Groomer’s Guide
The bright future of the groomer's role in skin and coat care, title illustration of woman in apron brushing a poodle with a comb

by Jennifer Bishop Jenkins

The start of the new year is always a good time to take stock of where we have been and where we are going. One of the most exciting trends in grooming as we dive into 2024 is the significant increase in groomers who are educated in, and dedicated to, caring for the skin and coat of the pets we serve. And since this is what our clients are paying us to do, they expect that we know something about the skin and coat that we are working on, and that we have had some training in its proper care. Sadly, we all know that the lack of regulation in our industry often means that no such training has been done.


One positive outcome of the otherwise difficult pandemic for all of us has been the much more easily accessible availability of good online groomer education. Many groomers report to me with genuine excitement that they have fallen in love all over again with their work, and often because they are becoming more educated in one important area: skin and coat care.

We have seen in recent years a rapid increase in pet ownership because of the global COVID pandemic that started in 2020, and our industry has felt the sharp increase in demand for our grooming skills. Further, ten years from now, we will all see a significant uptick in the percentage of our clients that are geriatric, and therefore harder to groom. But it isn’t only groomers who are under higher demand since the pandemic—veterinarians are also stressed like never before.

Everywhere I have investigated, veterinarians’ prices have risen dramatically and their availability has markedly dropped. This supply-and-demand problem for groomers and veterinarians can be seen as a positive trend for us as an industry, however. With groomers increasing our educational understanding in skin and coat care, our role can be more pivotal.

Skin is, after all, the largest and most important organ in any mammal’s body, so we humans should better understand this common element that we share with all mammals, including dogs and cats, with both their similarities and differences.


When I ask veterinarians and vet techs what the most common problem they see in their clinics is, they universally respond with “skin problems.” Skin is, after all, the largest and most important organ in any mammal’s body, so we humans should better understand this common element that we share with all mammals, including dogs and cats, with both their similarities and differences.

Together, the skin and coat in all mammals form what science calls the “Integumentary System.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information website defines this as “. . . the largest organ of the body that forms a physical barrier between the external environment and the internal environment that it serves to protect and maintain. The integumentary system includes the epidermis, dermis, hypodermis, associated glands, hair, and nails.”1 As pet groomers, this is the system of the mammals’ bodies that we work on all day, so we should be, and are, skin and coat technicians.

One of the most influential voices in our industry in recent years has been veterinarian Dr. Cliff Faver. When discussing the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for groomers who educate themselves in skin and coat issues, Dr. Cliff had this to share: “With the shortage of veterinarians, there is a great opportunity for groomers to play a key role in prevention, as well as restoring the skin back to health. Groomers, by gaining education in the functioning of the skin and providing the skin and hair with what they need, can rebuild the skin barrier to bring it back to health. Raising the level of knowledge will be the key to bridging this gap and being able to work with veterinarians.”

The fact that the grooming industry is now being seen more and more as a partner with the pet’s veterinarian to prevent or deal with skin and coat issues is clearly one of the most exciting trends and opportunities available to groomers for 2024 and beyond. Once groomers equip themselves with some of the many progressive educational opportunities in skin and coat expertise now available, they can then develop a better relationship with area veterinary practices in mutually beneficial ways.


Good groomers ideally are viewed as the equivalent of a veterinary technician, working in the field of topical pet dermatology for the health of their skin and coat. “Topical” means we work on the outside of the skin—not from the inside, the way veterinarians sometimes do. We don’t do the extensive scientific research that veterinarians do in their lengthy academic careers, but we do have our hands on their skin and coat a lot more than most veterinarians do.

The grooming educator who first enthralled me with the science of canine skin and coat was Michelle Knowles, ICMG. When asked what motivated her to become one of the leading skin and coat experts in our industry, she shared this: “Getting a proper diagnosis, for me, will always be the goal before any therapeutics are performed. One of the most frustrating conditions that veterinarians see is ‘allergies’ or ‘itchy skin.’ While veterinarians have excellent diagnostics, pet stylists and aestheticians have the knowledge it takes to support the skin topically.

“In today’s world, it can take weeks to be seen by your veterinary partner, even if they know you and your dog,” Michelle continues. “I fully support and promote improving pet groomer/veterinarian relationships to alleviate the burden of compliance cases. Education is always the best way to pave the way for future understanding. There is so much these pet care branches can share. Strengthening the bond between vets and pet groomer/estheticians can vastly improve compliance, and weekly or monthly check-ins with the esthetician will keep everyone in the loop during the length of the treatment period.”


In an article entitled “Principles of Topical Therapy in Animals” that was published in The Merck Manuals, a well-known gold standard in medical text references worldwide, it states: “Medicated shampoo products are not ‘grooming shampoos.’ The hair coat should be thoroughly combed to remove loose hairs and undercoat. This is often best done by a professional groomer. Good grooming practices facilitate topical therapy and can significantly help shorten the course of disease.”2

To see a major medical manual writing into its procedural instructions that it is “best done by professional groomers” is a powerful landmark in pet grooming history. It truly is an exciting time to be a groomer with an expertise in skin and coat.

Grooming is not the easiest job in the world, so the genuine love that I see in groomers seeking this education is palpable. They sacrifice their time and money because they want to learn more about skin and coat and the correct grooming of the diverse coat types of the wide variety of dogs out there. As they learn more, I have seen the depth of their emotion and commitment to their craft. People have shed tears and ended our seminar days together with bonding hugs as we rediscover together how exciting it is to learn about why dogs have the skin issues and the coat types they do, and how we as groomers can really make a difference in their lives.


  1. Y, Joyce. Dao, H. (2023, May). Physiology, Integument. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Moriello, K. (2020, Jan). Principles of Topical Therapy in Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual.