It’s hard to believe that pet grooming could persist for so long without becoming more formally recognized as a profession. Today there is no mandatory vocational licensing for pet groomers. Since 2001 several state legislatures have revived efforts to license pet groomers vocationally. However, no legislation has passed. One reason may be that none of these efforts originated from groomers. Unfortunately, legislators reacted to unfavorable, even shocking, reports of pets maimed or killed while under the care of groomers. An increasing number of these tragedies are receiving major media attention, including the Wall St. Journal (see GroomerTALK Message Board for an archived copy). Lawmakers felt they had to respond. Yet the momentum was not enough to pass legislation.
In the 1960s, Madeline Bright Ogle and the United Dog Groomers of California got an Assembly Bill introduced into the California State Legislature proposing vocational licensing for groomers. The Assembly saw no urgency for vocational licensing. Legislators regularly shelved the bill and addressed greater issues of the day, primarily the Vietnam War. However, good did result from their efforts. Many of the pet groomers involved took advantage of their proposed standards. History shows that these pioneers established solid businesses, some still operating today and thriving. Their voluntary adoption of the standards they professed created remarkable businesses. Several of them are still in business nearly 55 years later. In 2016 we saw additional efforts by consumer groups to revive efforts to license grooming vocationally, and a few Facebook groups are addressing the situation. It remains that none has successfully passed such legislation. It appears the rumor that New York State passed such legislation in 2015-2016 is not true, and instead, the effort resulted in a permit process for New York City. However, if that is so, as of February 2017, NYC groomers have told us they have not been contacted, but it does appear they may need a special permit soon based on some state government records.
Career seekers find it difficult to believe that a large majority of U.S. pet groomers are not members of even one pet grooming association. Estimates of national membership are as low as 5%. The pet grooming industry suffers without formal organization and standardization associated with a recognized profession. Channels of communication between pet groomers, pet owners, and career seekers never improved until the Internet arrived. We formed Find A Groomer Inc. and PetGroomer.com to establish new communication channels. It was our answer to thousands of career seekers contacting our offices for career information.
Internet communications have done more to mobilize new developments in pet grooming than any other factor in the past 55 years. Every year the number of grooming websites grows, and the body of industry information expands. Many brightest groomers continue to publish new educational resources with schools, home studies, and reference materials such as grooming books and DVDs.
There is still room for improvement. Your exploration of the industry will uncover thousands of grooming business owners who are not communicating constructively with their peers and associates. They rely on the barriers of labeling other members of the industry as “their competition.” Doors close. Progress idles. You may find yourself working in such businesses. We are not like them; neither are thousands loyal to PetGroomer.com and its GroomerTALK Community℠. In fact, we’re shooting cannonballs at the limited attitudes holding our profession in the past. We hope that you will join us.
Thousands of groomers and career seekers use the Internet to share grooming information daily. Our PetGroomer.com GroomerTALK Community℠ is a popular destination. These participants are an important sign of progress. They exemplify the desire for change at an industry level. We can come together and secure more professional recognition.
One way is the traditional process of vocational licensing. Hopefully, the measures will be written by and for groomers with governmental acceptance. Even better, groomers can establish an alternate system, such as mandatory certification governed by the industry. As a body of professionals, we could better control requirements for the minimum education and performance standards. In addition, we could maintain a database of approved groomers. Thereby we can uplift pet grooming to the status of a formal profession recognized by every household.
Our fascinating and valuable industry remains fragmented. The absence of adopted standards for grooming operations, required education, and even how we deliver services to pet owners leaves every aspect of the industry open to personal interpretation. For example, career seekers believe they will get the same grooming education regardless of which school they attend or through alternatives like home study or apprenticeships. Nothing could be further from the truth. We even confuse pet owners. Most expect “Puppy Cuts” to be the same in any grooming business, which is seriously wrong. Some styles share the same name but no results. It’s even confusing for groomers working in different regions. Don’t expect the work environment to be similar in all grooming businesses. It isn’t so. Remember, fragmentation is characteristic where adopted standards of openness don’t exist. Be ready for change and differences as you move through the industry. Notice the diversity. Take a few absolutes as truly absolute. Be ready to hear, “We do things this way.” Expect others to do things differently. Never a dull moment awaits you.
Grooming business owners must follow local, state, and federal regulations for licenses and permits. None of them must show proof of grooming vocational education or apprenticeship. Generally speaking, anyone in the U.S. can hang out a shingle tomorrow and do business as a pet groomer.
There are no requirements to prove your grooming education to the public. No one at this time is tracking your grooming education. Pet owners cannot verify their training with any government or industry agency. Therefore, consumers must rely on the goodwill and nature of pet groomers to properly handle and aesthetically groom their pets. Fortunately, the large majority of groomers make us proud. Client referral continues to be the ideal form of advertising for grooming businesses. Experienced pet owners know that consistency between grooming businesses is uncertain.
