If you love dogs and want a rewarding career helping them look their best, you’ve come to the right place.
There are more than 33,000 dog groomers in the United States — 86% of them women.1 Dog groomers can work for a pet store, boarding facility, or in-home dog-grooming service, or they can start their own dog-grooming business.
While groomers do not have to obtain any formal training, licensure or certification, there are options available if that’s something you want to pursue — though several current dog groomers say the training process isn’t easy and definitely isn’t for everyone.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- How much you can make as a dog groomer
- What it takes to become a dog groomer
- How to launch a dog-grooming business
More than 65 million U.S. households have at least one dog,2 and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 16% job growth through 2032 for animal-related jobs (national average growth for most jobs is 5%).3
How much can dog groomers make?
Pay varies based on location, experience, education, and services offered. According to ZipRecruiter, entry-level dog groomers can make $34 per hour or more (that’s $72,000 annually).4 The national average is $23 per hour, or $47,659 annually.5
Dog groomers on Reddit report earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year working full-time when they were just starting out:
However, some dog groomers say that in recent years, they are struggling to find higher-paying gigs:
Of course, salaries vary based on whether you work for a company or go into business for yourself. At a company like PetSmart, you’ll earn base pay and commission, plus tips from customers.
Glassdoor reviewers say that full-time PetSmart employees can earn 50% commissions as groomers.6 That means that as a PetSmart dog groomer, you stand to make up to $28 per hour with a rate of $20 per hour as base pay and $8 per hour in commissions and tips.7 That works out to $1,120 per week or $58,240 annually.
Most dog groomers report earning more over time:
Then there are success stories like Gabriel Feitosa, who made more than $1 million at his dog-grooming salon in San Diego. Feitosa provides specialty grooming services, using nontraditional cutting techniques and animal-safe dyes to give dogs a unique look, but also offers regular grooming:
If you go into business for yourself, or start dog grooming as a side hustle, you can set your own price as you grow your experience and clientele. Of course, running your own business also means you’ll have to pay for grooming equipment and supplies.
Startup costs will vary, depending on the quality of the equipment you purchase.
According to a self-employed dog groomer on Reddit, these are some must-have items and you can expect to pay for them:
The Girl With The Dogs YouTube channel gives a great overview of how to become a pet groomer, including the tools you’ll need and how much money you can make:
What do you need to become a dog groomer?
Here’s what it takes to become a dog groomer:
What are the requirements or qualifications to become a dog groomer?
You don’t need a degree to become a dog groomer. You do, however, need to learn the craft. It’s best to take classes to learn how to groom dogs and then spend time practicing with a mentor.
Grooming sessions may include:
- Cutting or trimming a dog’s fur
- Trimming nails
- Removing excess hair and debris from paws
- Cleaning ears
- Checking for fleas, parasites and skin issues
- Brushing teeth
Groomers might also provide creative grooming techniques like dying a dog’s fur with animal-safe coloring products or adding accessories like bows or bandanas.
I spoke to a dog groomer named Randi V., who started a dog grooming business in 1995, learning hands-on from a groomer that had her own shop in California. When she first got started, there were no certificate programs.
“I started my business slowly over time while I was working at other grooming shops.” says Randi, who runs her business out of her home.
She says prospective groomers need to enjoy working with dogs and have a lot of patience.
“Communication is also very important to understand what the owner desires for the groom and what you can achieve,” Randi says. “Sometimes the condition of the dog's coat is not ideal for what the owner wants because it is too tangled or matted. The groomer needs to be able to explain this to the owner kindly.”
Is there a pet grooming certification? Do dog groomers need a license?
Dog groomers aren’t required by law to obtain a license or certification. However, a certification can make you stand out from the competition and make your clients feel confident in your dog-grooming abilities. Plus, you will learn skills and techniques that make you better at your job, and help you grow your business.
You can get grooming certifications from entities like:
- The National Dog Groomers Association of America
- American Kennel Club
- International Society of Canine Cosmetologists
Zakayla Riley, owner of Pawpin’ Pawz Luxury Mobile Grooming in Cincinnati, Ohio, believes in learning as much as possible. She has been in business for two years and still attends classes, seminars, and pet-grooming trade shows annually.
