Then & Now: Grooming Industry Innovation | Groomer to Groomer

Grooming Matters

Then & Now: Grooming Industry Innovation

It is a wonder to me how much the pet grooming industry has changed since the first time I picked up a clipper. And so, I’ll begin my story there…

The woman who trained me to groom used Oster A2 clippers. These clippers were similar to the clippers commonly used now, but to change your blade, you had to use a screwdriver to remove the blade from the clipper and then screw the new blade down. Alternately, you could purchase multiple heads for the clipper and keep your most common blades attached to those heads, swapping the entire top section of the clipper every time you wanted to use a different blade length.  A5–style clippers with detachable blades were new on the scene and were a huge timesaver for groomers. Oster was the only brand of clippers for groomers to choose from. Open a catalog now, and you will find dozens of brands and styles of clippers—an array we never imagined possible. They even come in pretty colors!

When I get on this way–back train of thought, I feel like the parent who tells their child how they had to walk miles (uphill both ways) to school “back in the day.” And here is the truth; when my daughter wanted to become a pet groomer, I discouraged her. That was strange because I have treasured my grooming career, but after a lot of introspection, I realized I did not want my child to have to work as hard as I did when I was starting out. Then, once I realized how much easier this field is currently—thanks to innovations and inventions—I welcomed her with open arms. 

As recently as the 1980’s, groomers had only a handful of shampoos and conditioners available to purchase, styles of pet brushes and combs were limited, and none of the major time– and labor–saving tools we depend on now were even invented. Just during the span of my years grooming, the following tools have made the scene: 

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  • Electric & hydraulic grooming tables
  • High velocity dryers
  • Bathing systems 
  • Purpose–built bathing tubs (stationary & electric) 
  • Clipper Vacuum systems 
  • Ergonomically-designed hand tools & anti–fatigue mats
  • Advanced restraint systems
  • Trimmers with adjustable blades
  • Specialty scissors (curved blades, chunkers, varieties in sizes & styles, and those for left–handed stylists) 
  • Hair–repellant clothing
  • Dematting sprays 
  • Wide variety of brands & types of shampoos, conditioners and other “liquid tools”
  • Wide blades & combs 

This is a partial list; there is much more…from Happy Hoodies to protect a pet’s sensitive ears while being dried to more effective styles of combs, brushes, rakes and hand tools to solve a myriad of specific grooming problems. The last forty years have seen a huge advancement in the tools and products available to the modern–day groomer.

Personal computers were not available back then, so there was no software to organize your schedule and maintain your business records. If you had a rare breed cross your table, you could not quickly look up grooming instructions or watch a YouTube video of an expert showing you what to do. 

Speaking of computers, groomer Bonnie Peregoy (Bonnie’s Dog Grooming, Washington, D.C.) said, “Personally, the internet made me aware that I was part of a national (global, even) community, and all the customer quirks that made me bonkers were universal. My joy at the discovery of The Groomers Lounge (the original internet hangout for groomers) felt like coming out of a dark closet where I had been toiling alone for decades.” 

Debi Hilley (A Cut Above, Albany, GA) expands on this: “I think the internet has allowed us to have more say in our equipment, too. We created groups that allow companies to do market research, and they have.” 

Cell phones were not invented, so you couldn’t text your customers, take pictures of their pets or call for clarification. I was a house–call groomer for 11 years and kept a roll of coins with me at all times so I could use a pay phone to get directions if I was lost. 

Groomers today can attend (Covid aside) seminars where they can see the latest and greatest tools and learn from top–notch educators. We can even attend educational events online, in the comfort of our own homes. Amazingly, we can also achieve grooming certifications via distance learning opportunities. 

For me, the introduction to thousands of groomers online gave me the gift of sharing ideas and skill sets that I would never have been able to access otherwise. I was taught old school–style; put the dirty dog on the table, brush it, trim it, then bathe it, dry it and groom it again. When I discovered the “wash them first” school of thought, I was shocked. But I gave it a spin and have never looked back. This was just one work– and life–altering lesson I learned thanks to modern technology; there have been thousands more. 

There are many books for groomers now, from business guides to those detailing techniques and giving step–by–step breed instructions. We can buy DVDs and watch wildly skilled groomers show us how to correctly groom specific breeds and styles. These were things I could have only dreamed of when I was starting out. And, there is the magazine you are reading now, which once was nothing more than a few typed pages, folded and mailed to groomers like me who couldn’t wait for its monthly arrival. 

Suesan Watson (Pawparazzi Pet Salon, LTD, Hoffman Estates, IL) said, “I think what has changed in the grooming industry that stands out for me is that groomers today are grooming with compassion instead of the mind set of ‘I am the groomer, you are the animal, I will win!’ I have learned that you can reform a mistreated dog in about three groomings with love and compassion instead of the ‘I will win’ attitude. You can win—with love!” 

I have noticed this welcome change as well. 

There was something else groomers didn’t have 30–40 years ago. Doodles! Cocker–Poodle mixes made a splash in the 90’s, but didn’t achieve the popularity currently seen in the mad Doodle trend. Depending on your feelings for these high–maintenance mixes, that could be a positive or negative industry trend. 

I can’t hardly wait to see what new developments will occur in our industry in the next decades. I plan to be here watching, learning and trying out every innovation. ✂️

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