Grooming Matters
Brushing Up On Networking title
by Daryl Conner
Green networking illustration
When it comes to continuing education, sometimes branching out from the typical ways of learning can yield amazing results. For example, an excellent way to learn new skills or polish up a specific technique is to tap into your local grooming community. Learning from other local groomers can take networking to a whole new level.

Liz Jackson of Spike’s Dog Grooming in Biddeford, ME says, “I had the opportunity to visit a local groomer who was a couple of hours’ drive from me. It was great to be able to learn in a more personal setting and share ideas. I took so much from the experience on top of the knowledge. Creating closer connections to other people in our industry builds a sense of community. It was also great to feel validated when I learned that we shared many of the same techniques. Sharing and learning from other knowledgeable groomers local to me has been amazing for keeping my passion for grooming going.”

Vallery Campbell accompanied Liz on this outing and had this to share: “I had a wonderful time. I was excited to go and prepared some notes and questions before I went, which was helpful. I always love going to other people’s shops because it feels more personal than a seminar. I also love seminars, but I feel much more heard than in a big group. I came away with a refreshed look of grooming.”

Reaching out to our local competitors can be a bit awkward because it is a basic human fear to show weakness. However, if a groomer in your area shines at something you’d like to know more about, asking to shadow them for a few hours can be a fantastic way to learn. Explain that you admire their work and that you want to improve some specific skill that they excel at.

Considering that time is valuable and that you cannot expect people to drop what they are doing, how you approach the person you would like to shadow is important. Major grooming industry influencers often offer private lessons for a considerable fee. While this can be a big expense, having a one-on-one tutorial with someone at the pinnacle of their field can be a real investment in your career. But starting out by learning what your local in-the-trenches groomers do best can be wildly helpful.

One way to begin is by “meeting” people on local social media groups. In my home state of Maine, there is an active Facebook page for our industry and another for New England-area groomers. You can likely find a similar group for groomers near you. After getting to know a bit about the people that post regularly, you might be attracted to or impressed by the style of one or more of them. Reach out and see if they would let you shadow them while they work for a few hours. You could offer to bring coffee, donuts or lunch to sweeten the deal!

Networking illustration with different social media icons
Learning what your local in-the-trenches groomers do best can be wildly helpful. One way to begin is by “meeting” people on local social media groups.
Groomer Bea Sage says, “I have two upcoming shadows scheduled. One with a new friend about an hour away who does great Asian Fusion styling and hand-scissoring, and another an hour in the opposite direction who does house-call grooming.”

Author and groomer Barb Hoover shared a twist on this idea: “I invited some local groomers for donuts to watch me groom an Irish Terrier. I knew something was off on his head, and I needed new eyes to pinpoint it.”

Elisabeth Gaye of Professional Grooming by Elisabeth in Corona, CA shared this, “Instead of going to another groomer, I asked Sandra Hartness to come to my salon for a training class on Poodles. I was not confident doing Poodle heads or proper body style. It was a great success, and we had many local groomers attend.”

Continuing education does not have to be all about grooming styles. If you want to learn the business side of pet grooming, seek out someone who has been operating a successful business for over a handful of years. For example, Bonne Peregoy of Bonnie’s Dog and Cat Grooming in Washington, DC says, “I have had groomers ask to come and observe at my salon. Most of what I shared were business policies. I gave them all my handouts and employee training information, as well as customer policies, etc.”

Another excellent way to learn breed-specific grooming skills is to reach out to show breeders. Linda Trader of Hot Diggity Dog Grooming in Canonsburg, PA says, “I’ve gotten tutorials from show breeders on specific breeds. It can be a terrific learning opportunity.”

Bernie Rogers of Bernie’s Grooming in Frederick, MD agrees: “Back when I was learning to groom in the late 1970s, grooming was like witchcraft, and for some still-not-understood reason, the groomers around me would never share their secrets or their particular skills with other groomers. I discovered that dog show fanciers, if I caught them at the right downtime at a show and stroked their ego a bit, were very happy to share tidbits, tips, helpful hints, and more with me.”

I have reached out to show breeders and asked if I could come help them groom their dogs for a day to learn from them. I’ve never been turned down; they have all been happy to have an extra pair of hands to share their workload and have been generous in sharing their knowledge with me. Fanciers of rare breeds have been incredibly receptive because the breeders are excited to talk to a groomer who wants to learn to groom their breed correctly.

Attending local dog shows is also an excellent way to increase your knowledge. Watching the dogs in the ring can highlight proper breed profiles and styles and help you fine-tune your grooming. In addition, you can meet show breeders and network to learn more about specific breeds.

Networking locally with other groomers, business owners and show fanciers is a sometimes overlooked but valuable way to keep your educational goals growing.