What is a Fair Per Centage for a Dog Groomer to Get Paid?

The trim is a 'Town and Country'.  I wanted to do a classic 'Dutch', but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted.  Note the balance, that her pants are not 'falling off'.

The trim is a ‘Town and Country’. I wanted to do a classic ‘Dutch’, but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not ‘falling off’.

Huh?   Well, it was a question asked on the LinkedIn social media list for dog groomers.  I was hesitant to join, as  less than half the members are actually dog groomers.  No joke. Most of the  members are  people who want to make money off the labor of dog groomers.

Demoralizing, really.  Let’s start at the very beginning—a very good place to start.  Profits are a function of economics.  It doesn’t matter if you are a capitalist, a communist, or s socialist. The boss will decide what’s fair.

I am a Wobbly (I.W.W.) in arrears.   I am selling my labor. I want to be fair.  I respect that a business owner has the capital to open a business.  However, if she doesn’t know how to groom, why would  she  put capital into this kind of business?  What’s the plan?  How  would a non-gr0oomer  know the economics of this industry? Or,…. if a groomer  is doing a thorough job brushing out a dog?  Or not wasting shampoo, or using equipment in a dangerous manner?

Currently, there is a debate raging about raising the minimum wage from $7.50 (I think that’s what it is) to $10 an  hour ($15 an hour in some places).  What I do know, as I live in a major market (Chicago), is that, due to land rents/property taxes, let alone  heat, other utilities, and health insurance, you can not support two kids on less than $30 an hour.  The average dog groomer in these parts is not making $20 an hour.

When I started grooming dogs in the lat 1960s, bathers were paid minimum wage, but might get  some tips from the groomers.  When I left home in 1971, my first jobs paid  50%, but I rarely had even a 6 hour day (or groomed more than  4 dogs a day).  I eventually got a job at  a very busy shop, but was paid only 45%.  The advantage was that I was always busy, the  equipment was great, and I was mentored by a  great groomer.  I really learned the business of dog grooming from her.

I eventually worked for other  groomers who really needed a good groomer who could  groom  six to seven dogs a day, and I was paid 50 to 55%.  If I brought my own clients in, I was paid 60%.   Because groomers owned the businesses, they could help when things got crazy, and they  maintained  good prices.  I then spent some time out of the  grooming industry, and during the time I was doing other things (in school, economic development research,  managing a small business), and shops got sold to  non-groomers who had money, but no skills.

The  major  pet shop chains start their groomers at 50% commission against slightly better than minimum wage ( they hourly wage varies from $7.50 to  $12 an hour)–-but you have to make commission for the whole two week pay period, or you were not making 50%.  Most groomers find this impossible with the chains, as their business policies are to name a  grooming manager, who gets paid 60%, then hire too many people for anyone to make commission.  Or, the manager assigns dogs to her favorite  groomers, so some make commission, and  some don’t, and that’s why they are always  looking for groomers.   Corp0ortate also sets the prices. You have virtually no say unless you upsell a shampoo or service.  They also change your days off, so you can’t hold another  job.  They do not care if you are a good groomer. Their clients are looking for price.  As one of my former clients told me, they did a terrible job on her dog, but they charges half what I charged, so it was good enough.  In any case, you’d get health insurance and benefits after  six months, which was why many groomers with chronic health issued  sucked it up  and worked for the chains. Now  that we have the Affordable Care Act, I wonder how many  will stay.   As I pointed out in a recent  blog, it’s amazing how many woman  have children knowing the child’s father can’t or won’t support a kid, and they can’t support a kid on what they earn.

Some of the shops still owned by groomers, or large veterinary practices, will  pay 55% after the first month, and 60% after three years.  But what are we talking about?  Per cent of what? Some of these business owners who don’t  know  the grooming industry  have  tried to start new clients at 1/2 of what the competition chargers, and think they will raise the grooming fee  and double it. Stupid plan, and  virtually all go out of business.   I have worked for  several  businesses very close to  the central business district (downtown) and  our prices are  at least 20% higher than just five miles north.  So, when we are busy, I do ok, and average about $30 an hour because of the way I manage my time and the equipment.  If a dryer fails,  or the day is humid, or a dog gets diarrhea,  no way can I keep up the pace.

