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Dog Groomer

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. Don't worry about causing panic in the streets, though, since you've activated your cloaking device. 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 dog 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 dogs really are in charge, with the humans working hard to make the dogs look beautiful or handsome. Seems pretty clear to us.

Here's the way it works. The dog'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. She'll brush his coat, comb through any obvious mats (or remove them), and clip his nails. She'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, she'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 she's engaged in that life-altering task, she'll look for possible skin infections or other conditions that might require a veterinarian's attention. She'll pass those observations on to the pet's owner.

After the dog's bath, he'll either be cage-dried in a kennel, or he'll be hand-dried by the bather or groomer. His coat must be completely dry, as grooming clippers don't work very effectively on wet dog hair. Finally, the dog arrives at the groomer's work table, and the real fun begins. Depending on the dog's breed and owner preference, the groomer might give him a nice, single-length cut, which is usually easy for the owner to maintain. If the owner prefers a typical breed cut, such as a poodle or cocker spaniel might receive, the groomer can generally accommodate that request. Groomers who execute true show-quality cuts have undergone special training. Finally, the pampered pooch gets a nice hair bow or bandana, and it's back to his kennel until his owner arrives to pick him up.

Okay, that gives you a snapshot of a dog groomer's typical workday. Now you might wonder where these groomers work every day. 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.

If you love interacting with dogs, a dog grooming career might be worth considering. You should be able to handle all types and sizes of dogs, have an infinite supply of patience, and have the ability to get your job done even when your dogs are uncooperative or surly. In fact, dealing with difficult dogs might be the most challenging aspect of your dog grooming career. Proper training can give you the advantage you need.

Finally, you realize that although you can't get enough of dogs, the mechanics of dog grooming might not be right for you. You might consider a career as a boarding kennel attendant, where you'll meet all kinds of dogs that keep coming to visit. A pet sitting business also offers you the chance to make multiple dogs very, very happy. You might also enjoy a dog training career, although you'll really need to develop your "difficult dog" skills for that one. Finally, a veterinary assistant or veterinary technician career would allow you to work with dogs every day. You'll need special training and a medical mindset to tackle these jobs.