How to Make Money as a Dog Groomer

By Ibrahim Okunade

Published:

Side Hustles

Ibrahim Okunade

Ibrahim Okunade

Writer & Career Coach

If you naturally have a knack for working with animals and a genuine affection for dogs, then unlocking a potential source of additional income as a dog groomer could be your next smart move.

This article walks you through the steps to leverage your passion for pets into a lucrative side gig. From honing your grooming skills to building a client base that keeps tails wagging and cash flowing, this article has it all.

What is a Dog Groomer

A dog groomer is responsible for maintaining a dog’s physical appearance and hygiene. This includes tasks such as bathing, brushing, trimming, and styling a dog’s coat, as well as cleaning their ears, trimming their nails, and ensuring their overall cleanliness. Dog groomers also interact with pet owners, discussing grooming preferences and ensuring the dog’s comfort throughout the grooming process.

How Much Does a Dog Groomer Make?

You love being around dogs, but how much does a dog groomer make? The average hourly pay for a dog groomer in the United States is $21.46. However, it’s important to take a closer look at this rate for anyone grooming dogs as a side hustle.

Since you’re grooming dogs on the side, you can set a flat rate for grooming sessions. Generally, you can charge between $40 to $75 for a grooming session, depending on the dog’s size. This rate could be significantly higher for larger breeds, dogs with dense or challenging coats, or if you offer specialized grooming services such as show cuts, hand-stripping, or creative styling.

Further, a dog grooming session should take anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours, depending on the specifics of the grooming service. Thus, you may be able to carry out up to three different grooming sessions of two hours each on a good day. This could translate to earning up to $225 or more.

Factors that Affect Dog Groomers’ Earnings

The income that comes from your dog grooming side gig depends on a number of factors. Chief among these factors is your experience and skill level. This and more are explained below:

  • Experience and Skill Level: Experienced and skilled groomers often command higher hourly rates or grooming fees compared to beginners. Their expertise in handling different breeds and providing specific grooming styles can justify higher prices.
  • Location: Grooming prices are influenced by the cost of living in your area. Groomers in major cities generally charge more than those in rural areas.
  • Type of Grooming: The complexity of the grooming service also affects pricing. Basic services like baths and nail trims will generally cost less than more extensive grooming, such as breed-specific styles or specialty cuts.
  • Breed and Size of the Dog: Larger dogs or breeds with dense coats may require more time and effort to groom, leading to higher fees.
  • Clientele and Reputation: Building a loyal clientele and a positive reputation can enable you to charge premium rates. Satisfied customers are often willing to pay more for a groomer they trust.

How to Become a Dog Groomer

The earnings are impressive, and the opportunity to work with various dog breeds is exciting. However, becoming a dog groomer requires a specific set of steps and skills. Here’s a breakdown of how to become a dog groomer and enjoy those impressive earnings while delighting in your work with diverse dog breeds.

Education and Training

There are several educational paths you can consider when pursuing a career as a dog groomer.

Hands-On School

Enrolling in a hands-on grooming school like the American Academy of Pet Grooming or the dog grooming school of the Academy of Pet Careers can provide you with a comprehensive education. These programs typically include a mix of classroom instruction and practical experience where you’ll learn the theory behind proper grooming and have the opportunity to work with various dog breeds.

Remember that the quality and methods of these programs can vary, so research the options in your area to find one that aligns with your values and career goals. While hands-on schools tend to be more expensive and time-consuming, they often lead to higher-paying job opportunities in the long run.

Online Learning

You can get your dog grooming certification online. Online grooming programs offer flexibility, allowing you to learn from anywhere and at your own pace. Many of these programs offer certificates upon completion. However, online programs may lack hands-on training, so it’s advisable to supplement your education with practical experiences, such as mentorship or volunteering. The American Kennel Club’s Safe Grooming Program is an online dog grooming certification program you may consider.

Self-Education

If formal training isn’t an option, you can educate yourself using free resources like online courses, seminars, video tutorials, and books. Continuous learning is essential in this field due to evolving grooming trends. Hobbyists often prefer self-education, but it’s possible to become a professional groomer through self-study, although gaining the necessary hands-on experience may take longer.

Skills Needed to Be a Successful Dog Groomer

The skills needed to be a successful dog groomer can be broadly subsumed under technical skills and personal qualities.

