I grew up in my family’s boarding kennels and have been around grooming my entire life. Professionally speaking, I’ve been grooming for eight years. I’ve learned a thing or two since I first started out. Every now and then, I find myself wishing I could go back and talk to my younger self, the twenty-something year old just trying to make her way. Nowadays, I work with a lot of people at the beginning of their grooming careers. While I know that I can’t go back in time to share all the things I wish I’d known then, I can at least pay it forward now! Whether you’re a twenty, thirty, or forty-something year old just starting out, I’ve condensed all the things I wish I had known before beginning my grooming career – including a few common misconceptions.
In our industry, every groomer has their own unique story to tell in how they first got started! Whether you started as an hourly employee looking to pay the bills or as a grooming assistant determined to step on the other side of the table and learn the ropes, there are discoveries all of us have been surprised to learn along the way! Thinking back on my time as a junior groomer, I remember having some of these “a-ha!” moments myself.
Being a groomer is a very physical job. This role often requires standing all day long, lifting a 70 lb. dog on and off the table (even the electric tables only go so low), using high velocity dryers, or scissoring oodles of poodles – this job takes a toll on your body. Many groomers beginning their careers hear shop talk stories from the older generations yet, don’t heed the warnings of taking care of their bodies because it hasn’t yet affected them. Your body is your best resource and most valuable tool in this profession – take care of it! Below is a list of things you can do to help prevent wear and tear on your body:
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Learn to groom sitting or stand on a supportive mat
- Wear hearing protection when using force dryers
- Wear a mask to protect your lungs
- Practice team lifting with big dogs (just because you can doesn’t mean you should!)
- Learn proper scissoring technique and hold your equipment correctly
- Regular chiropractic and massage visits
Along with being physically taxing, grooming can be emotionally difficult as well. We all get attached to our clients and dread the bad days when the phone rings and hear dear Fluffy has passed. If fortunate enough, we often have the privilege of grooming many dogs for the entirety of their lives. When they pass, it’s as if one of our own are gone and that can be just as hard to recover from.
Caretaker fatigue – as a groomer you are susceptible to severe cases of burnout. To combat, you must develop the mental fortitude to not only get through the tough days but also to keep propelling yourself forward to avoid a “groomers rut.” When I begin to feel “stuck”, I find it’s best to dive into learning a new technique or different style of grooming. This always helps to reignite my passion!
Never stop learning or growing in your craft. I used to think one day I would just “get it.” That everything would fall in to place and I’d be at the top of my game. I think there are a lot of young groomers that still think this is the case. At no point in your career are you ever going to say “That’s it! I’ve learned all I can!” There is always a new technique to try, new studies to focus on, and new ways to enrich your career!
Often, I’ll hear that someone wants to be a groomer because they don’t like dealing with people. In fact, I think I may have heard this statement a thousand times! While partially true, your client won’t write your check or rebook an appointment after a service. Every dog, cat, bunny, horse, or whatever else you groom, is directly attached to a person who brings them into the salon. A person who we, as groomers, must please so they return to us for future services.
Being a groomer is a service job—customer service is arguably just as important as the skills you develop and hone as a groomer. I advise pet service professionals to put as much emphasis on customer service as you would in improving your skill set. At the end of the day, you can be an amazing groomer but still struggle to fill your client book if you rub people the wrong way. If you struggle to make conversation, I often challenge beginning groomers to learn one thing about each client they have that day and bring it up in conversation! This provides opportunity to break the ice and alleviate any awkwardness between the client and you as a groomer. In fact, this often helps the client feel as if the groomer is interested in more than just getting their pet in and out of the door.
Finally, I want to address something that is often overlooked. The public perception of groomers can be negative. We are so passionate about what we do and spend countless hours learning, studying, and refining our craft only to be bombarded with viral videos of animal abuse or horror stories of dog deaths at a salon. Unfortunately, these things do happen. However, these instances are more rare than social media leads us to believe. Nevertheless, it is serious. Every time a viral video or image is shared, groomers everywhere cringe. I often see groomers become angry when clients question their process or ask where their pet will be kept. While it can be uncomfortable to discuss, knowing that we do everything in our power to keep little Fido safe, I urge groomers not to hide these realities when dealing with clients. Give tours, be upfront about your practice, and present an authentic experience for the client. Educating the client is key to their understanding! Of course, we want all clients to leave happy and return to us but, by not by not being honest and up upfront, we are not helping the client, ourselves, and most importantly the animals we groom. Safety of the animals should always be the goal.
So, groomers, set yourself up for success. Take care of your mind and body! Learn something new and take the time to educate your clients - cute haircuts and happy clients follow!