Riley is a graduate of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, is certified in pet first aid and CPR from Barkleigh Productions, and has an American Kennel Club S.A.F.E. Handling certification. She plans to become a certified pet esthetician in the future.
How long does it take to become a dog groomer?
Depending on where you train, grooming programs take anywhere from four months to one year to complete, Riley says.
Here are some options and timeframes to consider:
- Petco’s grooming 800-hour certification course takes 20 weeks to complete, after you land a job as a pet groomer for the company (you don’t pay for it)
- Animal Behavior College teaching dog grooming with a one-year curriculum starting at $3,499 with payment plan options
- Paragon School of Pet Grooming has a five-week course starting at $1,029
Once you learn the basics, you need a place to grow and hone your skills.
“I highly recommend that new groomers start out in a shop where they can gain hands-on experience from a more seasoned groomer,” Riley says. “Dog grooming is a highly skilled and ever-changing field.”
How do you learn pet and/or dog grooming?
Randi says these days, there are lots of options to learn dog grooming:
- Grooming schools: Check your area for dog-grooming schools that offer in-person training and an opportunity to work with dogs to earn a certification
- Online training: If you want to learn online at home or need a flexible schedule, there are multiple options for virtual dog grooming instruction
- On-the-job training: Large companies like Petco and PetSmart and smaller companies and private groomers offer hands-on training for practical learning
Sarah Kieffer, owner of Lady’s Paws in Collins, Ohio, provides grooming and boarding services for dogs. She’s been in business since 2017 and started learning grooming at a shop while she was studying to be a vet tech at Stautzenberger College.
“I fell in love with it,” she says. “Who doesn't love dogs?”
As a single mom of three at the time, she decided to leave school and bathe dogs full time. Through this experience, she began to learn grooming techniques from groomers at the shops she supported and gained enough knowledge to eventually open her own shop.
Hands on, in-person dog grooming classes
One thing is clear: In choosing a path to learning, you need to have hands-on experience working with dogs. You can search online for dog grooming training “near me” to find programs in your area.
Hands-on training has several benefits:
- Quickly learn whether dog grooming is for you
- Helps you understand what is expected
- Get a true feel for what it takes to groom a dog
- Learn how to handle different types of dogs
- Ask questions and get answers in real time
Of course, full-time in-person training isn’t for everyone:
- Have to attend classes in person at set times
- Less time flexibility than a self-guided online course
- May have to find child care to attend class
“There are techniques to learn how to properly handle an unruly dog so you and it stay safe,” Randi says of in-person training. Your instructor will teach you these techniques in a classroom setting, and Randi says you can also watch videos online from experienced groomers to learn helpful tips to add to your knowledge.
This video by AnimalWised, a community of animal experts including veterinarians, dog trainers and groomers, shows the basic techniques of grooming a dog:
Learn dog grooming online
Learning dog grooming online is a great option if you want to learn the skills but don’t have an in-person training program nearby or can’t fit the class times into your schedule. However, it is best if you also have a mentor nearby to help you practice your skills in real life.
If you’re looking for an online dog grooming program, you’ll find there are multiple options to choose from at different price points.
For example, Udemy offers a 4.5-hour self-paced video course.7 While this course is geared toward pet owners who want to groom their own dogs, it can give you a foundational look at what is involved for just $19.99 with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Should you decide you want to go forward and learn pet grooming as a business, you can invest in a credible school that offers a full dog-grooming training program.
Here are some schools that offer pet grooming:
Animal Behavior College
Animal Behavior College (ABC) is A+ rated with the BBB and has 55,000+ graduates to its credit. The school offers online training as well as in-person training at more than 11,000 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
ABC training starts at $3,499 and includes mentorship and support, lifetime access to online curriculum, a 30-piece grooming kit, and flexible scheduling for classes. They also provide tuition assistance and student financing options.
