With 4.7 million dogs and 3.8 million cats owned in Australia*, pet grooming could be a lucrative opportunity for those looking to start a business in the pet industry.

While a passion for animals is a pre-requisite, there are a number of other skills and business considerations to take into account—even if you’re already employed in the pet industry.

Pet grooming facts to consider

Training

Pet Grooming is a skill and you need to be trained to do it professionally.  Not only so that you can be efficient and do the right thing for your clients, but also so that you don’t inadvertently cause injury to a pet that could result in you being seriously out of pocket, not to mention the “brand damage” it could do.

There are many courses available which you can search online, but a great way to start is by doing a course at a local college (for example TAFE) where you will be taught essential grooming skills, such as bathing, brushing, trimming.  You will also learn how to keep equipment in good order, provide great customer service and how to run a salon.  Once you have done a course such as this you will be ready to put yourself to the test and get a job in the grooming industry, so you can gain work experience before you step out on your own.  You may even need to be prepared to work on a volunteer basis to get experience.  Work experience really is vital as you will gain knowledge of a wide range of situations with pets and clients.  For example, you may find yourself with a dog that is aggressive or afraid, and you will need to learn how to deal with this.

You can also gain a lot of experience by putting up your hand to help with washing, nail clipping and grooming at Rescue Organisations.  It is true that if a pet looks good, the chances of adoption are much higher.  So not only are you getting work experience, you are also helping pets find their forever homes!

Having a recognised qualification, such as a Certificate III in Pet Grooming, which can be followed up with a Certificate IV in Pet Styling, in addition to relevant work experience will give your clients confidence and help make sure your business has the very best start. Recognised qualifications and practical knowledge of the industry will help keep your business in good stead for the future.

For an overview of Animal Care Courses (including Grooming) Australia-wide, visit the Pet Industry Association of Australia website.

Start-up costs

Perhaps you already work in the pet industry and are looking to change the direction of your career or thinking of adding a dog or pet grooming service to your existing business offering.

To determine the upfront costs you will need to decide whether you’re going to operate your pet grooming business from home, from within your current business or set up a mobile dog grooming entity.  You could also consider offering a “home based” service where you carry out the grooming in the homes of others.

The structure of your business and the services it offers will impact what basic grooming equipment you will need to purchase.  Regardless of the option you choose, you will need very good equipment, purchasing good clippers with all the attachments to do a great job for your clients isn’t cheap.  You will also need to factor in the cost to promote your business. This might include the cost to set up a website, print flyers, advertise and design business cards.

Revenue

It’s important to have a plan of how you are going to make a living out of your grooming business.  Once you have your start up costs, and your on-going costs figured out (cost of rent, if applicable, materials and equipment), you will need to work out how many pets you can groom in a day and what you are going to charge. This will give you a realistic idea of your earning potential. To make it more affordable you could also join forces with another groomer so that you can share the cost of premises and it also means you both have a back up.

Working in the industry prior to starting up your own dog grooming business will give you an excellent starting point to figure out what is required.

Business protection

Of course, it is important to consider liability implications. What happens if a dog falls off the grooming table and injures itself? What if a dog in your care bites a customer?  What happens if you cause an injury to a dog whilst you are grooming it.  And scarily enough, imagine if you got two dogs mixed up?  (This has happened, read more here!)

Here is a handy check list to help you determine what type of business insurance you may need.

No matter how big or small the business is or how good you are at what you do, you can be vulnerable to claims being filed against you. If you don’t already have appropriate insurance, you will need to look into public liability and professional indemnity insurance.

Animal welfare

Animal welfare extends beyond a love of pets. As a professional in the pet industry it’s important to understand your duty-of-care responsibilities and ensure you uphold the wellbeing of animals in your care.

What can a dog groomer expect to earn?

Obviously salary will depend on your level of experience, the length of time you’ve been in the business and the number of hours you work, but on average the median hourly rate for a pet groomer ranges from $16.76 to $26.03**. While, according to job search site Indeed, the average annual salary for a pet groomer in Australia is $55,737.

However, generally groomers charge per dog. Prices (this covers in-salon and mobile) tend to range from $60 to groom (wash and clipper cut) a small dog up to $150 for an extra large dog (such as a golden retriever), which indicates there’s the potential for dog groomers to earn a lot more per hour than the industry average—even taking expenses into consideration.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that expenditure on pet products and services is increasing. Animal Medicines Australia Pet Ownership in Australia report revealed that Australians spent more than $12.2 billion on pet products and services during 2016—up 42% compared with 2013.

Clipping and grooming came in a number five, with just under $6 million spent on these services. The report also states that, according to Euromonitor forecasts, pet pampering services (including dog grooming) are likely to see continued growth, which is great news for anyone planning on entering this industry.

What key skills are required to be a pet groomer?

As well as animal grooming knowledge, there are a number of skills and abilities that can help ensure a successful career in pet grooming.

  • Highly confident working with animals (particularly as some animals can become aggressive when nervous)
  • Ability to read a dog’s body language and recognise the warning signs in temperamental pets
  • Sound business sense. This includes a proactive nature (to generate business) and a strong work ethic
  • Excellent people (and pet) skills. Pet groomers are expected to communicate clearly with pet owners and manage clients’ expectations
  • Compassion. Not all pets relish the idea of having a trim. A good groomer has empathy for the animals and the persistence to entice reluctant pets onto the grooming table.
  • Animal health knowledge. As industry professionals, pet groomers are expected to have a certain level of general knowledge to be able to recognise visible signs of parasites, rashes and skin irritations.

Finally, you might like to consider joining a professional pet industry organisation (such as the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) or even the Australian Companion Animal Council (ACAC)  to keep up with industry news, best practice principles and regulatory changes facing the pet industry. Affiliating your business with a reputable ‘voice of the industry’ is a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening in the pet industry, but it also demonstrates a high level of professionalism.

*Animal Medicines Australia Pet Ownership in Australia 2016. Accessed via: http://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/AMA_Pet-Ownership-in-Australia-2016-Report_sml.pdf
**Source: Payscale. Hourly Rate for Industry: Pet Grooming. Accessed via: https://www.payscale.com/research/AU/Industry=Pet_Grooming/Hourly_Rate
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Leanne Philpott

Leanne is a professional writer who works alongside her fur pal Chewie, delivering information that is accurate and relevant to our readers.