Talk With a Dog Groomer
Animal Behavior College sat down with professional dog groomer Colleen Riley. Colleen has been grooming dogs from her home and at grooming salons since she was 14. Watch the first part of a three-part video series “Talk With a Dog Groomer: Colleen Riley.”
My name is Colleen Riley. I’m a Program Manager for the Dog Grooming Program. I’ve been working here for going on four years. Outside of here, I’m an actual dog groomer. I go to a grooming salon and they set up appointments for me so when I leave here, I get straight there and I get started on my dogs. I’ve been working there for about six months. Before that, I was working at another salon for five years. But I’ve been grooming since I was 14 because I got a little Westie, a West Highland Terrier, and he requires a lot of grooming so I would do that myself.
When did you decide to become a pet groomer?
Growing up, I always loved working with animals. I wasn’t sure what part of the animal industry I wanted to work in. So I started with the dog training and then from there I went into exotic training. And then I needed to figure out an easier career because it’s not that easy getting into the training career so I found my passion in dog grooming. I really enjoy teaching dog grooming, learning it. I work with other groomers and they’re always teaching me new things and I teach them new things. It’s a really good creative outlet.
Well again, I got my West Highland Terrier and I worked with a dog groomer. Once I realized I wanted to make this into my career, I found a brick-and-mortar dog grooming school and I started there and got my certificate. And then I started from the bottom again and worked my way up in the grooming salon. From there, I met other groomers who taught me more stuff.
What’s the best way to become a pet groomer? School? Certification? Volunteering?
I recommend all of it. I think the more education, the better. The more experience, the better. Getting the certificate will help you in the long run because you’ll always have that and you’ll have that on your resume and it proves you went to school for it. But experience, that’s how you build your skill level.
Of course, doing research, finding a school that would work with their schedule, and again experience. They can go to their friends’ dogs they can practice on, rescues they can work with while they go to school. The schooling is really important because it teaches you safety and handling—the basics you would need to complete the full groom, especially when it comes to the breed cuts. But once you learn the basics, you can go from there and modify it yourself on how you like to groom. You create your own style.
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What are the advantages of Animal Behavior College versus getting experience on your own?
Going through a school like this, I think we help give people like the foot in the door. We have students that sign up who’ve never worked with animals. Don’t even know where to begin. So we teach them the basics and then we introduce them to other groomers. If they build professional relationships with those groomers, they then network and they can meet other groomers, they can get better ideas. That’s really when they can really learn if this is something they want to do or maybe they want to go to the training career instead.
Well we have different stages in the program where we teach them the history of dogs and why they get specific haircuts and how the grooming salons even got started. We go into more detail with the specific tools and toolkit that they’ll be using so they can kind of have an understanding of all the different kind of tools out there.
RELATED: Dog Grooming Supplies
Then we go into safety and health while they’re in the grooming salon, which is really important because the main concern is the safety and health of the animal. Then, we go into more detail with bathing, brushing, all the different types of shampoos and perfumes out there, how to hold your tools properly, how to work your tools, how to keep them clean, and the specific haircuts for specific breeds, why they get those specific cuts, and how to read the guidelines. So when you’re in the grooming salon and let’s say you’re not quite sure how to complete a haircut, you can pull up a sheet of what the haircut is supposed to look and you’ll understand what the lines mean.
We got into more detail about building your own business–how to create your own grooming salon and the difference between mobile grooming and owning a grooming salon or working in a grooming salon for someone. Also, how to calculate how much money you should be making and the different types of ways the owners of grooming salons can pay you. And then of course, you get the hands-on experience where you go into a grooming salon and you learn what it’s like to be in that busy salon. The mentors teach you everything from cleaning to bathing the dog to trimming the dog to checking in and out clients. You also get the experience of working with other dog groomers as well.
How many hours do you need to complete?
It’s a minimum of 100 hours. It kind of just depends on the skill level of the student. It also depends on how much practice they get before going into a grooming salon. While they go through the stages, it’s required that they do homework. We recommend getting in as much practice in before you go into the grooming salon so when you’re in there, the mentor sees you are motivated and you do want to learn this. You have a little bit more confidence and they can move you forward faster. A lot of our students build professional relationships with the mentors. They either continue volunteering for the mentors or, sometimes, the mentors will hire them on to teach them more afterwards.