I  have tried out at various shops when I’ve been looking for work.  One thing I try to do is ask how many  dogs the shop  generally as a day, what is a ‘full day’ to them, and what is their average fee per dog. The busy shop  that really needs a groomer will tell me.  The ones that are not busy, and want a groomer to sit around and  make nothing (they are paying a  %  commission) won’t tell me, and  this is a waste of time.  One shop, which I knew to be busy, told  me, because none of their groomers wanted to work Saturday, that I might get 1 dog, or 3 or 5.  It varied. What I learned when I went to try it, was that she had a groomer who  took 13 dogs for herself, and I was expected to wait for any dogs she didn’t want.  Now, if it takes an average of about 1/2 hour to set up a dog…even with bathers….how was she going to get through all this and  DO A GOOD JOB?  But she was making over $1000 a day, and since the shop owner got no complaints,  that worked for her.  Not for me, and this is another problem.  If all things are equal, why would a shop owner allow  one groomer to take  eight dogs (who are not the groomer’s clients, but the shop’s clients) and give another experienced groomer  three?  Not fair, but shocking the number of shop owners who want to keep their MAIN GROOMER happy.  And they go our of business, because they can’t manage this.

Dog grooming shops that do not offer daycare or boarding are generally pretty marginal, grossing under $500,00 a year.  Many shops have nonworking equipment and won’t  maintain their equipment.  They skimp on  product. They claim they can’t raise prices because there are  five grooming shops within a mile of theirs that charge less.  Nobody is making any money.  Clients may or may not be getting a bargain.
Shop owners hire nongroomers to manage.  They are really office staff, but then these managers think they are bosses, and they argue with groomers over prices, dematting, equipment, record keeping (lots of forgetting to put a client ion the book, or asking the groomer what to charge).

What’s fair? When so many executives are  getting paid 1oo times more than labor on the floor, and still aren’t making a profit, and are given golden parachutes,  it’s not about what’s fair, is it?

It’s about respect and integrity.  You wouldn’t go into food service or the restaurant industry without apprenticing and gaining experience. Why would you go into a dog service business without knowing anything about  animal  husbandry or  animal behavior?

This is not a turn key industry.  I see people take inheritances and structured settlements or buyouts, buy or open a shop,  and disrespect their groomers, who quit…and the business fails.  People contact me all the time and tell me they want to groom dogs, but they don’t even groom their own dogs.  Why do you  want to have a dog business if you don’t want to be HANDS ON with dogs?

What’s fair?  How long have you been in business?  Who are your clientele?  What is your average fee per dog?  How many groomers do you have working for you now? Why do you think you need another groomer rather than raise your rates? What kind of equipment do you have?  How do you schedule?   One dog at a time, or do you  have several dogs come in  in the morning, so I’m not sitting around in case somebody doesn’t show up? What do you expect of me?

When I started grooming dogs, the average middle class family  could afford to have a dog groomed every  six to eight weeks.  That’s not true anymore, and that’s why we  have so many Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Frenchies, and Boston Terriers coming in for baths, and I haven’t seen a Cocker Spaniel in several years.  But the other day, I had  three submissive urinators, and a couple of dogs with  no bite inhibition, and  I’ve about had it.  I want 70% for THOSE DOGS.


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3 Responses to “What is a Fair Per Centage for a Dog Groomer to Get Paid?”

  1. One word at a time Says:

    Great post. I think this industry is changing, and not always for the better. I struggle as an owner to pay the bills & pay a fair wage, but I can’t compete with big box stores. (And i’m pretty close to you….just north of Milwaukee.) I can’t even sell much retail, since I can’t get the big box pricing. There are still dog owners who value their dog more than money…and when i find those, i work hard to establish a rapport with them!

  2. Tali Says:

    I apprenticed under a groomer to learn my skill better, since I began grooming at home with my own dogs. I’m grateful for all that she taught me, but honestly, there is no money in grooming. They charge by the minute for hand scissoring, a bath will cost $45, any trims start at $75 and go up depending on complexity. What did we make? A measly 10% commission. The worst part of grooming though isn’t the pay-its the owners. One woman came in asking for a special Pomeranian cut. I tell her there is no Pomeranian cut. She leans in, conspiratorially, “I want the “special” Pomeranian cut. ” My mentor came over and reiterated what I said. The woman still persists. My mentor asks if she wants the dog shaved, to which she says no. This dog is a nervous wreck, until she left. Bandit had never been groomed before, but he was an angel for me. The woman came in when I was finishing up his brushing, screaming his name at the top of her lungs. This dog was on a table in a grooming noose. He went into panic mode and almost jumped off the table and hung himself. My brush went flying, but I caught him before he made it to the edge. He was not cooperative from that point on. Even my mentor was appalled by the woman’s behavior. But of course, we can’t say anything, or they might not come back. Terrible to deal with, so I take what I learned, and I teach my puppy buyers to do it themselves.

  3. Robyn Michaels Says:

    I think it depends on your overhead, equipment, and how you manage your time, buty9ou are correct: unless you hirw other groomers & make money off of what they do….the most you can make a year is in the $60,000 range…not enough to support a family on. You’d have to own a kennel or be a pr9ofessional handler to make more.

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