How to break into pet grooming in Ontario

Thanks to TikTok, pet grooming is becoming the new Gen Z dream job 


As the popularity of TikTok rises, an unlikely star has emerged from the content-creating masses, giving the video app’s users and other platforms the inside scoop on a previously little-known industry: pet grooming.

Pet groomers have exploded on TikTok, posting video after video of their regular work day grooming individual dogs, some using a voice-over to explain the types of treatments and tools they use, amassing millions of views in the process. The heightened popularity of these videos signifies a potential newfound interest in a career path that represents what some might call a “Gen Z dream job.” Despite being traditionally seen as less-than prestigious, hands-on and labour-intensive, jobs like pet grooming are appealing to a younger demographic looking for a gig they can enjoy that also exists outside corporate office culture.

Why become a pet groomer?

Elif Bor, a pet groomer at Booboo Pet Grooming Services on Lake Shore West, originally got into the field because she wanted to get involved in animal care in some way. At first, Bor started as a bather with no prior experience. She enjoyed it so much that when a groomer at a previous workplace offered to train her in grooming, Bor seized the apprenticeship opportunity. 

“It’s a very coachable job and it’s a lot of fun if you have the right personality for it,” she says.

Bor considered going into veterinary medicine or becoming a veterinary tech, but she didn’t think those fields would be a good fit in the long term because of it can be emotionally draining and demanding work.

“I had worked in different fields before really getting immersed in dog grooming, and I just found the work made me happy,” Bor says. “You can really express yourself creatively because it’s essentially like sculpting. It’s exciting being able to create something very aesthetic on a dog with beautiful hair. Creatives would find a lot of fulfillment in being able to style dogs.”

Bor says she understands why anybody who loves animals might think this is the right job for them, but there are a few other qualities a successful pet groomer should possess. 

“You’re working with dogs that are not always cooperative, so that’s why it’s so important to have a very level head and be very patient knowing that you’re working with animals that don’t understand what they’re experiencing,” she says. “Sometimes you have to read a dog very closely to make sure they’re comfortable and make sure that you’re safe. You need to know when to stop and when to hold your ground, so there’s a lot of intuition involved.”

Bor was able to get into the field without formal education, which is a positive for anyone making a career change who isn’t interested in more schooling. But for those unsure about what exactly they want to do in the field and don’t mind going back to school, studying animal care might be the right path.

Christine Winder, a veterinarian and a professor at the animal care program at Sheridan College, says the school allows students to try a few different facets of animal care, including exotic animal care, wildlife rehabilitation and grooming, during the first semester of the two-semester certificate program. Students can specialize in more courses specific to the area they’re most interested in during the second semester.

“We’ve had graduates who work in animal shelters, pet retail, doggy daycare, veterinary medicine,” she says.

Winder is seeing a demand for animal care workers across many fields, as well as demand for education. “We have to go through at least six to eight applicants for each seat,” she says.

As societal attitudes have shifted toward animals, with more consciousness around animal cruelty, so has the animal care field. “From when I was a student, there’s so much more research and attention toward managing pain for animals, for instance,” she says.

What are the drawbacks?

Bor says the job can be difficult due to dogs becoming stressed out during grooming sessions, and also from the perspective of being an animal lover and having to deal with tough situations. 

“You’ll sometimes get cases that break your heart. Some people have dogs that are just repeatedly coming into the shop [with hair] knotted down to the skin,” she says. “It’s just heartbreaking because there’s not really a whole lot you can do about it. You can’t take the dog away, you can’t really control what’s going on at home, but you know the dog is being neglected.”

She emphasizes the job is very physical, and carpal tunnel is common among groomers, even when being very careful. “It’s really important to take care of your body. It’s one of those jobs where if you’re not stretching or if you’re not eating well, it’ll show,” she says.

Overall, though, Bor says grooming is an emotionally rewarding job. “It’s hard not to smile every day being around some of the clients that you get.”

How do I become a pet groomer in Ontario?

If you know pet grooming is for you, there are a variety of private pet grooming programs that last from six to 36 weeks. If you’re less certain, a more general animal care program offered through Ontario colleges might provide a better foundation to figure out your career path. Of course, like Bor, you could also try a more hands-on approach, learning from current groomers who can show you the ropes and move you up from an entry-level position at a pet grooming company. On average, a pet groomer makes around $34,000 a year, though that varies depending on whether you work on a more freelance basis, take on a full-time position or open your own business.

Bor says the work is very “customizable,” allowing her to choose how many days she works and when as a contract groomer. “You could work for a salon, you could eventually build a salon on your own property, and you can choose what style of grooming you want to specialize in too [such as breed clip grooming versus creative grooming],” she says. “The possibilities really do feel endless.”

Where to study pet grooming

BPro Grooming Academy (Brampton), Pet Grooming, $7,450 total (includes fees). b-progrooming.com

Dogport Academy of Dog Grooming (Woodstock), All-Breed Dog Grooming Course, $6,330 total (includes fees). dogportacademyofdoggrooming.ca

Durham College (Whitby), Animal Care Certificate, $4,528.75 total (includes fees). durhamcollege.ca

Fluffy Paws Grooming School (Richmond Hill), Professional Pet Grooming, $8,451.10 total (includes fees). fluffypawsgroomingschool.com

Northern College (Haileybury), Animal Grooming Certificate, $3,596.67 total (includes fees). northernc.on.ca

Pet Grooming Studio Academy (Richmond Hill), Professional Pet Grooming, $6,435 per semester (includes fees). pet.groomingschool.ca

Sheridan College (Brampton), Animal Care Certificate, $4,508.16 total (includes fees). sheridancollege.ca

@juliajmastro

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