Technical Skills
  • Grooming Techniques: You need to master various grooming techniques, including bathing, brushing, clipping, scissoring, and styling for different dog breeds and coat types.
  • Handling Tools: A dog groomer must be proficient in using grooming tools such as clippers, shears, combs, and brushes.
  • Breed-Specific Knowledge: Understand the specific grooming requirements for various dog breeds, including breed-standard cuts and styles.
  • Dental Care: Ability to offer basic dental care, such as teeth cleaning or advising pet owners on oral hygiene.
  • Skin and Coat Health: You must be able to recognize common skin conditions and know how to address them, as well as provide recommendations for coat care and maintenance.
  • First Aid: A dog groomer must have basic knowledge of canine first aid to handle minor injuries or emergencies that may occur during grooming.
Personal Qualities
  • Patience: Dogs may be anxious or uncooperative during grooming. Patience is essential to ensure a calm and comfortable experience for the dog.
  • Empathy: Understand and respond to the needs of both the dogs and their owners. Show empathy and care, especially in sensitive situations.
  • Communication: Effective communication with pet owners is crucial. Listen to their requests and address any concerns they may have regarding their pets.
  • Stress Management: Maintain composure during stressful situations, such as working with reactive or aggressive dogs.
  • Observation Skills: Read and interpret dog body language to assess their comfort levels and address any signs of distress.
  • Creativity: Express your creativity through grooming styles and designs, especially if you offer creative grooming services.

How to Gain Dog Grooming Experience

Gaining experience in dog grooming before becoming a professional groomer is essential for building your skills, confidence, and understanding of various dog breeds.

  • Volunteer or Intern: Look for local grooming salons or mobile groomers willing to take on volunteers or interns. This hands-on experience allows you to observe professional groomers, assist with basic tasks like bathing and brushing, and gradually take on more responsibilities as you learn.
  • Part-Time Work: Consider working part-time or as a grooming assistant at a pet grooming salon. Many pet stores and grooming salons hire entry-level positions, such as bathers and brushers. These jobs can give you experience working with dogs and learning the basics of grooming.
  • Apprenticeship or Mentorship: Seek out experienced groomers who are open to apprenticeship or mentorship arrangements. Working closely with a mentor allows you to learn the craft under their guidance and supervision.
  • Dog Shelters or Rescues: Volunteer at local animal shelters or dog rescues that offer grooming services. You can help groom dogs in need, gaining hands-on experience while contributing to a good cause.
  • Self-Grooming: If you have a dog or access to dogs, practice grooming them at home. Start with basic tasks like brushing and nail trimming. Document your progress and consider taking photos of your work to build a portfolio.

The potential downside of self-grooming is that your experience might be limited to the specific breeds of dog you possess. Also, you can offer your services to friends and family for free or at a reduced price. This is a great way to practice your skills and get feedback from others.

How to Start a Dog Grooming Business

With the right training and experience, you are ready to take the next step. It’s time to show you how to start a dog grooming business. Let’s explore the essential steps to turn your passion for grooming into a successful and thriving enterprise.

Equipment and Supplies

  • Grooming Tools: Invest in high-quality grooming tools, including clippers, shears, combs, brushes, and nail clippers. Ensure you have a variety of tools suitable for different coat types and breeds.
  • Grooming Table: Purchase a sturdy and adjustable grooming table that provides a comfortable working height for both you and the dogs. Non-slip surfaces are essential for safety.
  • Bathing Facilities: Set up an area for bathing, complete with a bathtub or stainless steel tub, as well as appropriate shampoos and conditioners for different coat types.
  • Drying Equipment: Invest in efficient drying equipment, such as professional-grade dryers or force dryers, to speed up the drying process.
  • Sanitation Supplies: Maintain a clean and hygienic workspace with disinfectants, cleaning supplies, and storage solutions for your equipment.
  • Safety Gear: Ensure your safety and that of the dogs with safety gear like grooming smocks, gloves, and safety restraints.
  • Consumables: Stock up on consumables such as towels, ear cleaning solutions, cotton balls, and grooming bows or accessories for finishing touches.

License and Permits

Currently, the dog grooming industry predominantly operates without mandatory professional licensing. Nonetheless, you still have to obtain a business license and other permits.

  • Business License: Check your local regulations to determine the specific licenses and permits required to operate a dog grooming business. This might include a general business license, health department permits, or animal care permits.
  • Insurance: Consider obtaining liability insurance to protect your business in case of accidents or injuries to you, pets, or clients.
  • Zoning Compliance: Ensure your location complies with zoning regulations, as some areas may have restrictions on operating certain types of businesses from home.

Marketing and Advertising

The enthusiasm for making extra cash from dog grooming may be nipped in the bud without proper marketing and advertising. It’s crucial to understand that even as a part-time groomer, you need to promote your services and build a client base to ensure a steady flow of customers.

