How to Become a Dog Groomer

Looking for a professional field with low entry barriers where you can work with animals all day long? Then you might enjoy becoming a dog groomer.

As a certified groomer, you get to bathe and brush dogs and style their fur. It is a field with endless reward for anyone who is passionate about canines.

But how do you get started in the pet groomer industry?

Is it just a matter of sending out some fliers, purchasing some basic supplies, and waiting for customers to come to you?

Well, there is a little bit more to it than that—but the education required is still pretty minimal, so this is a job you should be able to get into regardless of your resources.

So long as you have some time to spare for training, you can learn to groom dogs for a living.

Do You Need a License to Become a Dog Groomer?

You may be aware that hairstylists for humans are required to get a license before they can go into business. This may lead you to think that dog groomers likewise need to apply for a license.

Actually, licensing is not required to go into dog grooming!

That means that no formal training in dog grooming is actually required to get started in this field.

Now, that being said, depending on which state you live in and the services you offer, you might need to apply for some other licenses before you open shop.

Say for example that one of your services is to apply shampoos to dogs to help get rid of fleas. At that point, you may be using pesticides, so you would have to get a pesticide handler license. Facility licensing may be required as well.

Key Point: You do not need to apply for a dog grooming license; no state offers or requires one. In some states, however, you may have to apply for other licenses.

What About Dog Grooming Certificates?

Even though there is no such thing as dog grooming licensing, there is such a thing as dog grooming certification.

Is certification a legal requirement? No. It is entirely up to you whether you want to pursue it.

Getting certified tells customers that you have received professional training and have met the high standards set by trusted organizations.

That means that they are more likely to trust you to do a fantastic job on their pet.

For that reason, it is highly recommended that you do take a course to get certified—more on that later.

Key Point: While dog grooming licenses do not exist, dog grooming certificates offered by professional organizations do. Earning one of these can greatly expand your knowledge and opportunities.

4 Options for Training to Groom Dogs

Regardless of whether you apply for certification, you will need to learn the basic skills required to groom dogs effectively. Some of these include:

  • How to look a dog over for fleas, ticks, skin conditions, and other health issues.
  • How to wash a dog (especially one that might not want to be washed). This can actually be the biggest challenge involved with grooming, even beyond performing the actual cutting and styling.
  • How to trim a dog’s fur.
  • How to style a dog’s fur in different ways.
  • How to adjust styles to satisfy a client’s wishes.
  • How to keep a dog calm and comfortable through the styling process and deal with behavioral problems as they arise.
  • How to work closely with clients, understanding their needs and providing them with the results they are looking for.
  • How to show empathy and compassion. Sometimes you may be grooming dogs with health problems or other difficulties. Pet owners may look to you to provide a sympathetic ear.

Here are some ideas for routes you can take to develop these skills:

  1. Practice on your own. This is the simplest way to get started. If you own a dog, begin by grooming your own pet. Of course, this can only teach you so much. You will eventually need to practice on different breeds.
  2. Work at a shelter. Chances are good that your local animal shelter accepts volunteers. If so, sign up in your spare time. This will give you a chance to groom many different breeds and personalities of dogs. Other volunteers at the shelter may even be able to give you some tips and advice.
  3. Become an apprentice. Grooming businesses in your area may require assistants. If you apply for one of these positions, you can receive on-the-job training as a dog grooming apprentice.
  4. Attend a dog grooming school. If you want the most comprehensive training possible, you can register to attend dog grooming classes and work toward a certification.

Many prospective groomers end up using a combination of these methods to teach themselves how to clean, brush and style dog fur.

For example, you might start by grooming your own dog, volunteer a bit at a shelter, and then enter an apprenticeship. You might proceed from there to part-time grooming school, and go into business on your own after you earn your certification.

Key Point: There are a few different career paths you can take to get into dog grooming. Many people combine these paths in a way which fits their scheduling needs and professional goals.

Dog Grooming Certifications

Now let’s talk about the certifications which you can earn through dog grooming schools.

While quite a few different organizations offer certification, you want to aim for one which is provided by a well-respected association such as:

  • National Dog Groomers Association of America
  • International Professional Groomers Inc
  • The Intellectual Groomers Association
  • International Society of Canine Cosmetologists

These organizations in turn look to the American Kennel Club to help them establish their standards.

