services and the education needed to perform them.
As the live tradeshows return and online shopping continues, use this handy reference list to ensure that your tools are in good working order and you have everything you need to succeed and thrive.
Maintaining your tools is a hallmark of a true professional—and your clients depend on you to keep their pets safe with your sanitation protocol. As you move toward the summer grooming season, happy grooming and happy shopping! ✂️