Create a Business Plan

Start by developing a comprehensive business plan that outlines your target market, pricing strategy, and business goals. Make sure you set competitive prices that reflect the quality of your services while remaining attractive to potential clients. A well-thought-out business plan serves as a roadmap for your dog grooming venture, helping you stay focused and competitive in the market.

Build an Online Presence

Your online presence could make or mar the success of your business. Your business should pop up when people search online for dog groomers in your locale. Hence, you should optimize your business for local searches to increase visibility.

Leverage Social Media

You should also establish a presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share photos of your work, engage with potential clients, and run targeted ads. Celebrity dog groomer Jess Rona often emphasizes how Instagram helped her dog grooming business take off. This is a testament to the fact that there’s a lot to gain from putting your work out on social media.

Local Advertising

Advertise your business in local newspapers, magazines, and community bulletin boards. Consider offering special promotions or discounts for first-time clients.

Networking

Irrespective of the industry, networking never goes out of style. Network with local pet-related businesses such as veterinarians, pet stores, and dog trainers. Partnering with these businesses can lead to referrals, expanding your client base, and establishing your dog grooming business as a trusted and integral part of the local pet care community.

Client Reviews

You should encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or Facebook. Good reviews are a form of social proof that can significantly boost your credibility.

Branding and Customer Service

Develop a memorable brand for your business, including a logo and branding materials that reflect your professionalism and care for pets.

Provide exceptional customer service to build a loyal client base. Promptly respond to inquiries and address client concerns with professionalism and empathy.

How to Make Extra Money as a Dog Groomer

You can significantly improve your earnings by offering value-added services in addition to your standard grooming services.

Offer Additional Services: Expand your menu of services to include extras like teeth cleaning, flea treatments, de-shedding, or pawdicures. These add-ons can increase your earnings per grooming session.

  • Specialize: Consider specializing in a niche area, such as grooming specific breeds, show cuts, or creative grooming. When specializing in breeds, be sure to select breeds that command a strong demand in your local market, as this will maximize your opportunities for specialized clientele and higher pricing for your expertise.
  • Mobile Grooming: Offer mobile grooming services, where you travel to clients’ homes in a fully equipped grooming van. This convenience can attract clients willing to pay extra for the service.
  • Online Grooming Tutorials: Create and sell online grooming tutorials or courses, sharing your expertise with aspiring groomers and pet owners. This provides an additional income stream, establishes you as an authority in the field, and expands your reach beyond your local market.
  • Collaborate With Veterinarians and Pet Stores: Collaborating with veterinarians and pet stores can significantly boost your earnings as a dog groomer. Veterinarians often refer clients for grooming services, especially when pets require specific post-surgery or medical grooming needs. Pet stores, on the other hand, can help promote your services and even provide a convenient location for client drop-offs and pick-ups.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Now that we’ve shown you how to become a dog groomer, we still have to explain some of the most common challenges and how to handle them.

Handling Difficult Dogs

Dealing with anxious, aggressive, or uncooperative dogs can be challenging. Groomers must have the skills and patience to handle various temperaments safely and without causing stress or harm to the animals.

Time Management

Time management is crucial, especially if you have multiple grooming sessions scheduled in a day. Groomers often need to balance multiple appointments while ensuring each dog receives the necessary care and attention.

Physical Demands

The job is physically demanding, as groomers spend extended periods standing, lifting dogs, and performing repetitive tasks. This can lead to physical strain and fatigue if proper ergonomic practices are not followed.

Safety and Health Concerns

Groomers must prioritize safety for themselves and the dogs. They may encounter sharp grooming tools, aggressive dogs, or zoonotic diseases, so following proper safety protocols and maintaining good hygiene is essential.

Customer Expectations

Another common challenge faced by dog groomers is managing client expectations. Clients may have unrealistic expectations about what is possible with their dog’s grooming or need help understanding the time and effort involved. Dog groomers need to be able to communicate effectively with their clients. Be honest about what is possible. If a client has unrealistic expectations, explain why that is not possible and offer alternative solutions.

No-Shows and Cancellations

Dealing with last-minute cancellations or no-shows can disrupt a groomer’s schedule and income. Implementing a clear cancellation policy can help mitigate this issue.

Conclusion

Dog grooming can be a rewarding and profitable side hustle. It is a great way to earn extra money while doing something you enjoy. By learning how to become a dog groomer, you can step into a profession that combines passion and practicality. You shouldn’t kick the can down the road any longer; get started today. Embrace the opportunity to work with these four-legged companions, enhance your grooming skills, and embark on a journey that boosts your income and brings joy to countless furry friends and their owners.

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Ibrahim Okunade

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