Outside of the pet grooming industry, prospective employers offer candidates job descriptions. Most independently-owned grooming businesses do not offer job descriptions or employee handbooks. Not only that, unfortunately, it can also be against employment law. These owners focus on the art of grooming and overlook the legalities of managing a compliant business. Without job descriptions, how do owners quantify the duties and responsibilities of their job positions? For career seekers, it can be very confusing indeed. Is the work of a pet groomer at one business the same as another? Maybe. Probably not.
Essentially a “pet groomer” is the same as a “pet stylist.” The latter has a panache that some groomers shy away from. Perhaps they feel it is pretentious, yet it remains accurate. The choice and interpretation are yours. Regardless of which title you use, a pet groomer can operate as a standalone and complete pet grooming assignments from start to finish without assistance. We prefer the term “full-charge groomer” for its clarity. There are lesser-skilled positions, also called pet groomers. Only full-charge groomers can do the most complex grooming assignments from start to finish.
There are two other grooming positions besides full-charge pet groomers in the pet grooming industry. Unfortunately, these positions have more than a dozen different job position titles! As a career seeker researching the PetGroomer.com Help Wanted Classified Ads, you may think there are a dozen or more grooming positions besides dedicated management or customer service positions. Nope. Besides full-charge pet groomers (dog groomers), there are:
• Pet Bathers (aka Bathers, Bather/Fluffers, Preppers)
• Assistant Pet Groomers (aka Assistants, Assistant Pet Trimmers)
The term “Trimmer” is not used widely today, but it once was. If you hear the term used, just equate it with full-charge groomer.
To understand the difference between pet groomers, assistant pet groomers, and pet bathers, we need only look at the phases of full-service grooming. Of course, some groomers mix and match these phases and take shortcuts, but don’t worry about that now. Let’s assume we are providing full-service grooming for a Standard Poodle in a business with all three positions employed. Traditionally the grooming process would proceed this way:
• Pre-Bathing Duties
• Bathing and Drying Duties
• Finish Styling Duties
Pre-bathing duties may include nail clipping and filing, ear cleaning, and de-matting. The amount of de-matting varies by the groomer and the equipment and supplies used. Some grooming businesses occasionally or regularly include additional procedures in the Pre-Bath phase. These include “coat removal” (shave – a word we don’t prefer to use) or “placing a pattern” (the “stripes” on a Poodle), as well as clipping “Poodle feet,” face, stomach, and sanitary areas.
Bathing and drying duties are self-explanatory. They are done after the Pre-Bath duties and always before finishing styling.
“Finish styling” is the most artistic phase of grooming pets. It commonly involves clippers and sometimes snap-on comb attachments. The artist’s most important tools are various scissors and shears. Finish styling is the territory of full-charge groomers or assistant groomers advancing their skills for promotion to full-charge groomer status.
Let’s recap by position. In a business employing all three positions we can find common agreement for the following:
- The Pet Bather position completes pre-bath duties except for coat removals and patterns, which require clipper skills. There are thousands of pet bathers without the confidence or desire to perform the art of grooming involving scissors and clipping skills. They are perfectly happy to remain pet bathers. Thank goodness! Every grooming business owner knows the value of steady skilled pet bathers and their importance to a team-oriented operation.
- The Assistant Groomer bridges the gap between a pet bather and a full-charge groomer. Sometimes the employee filling the position has just stepped on the bridge, while others are nearing the end of it when they expect to be promoted to full-charge grooming. If they are new to the assistant position, they may still do some pre-bath, bathe, and dry duties part of the workday as well as coat removals and patterns. Later they are assigned an increasing amount of finished styling assignments, progressively learning the fine art of grooming each of the breed groups and mixed-breed styling. In our business, a full-time assistant could expect to successfully work at least one year in the position before being promoted to full-charge groomer. There would still be much to learn and productivity to improve.
- Full-charge groomers in a staffed environment do all the finished work except that assigned to assistants in training. Depending upon the workload and skill level of assistants, they may do coat removals and patterns. The productivity level of full-charge groomers can vary greatly. We are strong supporters of productivity training because it boosts what you can expect to earn as a full-charge pet groomer. The training involves continuing education either under the tutelage of highly-experienced and skilled pet groomers. Truth be known, the large majority of full-charge groomers today have little in the way of formal productivity training. It’s unfortunate because they are actually working harder every day. Never confuse productivity training with the pressure of someone telling you to work harder or faster. That’s nonsense. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Yet thousands of skilled groomers today have that misconception and don’t actively seek continuing education focused on increasing productivity.
Remember, if you are an independent pet groomer working alone and consider yourself a full-charge groomer, you perform all of the pre-bath, bath, and dry and finish styling duties. Keep in mind that some businesses only hire full-charge groomers, and there are no assistants or bathers. Their groomers complete all duties comprising a grooming service, start-to-finish.
Independent full-charge groomers may perform additional duties, whether employed or self-employed. They may answer phone calls or do intake and outtake services for pet owners. They clean work areas and some wash and dry towels. Self-employed groomers accept that they must also “wear the hat” of an owner/manager and manage the marketing, advertising, accounting, tax reporting, and other management duties.
Career seekers entering the field with self-employment experience have much less difficulty adapting to the demands of an owner/manager/groomer compared to groomers with no small business experience or self-employment background. For this reason, our founder wrote the classic business manual From Problems to Profits: The Madson Management System for Pet Grooming Businesses. It even provides sample job descriptions and employee handbooks.
PetGroomer.com Surveys consistently indicate approximately 70% of employed full-charge groomers plan to be self-employed in the future, and the majority of them have no prior self-employment experience. Without small business training, it isn’t the grooming that creates “groomer burnout” but having to carry many hats as both businessperson and groomer. Don’t worry! It can be done. We suggest you read our founder’s book whether you plan to be a one-person business or manage staff.
We remind you to study the PetGroomer.com Help Wanted Classified Ads regularly. They are updated several times a week. Read the descriptions of positions offered and the various job titles used for what is essentially the same position. Become more acquainted with the terminology others are using, and remember what you learned here.
At this point, it is important for you to understand the demands of grooming fully. They will either make your career success or an unsuitable yet appealing dream. You must know if grooming is right for you, and you can only make that decision by understanding its demands.