How to Become a Dog Groomer

How to Become a Dog Groomer

Some dogs require regular maintenance to keep their coats in the best possible condition. If not maintained, some breeds can suffer from skin complaints, discomfort and hygiene issues.

Knowing how best to trim and look after a dog’s fur is a specialized area of knowledge, so many owners will choose to take their dog to a professional groomer.

What Is Dog Grooming?

Dog grooming is the process of trimming and maintaining a dog's coat, nails and ears. They will generally work to keep dogs looking – and smelling – presentable.

This can involve shampooing and blow-drying a dog's coat, trimming claws, cleaning ears and generally improving a dog’s appearance and overall hygiene.

A dog groomer will also advise dog owners regarding any skin conditions that their pets may have, and offer maintenance tips for keeping their dog looking at their best between visits.

If you love dogs and are passionate about helping owners to keep their pets at their best, you may be considering a career as a dog groomer. It is a career path that can help you to achieve your dream of working with animals. But, like any career, it isn’t without its challenges.

Not every dog will be easy to groom and not every owner will be easy to work with. It is important to understand the skills that you will need and the potential stumbling blocks you may come across before deciding to launch a career as a dog groomer.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a Dog Groomer?

A Calm Disposition

Some dogs may be anxious or afraid of visiting a groomer. It is vital that you can stay calm in these situations as dogs will read your body language and feel your tension.

If you are feeling stressed or worried, they will pick up on this and it can make a difficult situation worse.

A Love of Dogs

One of the most important attributes that you can have as a dog groomer is a love of dogs. This will help you remain passionate about what you do and enjoy the feeling of going to work each day. Being passionate about your career will be essential in leading to your success.

Reasonable Physical Fitness

You will be caring for dogs in all shapes and sizes. Some of them may be very large and difficult to maneuver. You will also spend much of your time standing at a workstation, lifting and bending. It is, therefore, important to maintain a basic level of physical fitness as a dog groomer.

If you are not physically fit, you may struggle to do your job properly. There is also the potential for long-term injury if you don’t look after your physical health.

Knowledge of Dogs/Breeds

You will come across many different breeds through your work as a groomer. Not all of these dogs will have the same needs. By understanding the differences, you will be better placed to advise owners and care for their pets.

It is also useful to have a more general understanding of dogs as a species. Some knowledge of canine body language and behavior can help you to understand when a dog is stressed or scared. This will help you to know whether you need to change what you are doing with a particular dog or whether additional steps need to be taken to alleviate their anxiety.

A Good Understanding of Hygiene

This is relevant not just for the dogs that you will be looking after, but also for the environment that you will be working in. You will need to know all of the relevant hygiene regulations for your area and ensure that you are taking appropriate steps while seeing clients. This will ensure that you maintain a clean working space and reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

For example, if you groom a dog with a potentially contagious skin condition, you will need to know the steps that should be taken between clients to avoid spreading the condition to your next client.

Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are vital in many career paths and this is especially true of a dog groomer.

If you are working as a self-employed groomer, you will need to manage your diary, organize clients and keep excellent records for tax purposes. You will also need to maintain your tools and know where everything is at all times.

This will help to avoid mishaps with clients being double-booked, make end-of-year tax returns easier and ensure that you can locate the required tools as you need them.

How to Become a Dog Groomer
How to Become a Dog Groomer

A Keen Aesthetic Sense

A lot of what you do as a groomer will be centered around making sure that a dog looks at its best while also maintaining appropriate levels of hygiene.

It is important to have a keen sense of what looks good and what doesn’t so that you can produce the best possible results for each dog.


It is unusual for a dog to stay completely still while you are working with them. Essentially, you will be cleaning and grooming a moving target.

For this reason, you will need to have a certain level of dexterity that allows you to adapt to a continually changing situation without compromising the standard of the finished result.

Animal First Aid

Although it is unlikely to happen, there could be an emergency while you are grooming someone’s pet. You can be prepared for this eventuality by taking an animal first-aid course.

These courses will teach you the basics of wound care and the principles of canine CPR. If an emergency should occur, you will be prepared to do the best you can for your client and their pet.

How to Become a Dog Groomer: Step by Step

There are many ways that you can begin a career as a dog groomer. The exact route you take will largely depend on your needs and whether or not you have any previous experience.

No matter what route you choose into dog grooming, it is a good idea to take additional courses in business studies and bookkeeping. These skills will be vital if you become self-employed as you will need to be able to keep your own records and process tax returns.

Professional Dog-Grooming Schools

There are many dog-grooming schools around the United States which offer training and certification to those wishing to become professional dog groomers. One of the most popular options is a course through the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA). Their courses are widely recognized and offer an extensive knowledge base to those wishing to study.

After completing your training, you will need to pass a test where you will show your skills on a live animal. If you are successful, you will be a qualified dog groomer and will be able to work professionally.


Choosing an apprenticeship or mentoring program allows you to learn from an experienced groomer while also earning a wage. You will need to balance this in-person training with online studying or attending a certified course on a part-time basis.

People who choose this method often find that they can earn a higher wage initially when they have gained the relevant qualifications. This is because they already have hands-on experience.

Transitioning from Amateur Dog Grooming

If you already have experience grooming dogs, the best option may be to transition straight into running a professional dog-grooming business.

You will need to take the relevant courses to ensure that you are up to date with the right qualifications and protocols, but most of this can be done online. This is often cheaper than attending a hands-on grooming school or college. You will then be able to take the appropriate exams to gain certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

The exact length of time that it will take you to qualify as a dog groomer will largely depend on the route you choose. Most people will be able to complete their training and gain the relevant qualifications within 12 to 18 months.

It is possible to become a dog groomer without official qualifications. However, many people find that certification is useful.

If you choose to pursue qualifications, choose one which is offered or recognized by a national body such as the NDGAA or the Animal Behaviour College.

You can take many of these courses online and they involve a final exam. As long as you pass the exam, you will be certified.

This depends on whether you are planning to run your own dog-grooming business or hoping to work for a company that is already established.

If you are joining an existing company, they should already have insurance in place. It is unlikely that you will need to take out additional insurance of your own. However, you should always check this with your employer.

If you are setting up your own dog-grooming business, insurance is essential. If an injury happens or an expensive piece of machinery breaks down, you can be financially compensated.

Ideally, if you are running your own dog-grooming business, you should look into taking out public liability insurance as well as insurance to cover the equipment that you will be using in your work. Many types of specialist insurance will cover everything that you could need as a dog groomer.

Your earning potential as a dog groomer will largely depend on whether or not you are running your own business, how many years of experience you have and the number of regular clients on your books.

Some groomers also find that their earning potential is increased if they can specialize in difficult breeds or complex cases. There will also be a certain amount of variation in earning potential depending on where you choose to work.

The average annual salary for a dog groomer in the United States is $30,000.

Dog grooming may seem a dream job, but it’s not without its drawbacks. There will be difficult situations such as caring for a dog that has a history of abuse or one whose coat has been neglected for too long.

There is also the risk of injury to either yourself or the dog. You may be scratched or bitten by a scared or reactive animal.

Some people also find that the long hours are very physically demanding as they are required to stand for extended periods.

Final Thoughts

If you have a love of dogs and a passion for animal maintenance, a career as a dog groomer could be perfect for you. You will be able to study in your own time and gain qualifications which could lead to a successful career, either as a self-employed groomer or as an employee for a bigger company.

Those considering a career as a dog groomer should do plenty of research before jumping in with both feet. As with any career, there are potential downsides, so it is important to be aware of these before starting out.

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