Learn How to Become a Dog Groomer

In this article I am going to explain a few different ways you can learn how to become a dog groomer.   This page and most of the other pages on this website talk all about choosing this profession as a career.   This is what I do for a living.

Dog grooming can be a very rewarding career, both financially and emotionally. Some professional dog groomers earn a lot of money.   However,it is important that you get into the profession with the right expectations and training in order to succeed.  Some people think it is mostly about playing with dogs all day and putting bows in their hair, but this could not be further from the reality of what is expected of a professional.  That is not what pet groomers do all day.  There is real work involved just like any other job.  Even though this kind of work is fun, there are parts of it that aren’t so great either.  I think that you will find that is true with just about any career path you choose.

How to get Training As A Pet Groomer

Learn from an experienced Veteran

Labrador Retriever puppyOne of the most popular ways to learn how to groom is to have a veteran groomer train you. There are three main ways to go about this. Some groomers will allow you to pay outright for training services. The price will vary greatly depending on the skills of the person doing the training and the length of training. Another option is to work off the price of training by completing jobs that require less skill. For example, you can train during normal business hours and work off the training by staying late to clean and sanitize the building. The third way would be to start at the bottom, for pay (maybe low pay at first) just to get your foot in the door and then work your way up from there.

Personally, this is the way that I learned to groom. I started out cleaning, worked my way up to bathing and then went on to working the front desk and preparing payroll and tax documents. After doing that for a few years I decided to learn to groom. Since I had worked there so long I was able to get the training I needed without having to pay anything or work it off.

Become Certified Through a School

Another option to learn to groom is to get certified through dog grooming school. There are both in class and online courses that will offer certification. If you decide to acquire your training this way, remember that it will provide very little hands on experience and that this type of training can be very costly. Also, you should know that you are not required to have professional certification in order to be successful in this field.

Get Hybrid Training

You also have the option of getting hybrid training, which consists of both classroom learning and on the job training. Most large chain pet supply stores that offer grooming services train their employees this way. You will likely have to start out bathing and prove yourself as a valuable asset to the company before they offer to pay for your training. Also, you may have to sign a two year contract with them before classes start. This agreement states that if you fail training or quit the company before the two years is up you must repay the cost of training and cannot work for a competitor until the two year time frame is over.

A personal warning from what I have learned is to explore the first two options before getting training from a corporate store. The large pet supply corporations tend to carry a negative reputation with many private groomers and it might make it harder to gain employment from some other small grooming businesses.

Where Dog Groomers Can Get Work

Once you have finished your training, it is time to decide on where to work. The choice will be mostly dependent on what working conditions or benefits you desire and what you can live without.

  1. Privately Owned Shop: Most groomers work at a privately owned shop, or open their own. You will most likely be a contracted worker, not an employee. This means no benefits, no paid time off, and no guarantee of work. You will also need to carry your own insurance and pay self-employment taxes. The good things about being a contracted worker are that you can set your own hours, prices, and work conditions. You will get paid on commission basis; for a groomer without much experience you can expect to retain 50% of what you earn.
  2. Corporation: The large corporations are a good option for those who would like to be an actual employee. As an employee you will be offered benefits and they will pay for the grooming insurance. Also, if you ever find a time where you have no dogs to groom you will still be paid an hourly wage to complete other tasks. If consistency and job security are high on your list, you should consider working as a groomer for a corporation.
  3. Other: There are other places that need dog grooming services. Veterinarian offices, dog rescues, and dog boarding facilities all regularly hire groomers. The payments and conditions of employment will vary greatly from place to place.

The most important aspects of becoming a dog groomer are where you get your training and where you work once trained. Your training will ultimately decide how far your career can take you. Take the time to meet the more experienced groomers working in your area and ask them how they acquired their training and what they would recommend.

If you are serious about learning how to become a dog groomer you could visit one of the more well established pet salon businesses in your area.   Ask to speak to the owner.   Tell her that you are interested in becoming a groomer.   Ask for advice on what she would do if she was in your shoes.   Also ask them if they would be willing to take you on part time as an intern.   You might have to volunteer your time unpaid in order to get your foot in the door.  Offer to help them clean up around the shop and do odds and ends just for the chance to learn a little bit about how to groom pets.   Small business owners like ambitious people.   When you approach them like this you are much more likely to get your foot in the door somewhere.  Even if they don’t want to train you, at least you will have made a great contact in the industry and gained a little bit of insight into the local market for this business.

I would personally recommend that you work in the industry for at least a year before making the financial commitment to training.  This will help you decide whether or not you would be happy doing pet grooming on a day to day basis.  Even though the thought of being a professional groomer sounds like a great idea today, you wouldn’t want to spend thousands of dollars for specialized training in a field that you really don’t enjoy.   After doing it for six months you might change your mind about doing it for a career.  Hopefully you will love it, but you never know.

