For people who love dogs, pet grooming can be the perfect career choice!  Pet owners love their pets dearly, and you will be in the position to provide them care.  Many groomers eventually end up owning their businesses. To do this, you must take the profession of pet grooming seriously, taking the time to learn the skills and concepts required to be a successful pet groomer, and then continue to hone your skills.


The pet industry is recession-proof. In 2008, when the recession hit, people continued to spend money on their pets even though they cut back on everything else. The American Pet Products Association estimates Americans will spend $72.1 billion on pets this year(2018.) (Business Insider 6/25/18.)


When you complete this learning guide, you’ll be able to

Understand the history of pet grooming

Define the type of pet grooming jobs that are available

Explain industry standards in pet grooming


While there is not a plethora of information about the beginnings of pet grooming, one can take some liberties as to how it began.  It likely started when early humans began interacting with early wolf dogs.  As those relationships developed and these dogs became part of the household, people began to care for them. The grooming portion of this care probably included things such as parasite removal and pulling out or brushing out clumps of loose hair.


Scientists can’t yet agree precisely when humans and dogs or wolf-dogs started interacting in a symbiotic relationship.  There is evidence from as far back as 400,000 years BP (Before present time, noted as 1/1/1950.) Bones from humans and wolves were found close to each other.  Skulls, more closely related to today’s modern dogs, have been found and dated to 125,000 – 32,000 BP.  From 32,000 to 13,500 BP many paleolithic dog remains have been discovered.  It is thought that one of the very first cases of a dog being buried with its owner’s dates to 14,200 BP, the grave was found in Bonn-Oberkassel, Germany.  This dog, through mDNA analysis, has been found to be a direct relative to today’s modern dog.

Not too long ago it was thought that there was a single canine domestication period, but in 2016, research shows that there are two domestication periods.  Around 15,000 years ago European wolves started a domestication period, and 12,500 years ago Asian wolves started a domestication period.

The earliest we see a case of dog burial in the Americas is at a site in Utah, Danger Cave, and these dogs date back about 11,000 years.  They were found to be descendants of Asian dogs.

It is during the middle ages that we see historical records referring to “kennel boys.” These would be young men who lived on feudal estates (most likely with the dogs, ) in Europe and were hired to care for the herding and hunting dogs for a noble lord.  Dogs kept during this time were, for the majority, working dogs and because of this, they tended to be taken care of.  The kennel boys would keep the kennel clean and feed and exercise the dogs.

Virtual Field Trip Middle Ages & Dogs

We start to see curly-coated breeds during the 16th century. This includes the Curly Coated Retriever, which is likely one of the first dogs to be cut short.


This is when we begin to see more stylized cuts.  What most people don’t realize is that the “continental cut” seen on poodles was created for entirely practical reasons.  Poodles are water retrievers.  The continental cut leaves hair to protect their vital organs (jacket,) including the brain (top knot,) pom poms on ankles to protect the joints, and rosettes on at the lower back to protect the kidneys.  All of this protection was needed so the dogs could retrieve in cold water.  If all the hair were left, it would weigh them down when wet, but there was a need to protect the susceptible areas.

It is in the 20th century that we begin to see pet grooming come into full swing as a career choice.  Initially, the industry started off within boarding facilities and veterinarian’s offices.  It was in the 1940s that little salons known as doggie barbershops came into being.  These salons were tiny, and often quite warm.  These groomers did not have electric trimmers or pedestal blow driers.  Due to the poor conditions, only a handful of dogs could be groomed per day.


During the 1950s there was a considerable increase in pet ownership.  When this normalizing of pet ownership happened, it created a need for professional pet groomers.  It is here we see new equipment, including stand dryers, developed.


In the early 1960’s vocational grooming schools started to open, and the profession gained in popularity.  Tools and equipment went through another phase of growth and improvement.  The first-ever grooming conference was held in Chicago in the early 1980s and since that time industry standards and education in the field has continued to grow and evolve.


There are a variety of choices a pet groomer faces when looking for work. When deciding which is the best fit for you, there are many things to keep in mind.

  • Do you like working alone or with others?
  • Would you want to continue learning from others?
  • Do you prefer a rigid schedule or more flexibility?
  • Do you need your employer to provide benefits?
  • Do you have a good driving record?
  • Do you work well with set rules or do you do better with more freedom?


A chain salon is one with multiple locations all over an area of a state, a state, region, or country.

Pros: Chain salons are a great place for a new groomer to start, there is usually staff on hand to assist and answer questions.  There are typically set rules and procedures to follow.  Many pay hourly plus commission allowing for a base level of income. Others pay hourly.  Many chain stores provide benefits such as health insurance and vacation time.  These stores are often open seven days a week from the early morning until late evening providing groomers plenty of availability to get hours.  It is usually easy to be transferred to another location if an employee needs to move.