It may not sound like we are highly optimistic about this industry, but we are. Our optimism explains why we have been members of the industry for nearly 50 years. It’s also why we prepared this report for you at no charge. The grooming industry has been wonderful for our family. It can be the same for yours.
The pet grooming industry has wonderful attributes to bark about. Pet groomers contribute to the health and well-being of millions of pets. Grooming makes most pets quite happy. Look at the before and after photos at PetGroomer.com, such as Double K Industries’ annual before and after photo contest, Rags to Riches. It’s undeniable.
If there is any angst in our attitude toward grooming, the subject is mandatory education. Don’t we owe it to pets and their owners to ensure that every pet groomer has had a minimum of education from professionals? We think so. Many of the unfortunate accidents in grooming businesses could have been mitigated by mandatory education standards.
When we entered the pet grooming industry in the early 1960s, the tools of the trade were few, as were outlets for grooming services. The industry was nowhere near as advanced as today. At one time, grooming shops were scarce. Most groomers worked in departments within kennels and mom-and-pop pet stores.
Mobile grooming was years away. Air conditioning was not commonly available. The work was truly hot and sweaty much of the year. “Force dryers,” which save so much time, didn’t exist by today’s standards. We had to rely on heating elements to add to the hot environment. Today’s tools, equipment, and supplies have improved the industry.
In the last 15 years, new career seekers have entered pet grooming. They left other industries to fulfill their passionate quest to work with animals. As career consultants to hundreds of them, we asked, “Why now?” The almost universal answer was the availability of grooming career information on the Internet. It makes sense.
Confidence is derived from acquiring information from those that have gone before you. Our sharing with them gave them the confidence to “take the plunge” and crossover into a new grooming career leaving behind careers in sales, medicine, insurance, banking, office work, military, and dozens of other mainstream professions. That’s how you turn the passion for working with pets into new careers with a reliable road map.
If you are curious about the motivations of career seekers becoming pet groomers, review our survey results here.
So how many are our numbers? Reliable market statistics for the grooming industry are rare. Pet grooming associations are appropriate candidates to conduct surveys, but they have only modest support from pet groomers. The retail and veterinary medical sectors of the pet industry boast large memberships. They conduct broad surveys and publish finely documented studies. At PetGroomer.com, we are moving in that direction. For several years we have conducted the largest surveys of the grooming industry.
Be sure to visit the extensive Take a Grooming Survey section here. While you are there, please take our surveys specially designed for career seekers. There is a wealth of information in the Results section to orient you to employed groomers, self-employed groomers that mobile, salon or shop owners, self-service pet wash owners, and more.
We can provide you with these reliable estimates for 2018.
The number of U.S. Groomers:
Est. between 80,000 to 115,000
The number of U.S. Grooming Businesses:
Est. between 33,000 to 39,000*
* Includes vets, kennels, daycares, and other pet businesses with grooming departments
Perhaps the most important statistic for career seekers is the demand for pet groomers and bather employees. Every grooming employer knows there is a shortage of skilled employees. In fact, the shortage is chronic and goes back at least 55 years. It is so characteristic of our industry that it seems normal. We can offer some proof. Since 1997 we’ve published more than 400,000 help-wanted ads at PetGroomer.com.
The demand for pet grooming services remains strong in 2017 in most regions of the U.S. There is potential for modest growth. However, formal statistics focused on grooming demand are exceedingly rare. There are no polls that accurately measure the demographics for grooming demand. Here’s what we can tell you. Statistically, there are between 3,000 to 4,000 dogs and cats for every grooming business in the U.S. Less than 1% of all grooming businesses have regularly scheduled clientele serving 2,000 or more dogs and cats. Less than 50% of dog and cat owners use professional grooming services. It’s fair to say that PetGroomer.com would not publish more than 300,000 help-wanted ads if there weren’t demand.
In summary, a career in pet grooming can be a sound idea. You may not discover much reinforcement for that statement among friends and family. We have led dozens of career seeker seminars. A surprising number of participants reported looks of disbelief, even shock, on the faces of friends and family when they announced their grooming careers. Of course, some found encouragement and support. What about the doubters? Is the stereotypical image of the pet grooming industry lackluster? Can you find prosperity in this industry? Will your confidence be shaken if no one supports your goals? Be prepared, just in case.
Our recommendation is to keep reading this report. We’re about to get more technical and build your confidence. The opportunity to work with pets and their owners is worth the patience and dedication required. The industry is moving forward at a fast pace to become less fragmented and more professional. The timing is fine. Therefore, “Come on in. The water feels great, but make sure you know how to swim.” In the next section, you will learn more about the people who are groomers.