So if you have a certificate from any of the organizations above, that tells businesses and consumers that you know how to style a dog to meet the grooming profiles set by the American Kennel Club.

Key Point: Since licensing is not offered for dog grooming, the closest thing to a professional standard is any of the certifications offered by the trusted organizations above. Earning a certificate is not required to operate legally, but it is required to operate competitively.

How to Choose the Right Dog Grooming School

Let’s say you do decide to enroll in a dog grooming school. How do you decide where to register?

With a number of programs out there, you will want to shop around before you pick one. While it costs a lot less to get a dog grooming certificate than it does to work toward a four-year college degree, it is still an investment of time and money.

Below are some criteria to weigh when you are selecting a school.

1 – Certification.

This is the single most important factor to look into, and it is twofold. You will need to:

1-Check what certifications the trainers have.

2-Make sure that you can earn a certificate through the program yourself.

If the trainers are not certified, you have no idea what the quality of your education will be. If there is no way for you to earn certification through the program, then you may emerge with the knowledge and expertise you were after, but you won’t have the certificate which proves it.

2 – Length of program.

Dog grooming schools can range quite a bit when it comes to the length of time it takes to complete their programs. If you only have a short time to invest in your education, look for a school which allows you to earn your certification in just a few weeks. If you have more time to invest, then you might consider a more comprehensive program spanning closer to six months.

3 – Days and hours.

Some dog grooming schools are full-time, meaning you can expect to attend class up to five days a week with a full course load. These programs are ideal for students who do not currently need to worry about paying the bills.

If you are employed part-time or fulltime now, then you will want to enroll in part-time dog grooming school instead. That way you can balance the course load with your existing professional obligations. Part-time schools often offer weeknight and weekend courses so that you can work around your day job.

4 – Location.

You have two main options when it comes to where you will train: online or offline. An offline dog grooming school is of course the more traditional choice. It entails traveling to a campus where you will receive hands-on training grooming canines.

What about online dog grooming schools?

If you are looking for the utmost convenience, you could not pick a better option. With online coursework, you can log in to classes on your desktop, laptop or mobile device. Grooming tools are mailed to you, and videos and simulations help you learn from the comfort of your home.

The cost savings for online dog grooming schools are amazing. Whereas an offline course could run you several thousand dollars, an online class will usually cost around $600.

1 – Humane and professional.

If you are looking for a school offline, take a tour before you sign up. This lets you check the facilities out as well as the dogs at the school. You want to make sure that the environment is humane and hygienic, and that the trainers are taking care of the dogs and supervising the students.

2 – Affordable.

As discussed, there is a huge range in pricing for dog grooming school. At the lower end, prices are around $400-$600. At the higher end, they can be as much as $6,000.

You can earn the same level of certification through a $600 school as you can through a school which charges $6,000. So if you can, try and attend a program which will save you money. That way you can use that extra cash to purchase supplies, advertising, and space for your business when you are ready to launch.

Key Point: There are a number of questions you need to ask about any school you are considering. Is it online or offline? How much does it cost? What certification will you earn? How long will it take you to complete the program? Can you study around your day job? Do your research before jumping in so that you can enroll in the best program to suit your needs.


What Do You Do After You Graduate?

Once you earn your certificate, you can get to work! That means choosing a location and advertising your new business. If you need to build more connections in your community first, it is smart to apprentice for a while. That way you can network and get your name out there, building a reputation before you even set up shop.

Key Point: Once you graduate, you still have a lot of work to do before you become a successful dog groomer. Getting the word out can be a challenge, so many groomers start by apprenticing even after they earn their certificates.


Conclusion: You Might Be Closer Than You Think to Becoming a Professional Dog Groomer

You now know the basics of becoming a professional dog groomer! As you can see, it isn’t too complicated or expensive to enter this field. Since you do not need to earn a license, you can actually start up right away after you gain the experience, skills and supplies you need.

If you want to boost your earnings potential and bring in more customers, the best way to do it is to attend dog grooming school and earn a professional certificate. This shows the world that you have gone the extra mile to provide your customers and their dogs with the best possible grooming experience.

Ready to get started? Check out our list of recommended dog grooming schools below. You are just a click away from beginning your journey to becoming a successful dog groomer!