Pet and Animal Groomer Career

The Basics

Whether you are a dog lover or a cat person, keeping your four-legged friend clean and healthy is important. Regular grooming helps keep your pet’s coat healthy and may also decrease shedding. Although pet owners can try to groom their animals at home, it can be tricky to get pets to remain still and calm. That’s when a professional pet groomer is needed.

What is a Pet Groomer?

A pet groomer is a person that has the skills and knowledge to perform the hygienic care and cleaning of animals. Regular grooming is important for animals not only to look good but for their overall health.

Groomers understand which tools and techniques to use to groom an animal safety. Pet groomers work mostly with dogs. But groomers may also care for cats and other animals. The main responsibility of a pet groomers is to maintain an animal’s appearance. The exact procedures used may vary depending on the type and breed of animal groomed.

What Does a Pet Groomer Do?

Pet groomers often perform a brief assessment on the animal before starting the grooming process. The assessment is done to determine if there are any ear infections, dental issues, or skin conditions present. It also gives the groomer a minute to assess the animal’s temperament.

The dog grooming process may involve brushing, bathing, and drying the animal’s fur. Cutting and styling the hair along with de-matting is also sometimes requested. Some clients want their animal’s fur styled a certain way depending on their breed.

Groomers do not only deal with the animal’s coat. They also often clean their ears with an otic solution, clean eye tear stains and clip the nails as part of the grooming process. Pet groomers may also check for pests. Although checking for pests, such as fleas, maybe your vet’s job, pet groomers are also often able to identify and remove fur-infesting pests.

Related: How to Become an Animal Health Technician

Some groomers also work with cats. Although cats don’t require as much grooming as their canine friends, it’s still important to keep their coats in check. Cat typically do not like baths. They may be a little bit more difficult to groom than dogs. But pet groomers have the expertise to know how to groom a cat without causing pain or anxiety.

Pet groomers use a variety of tools to perform their jobs, such as a de-matting rake, shedding blade, and clippers. Groomers must know how to properly and safely use tools to avoid injuries to the animals and themselves.

Groomers also know which tools to use depending on the animal and the grooming request. For instance, different brushes are available, such as wire-pin, bristle, and slicker. Different brushes are appropriate for different breeds of dogs.

Part of working as a pet groomer is helping animals feel safe, so they cooperate with the process. Connecting with the animals and getting pets to trust you is part of the job.

Where Does a Pet Groomer Work?

Pet groomers work in a variety of settings including pet stores, professional grooming businesses, and kennels. Groomers may also find work in animal shelters and veterinary clinics. Some groomers also work in mobile clinics. Mobile groomers travel to client’s homes to care for their pets. Many groomers also own their own business operating a mobile grooming service.

Some groomers specialize and work with specific breeds. For instance, groomers may choose to work with only sporting breeds. Other groomers specialize and only provide grooming for show dogs.

Pet groomers who work for a salon or kennel may work a typical 8-hour shift. Both full and part-time jobs are available. Mobile groomers that make house calls may have varied hours to accommodate their customer’s schedule. For example, early evening and weekend work may be necessary to meet the needs of the clients.

Why Do We Need Pet Groomers?

Pet groomers are needed for a variety of reasons. Groomers are specially trained to clean and care for pets without causing injuries. There is more to proper grooming then meets the eye. Pet owners who try to groom at home may end up hurting their dog or cat or even injuring themselves.

Also, pet grooming is not only about making a dog or cat look handsome. Proper grooming is also good for the animal’s health. For instance, when a groomer trims a dog’s nails, it may prevent injuries. A dog’s long nails can hurt a human or cause an injury to other animals.

Long nails can also catch on things and rip off, which is painful for dogs. Untrimmed nails may also start to curl under the animal’s paw, which can hurt and interfere with walking. Regular nail trimming can decrease the risk of infection and reinforce healthy foot posture.

Pet grooming also provides another set of eyes on a dog or cat to identify health issues. Pet groomers may notice health problems, such as issues with skin, nails, and teeth.

What are the Requirements to Become a Pet Groomer?

Educational Requirements

There are no formal educational requirements to become a pet groomer. For example, pet groomers are not required to have a certain amount of training to work in the field.

But most employers who hire groomers prefer someone who has a high school diploma and has completed at least some level of training in grooming. Pet groomers typically learn on the job through an apprenticeship at a pet store, animal shelter, or kennel. Completing an internship or apprenticeship under the direction of an experienced groomer for six months is one way to get hands-on experience and training.

Although there are currently no degree programs in pet grooming in the United States, certificate programs are available. Certificate programs are offered through vocational schools and online programs. Admission requirements usually include a high school diploma or completion of a GED.

The length of a certificate pet grooming program may vary. But most programs can be completed in six months to a year. The programs prepare graduates to start working in the field as a groomer immediately after completing the courses.

Although specific courses may vary, typical classes include topics, such as dog and cat anatomy, safety, and canine personalities and temperament. Classes in grooming methods and techniques, such as grooming matted fur and specific dog breed cuts are also taught.

Identification of common skin conditions and pet first aid and CPR may be included in some programs. Certain programs may also require completion of an externship working at a grooming salon.

Licensure and Certification Requirements

Currently, most states do not require licensure for pet groomers, but that could change in the future. Certain states, such as Colorado and Connecticut, have enacted some regulations for pet groomers. But regulations typically apply to the grooming facility, such as drying cages, grooming equipment, and facility standards. Groomers who want to operate a mobile pet grooming business may have different standards and requirements, which vary by state.

Although it is currently not required for employment, an optional certification as a pet groomer is available. Earning a certification in the field may increase salary potential and employment opportunities.