Cons: Chain salons typically set rules and procedures to follow, so if you are a groomer prone to creativity or thinking outside of the box, it can be a hindrance.  Big box stores want to hire groomers who are willing to work weekends, early morning, and evenings.  While the pay is steady and known, it can also provide limited growth.



A private business like this will usually have many employees and provide a variety of pet-related services which may include: veterinary care, grooming, daycare, boarding, and training.

Pros:  One of the best perks of a multipurpose facility is that there are usually of pets lined up for grooming; you will be busy.  There may be flexibility in scheduling.  Often these facilities are interested in continuing education. Many facilities offer discounted services for employees.

Cons:  A groomer may need to work weekends, early mornings, or late evenings.  Facilities like this may or may not offer benefits. A lot can be going on all at once in a multi-service facility; this requires a groomer to be self-motivated.


A small, privately owned grooming salon that only does grooming can provide an excellent opportunity for a pet groomer.

Pros:  Hours are usually more normalized than more extensive facilities.  If you can find the right salon, a new groomer may be able to get more hands-on learning help.

Cons:  Many of these pay groomers illegally as 1099/independent contractors.  This provides the groomer with no workman’s compensation if they are injured.  Many jobs in smaller salons don’t offer benefits, although this is changing.  A groomer may not have a consistent paycheck. If you choose to work in a small salon, it’s important to make sure you are hired as a W2 employee.


A groomer could buy their own mobile grooming van, or work for someone else who owns a mobile grooming business.

Pros:  Mobile groomers usually groom fewer dogs per day but tend to make the same wages as stationary groomers as mobile salons charge more for their services.  For some, working alone could be positive.  Mobile grooming can be an excellent way for a groomer to start their own business.

Cons: Groomers must drive from home to home, and this requires a clean driving record.  Sometimes there are mechanical issues with a mobile unit; this can mean a groomer may not be able to groom for a day or days while waiting for repair.  If one enjoys being around other people being a mobile groomer could be difficult. Also, with mobile grooming, a groomer must be aware of being safe when going to people’s houses they have not met, as well as being safe while driving.


House call grooming is becoming very popular.  Startup costs are low, yet groomers can charge more for convenience.

Pros: Low start-up cost.  Flexible schedule.

Cons: A groomer will be driving, perhaps quite a bit.  Safety concerns with entering customer homes.  The need to haul equipment in and out of the car and house could prove difficult.

SIDEBAR  From Laura Civello Hearn who wrote “A Practical Guide to House Call Grooming.”: Do you want to hit the road and “go mobile” but the thought of needing an extra $30,000 for a new van or trailer causes you to break out into a sweat? How are you going to make those payments (which can be as high as a mortgage payment) without a steady stream of clients?

House-call grooming might be the best next step for you. House-call grooming is still defined as “mobile grooming” as you are providing grooming services at the client’s home, but instead of having a grooming salon set up in your van or trailer, you actually set up inside a client’s home.

When many groomers first hear about house-call grooming (as it’s still a niche way in the industry) they usually ask one of two things:

“How do you lug in all that stuff and then have to kneel over the bathtub and not hurt yourself? I pick and choose my equipment and bring in only what is necessary to that specific pet.

“Do the clients stare at you as you groom the pet? I could never relax with them looking over my shoulder”. I develop a good relationship with my clients, and I try to find out WHY they want to watch. Most of the time, the dog has had a bad experience in the past OR they are just curious to see how it all works. Most of the time, I politely explain that the dog behaves better if the client isn’t in the room and they understand this.

And based on that, as a house-call groomer, the clients are inviting you into their house, their space. You get to see a “slice of life” of what their day to day activities are like, and depending on the pet’s grooming schedule, you get to know your clients very well. I’ve been invited to weddings, baby showers, funerals and even doggie birthday parties! There’s usually a specific need that clients are wanting to look for as specific of a service as house-call grooming and they are willing to pay premium prices.

So, if you are ok with bringing in your own equipment, being in a different environment multiple times a day and can roll with the punches when the unexpected comes up, such as clogging a client’s tub drain or when your dryer trips a breaker, then house-call grooming might be the perfect job for you!

For more information on House Call Grooming pick up her book


When you become a pet groomer, if you have quality grooming skills and a good work ethic, you can find jobs almost anywhere.  Pet ownership is growing at such a fast rate the grooming industry can’t keep up, and there are not enough groomers.  Over 55% of the population of the United States has at least one pet (2016.)  Only 34% of adults 70 or over owned a pet ten years ago, in 2016 this number jumped to 40%.  The job category that includes pet groomers is forecasted to grow by 11% through 2023 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Pet owners have consistently spent more and more every year.



