Grooming Matters
Keeping the Spark Alive
by Daryl Conner
Pet groomers tap into many areas of talent to perform their work. Good groomers understand the differences between nearly 200 recognized dog breeds in the United States; they must have good customer service skills, an artist’s eye, business sense, and the ability to understand and shape animal behavior. They need to be able to use, maintain, and repair various tools and be physically strong enough to manage the work of lifting, carrying, and often moving large dogs. Groomers must have the patience to deal with very old, very young and sometimes untrained pets. They must possess some science and chemistry knowledge to understand what products to use to achieve the best results on individual pets’ skin and coat, and to keep their workplace sanitary and tidy.

So, with that being said, when we look at all the many layers of skills a good groomer must employ, it is easy to see why some report that they are tired, frazzled and burnt out by their jobs.

I asked groomers from across the country what they do to keep their passion for their work alive. Their answers were thoughtful, insightful and creative. Many of the groomers who participated in answering my question have been grooming for decades, so clearly, their coping strategies are working well! Read on to learn what your peers are doing to keep their passion for pet grooming alive and well…

1. PLAN TIME OFF. How and when depends on each person’s needs and work situation. Some say they take a three-day weekend every other month; others only work a four-day week as a matter of course. Some structure their schedule so they have an entire week off every other month.

One groomer said, “I have my schedule set, so I am always either just finishing some time off or looking forward to my next time off.”

Of course, not everyone can control their work schedule to this extent, but ensuring there is time to rest and do non-grooming-related things is crucial to preventing losing interest in the job.

“To ease stress, follow your heart and groom how you want to and not how someone else tells you to if it conflicts with your morals and ethics.”
-Sheryl Woods
2. CONTINUED EDUCATION. Going to seminars where you can check out the latest grooming tools, listen to educational workshops and hang out (and laugh!) with like-minded people was recommended over and over. In addition, many groomers find taking educational classes online to learn more about skin and coat, new techniques, breed-specific tips and more helps to keep them fired up about going to work each day.

3. EXPLORING NEW PRODUCTS. Many said they get excited to go to work when they know there is some new whiz-bang shampoo, conditioner, dematting solution or hand tool to experiment with.

4. HAVE INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK. A hobby or craft that has nothing to do with your regular job helps to keep things fresh and fun.

Sheryl Woods said, “I don’t allow my job to be my sole focus in life. Have lots of varied interests and connections to keep your mind interested and occupied. To ease stress, follow your heart and groom how you want to and not how someone else tells you to if it conflicts with your morals and ethics.”

5. HIRE HELP. If you are feeling physically tired from your job, adding a bather/prep person to help you with that aspect can make a dramatic difference.

6. FOCUS ON THE PETS. Several groomers said that adding a photo booth set-up and taking pictures of the animals they groom brings them great satisfaction. For some, it is as simple as planning more time with each pet so they can focus and enjoy the process without rushing.

7. LIMIT YOUR CLIENT LIST. Many people said they increased their work satisfaction by eliminating customers they dreaded working on. In some instances, groomers stopped grooming large and giant breeds because it was simply too taxing on their bodies. Others set up guidelines that instituted only grooming pets that are kept on a regular schedule. For some, sending people who made life difficult on their way made their daily existence lighter and happier.

8. FIND YOUR NICHE. Some groomers found that only grooming the certain breeds (or species) that they enjoy working with the most has really brought joy to their careers.

Sandra Porter-Gonyea, who has been grooming for 51 years, said, “Do more of what you love, less of what you don’t love. With me, I love cats. So I got my CFMG and went feline exclusive.”

9. BLING IT. It seems simple, but many groomers get a considerable amount of happiness by adding adorable bows, bandanas and other decorative elements to their grooms.

10. ACCEPT A CHALLENGE. This can encompass a wide variety of ideas. Perhaps your challenge may be perfecting your knowledge and skill at grooming a specific breed, learning to groom cats or rabbits, mastering hand-stripping or scissoring techniques, or dabbling in creative grooming.

Barb Hoover says, “I love helping dogs and people. I get great satisfaction from rehabbing formerly difficult or ungroomable dogs. I get as much if not more satisfaction from helping another groomer learn better handling skills and tricks to help animals be groomed safely and happily.”

11. CHARGE YOUR WORTH. Most of us struggle with this, but at the end of the day, if we earn a decent living, it certainly helps our frame of mind when we look back at the hours invested.

12. SELF-CARE. It may sound new age and odd, but in the end, your body and mind are your most essential grooming tools. What makes you feel cared for? A monthly massage? Mani and pedicures? At the end of the day, a long soak in a lavender-scented, candle-lit bath? A workout class? How about treating yourself to a housekeeper once a week? Find what makes your psyche sing and do that. Often.

Pet groomers embody unique and unusual skills; therefore, we owe it to ourselves to channel our efforts in directions that help make us successful and allow us to enjoy the daily process.