The ABC Online Pet Grooming Program offers a multi-stage training approach that covers topics like:
- Grooming techniques
- Grooming tools and products
- Breed profiles and styling
- Health and safety
- Clipper and scissor use
As you progress through the program, you also learn career building skills and will complete hands-on training before taking your final exam.
However, several dog groomers on Reddit and groomers I spoke to for this article say this program does not properly prepare people for a career in dog grooming.
Nash Academy of Animal Arts
Nash Academy is A+ rated with the BBB, accredited since 1993, and has been operating since 1979. Based in Lexington, Ky., the school offers self-study and instructor-led online training as well as onsite instruction in:
- New Jersey
Nash Academy training starts at $340 for a self-guided online course and final examination in dog grooming.
The training program offers all technical skills required for a professional dog groomer, including:
- Prepping, bathing and drying
- Brushing and finishing
- Hand stripping
- Clipping and scissoring
- Safety procedures
You can choose a diploma program or get specific certifications.
Paragon School of Pet Grooming
Rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the school has been around since 1991 and boasts a 95% placement rate for graduates in dog-grooming careers.
Paragon training includes access to an online study guide, one-on-one mentorship, video lessons, and tests.
The school bases its teaching on American Kennel Club grooming standards and offers four levels of training starting at $199:
- Nails and Ears Technician ($199): Teaches skills to care for a dog’s ears and nails including safety, sanitation, pet handling, product use, and how to properly trim and file nails and clean ears
- Level 1 Groom Tech ($1,029): Includes the Nails and Ears Technician curriculum and provides a foundational education on pet grooming covering everything from from grooming techniques to customer service and canine psychology
- Level 2 Pet Groomer ($1,029): Builds on Level 1 Groom Tech, teaching skills that are necessary while working in a pet grooming salon such as basic styling, scissoring skills, pet first aid and CPR, and pet health
- Level 3 Pet Stylist ($1,029): Offers advanced training to gain practical skills like breed-specific trims, corrective grooming, and how to communicate with clients
There is an additional cost for required textbooks ($210). You may also purchase grooming supplies from Paragon or elsewhere. Paragon’s grooming kits start at $395.
How do you launch a new dog grooming business?
A good resource for starting any business is your local U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) office. According to SBA, you must take time to understand:
- Whether there is a need for your services where you live
- Your plan for operating your business
- The startup and ongoing costs for your business
- Where your business will operate
- The legal structure for your business
- How to register your business
- Federal and state tax IDs
- Any necessary permits or licenses
- Setting up a business bank account8
Plus, there are other things to consider, such as how you will promote your business and attract clients. Kieffer, owner of Lady’s Paws in Collins, Ohio, started out grooming for family and friends and would post the grooming pictures on Facebook and Instagram to get exposure.
Types of dog grooming businesses
Next, you’ll need to decide how you want to offer your services, as there are several types of dog grooming business models:
In your home
Do you have room to groom dogs at home? If so, consider providing this service where you live. It’s an ideal choice for a stay-at-home profession, especially if you love dogs.
Randi made the choice to launch her home-based dog grooming business after 24 years of experience. She’s been in business for herself for the last four years. She offers one-on-one services for each dog and gains customers through referrals and word of mouth.
“I decided to work for myself because I wanted to be able to control how many dogs a day I did and what hours and days I worked,” she says. “I have always loved animals, especially dogs, so dog grooming has been a great career for me.”
- No commute (saves on gas)
- Flexible schedule
- Low overhead
- Can offer one-to-one service
- Control over grooming clients per day
- No separation of work and home
- May have to make home improvements to meet strict city/county laws to operate the business
This is the model Riley chose after starting her career in a busy, fast-paced corporate environment with a large volume of dogs.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with the dogs who needed more time and attention, but being in such a busy environment did not allow for the chance or opportunity to teach these dogs that grooming is safe and can actually be enjoyable,” she says.
She decided to start doing house call grooming when she launched, bringing all of her equipment to clients’ homes. She groomed dogs in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, bedrooms — anywhere the client had space. Her low expenses enabled her to save up to purchase a mobile grooming trailer a year later.
