At HomeDoggy.com, we love your dog
Every so often we get a call from someone saying that they think they would like to be a groomer, and do we teach. The answer is no. So, how does one become a groomer?
Very long ago, most groomers were people who bred and showed their own dogs. To support this very expensive hobby, they groomed pets, working at their home kennel, a pet shop that sold puppies or, believe it or not, even in department stores. One of the most famous people in all of dogs was a professional handler and then an all-breed judge who groomed with her mother at Macy’s in New York City. She was over 6 feet tall and could show a dog like no one else and was the first to win Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden three times!
Eventually a grooming school opened in New York, but most often people learned by doing an apprenticeship under someone already in the field. As with most arts, this was and still is the very best way.
Now, however, there are grooming schools all over. Ones you go to and work, others that you take online and then go for a hands-on period and so on. Some large pet store chains will send you away for about a month to learn how to do a poodle, cocker, schnauzer, mixed-breed and clip down. Then you return to the store to practice on customers’ dogs. These are the places that are never booked up, can always get you in that day even if it’s Saturday and are usually the highest priced. Very often, your dog never gets the same groomer twice, usually because they are no longer there.
Many people think grooming is a fun job because you get to play with dogs all day. On the contrary, it is extremely hard work both mentally and physically. You are part stylist, part animal behaviorist and part veterinarian. In fact, your groomer usually knows your pet better than your vet simply because they see them more often. We can’t treat them but are often the first to notice a problem. If your groomer (or vet) is a breeder, then you are very lucky indeed.
It can be fun, or funny too, if you really love dogs. John was once clipping a poodle and when he picked up her tail to clip it, out came a puppy which she delivered on his table. I was once clipping down a cocker and after removing a big piece of chicken wire got my thumb got caught in a fish hook!
Think of it like washing your car. You know where every little scrape, scratch, ding, dent or rust spot is. And so it is with your dog. A good groomer spots ear mites starting, eye problems, tender areas, sub-luxating patella, parasites (especially tapeworm) and tumors just to mention a few. Someone truly experienced can tell you things about your dog that you may never notice. They can tell you if something needs immediate attention or should just be mentioned at your dog’s next vet visit.
So how does one find a good groomer? Well, not by calling everyone listed and asking price. You do not always get what you pay for. There is an old joke: What is a master groomer? Anyone with $100 and a poodle! There is no standardized testing for the industry as there are for other professions. Referrals are good, but your first question should always be about experience. Do not be fooled by flashy websites or big ads. And visit them. Ask your friends. If it’s a dog that lives outside and gets clipped down once a year, you can go almost anywhere or even do it yourself. But if your dog truly is a family member and you want the best, then pretend that it is your hair and find a salon that way.
I was recently in New York for an AKC meeting, and one of my regulars went somewhere else. The next month when he came in his nails had not been clipped, the hair had not been removed from his ears, his belly had not been clipped, and the hair between his foot pads had not been cleaned out — every shortcut a groomer can take.
We book only the number of dogs that we can do our best work on in a day. And that number varies according to the type of dogs coming in. Pricing can also be tricky. We never guarantee a price over the phone because inevitably the 20-pound dog all brushed out arrives at the shop weighing 50 pounds and is a solid mat.
As we both breed and show, we know every trim. We do not even own a grooming book, as we see all the breeds all the time at shows. And show trims should only be done by someone actively involved in the sport. You can always spot a bad pet grooming job at a dog show — usually leaving the ring without a ribbon!
As always, please spay or neuter your pet for their own good health and always pick up after your dog. [ Source: Robert A. Schroll, owner of The Kennel Shop | November 2011 ]