If you want a great job, with benefits and growth possibilities, it is essential to take your training seriously.  Learn to groom with safety and quality in mind.  Be mindful of continuing education opportunities as there is always more to learn, and techniques change.


There are currently many opportunities to ensure a pet groomer keeps up with new trends and skills.  While there are no actual regulations, there are organizations that have been created to help promote industry standards to groomers voluntarily.  Three agencies offer certification.

NDGAA (National Dog Groomers Association of America.)

The NDGAA was founded in 1969, and the current Executive Director is Jeff Reynolds.  The NDGAA offers National Certified Master Groomer training and testing and holds one conference per year, usually in October, in Orlando Florida.  UPDATE: The NDGAA has been sold to Barkleigh Enterprises.  The AKC will take over the testing program.


IPG (International Professional Groomers Inc.)

Linda Easton Warner and Dr. Jim Warner run the IPG.  They also offer testing and three certification tracks: 1) Certified Professional Groomer (CPG.) 2) Advanced Professional Groomer (APG.) and 3) Master Groomer (ICMG.)


ISCC (International Society of Canine Cosmetologists.)

Pam Lauritzen runs the ISCC.  They currently offer certifications including The Professional Groomer, Pet Care Dermatech Specialist, and Master Pet Stylist. (

Along with these organizations, the pet grooming industry provides a multitude of grooming conferences throughout the year.  It’s crucial for pet groomers to attend these as they are able.  They provide the most up to date information and trends in the industry and can revitalize a groomer who is suffering from burnout or boredom.


Another opportunity these conferences provide is competitive grooming.  These are contests, usually divided by coat type.  Here is a non-inclusive list of examples.

  • Wire/Hand Strip: Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier
  • Scissored/All Other Pure Bred: Bichon Frise, Kerry Blue Terrier, Wheaten Terrier
  • Poodle: Toy, Miniature, and Standard
  • Sporting: American Cocker, English Cocker, English Springer Spaniel
  • Miscellaneous, Purebred not Groomed to Breed Standard: Mixed breed dogs, or purebred dogs not groomed to breed standard, one example would be a Poodle groomed like a Bichon, or a Poodle groomed like a Bedlington Terrier.
  • Creative Grooming

Conferences divide the competitions into A (Advanced or Open Division, ) B (Intermediate, ) and C (Entry, ) Divisions.  Some contests only offer A & B Division.  These competitions provide an excellent opportunity for grooming skills and relationships with other groomers to grow.  Groomers start in entry and move up as their skills grow, and they start placing in the contests.  Participating in these grooming competitions can help cultivate customer trust in your talent and ability as a pet groomer.


When looking for work as a pet groomer it’s important to understand your rights and the legalities associated with working as a W2 employee or a 1099 independent contractor.

First, let’s explain what a W2 and 1099 is.  A W2 is a form your employer gives you at the end of the year when you are an employee, so you can file your taxes.  It shows your wages, federal, state, and local taxes that you’ve already paid by your employer withholding these taxes from your paycheck.  1099 is what a business gives someone who is doing contract labor, and a person who receives 1099 then does their taxes as a business owner and then pays the taxes because nothing was withheld throughout the year.

Now we’re going to look at what is the basic difference between these two types of classifications.


  • The business owner or manager tells an employee when to work.
  • Business owner or manager provides supplies such as shampoo and conditioner.
  • The business owner has liability insurance to cover the groomer and the pet if there is an injury to the pet.
  • The business owner has workman’s compensation coverage to provide coverage to an employee if they are injured on the job.
  • The business owner maintains the business phone and schedules appointments for employee groomers.


  • An independent contractor is usually working on a project for a limited period.
  • An independent contractor makes their own schedule.
  • An independent contractor provides all their own supplies and does not share them with others.
  • An independent contractor carries their own liability insurance.
  • An independent contractor does not have the protection of workman’s compensation insurance from a business.
  • An independent contractor maintains their own phone and schedules their own appointments.
  • An independent contractor does not have taxes taken out of their payments from someone who hires them.

Many grooming salons still try to hire pet groomers as independent contractors to avoid paying out money for taxes, social security and workmen’s compensation.  This allows them to operate with a lower overhead cost.  It is in a pet groomer’s best interest to be hired legally as a W2 employee.  If you have concerns or questions consult with an employment attorney.







Hirst, K. Kris. “Recent Scientific Findings about Our First Domesticate Partner.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 12 Dec. 2017,

May, Leslie. “The Top Pet Industry Trends for 2018.” Pawsible Marketing Blog, 2018,

Moyer, Liz. “In Pet Grooming, a Growing Business and a Competitive Landscape.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 May 2017,

Pets, Good News For. “4 Trends Driving Pet Population and Pet Ownership Growth.” Goodnewsforpets, Pet Industry News, 24 May 2017,