Riley says she loves her business model because it allows her to offer one-on-one care, decrease stress for the dog, and offers a change of scenery. She can listen to podcasts or ebooks or even sing without anyone telling her to be quiet. In short, she has freedom.
- Get to travel to different places
- Flexible schedule
- Low overhead (unless you buy a grooming truck up front)
- Can offer one-to-one service
- Control over grooming clients per day
- Mobile grooming trucks are expensive and require upkeep
- Must carry all equipment with you
Do you want to work at a storefront? This could be a good solution if you don’t have space at home or would prefer to separate your career from where you live. Depending on where you work, you may have to bring your own supplies.
Choosing this path, you’ll have an opportunity to earn commission and tips for the work you do. You’ll have access to spaces to bathe and groom dogs, so you won’t have to find a place to do your work. However, stores can be busy, and your schedule might not be as flexible.
- Shop offers and maintains equipment
- Can separate home and work life
- Often don't have schedule flexibility
- Earnings may be capped depending on where you work
What equipment do you need for dog grooming?
Having the right equipment for dog grooming is essential. Prices vary, but a quick look at Amazon and stores like PetEdge offers a ballpark range for what you can expect to pay. At a minimum, you’ll need:
- Grooming table ($35-$850)
- Stainless steel tub ($350-$1,000)
- Bathing system ($599-$700)
- Scissors and shears ($10-$40)
- Hair clippers, blades, and guard comb sets ($20-$100)
- Greyhound-style comb ($15-$40)
- High-velocity blow dryer for pets ($79-$190)
- Nail clippers, and files ($5-$30)
- Brushes and combs ($5-$40)
- Pet-safe cleansing products ($5-$40)
- Harness/hammock ($12-$50)
- Vacuum suitable for pet hair removal ($60-$999)
“Don't buy cheap equipment,” Randi says. “Getting proper clippers, blades, and shears are a must.” She says that using quality equipment helps dogs to look their best.
Randi gets most of her supplies from Petedge.com or Ryan’s Pet Supplies. For cleanup and bathing, she recommends the Hanvey HairVac and either a recirculating or hydro surge bathing system because, although pricey, they save so much time.
The Hanvey HairVac starts at $999.99 on Petedge.com and bathing systems can run you $500 and up. Prices vary depending on where you purchase your equipment or the brand, but this thread on Reddit shares helpful tips on what to buy and from where:
Tips for growing a successful dog grooming business
With more than 20 years of experience in the dog-grooming industry, Amy Leigh, owner of Go Groomer in Richland, Pa., knows what it takes to grow a business. She launched her dog grooming business in 2003, after a layoff from a 12-year career in the print industry. She wanted a flexible career that would allow her to take care of her son, who was a first grader at the time.
“I used to take my little dog to a groomer, and I wished that I could just stare through a peephole the whole time,” she says. “I was just fascinated by what she did.”
Drawn to the profession, she started out as a grooming apprentice, eventually launching her own home-based grooming salon. Now, she uses her expertise to teach pet owners how to properly groom their dogs at home through online tutorials on her Go Groomer YouTube channel.
She launched the channel in 2018 as a side project while she was still grooming. Grooming is physically demanding, so she was looking for a way to continue to share her love of grooming and earn a solid income without having to tend to multiple dogs each day. Today, Leigh’s following of nearly 200,000 subscribers has parlayed into a full-time career online.
“My audience is all over the world,” Leigh says. “I’m getting paid to help people with a smile, and I love it.”
She offers the following tips for growing a successful dog grooming business:
1. Learn everything you can
Learning never stops. Look for every opportunity to hone your craft as a dog groomer. Leigh says the more you build your knowledge base, the more confident you will be.
She recommends groomers:
- Attend yearly dog grooming trade shows and seminars
- Seek certifications to enhance credibility in the marketplace
- Approach businesses that breed show dogs and offer to help them prepare dogs for show for free so you can watch and learn expert tips on grooming
- Read about dog grooming from experts or listen to audiobooks (Though out of print, she says “From Problems to Profits: The Madson Management System for Pet Grooming Businesses” by Madeline Bright Ogle, Ph.D., is a must read if you can get a copy)
However, you shouldn’t limit your education to dog grooming, Leigh says, but also learn all you can about business. Business-focused books and resources like the Small Business Administration, SCORE,11 and other local business groups can be helpful, she says.
