How to Become a Pet Groomer

by Lynette Arceneaux

Watching pet groomers at work through a shop window can leave you with the impression that it's an easy and fun job. A groomer brushes, snips, clips and coddles freshly washed animals, then finishes them off with a bright bow or neckerchief before sending them home with family. At least, that's how it seems. Indeed, the job might be fun, but you can be sure it's not as easy as it looks. Still, if you love animals and have an eye for detail, pet grooming might be a vocation for you -- after a bit of planning and preparation.

Step 1

Research the profession. The book "Notes from the Grooming Table," by award-winning groomer Melissa Verplank, and the trade magazine "Groomer to Groomer" are good places to start. Also visit the PetGroomer.com website, which offers valuable information and forums. Try to talk with groomers in your area. Ask about the profession and their experiences in it -- but only if they can spare a moment. Groomers' shops can get very busy. Be patient and understanding if they are too harried to speak with you.

Step 2

Learn the skills required. There are two main paths to choose from: trade school or apprenticeship. If you opt for a grooming school, look at several. Obtain brochures and peruse the details, comparing each program's offerings. You'll want to make sure the course is long enough to provide the education you need to become comfortable and successful in the industry. Look for programs that last at least six to nine months, enough time to learn not only grooming skills, but the business aspects of the occupation as well. If business education is not provided at the school, it would be wise to independently take some continuing education business courses or read books on the subject, if you hope to one day run your own business. Keep in mind that many grooming schools offer financial aid, loan programs and scholarships. If you choose the apprenticeship route, you will start work at an established grooming business as a brusher and bather. In this position, you will learn about dog breeds and behavior, dog care and the basic skills of brushing and bathing. Once you master these, the shop's owner or manager will teach you grooming and styling skills. You will also have the opportunity to observe how the owner or manager runs the day-to-day business aspects of the shop, such as dealing with clients, making appointments and setting schedules.

Step 3

Attain certification. Licensing and certification are two different things. Although some states are considering regulating the industry, none do at the time of this publication. Some states, such as Connecticut and Colorado, do require those in the business or who maintain grooming facilities to obtain special licensing. The state grants a license once the groomer has paid a fee and the facilities have passed an inspection. Certification, on the other hand, is voluntary. Groomers who obtain professional certification are indicating to their clients that they are professional and skilled enough to pass a stringent written examination, and have successfully demonstrated their grooming skills to the certifying organization. In the United States, three organizations offer certification programs. They are International Professional Groomers, the National Dog Groomers Association of America, and the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists.

Step 4

Choose your workplace. A number of options exist for those in the pet grooming industry. You might opt to work for someone else, perhaps at a small local grooming shop, in a veterinarian's office, at a dog day care or boarding kennel, or in the salon area of a retail pet supply store. Or you might choose to start a home-based or mobile grooming business, or open your own grooming shop.

Step 5

Continue your education. Attend trade shows and seminars, read books and magazines about the industry, participate in online grooming forums. A successful pet stylist never stops learning the skills of the trade.

About the Author

Based in Southern California, Lynette Arceneaux has worked as a writer and editor since 1995. Her works have appeared in anthologies, such as "From the Trenches" and "Black Box," in the magazine "Neo-opsis," and on numerous websites. Arceneaux, who holds a Master of Arts degree, currently focuses on the topics of health and wellness, lifestyle, family and pets.