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Many people thinking about starting a dog grooming career don’t realize the options for specialization within the profession. By choosing to specialize, you can set yourself apart and attract a clientele in search of your specific services.
Dog groomers can specialize in several areas:
- Grooming show dogs
- Grooming special needs or disabled pets
- Grooming senior dogs
- Offering creative grooming services
- Providing spa treatments
What Does Each Specialization Require? Read on to get a better idea of the different services each type of groomer provides.
Show Dog Grooming
You might think that show dogs require a lot of fancy grooming techniques, but the truth is show grooming is comparatively minimal. Because show dogs are judged against written breed standards, conformation and movement figure more prominently than elaborate cuts.
Dogs should have an impeccably clean, well-brushed coat and clean ears and teeth; and they should have no “doggy” or unusual odor. Show groomers aim for a neat cut that shows off good conformation and downplays any of a dog’s less desirable features.
Grooming Special Needs Dogs
Dogs, like people, can have various special needs. Some might be missing a leg or an eye. Others might be blind or hard of hearing. Any of these challenges require special treatment from a groomer.
Dogs with a missing limb may need a special hammock or harness for support, or they may need to be groomed lying down. A dog missing an eye will have soft, sensitive skin in the empty socket.
Blind dogs may need you to keep a reassuring hand on them at all times. They need extra help understanding what you are doing, so allowing them to smell or listen to the sound of your grooming tools before you use them can ease anxiety. The same sort of advice applies to dogs with hearing loss. They will be less nervous if you go slow and let them understand what you’re doing. Groomers who work with special needs pets find a way to signal their actions.
Grooming Senior Dogs
Because aging dogs can have many issues, this is an ideal opportunity to provide mobile grooming. Senior dogs can be anxious, stiff-jointed, or achy, and their skin thins with age. It’s far better to groom them on their familiar home turf with their beloved human nearby to assist.
In the case of senior dogs, comfort or humanity should always trump vanity. Senior dogs often cannot stand long enough for a full groom. Fancy cuts should not be the focus; health and comfort should be.
Special equipment may be needed, such as belly bands or hammocks for support, a “Happy Hoodie” for ear protection, a mat to cushion feet and prevent slipping, or padded loops to protect necks and underarms.
With a senior dog, groomers often concentrate on the most important task first. That way, if a groom has to stop before it’s done, the main problem areas have been tackled.
It is important to take it slowly and gently. Seniors require a very light touch. Their thinner skin can be sensitive or painful to the touch. Legs should not be pulled out to the side to avoid hurting stiff joints.
Older dogs may need frequent potty breaks, and groomers should keep cleaning supplies within easy reach in case of accidents. Finally, it’s important to know any health concerns ahead of time, such as heart or respiratory problems. That way you can watch the dog more carefully for signs that he needs a rest break or that the groom needs to be stopped altogether.
Only recently has creative grooming exploded in popularity. Shows like Pooch Perfect and HBO’s documentary Well Groomed have exposed more of the population to this quirky niche segment of the grooming world in which dogs become art.
Groomers use non-toxic dyes, accessories like ribbons and googly eyes, and their wild imaginations to transform dogs into cartoon characters, flower gardens, or zoo animals like tigers, giraffes, or pandas. A poodle’s top knot might be trimmed and dyed to mimic a bowler hat.
Increasingly, competitive grooming contests offer divisions for creative groomers. Carving and clipping, away, groomers compete in a carnival-like atmosphere. The dogs are so used to it, they often doze through much of the process.
Because of its popularity, many pet groomers are now specializing in creative services. Some dog owners want their dogs turned into tigers or pandas, but many are happy adding a little pop of purple or green to their pups’ ears or tails.
More and more groomers are specializing in spa treatments, the more luxurious the better! Clients are willing to pay top dollar for services such as:
- an ozone spa bath infused with green tea and aloe
- mud treatments to detox and remove dead skin, dirt, and oils
- blueberry facials to deep clean and prevent odor, especially in dog breeds with a lot of wrinkles
- deep conditioning to nourish and moisturize the coat
- coat whitening
- “pawdicures” which can include paw soaks, nail trimming and filing, steam towel wrap, massage, and dog-safe nail polish
- acupuncture to relieve joint pain or allergies and asthma symptoms
- sugar scrubs to exfoliate and unclog pores
- salt soaks to relax stiff muscles and nourish the skin and coat
For pups who can’t take the heat, spa groomers may provide non-heat drying cabanas that dry a dog’s coat slowly via air jets in the floor.
Today’s pet owners are willing to spend lavishly on their pets, and spa grooming services are becoming more and more widespread.
Learn Grooming from the Pros
Whether you want to specialize or whether you want to offer more traditional services, dog grooming is a great career that offers lots of job satisfaction without requiring years of study.
Animal Behavior College has been training dog groomers online for many years. Their approved certification program features an externship, so you get hands-on experience working with a mentor groomer near you. Students give ABC (Animal Behavior College) high marks for its student support and quality curriculum. For more information or to enroll, call 800-795-3294 today.