Why Pet Industry ‘Professionals’ Can’t Find Groomers


You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I had another demoralizing experience a few weeks ago.  I guess what made it worse was that I was hoping  for  a better experience.

I’ve been looking for  part-time work because, where I work now, they can’t get me enough work.  We are working out  the ‘bugs in the system’, because  originally, they didn’t want to pay me to  groom dogs that were getting ‘just baths’.  To most groomers, it is never ‘just a bath’,  and we make money on the dogs we don’t clip, but that is not what this is about.

The kennel owner has been training dogs for over  decade, and  although she provides  dog daycare,  she is one of the few that does not run huge packs of dogs, and knows that most  dogs coming  into her business really need more training.

She told me that she knew nothing about grooming,  and didn’t even know how to bathe a dog, but that her groomer was overwhelmed—-booked at least  two weeks out (doing about 8 dogs a day), and she needed more help.   She was even thinking of quitting. The kennel owner was having a terrible time finding a groomer.  She called all the grooming schools, and people weren’t showing up for interviews, or would groom for a day and not show up again.

Her  set up was ok.  She had adequate dryers and tables, and a good tub.  She showed me her appointments,  and was, indeed, booked two weeks out.   I asked what she was charging for a small dog. She told m $45.  I said, “That is  pretty low, and you really can’t raise your prices over 10%.”  She was not averse to raising prices—or so she told me.  In fact, she wanted  to  open a school for  dog daycare providers, and asked me  if I had eve trained anyone to groom.  I told her I had, but you can’t train a person to have an aesthetic eye, and that’s the problem with  for profit  vocational schools. She, again,  told me she knew nothing about grooming, but felt she had to start looking for  people to train.   I told her I could come in on Wednesday, and to start me with  six dogs and we’d see how it goes.  The kennel was  a bit less than 30 miles from where I live, so it was nice that I could bring my dogs.

A dog i groomed when I worked (frifly) for Pet Supplies Plus, The dog's owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

A dog I groomed when I worked (briefly) for Pet Supplies Plus. The dog’s owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

In any case, I showed up  at 8:00a.m., and the other groomer was already there and grooming.  She had the computer print -out of our appointments, and I saw I had  eight (not six)  dogs.  I thought that was a bit much, and the other groomer thought so, too, but, as she pointed out to me, the owner and kennel manager decided this. The other groomer always told them no more than  six and they always overbooked her.  I  asked about  the shampoo, as the owner told the groomer always  diluted shampoo first thing. Well, not exactly.  Making it up as I went wasn’t he most irritating thing.  Not being able to regulate the water tempeture was  the most irritating.  I do like to  have everything ready at the start of the day,but there were other irritations.

The other groomer had been at this job for 10 years.  I asked her why she hadn’t suggested raising prices, and she said she had, but some people refused  an increase, so the owner let them get away with the old  price—a price that hadn’t gone up in at least five years, and was low even then.  In fact, their whole fee schedule made no sense. A small dog,  full grooming, was $45, but a ‘bath & touch up was …$40?  a Siberian Husky was $45—and that is really just a bath and blow-out, but a Golden Retrieve was $35 +  $15 for the nail trim. A nail trim takes  less than  five minutes, but a Golden Retrieve bath, blow out, and  neatening will take at least as long as any small dog that needs scissoring, so….?  Yes, the groomer said, but  the kennel manager & owner—who do not do her job, told her  she wanted too much.  I knew I would have to ask for 60% to take this job.

Now, I am getting the lay of the land, and I am called down stairs to talk to a client.  The new client were referred by a relative who has their Golden Retrieve shaved, and they want their Golden Retrieve shaved like that. The  ‘new’dog is 11-years-old, and never has had a professional bath, let alone  had a clipper taken to it.  Not good.  I said to these people, “I have to be honest with you.  I am not sure I can do this, and were he my dog, I would not. It is a matter of integrity for me to tell you he will not be cooler, he will not shed less, and it will not look good.  If he’s not used to the vibration of the clipper, he might not let  me do this.”  They looked at each other and then to me, and, yes, they wanted this  11-year-old dog shaved because they liked the way the other dog looked.