2. Upgrade your services and prices
When you stay on top of what’s available in terms of tools, techniques, and equipment, you can bring more services and care to your clients. That also means you can raise your prices to generate more revenue.
“Dog groomers are so busy when they work, they often forget to try to upgrade their business,” Leigh says. “I always saved up for the next big thing that I knew would make the grooming experience better for the dog.”
Therapeutic tables, bathing systems, and other high-tech equipment can cost thousands of dollars. However, they improve the level of service you can offer, as do training certifications.
“You’ve increased your education, so give yourself a raise,” Leigh says. “Don’t forget to do that. It’s important.”
Leigh says dog groomers who want to expand should focus on the level of care they provide by explaining the services they offer and what it takes to offer those services. Let your clients know that you have invested in their pet and clearly communicate price increases to match the new level of service.
3. Connect with your community
“Your community needs you as a groomer,” she says. “Once they know you’re there, and they know you do a good job because they talked to a mom who took Fluffy there, they’ll come, too.”
Word of mouth is a powerful tool. To raise awareness about your business in your community, Leigh says it’s a good idea to host community events. Periodically, she would advertise a nail social in her local community newspaper, inviting pet owners to bring their dogs for nails-only service.
By doing this, it gave people an opportunity to see her work and built a comfort level for them to try other services.
4. Schedule services
When you get a new client, set the expectation that they must commit to a schedule of services. This is a good way to maintain the grooming and keep clients coming back on a consistent basis. Her preference is to provide services every eight weeks or less. Even if the client only wants nail trimming, keep it on a schedule.
“Have a relationship with your client, and they are going to highly recommend you to other people,” Leigh says.
Dog grooming not for you? Check out our posts on other profitable careers and businesses:
- 12 business ideas for moms
- How to become a doula and get certified
- How to become a home health aide
- How to become a medical biller and coder
- 8 free online childcare training courses
- How to learn graphic design
- How to become a proofreader
- How to become a truck driver
- How to start a bookkeeping business
- No background check jobs
- Six-figure jobs
- 11 quick job certifications that pay well
- Best 28 jobs for single moms in 2024
- “Pet groomer Demographics and Statistics in the US.” July 21, 2023. Zippia. https://www.zippia.com/pet-groomer-jobs/demographics/
- “Number of pet owning households in the United States in 2023, by species (in millions).” August 29, 2023. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/198095/pets-in-the-united-states-by-type-in-2008/
- “Animal Care and Service Workers.” September 6, 2023. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm
- “How Much Do Dog Groomer Jobs Pay per Hour?” January 16, 2024. ZipRecruiter. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/DOG-Groomer-Salary-per-Hour#Hourly
- “How Much Do Dog Groomer Jobs Pay per Hour?” January 16, 2024. ZipRecruiter. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/DOG-Groomer-Salary-per-Hour#Hourly
- “What are sales commissions like at PetSmart?” Glassdoor. https://www.glassdoor.com/FAQ/PetSmart-Question-FAQ200069-E2375.htm
- “PetSmart Dog Groomer Hourly Pay.” GlassDoor. https://www.glassdoor.com/Hourly-Pay/PetSmart-Dog-Groomer-Hourly-Pay-E2375_D_KO9,20.htm
- “Learn how to groom your dog at home!” Udemy. https://www.udemy.com/course/learn-how-to-groom-your-dog-at-home/
- “10 steps to start your business.” U.S. Small Business Administration. https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/10-steps-start-your-business
- “Sizing Up the Competition: How to Conduct Competitive Research” February 25, 2019. U.S. Chamber of Commerce. https://www.uschamber.com/co/start/strategy/how-to-conduct-competitive-research
- “Small Business Success Starts Here” https://score.org