The first reaction from a lot of people when they hear dog groomer is that it sounds like a quaint, fun, and cozy job. You get to just hang out with dogs all day, after all! Fluff up their fur and trim their bangs and get lots of cuddles and kisses. Sounds like a dream.
However, while this assumption isn’t technically wrong ― for a dog groomer, there is a lot of the fun stuff involved ― it’s far from the whole picture. Some dog parents will balk at how expensive some grooming services are, because they forget just what goes into it. They’ll forget just how different it is from a regular, human hair stylist’s job. Because when you go to get a haircut, you’re not fully bathed and washed. You don’t get your ears and teeth cleaned, and you don’t growl, scratch, or maybe bite your stylist (hopefully). There’s no full-body treatment, you don’t get a manicure. You don’t throw tantrums or maybe pee on the floor. In short: dog groomers have a lot more to deal with.
What a groomer does
That’s not to say it’s not a fun job ― all the hard work is definitely worth it, for most. But it is perhaps a profession that deserves a little more respect. Dog parents will often come in for a nail trim saying things like, “he just won’t let me do it”, and you wonder what they would’ve done if such a grooming service weren’t so readily available. They’ll come in for damage control, after attempting to groom and style their dog themselves, sheepishly admitting that maybe they were a little out of their depth, after all. They’ll say that this other, big pet store chain offers the same services for less money, and you’ll have to mention that the reason for this is efficiency. Oftentimes, big chains will spend less time with the dogs and leave them more stressed, as a result. Dog parents will come in and say, “she’s never this calm at the groomer’s, we usually go to this other (big chain) place”. And there you have it. Smaller salons will often give more attention and comfort to their furry customers, making the otherwise stressful experience as pleasant as possible. Getting a nice bath and a haircut should be fun and relaxing, after all. It also helps that there tend to be a lot of treats involved.
Another thing to remember is that some dogs just don’t want to be there, at all. They’ll growl the whole time, require a muzzle. Sometimes they even need to be held in a firm yet comforting hug while another groomer does the actual grooming. Being scratched or lightly bitten at some point is practically a rite of passage, in this business. There’s a reason so many dog parents simply leave this kind up upkeep to someone else. Another issue can be when there is more than one dog at the salon, at a time. Not all dogs get along with other dogs, and keeping them separated can get tricky. You don’t want a fight to break out, especially not with all kinds of sharp tools around. In other words, staying calm and collected is essential; you can’t afford to be afraid of a nip or two, or a big dog barking in your face.
The human factor
With all that in mind, you’d think that the dog parents would be the easy part of the job. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some parents can get a little nervous about the whole thing. They’ll hover around, making the dog anxious, rather than relaxed. It’s common practice for some salons to simply ask the client to leave and then come back when the appointment is over. Much like human kids, dogs tend to behave differently when their parents are around.
Another type of client will be incredibly particular about how their dog should be styled. A beautiful shih-tzu will come in with badly matted fur, requiring a full-body shave to really deal with the problem, and their parent will have a minor freak-out. It’s only after some patient, firm convincing from the dog groomer that they’ll finally agree to this horrible suggestion. Then they’ll be pleasantly surprised when they pick up their dog and see that it’s now just a new pup with the canine equivalent of a pixie cut.
Best job ever?
All in all, the work of a dog groomer is extensive. It doesn’t just require knowledge of breed-specific hair types, cuts and styles (even skin issues). It also requires knowledge of dog mentality, behavior, and training. An aesthetic touch, but also some heavy lifting. You need an acceptance for getting wet and having tiny scratches on your arms. And especially, it requires a patient and good understanding of humans, in particular the concerned-parent kind. This is a feat for some groomers in particular, since many enjoy their job largely because it allows them to spend less time with humans. Dogs are, of course, the superior kind of company.
So the next time you take your dog to a dog groomer, whether it’s for a nail trim, a bath, or the whole shebang, keep in mind exactly what it is that a groomer does. Their services are often reasonably priced, sometimes even lower than that. Their sole purpose is to help keep your dog healthy, happy, and beautiful. And the moment when the client shows up to pick up their dog, surprised and thrilled about the result, the dog running in circles and leaping from excitement ― that’s what it’s all about.