It is always a pleasure to hear from the groomers out there. Andrew Graham is an avid reader of the GB and often has interesting and amusing stories to tell about the daily life of a groomer. Something those of us who have groomed for a lifetime can forget is just how provocative and obscure the business is, with no two clients ever being alike. We get into a mind set of just taking things as they come rather than looking at the amusing, peculiar or almost ‘bonkers’ clients we deal with – then there’s the dogs!
Looking at this life of the groomer with a wider prospective, Andrew raises some more serious aspects of the groomers work including the income.
Andrew writes that a friend of his, who is also a leading groomer/grooming teacher in the US, made some comments in an article in 2009 that are so relevant today. He says, "I have echoed these sentiments as I’m sure have so many other groomers across the globe. As professionals, we groomers are among the lowest paid for what is a career that is hard work both physically and mentally.”
To keep overheads to a minimum Andrew has rented a table in a salon, which he says although is lower on cost than your own salon hasn’t proved to be as successful as he would like, so he is planning a move to his own place after an exhaustive search and plenty of hassle from planning departments who appear to be anti anything to do with dogs!
The outlay for the groomer is a serious consideration and can be make or break for the success of a business that in reality only allows any groomer a limited amount of time per client and is somewhat reliant on the groomers stamina and well-being, as well as their ability to cope with all the problems that arise, and some very ‘eccentric’ clients.
Andrew says, "We groomers have dogs that come in for clipping in a totally matted state – with owners assuring us the dog is ‘always brushed every day.’ A few inches may be brushed over a hugely matted coat that is so close to the skin it takes a lot of patience for dog and groomer to remove and a great deal of time.”
I am reminded of the Shih Tzu featured here some time ago and make no apology for once again showing the alarming photos. Unfortunately too many dogs are left to get into a neglected matted state. There is no other way other than to shave the coat to the skin, or as Andrew says, "If we take the mats out it is extremely painful to the dog, and you can almost guarantee that the dog will return in the same state in eight weeks time.
"Some people come in wanting a certain type or style that is totally impossible to create without a total de matt. We should advise a total clip off and daily comb to keep the coat in the condition to create the look the client wants. Too often we end up doing many hours work and not being able to book other dogs in, so we lose out again.” Not only this, the dog has to suffer for the sake of a style. It is not acceptable.
The cost of a groom out may not be productive in any case. If groomers charged an hourly rate it may well be that they would price themselves out of the market. What is the value of your time? Say you charge £20 and hour – which is far less than a plumber, or in many cases a consultation with a vet – you spend six hours on a matted OES – £120. During that time you may have been able to trim five dogs at £30 each. The owner of the matted dog invariable considers this price extortionate, and there is always somebody up the road that will clip the dog off for less! One client lost unless you compromise. And maybe you cannot afford to lose this days work. (The vet incidentally is often receiving £20 plus for a two minute consultation with treatment and medicine excluded).
One interesting aspect of the DeZynadog Road show is the pricing survey they carry out for groomers, with certain breeds being taken into consideration. An average is sort, and frequently this is lower than we might expect. Groomers are asked to fill in a short questionnaire related to the prices they charge for the named breeds, such as Poodle, Golden Retriever, OES, Lhasa, etc. The groomer need not give their name, but their locality is helpful as it then shows the relevant prices charged in different areas. Certainly and no doubt inevitably the prices vary depending on the area, such as London prices compared with say a village in Lincolnshire. One area many charge £100 for bathing and grooming an OES while another would charge half that. Certainly there are some groomers that are earning a jolly good wage every week, even after overheads. Those taking on the cost of a salon may be working twice as hard for the same pay.
Andrew goes on to say, "You also have to have your wits about you every single time a dog is on the table, in the bath etc. How many times have we struggled to groom a dog that will not accept the groom with ease? I must have the strongest wrists in Yorkshire from holding up dogs to clip out various unreachable parts! Only the other day, in the middle of a top knot of a Toy Poodle, in bounds a ‘jolly hockey-sticks’ woman, out of nowhere screeching, "Hello doggies!” The Poodle did a sharp turn and half an inch of perfect top knot was gone! Thank God it was only the top knot I had to recover and not a scissor in the eye or through the ear! People just do not think when entering a salon of all the catastrophes that can happen by lack of thought. There are also the people that come in and just have to talk to every dog in the place and raise all their energy levels to ‘manic’ and then leave their equally wired up dog for grooming.”
Having said all this, Andrew still advocates that grooming is a passion and a career that outshines anything else he can think of, although he is unsure that if there were a specific union of fair pay for all groomers, groomers would all be paying in the higher tax bracket if they were to be paid for the work actually done.
Another important scenario to consider is that of illness, temporarily or more long term. Many groomers drag themselves out of bed and work rather than let down a client. Also, for the busy groomer there is the problem of fitting dogs in if the need arises to cancel appointments – which means some longer hours to work to catch up.
One groomer friend was amazed when, after going down suddenly with a seriously debilitating dose of flu, her husband called a client to regretfully cancel an appointment and the client was extremely annoyed and put out, with no concern for the groomer, only the inconvenience to herself. Personally I don’t think clients like that are worth having.