The National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) offers a certification. To earn the National Master Certified Groomer, applicants must first attend a training workshop held by the NDGAA. After completion of the workshop, applicants are eligible to take a written exam consisting of multiple choice questions covering topics, such as breed identification, animal health, and anatomy. Applicants must also pass a practical exam where grooming skills are tested for specific breeds including terrier, sporting and non-sporting.

What Does It Take to Become a Pet Groomer?

Pet grooming involves more than just picking up a pair of shears and providing a haircut. Pet groomers who do well on the job usually process certain traits and skills. Pet groomers obviously must love animals. But just enjoying animals is not enough to decide if working as a pet groomer is right for you. Ask yourself if you have any of the following skills:

  • Physical stamina: Working as a pet groomer is not like a desk job. Pet groomers are often on their feet for hours. Groomers also spend a lot of their time bending, kneeling, and squatting.
  • Attention to detail: Owners often have specific ideas in mind for grooming their pet. Pet groomers need to follow directions and pay attention to detail. Even small mistakes or inattention can change the way an animal’s fur looks or nails are trimmed.
  • Problems solving skills: The ability to think outside the box and solve problems is helpful for pet groomers. For example, it’s not always easy to figure out how to trim the nails of an uncooperative 100-pound dog. Having the ability to figure out alternatives methods to achieve the same results is an important skill for groomers.
  • Calm demeanor: Groomers should have a calm and relaxed demeanor. Going to the groomers may not be an activity most animals enjoy. In fact, some pets may become anxious and aggressive when they go to the groomers. Pet groomers need to know how to help an animal relax and stay calm to make the grooming process as stress-free as possible.
  • Good fine motor skills: Pet groomers work with different types of tools and need to have good manual dexterity and fine motor skills. Some of the styles and cuts require technical skills and a steady hand is needed to avoid making mistakes.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Pet Groomer?

Working as a pet groomer may sound like a great job especially if you love animals. But it may not be as easy as you think. Although it can be rewarding, the job may also have some cons. Before deciding if working as a pet groomer is the right career choice for you, consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Groomers may work a flexible schedule: Pet groomers often work flexible schedules. Many businesses hire part-time groomers. Groomers who own their own mobile company are also able to set their hours.
  • Pet groomers have opportunities to own their own business: Some pet groomers choose to open their own shop or operate a mobile service. For those who want to operate a small business, pet grooming may be a good choice.
  • Working as a pet groomer allows you to promote animal health: Pet groomers play an important role in keeping animals healthy. Knowing you are contributing to an animal’s well-being is often rewarding.
  • You can start a career as a pet groomer quickly: The training to become a pet groomer does not require a lengthy education or a costly degree. Groomers can often start their career after a few months of schooling or an apprenticeship.
  • Pet groomers get to turn their love of animals into a career: If you are an animal lover, working as a pet groomer may be a great fit, especially if you love dogs. Although you also deal with pet owners, spending all day with man’s best friend can be the perfect career for some people.

Disadvantages

  • Working as a pet groomer is often physically demanding: Not only do pet groomers spend a lot of time on their feet, they may also have to deal with the occasional scratches and bites from animals.
  • Pet grooming can be stressful: Any job that involves customer service can be stressful, and that includes pet grooming. Not only do you have to work with temperamental animals. You also have to deal with their owners. Groomers have to juggle multiple appointments and keep their schedule on track, which can be stressful.
  • Pet groomers may have to work all types of hours to accommodate clients: While a flexible schedule may seem like a benefit to some people, it can also be a disadvantage. Pet groomers who own their own business may especially work odd hours to accommodate their customers.

How Much Does a Pet Groomer Make?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal care and service workers, such as pet groomers, made on average about $22,200 a year in 2016. PayScale reports higher salaries specifically for dog groomers. As of February 2018, according to PayScale, the median salary for dog groomers is just over $29,000 a year.

The setting a pet groomer works in may also affect earnings. For instance, in some businesses, groomers are allowed to accept tips. In other cases, such as a mobile pet groomer, salaries may be higher since customers often pay more for the convenience of groomers coming to their home.

Geographic area and experience appear to be the two most important factors that affect earnings. For example, PayScale reports that groomers with 20 years of experience earn about $44,000 a year. Groomers who specialize, especially those who work with show dogs may also earn higher salaries.

What is the Job Outlook for Pet Groomers?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 37 percent of households in the United States have a dog, which is good news for groomers. A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association found that pet ownership continues to increase and has shown an upward trend for the past 20 years.

As pet ownership increases so does the need for professional groomers. According to the BLS, employment for non-farm animals service workers, such as groomers, is expected to increase by about 24 percent through 2026. That increase is faster than the average for other occupations. Mobile groomers may especially be in demand as owners look for quicker and more convenient ways to get their pets groomed.

What Careers are Similar to Pet Groomers?

Below are a few careers, which involve working with animals and are similar to a pet groomer.

Veterinary Tech Assistant: Veterinary techs assistant veterinarians in caring for animals. Their responsibilities may include preparing animals for procedures, collecting lab samples, and giving medications. Vet tech training programs usually take two years to complete.

Wildlife Rehabilitator: A wildlife rehabilitator works with animals typically found in the wild that are injured. They provide first aid, medical care, and rehabilitation so the animal can be returned to the wild. Usually, a four-year degree in ecology or biology along with an apprenticeship working in a wildlife rehab agency is required to enter the field.

Animal Trainer: Animal trainers work with various types of animals to get them to develop positive behaviors or certain skills. For example, an animal trainer may train dogs for therapy pets or to work in law enforcement agencies. There is not a specific degree or career track to become an animal trainer. Most people learn on the job.

Zoologist: A zoologist studies animals including their behaviors, characteristics, and their impact on humans. Although some jobs may be available for people who have a bachelor’s degree in zoology, most zoologists have at least a graduate degree in the field.

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