19 Responses to Learn How to Become a Dog Groomer

  1. Tamara says:

    Hello there, my name is Tamara and for the past few months, I have been trying to find dog grooming schools and what not near me or in my area and I am having a hard time finding something. I do need a job, and I would like to do something I enjoy. I have had animals all of my life and I know for a fact that dog grooming would be the thing for me as a career! If you could help me in any way, please e-mail me. Thank you so much for reading and have a good one! :-)

    • Dog Groomer Girl says:

      Tamara,

      I don’t know of any local grooming schools in your area. There are a few approaches you could take. You could look into the online grooming classes. You could look for a big chain of pet stores in your area like Petco or somewhere similar. They provide training. Or, you could approach a small shop owner and try to get your foot in the door there. That is what I recommend. Follow the advice I wrote for Ellie down below here.

  2. Ellie Atkinson says:

    Hi iam 17 and desperatly want to become a dog groomer. As the courses are too expensive for me to afford, I wanted to do an apprentiship. However Iam struggling to find any in the northwest! please can you perhaps give me advice? or point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance.

    • Dog Groomer Girl says:

      The best thing for you to do is to find a grooming shop that you think you might want to work at. Usually that means finding a local shop that is close to your home. You can search online or else check your local Yellow Pages if you don’t already know where those grooming shops are around you.

      Then you want to go into whichever shop you think would be the one you prefer to work at and ask to speak to the owner. Introduce yourself to her. Tell her how you have this really strong desire to become a professional groomer and that you are looking for someone who can teach you the ropes. Ask her if there is any chance you could come by the shop and watch and learn.

      If you ask her for a job outright, she is more likely to say no. If you ask if you can just watch and learn, she is more likely to say yes. And, she will admire your ambition for being gutsy enough to come in and ask to get your foot in the door.

      Even though you aren’t asking for a job up front, if you can just get to where you know the owner and any employees she has, then eventually they will want to find something for you to do. That is when you will get that job offer.

      Ask that owner to mentor you personally. Tell them you want to learn everything they know. They will be flattered by your sincerity. She will want to say yes to you just because you are sincerely interested.

      Most shop owners are really nice people who would love to help a new person out. You just have to approach it the right way.

  3. Tamra says:

    I will soon be 50 years old and am ready for a change in careers. I love animals and would love to become a dog groomer. In your opinion, am I too old for this change and would other groomers be willing to train me at my age?

    • Dog Groomer Girl says:

      I guess it depends on what kind of physical shape you are in. As you grow older you are probably not going to like working on the bigger dogs. They are a bit more physically challenging.

      Good groomers are in demand all over the place. I bet that a shop owner would think that your maturity might make you a better employee. I’m not a hundred percent sure on that, but that is my hunch. I think mature people tend to be more reliable as an employee which makes them more desirable to small business owners.

      See if you can get your foot in the door somewhere part time. That way you can find out for sure if this is the right choice for you. Offer to do office work or maybe be a dog washer for another groomer. Then you will see what goes on in a shop and be able to make a better decision.

  4. Stacey says:

    Hello, I’ve been looking at an online dog grooming course because I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and payment wise this is the best option for me. I was just wondering if a lot of places do volunteering to get the hands on experience? I have a part time job in a shop so I can afford to not get paid to get the experience if it will benefit me in the long run. I’ve owned dogs and been around dogs all my life, but I always wanted to work with animals. I did my work experience with school in a vets and loved it, I know 100% this is what I want to do!

  5. Nicole says:

    I got a job at Petsmart as a bather. And after about 10 months (you can be sent as early as 3 months) they sent me to their “grooming school”. I’m not going to say that a month of training and then complete 100 grooms under supervision is the best way to learn to groom. But I did get payed for them to teach me. I did sign a two year contract (some people slip under and dont even sign anything). But time has flown and I’ve been grooming dogs three months short of a year now so its going to go faster than I thought. At the salon I work at there was a couple women there that have been grooming for 30 years that helped me out. A lot of them have also been grooming for petsmart for almost ten years. Not every petsmart is going to be a good place to work because of some people that run the place. A plus of working there is that they also want you to move up quickly for ex. start as a bather then train to be a groomer, then they want you to move up and become a salon manager and they travel up to be someone working for corporate. They do have plenty of opportunites for you to move up and move on from there very fast if you work and want to do so. if you get hired at petsmart also to be a cashier or fish person a good petsmart will let you move to the grooming part if you are not happy in another section.

  6. Dana says:

    I am 53 and in pretty good shape. I will be retiring from a 30 year administative carrer with the federal government in 2 years. I would love to be a dog groomer but do not have much experience. I had 80 hours of animal behavior training with Canine Companions for Independence and dog grooming was part of this training.
    I applied online with Petco as an assistant groomer. Wish me luck!