So much stress.  The reception area was crowded with other  clients, so there was no sense addressing  clipper alopecia, and the  business owner’s  husband, who was at the reception desk,  did not say anything.  One of the kennel staff had to carry the dog upstairs to the grooming area (later, I heard the owner say the dog  does stairs at home, so they didn”t understand what the problem was.  What the problem was…was a scared dog).  I had to get more cooperative dogs started, so it was about noon before I could start this old dog.   He was actually in good shape, but he had no idea what was happening.  I  needed someone to hold the dog on the table, as he would not stand.  The other groomer had to text  kennel staff (there is no intercom), and a guy comes up and tells us he’s on lunch break.  Huh? So why  not send someone NOT on break?  About 20 minutes later a girl  comes up,  and I get the dog out of a kennel and have to ask her to lift the dog and hold the dog up while I do nails, sanitary, and get some hair off.  Then she  held the dog up in the tub for me (where, by the way, we never got hot water as we could not regulate the temperature), then helped me get the dog into a crate to dry.  So this dog (mind you, at the most, a $60 fee in most places, and the  business owner is charging  $50) is a two person job. The kennel is losing money on this dog.  I asked the girl to return in about 20 minutes so we can finish the dog.  Meanwhile, the kennel manager came up to ask how I am doing and if anyone is ready to go home.  I ask her to send someone up to help with this old dog, who will not stand for grooming.  After  10 minutes, the other groomer texts downstairs—again, and  about 20 minutes after that, a young man comes up.  I ask him to get the dog, and he starts futzing around with a kennel leash, so I get the dog, ask him to  put the dog on the table and hold the dog up while I shave the dog. While he’s holding the dog for me, he actually texts someone.

The other groomer  uses a very long blade on the other Golden, because the dog has clipper alopecia, and now has a very soft, sparse, fuzzy coat.  The long blade is not doing it for this dog, so I use a shorter blade. It looks decent, but not good.  Choppy.   Meanwhile, the other groomer tells me she actually likes grooming, she is just sick of these people. She is very disrespected.  They have not raised prices, they’ve  taken her dustpan and they don’t have a shop-vac.  Our garbage cans are way too small, and she feels she has  options to  get a job with less stress.  I tell her I can’t return unless they pay a higher  per centage, but I also asked her how often she sees the kennel owner, as the kennel owner has not come up to talk to  me or given me any paperwork.

I am finished with my  eight dogs about 2:30.  I went to reception to  tell them I am finished. The owner is in the training hall with the kennel manager and her husband.  She smiles at me but doesn’t say anything, and leaves out another door with a dog.  The husband sits down at the front desk and starts  rifling through  a drawer.  I say, “You know, Katy didn’t give me any paperwork.”

He hesitates, and finally  says, “Yes, well, we are  parting company. We didn’t like some of the things that went on here today.”  Interesting. Nobody came upstairs to say anything to me.  Except the kennel manager to ask how I was doing, and I said, “I am a bit overwhelmed.”  Several years back, I  took a job where I was told I would get seven dogs a day, but the bather would bathe my dogs.  That never happened due to  the dynamics of the shop.  Within  two weeks of my starting, a groomer who had been at the shop over  22 years came in one day and took all her stuff—-quitting, but never said anything to management…and suddenly I had nine dogs to groom a day.  I told the practice manager it was too much, and she told me to do my best. Then, I was getting  ten and 11 dogs a day, and I continued to tell her I could not do a good job on that many dogs.  I worked for about eight weeks, from 8:00 until  often after  4:30 p.m.  One day, she calls me over to tell me she has to let me go—she is getting too many complaints!  But  give me just seven dogs, and have the bather bathe my dogs?  Not happening.

So what didn’t the  owner’s husband not like? That I tried to dissuade the people with the Golden from getting the dog’s hair cut!  “Now, I know that Goldens are not supposed to be shaved, but…”   he says. It’s a money thing.  I was—again—in a no-win situation.”That dog was 11 years old!  it was a matter of integrity to  suggest they not do  this.  Did they like the way the dog looked?”  “I don’t know,” he replied.

What pisses me off was that  his wife—the kennel owner—didn’t have the integrity to tell the owners of the dog this was not ethical, and she didn’t have the integrity to talk to me about it, although she had all day. She had her husband—a person I had never met…do it.  Yet, she is going to bring integrity and professionalism  to pet services.  And she wonders why she can’t find a groomer.

We had an unpleasant email exchange, where she accused me of doing a bad job on purpose, and also claimed I cut the dog & she had to pay the veterinary bill & refund the grooming fee.  She actually never saw the dog.  she also told me  the other groomer was quitting because of an injury.  clearly, the other groomer needs a reference, and  won’t tell the owner the truth.

Here’s what another groomer blogged about, recently: https://poodlequeen.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/where-have-all-the-groomers-gone/

I can’t imagine how  someone who has never  even groomed their own dog  thinks  they will  just be able to hire a groomer, with no thought about  equipment,  how long a grooming takes, or what  a fair fee for a job is…but this is the direction  my industry is heading.

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