The Real Poop
Pretend you're a visitor from another galaxy, here on a reconnaissance mission. You're zipping around town on your shuttlecraft that looks like a futuristic metallic Hovercraft. You're cruising past restaurants and retail stores when your eye (or one of your eyes) catches a glimpse of something worth investigating. Peering into a shop window, you're surprised to see five furry four-legged creatures standing on tables in a little room. Clearly, these elevated creatures occupy a high stature in this culture.
A two-legged creature stands at each table, fussing over the furry ones with several odd-looking implements. Fur flies off the table, joining the fur already scattered on the floor. A new two-legged creature scurries around, gathering the fur for some sort of cultural ritual. Although you haven't yet researched this culture in depth, it's clear that the four-legged creatures are in charge, with the two-legged ones catering to their every whim.
Believe it or not, this inquisitive alien has stumbled into a pet grooming shop. Let's give him/her/it some time to download the cultural data, and put this explanation into terms normal humans can understand. Here's the important thing: Yes, the pets really are in charge, with the humans working hard to make them look beautiful or handsome...for $10 an hour (source). Seems pretty clear to us.
Here's the way it works. A dog's (or cat's) owner drops him off at the grooming shop, with instructions to pick him up later in the day. Depending on how the shop operates, the dog's assigned groomer may hand him off to the shop's bather (if they have one), or the groomer may put the dog on her table for some pre-bath prep work. They'll brush his coat, comb through any obvious mats (or remove them), and clip his nails.
They'll also clean the gunk out of his ears with a special cleaning solution. If the dog is having a good day, this prep work won't take more than a few minutes. If he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, the poor groomer will be locked in mortal combat with this crazed beast.
Let's assume both the dog and groomer survive, and the dog goes back for his bath. If the shop's lucky enough to have a dedicated bather, they'll do the honors, using one of several types of shampoos and/or conditioners. Yes, dogs really do need their own bathing products, as human shampoos and conditioners aren't formulated for a dog's skin and coat.
Keep in mind that, if the shop doesn't have a dedicated bather, that dog's groomer gets to fight with, er, bathe him. While the groomer is engaged in that life-altering task, they'll look for possible skin infections or other conditions that might require a veterinarian's attention. The groomer then passes those observations on to the pet's owner.
If you want to be a groomer, chances are you've loved animals as long as you can remember. Getting paid to hang out with them all day? Dream come true.
There are no set licensing standards for pet groomers, though there are a few online certification programs available from career schools. Better still are training sessions held by the National Dog Groomers Association of America or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.
The two- or three-day workshops provide intensive training, with both written and demo exams, to certify potential groomers. For about $400, you can complete a workshop and learn everything from poodle pampering to cat bathing techniques (source).
Some groomers work in stand-alone shops that also function as retail profit centers, selling home grooming tools, toys, and/or treats. Other groomers work in veterinary clinics, providing nice additional income for the vets while offering an extra service to pet owners. Using the same principle, many boarding kennels also offer grooming services, which means Bowzer gets all spiffed up before his owner retrieves him.
Big-box pet supply stores have also made inroads into the grooming business, with the store's grooming shop on display for shoppers (and potential clients) to see while they're buying their dog food.
Finally, many groomers have set up their own businesses, varying from a one-woman (or one-man) show to a shop with several groomers on staff. Mobile grooming services have also taken off, as these fully equipped vans allow the dog to get his grooming services on his home turf.
Working with a variety of animals and their humans all day requires patience, understanding, and, dare we say it, dogged determination to provide great customer service to both the two-legged and four-legged types. Pet groomers also need to have stamina to lift heavy pets and keep them in place, as well as the ability to stand on their feet for the entire grooming session, which can often take about two hours.
Thankfully, we're talking regular hours and not dog hours. What would that be mathematically? Something like fourteen hours? No thanks.