  7. Anintita Walker says:

    I am 44 years old mom of 2 kids. I want to find a job which is flexible time for me to take care of them . I personally love pet and want to be pet groomer for long time. I found 2 schools in my area. One school costs 8,900 USD while the other one costs 4,800 USD. The different is the expensive one, the Instructor has the certificate from National Dog Groomers of America while the cheap one, the instructor got diploma from Nash Grooming School from NJ. I wonder if it is important to learn with the instructor who has certificate or not.

  8. Tonja Green says:

    In my experience (in Texas) most groom shops & boarding facilities are willing to hire people with no experience as bathers. That’s how I started. I worked for a couple of years as a bather. In my slow times, I would hold hard to handle dogs for the groomers. In doing so, I was able to spend a good deal of time watching the groomers. When a groomer friend of mine hired me to bathe for her & offered to train me to groom, I was surprised at how much I already knew. I just had to do the “hands on” part.

  9. Brianna says:

    Hi! Ever since I was born I liked horses. Then that spread to dogs, then cats, then rabbits, then hamsters, pretty soon I liked just about every animal in the world! My favorites where 1. Horses 2. Dogs and 3. Goats. I really want to become either a dog groomer or a horse groomer. I really enjoy being with animals and I have found that whenever I get a job that has nothing to do with animals I tend to drift away from it. In other words, I can’t stick with the job. The animals are what keeps me there. I am 14 right now and work weekends with my dad on his construction site (the only job I really like that I have). I would like to become a groomer, as I said above. Do you know of any school around the skaneateles and Moravia area? I really would like to be trained. I have two shorthair dogs that I bath and brush and a horse that I do too. So I have had the basics training myself. I would like to stay closer to home so I can do it. Because my mom prefers me to not go far. There are many groomers in my area. I just am a little worried to ask about teaching and be turned down. Well, I better get going! Hope you have a solution! Thanks!

    - Brianna

    • Dog Groomer Girl says:

      Hi Brainna,

      I don’t know of any grooming schools really close to you. I see that there is a school up in Rochester NY. There are probably some large pet stores in Syracuse that train employees. That might not be practical for your situation though because it is too far to drive. My advice would be to contact a local groomer and ask for training. Maybe they will let you work for free as a bather and teach you grooming on the side.

      Don’t be afraid to ask a local groomer. Just be honest with them. I bet they will respond to you better than you think. Most people are nice and don’t mind being asked questions by someone interested in their line of work. Just ask them how to go about it and how to get your foot in the door somewhere.

  10. Melissa Magana says:

    I am going to Community college and I’ve always had a knack for the visual arts. Which is why I have enrolled in an art class in college. However, I have also come to terms that I would love to be able to help animals in any way that I can, since I was a little girl I thought I’d wanted to become a Veterinarian, until I realized that is something I probably wouldn’t be happy doing. I have had a total of 10 dogs in my life time and all ranging from coat types, so I’ve been the family dog groomer since I can remember. So I feel this is something I would love to pursue as a career, when it comes to dogs, I am very dedicated in helping animals, so I’ve been looking into either going to a Local Animal shelter and offering my help, and hopefully learn a thing or two in there. Or Go to Pet Extreme and apply there as a Groomers assistant and work my way up to a Groomer.

  11. bri says:

    Hi, I recently finished dog grooming school and currently working in a small privately owned pet salon. I am the groomer Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and I work alone. I am very new at this..a lil longer than two months including my schooling. I know that this is the career for me, but I don’t think I can be by myself right now. My boss/part owner obviously believes that I can. I have freaked out a couple of times because I felt very rushed (7 dogs in 6 hours) four being full grooms. I fixed that by speaking up and saying I can only book appointments at least 1 hour apart. Its been slow recently so I haven’t been to stressed. I just want to feel confident that I’m going to get better, and not be nervous coming into work. I feel that I might need to find a job where there is another groomer present and I can have help if I need it. I just want to know your opinion on my situation. Do you think I will settle in, get more comfortable as time goes on and I can get better. I’m mostly nervouse if a certain breed cut is asked and I don’t know how to do it. My boss says she would come in, but the last couple times she wasn’t willing. Please give me your advice. Ty.

  12. Kim says:

    Good advice really like your posts. I am currently working with 2 apprentices and they are both doing great. I have had a handful of people in the last month ask me to teach them to groom. I love to teach and first they have to love animals. They are not pets they are someone’s furry baby.
    I feel everything happens in the universes time and I happened across your posts and it just reinforces the direction I am going with my business.
    Thank you for sharing your advice and keep up the good work.

  13. Caitlin Shay says:

    I love working with animals, and especially grooming them. I am interested in a job in dog grooming, but also am going to college for a degree in music performance. How time consuming would a career in grooming be?

    • Dog Groomer Girl says:

      Caitlin,

      Some people do this for a living full time. Others do it part time. So a career in grooming would be as time consuming as you are willing to make it. Of course it also matters how much work your shop has overall.

  14. pet enthusiast says:

    I have always wanted to give my puppies the high-class grooming they deserve, but it’s so expensive. Thanks so much for this post, I can’t wait to try out some of these tips.

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